About 11 years ago, when my ex and I arrived in Vermont with only one income, I plunked down $20 on “The Tightwad Gazette,” a compilation of several years’ worth of newsletters from Mainer Amy Dacyczyn, who styled herself “The Frugal Zealot.” I don’t know that I’ve ever used more than a couple of her ideas – some of them are a little out there, and really, what person living alone, with a full-time job, has time to calculate how much it costs to dry a load of clothes in the dryer?
Recently, however, I pulled the book off the shelf, blew off the dust, and started reading. I still don’t expect to use many of her ideas – time is money, too. But when I wander off the savings path or realize that I’m spending my money day-to-day without thinking much about it, I find that a big dose of Amy focuses me on my fiscal sins.
It’s scary out there right now. I’m lucky: I have a good job with good benefits in a field that, to date, has been pretty stable. But we are witnesses every day to the old adage that life can change on a dime. I have a house, a new car, and one salary. My retirement funds are in the dumper right along with yours, and while I have a savings account, it’s not nearly enough to get me through a fiscal emergency. And so I’ve turned my attention to fortifying my financial defenses.
I’m attempting to refinance my mortgage, and I have an appointment with my financial adviser to talk strategy. A week ago, like a dieter keeping a food diary, I started recording every purchase. As I read through Amy’s book, I realize that there are things I can do to cut costs that don’t take a lot of time – just thought and a little extra work. There are things I buy that I can do without. I can cook more from scratch and eat less processed food. I can wait until that movie makes it to Netflix (whoops, I mean Quikster).
Can frugality be fun? Maybe – as long as it’s a choice and not an imperative. I’ve long been a girl who loves a bargain. Maybe not, but I think it can be satisfying. Either way, I’m pretty convinced that it’s smart. I just wish I’d wised up long ago.