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Looking back on frugality 2009

By on January 29, 2010

photo by Nick Bramhall

It’s time for a frugal year in review. Financial gurus always encourage you to pay yourself first. This is important. All of the debt-reducing, money-saving strategies and ways to increase your income won’t mean much if you don’t take care of yourself first. When you reflect upon the past year, what’s the most frugal thing you learned?
Here are a few frugal-living highlights to keep in mind.

MOOD MUSIC (sung to the tune of “What a Wonderful World”):
I see stockpiles of foods, and other things too,
The closets are full, the freezer is, too.
And I say to myself … what a wonderful year.

I see freebies on shelves, coupons in binders,
Gifts ready in closets, and frugal reminders.
And I say to myself … what a wonderful year.

I see things being used, and less being wasted,
A challenge I couldn’t face, yet I have faced it.
An emergency fund to fall back on ‘cuz times are now tough,
But I see God’s provision and I have enough.
And I say to myself … what a wonderful year. — Incognito, New Mexico

TREAT YOURSELF: You shouldn’t stop living simply to save money for the future. Enjoy today. One reader, Tisha in Canada, advises: “You cannot restrict yourself too much, or it’ll make you feel a little bit resentful toward frugality in general. Allowing yourself some wiggle room without throwing your whole world off-axis is a great way to keep balance in your life. Our wiggle room would have to be to save our big purchases until we really need them and to treat ourselves to the small things often.”

APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE: Make use of and enjoy things you already own. Look through your closets, basement or attic, and dust off something you’ve forgotten about. Maybe it’s an old appliance, sewing machine, crafts or decorative item. Is it simply clutter? Sell it, toss it, or donate it. Experience the joy of giving. If you can’t donate items or money, volunteer time to a worthy cause. There’s always someone worse off.

THE THREE R’S: Continue to look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

BACKUP PLAN: If you don’t have an emergency fund in place, start one today. Another reader, P.T. in Colorado, adds: “I’ve learned that an emergency fund and a good stockpile need to be in place at all times. You never know when a storm is coming, which I have learned a lot this year since Murphy has made our house a permanent residence. Even with him living here, if you are prepared, it’s a bump in the road instead of an emergency.”

BUYING CAN SAVE: Many things you buy can help to save money. Items such as a freezer, heated mattress pads, cast-iron cookware, reusable containers or tools can be money well spent. S.G. in New Mexico adds: “I learned that asking for a Wii was a risky gamble for my birthday (my husband got it on sale), but it has paid off. The kids don’t ask to go to the play place, they have bowled more than we could ever afford at a real bowling alley, I never hear “I’m bored,” Christmas shopping was easy, and virtual trainers are a bad as real trainers — I hurt. In reality, it was a small expense to keep the whole frugal belt-tightening from hurting.”

DON’T GIVE UP: If you fall off the frugal wagon, jump back on. Frugality isn’t instant. But when you look back year to year, you’ll see your progress.


  1. Terry

    2/1/2010 at 3:12 pm

    I learned about mail order prescriptions. Wish I had looked into it a long time ago. Saves time and gas, too.

  2. Darlene

    2/3/2010 at 4:20 pm

    I learned what a $5 bill (or a few can buy)! When the new colorful $5 bills came out it inspired me. I made an envelope for “New 5’s”. Everytime I would get one in my hands from change or where ever, I would put it into the envelope. After a while I was surprised at how many I had. Then I thought why can’t I save all fives? So I made another envelope for “Old 5’s”. The envelopes were pretty stuffed when I reached $250 in them. So I would seal them up and put them in the safe and start a new envelope. We had two “very” old lawn mowers and I had vowed to get a new one. Last month, a friend of ours said he was going to sell an “almost new riding lawn mower”, only used one season – for $500. I jumped on that and to his surprise I handed him two envelopes full of $5 bills. I only started this “$5 bill account” at the beginning of 2009 and now I have a nice, reliable mower to start the 2010 mowing season with…can’t wait to enjoy my new ride. Having that little fund set aside didn’t hurt me a bit. I never missed having $5. I would have never had an extra $500 when that deal came about had it not been for my $5 bill brainstorm a year ago. Yes, I have a regular savings account, but probably never would have taken $500 out for that (once its in there I hate like heck to pull any out.) Now if I could just get BF to join in…but that’s not likely, even though he was amazed at the outcome of my frugality. Can’t wait to figure out what the next $5 will get me!

    Also, in August I lost my job and BF’s work is seasonal. But, much to my surprise, we have made it through the winter in great shape. Somehow, will all my little funds and with very little taken out of savings, things have been very comfortable. With a little common sense and thinking things through financially, my unemployment and my little envelope funds laying around got us through great. Now, I have stumbled onto an opportunity of a lifetime. I have accepted a temporary job assignment. It’s tough, but the financial opportunity is great. I took an assignment to work security 7/12. That makes it 84 hours a week…the overtime looks great on the paycheck. My first paycheck has paid off 1/2 my c/c debt and will finish paying them off with the next check. The opportunities are out there…just don’t give up. Don’t know how long this assignment will last, but those checks will sure boost the ‘ol savings account and if needed in the future will be there…sure gives me a piece of mind…and the best part is that when Spring gets here, I can enjoy mowing my yard on my new mower, DEBT FREEEEEEEEE!!!! What a great feeling.

  3. JNUrbanski

    2/9/2010 at 12:44 pm

    Give up the gym membership! There are so many ways to exercise without going to the gym and, after a while the gym just becomes an expensive extension to the office and just as much of a pain.

    If you do DVDs at home, there’s no lugging gym bags to work and save on the travel time.

  4. S.W.

    2/10/2010 at 9:16 am

    Pay yourself first works for us. My husband and I save 1/3 of our gross income, 1/3 goes to taxes, and we live on the other 1/3. We save automatically so we needn’t remind ourselves to transfer the money every month. We buy things we need (food, supplies, gas, clothes & shoes when needed) and things we really want (Six Flags season ticket, Zoo membership, etc). We also set aside a buffer amount (our buffer = income-savings-budgeted expenses) for things like auto and home maintenance.

    Most important of all, “The present (time) is a present.” Be happy.

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