Saturday, 1 March 2008

Frugality ... without Fear

Most of you who know me know I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to money, particularly not spending money. I'm extremely grateful to Amy Dacyczyn, the editor of a newsletter Tightwad Gazette. The last few weeks I've been looking at a lot of frugality-orientated blogs and there's not much out there that she didn't already cover in the six or so years she published (before retiring at 30-something). They published a book, The Complete Tightwad Gazette; used copies can be found on Amazon and Ebay. I've not looked in my local library as I still have my treasured newsletters.

I stumbled onto her newsletter at a time when I was struggling to make ends meet on my secretary's salary. I had recently married my second husband and a surprise 20-month-old son turned out to be part of the deal. My husband's work was seasonal. He spent money as soon as it came to him. I discovered that daycare and diapers were expensive.

My dad had recently died leaving several thousand dollars of debt on credit cards with ridiculous interest rates; if I wanted to keep the house his parents had left, I had to pay those debts. Both he and his parents had died without a will and though I was obviously the only heir, I had to pay a lawyer to handle the probate for me. I was in the process of working on a Master's degree and I had tuition fees and books to pay for.

I had a sense of panic every time I went to the grocery store and every time I sat down to pay bills. There weren't any quick fixes, but Amy's newsletters gave me a lot of hope and they were fun. I credit her with teaching me how to cook, how to shop and most of all how to spend money consciously. In a surprisingly short period of time, I was living comfortably within my means and the panic was removed.

I think a lot of people shy away from the idea of being frugal because they feel it means they'll have a dull, hard life and that being thrifty equates with having to do without all the things they enjoy. I found it to be completely the opposite: once I quit spending money on things that didn't matter that much to me, I had the money I needed to buy the things I really wanted.

I don't always make smart decisions and I'm certainly not the Black Belt Tightwad she is, but she gave me the knowledge to have a different approach to spending and I should warn you that I will be sharing more about that here in future!

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