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Saving hurts only if you let it

You can cut spending to pay off debt or save more, and the methods you choose don't have to cause you pain.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 13, 2012 10:05AM

This guest post comes from Lindy at Minting Nickels


I've never considered myself to be a frugal person.


I don't make my own reusable toilet paper like those extreme cheapskates on TLC do.


I don't bake from scratch, though, this past weekend I made bread for the first time. It was delicious, but too much work for a Saturday so I probably won't do it again any time soon.


I don't clip coupons or pay attention to grocery store sales. Occasionally I indulge in Starbucks.


I don't like buying things used.


I take my family to the zoo with no coupons and pay full price for zoo food.


I own an iPhone, an iPad, and I pay for satellite radio.


I don't use reward credit cards, or reward anything, really.


But with all of these ways I don't fall in line with frugality, I also don't spend a lot of money.


I take my lunch to work every day.


I stretch my wardrobe so I don't have to spend much on new clothes. I delay getting haircuts, and car washes, and all sorts of things to save money.


I patiently wait for birthdays and gift cards to get what I really want.


I sometimes make my own laundry detergent. I DIY as much as I possibly can.


I don't spend my windfall on that chair from Crate & Barrel (even though at times I really, really want it).


So, which am I? Frugal or not? Cheapskate or spendthrift? Saver or spender? (Post continues below.)

A few years ago my family needed to make big changes to our financial situation. To put it simply, we needed to pay off debt, and we needed more money to do it.


But the thought of spending less money was so . . . unappealing. Spending less is what frugal people do. People like the mom of my neighborhood pal growing up who always had freshly washed plastic bags hanging from her windowsill. People who really like staying home and playing board games. You know, frugal people.


But what I didn't realize at the time is that I can still be frugal, and still be me.


I have the power to choose how and when to save my own pennies. I don't have to do the other things that other people do. And I don't have to feel guilty for not doing them either.


I feel like the pimpless Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman."


Over the past few years my husband and I have made significant changes to cut our monthly expenses.


Some changes were simply a matter of cutting out the things that didn't matter to us. Some changes came when we found a less-expensive way to achieve the same end. Other changes were a result of taking our time and doing some soul searching: Can we really live without this? How much do we love it? Can we replace it with something else?


And other changes happened when we became comfortable in our own nonfrugal/frugal skins.


But nothing was done that we didn't want to do, in the end at least.


So I may not clip coupons, I may not wash plastic bags, I may pay full price for popcorn and candy at the movie theater, but I can still be frugal in my own right.


And as it turns out, that family that makes their own reusable toilet cloths really likes using them. That's their right too.


More on Minting Nickels and MSN Money:

Mar 14, 2012 10:25AM

The secret to savings is to get excited about the results. Whether you use financial software, Excel, or paper, you have to track your progress. I find it very rewarding to watch my savings and net worth rise. I celebrate milestones as my charts cross the line. If you just look at savings as something that gets in the way of buying that new toy, it will be hard to stick to it and be successful. Maybe looking at a chart in the up direction isn’t as exciting as the new toy but I enjoy it and it gives me a lot of pride.

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