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The fundamentals of frugality

You must learn to seperate wants from needs.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 6:53PM

This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

Coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, bottled water, manicures, car washes (full detailing), weekday lunches, vending machine snacks, interest charges on credit cards, and unused memberships. Do you know what these items have in common? They are the top 10 money sinkholes, according to

You could try to commit that list to memory and see if you can cut out any of those items to find a little extra cash. For instance, cut out a pack-a-day smoking habit and gain, on average, $1,660 a year.

But what you should be doing is looking at that list and seeing what else those items have in common: They are all wants, not needs, and they can all be reduced without significantly impacting your standard of living.

The fundamental idea behind frugality is to reduce how much you spend while still maintaining a sensible standard of living. (Some folks do take this to the extreme.) There are two parts to achieving this. The first part is trying to find cheaper ways of getting the things that you want, such as making your own cleaning solutions (which, coincidentally, may be much better for the environment than the industrial chemical stuff). The second part is cutting out the things that are not absolutely necessary in your life.

Coffee, bottled water, manicures, car washes, weekday lunches, vending machine snacks, interest charge on credit cards and unused memberships fall into Category One -- things for which you can find cheaper alternatives. Cigarettes and alcohol fall into Category Two -- unnecessary things you can cut out. You could argue about which category each item should fall into, but you can't honestly say that the items fall outside of them. 

Now that you know the top 10 sinkholes, the trick is to find other things, not on the list, that you can trim from your life.

The hardest part about doing that -- trimming the fat, so to speak -- is to muster up the motivation required to keep cutting that coffee from Starbucks or that beer with lunch every day. A great way to do this is to put the money you save toward something and constantly remind yourself of that.

What do you get for cutting out that pack of cigarettes? You don't get an extra $5 in your pocket for something else. You get an extra $1,660 for your weeklong cruise for two to the Caribbean. Would you rather smoke a pack of cigarettes or go on a cruise?

Other articles of interest at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity:

Published Feb. 5, 2008


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