Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Free Books!

I love books. In the past, I found great pleasure in browsing used book stores; however, I also spent a lot of money on books that I just didn't get around to reading. Now, I can get the pleasure from shopping for books without spending a penny.

 Amazon has a free PC version of Kindle. I downloaded it. Now as I browse through the collection, I sort by price. There are many free ebooks. I download a few of these ebooks daily. I have learned a great deal from reading these books, but even if I don't get a chance to, I am not wasting any money.

Originally published in The Dollar Stretcher Tips.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

How Frugal Living Makes Your Life Better

Many people associate frugality with deprivation. They assume that they'll suffer without the things they want and be miserable. I've found that the exact opposite is the case in my life. I'm what you'd call a "Black belt" frugalista, but I've found that my life is richer because of it. Here's some of the top ways that being frugal makes your life better.
  1. Ability to work fewer hours. If you have lots of expenses and debts to repay, you have to make as much money as possible so you can pay everyone. If your debts are minimal or non-existent and your expenses low, you can chose to work fewer days or hours each week. This time can be used for hobbies, fixing up your house, reading, spending time with the kids, time with significant other or friends, or exercising.
  2. Ability to retire early. If you keep your expenses low, but continue to earn a higher amount, you can bank that excess in a combination of retirement and other investment accounts. Once the balance is high enough, you can retire, and live off of your savings. You could actually retire while you're young enough to make the most of it.
  3. Better health. The cheapest health care is preventative health care. Treating a heart attack is expensive. Preventing one through proper diet and exercise is cheap. Many frugal practices are great for your health. Perhaps you bike to work to save on gas and the cost of owning a car, but a side benefit is that you get a rocking workout twice a day five days a week. Or you want to save money on meat by eating more vegetarian meals, smaller portions of meat or stretching meat with TVP. This will lower your overall fat consumption and help to maintain weight and cholesterol levels. You can garden to save money on groceries, and the side benefit is that your kids get excited about eating vegetables because they grew them.
  4. Higher quality time with loved ones. When you save money by going on a picnic instead of a movie date, you save money, but you also get to spend time talking and laughing. If you cut the cable, you can spend more time playing with your kids. I love it when my friends and I get together for cooking (see my post on my family's Apple Processing Day), foraging or crafting. It's much more fun than going to the mall.
  5. You own you. Consumers are owned by their stuff. If you learn to want less, you own you. You can still get stuff (I'm still obsessed with books), but you are in control of them, not vice versa.
  6. Freedom to switch jobs/careers. If you live a lifestyle that requires a high income, you are stuck in your job, or have a narrower pool of available job/career choices. If you have low expenses and a bank of frugal tips to fall back on, you can quit your job to take something that's a better fit, even if it pays less. If you regularly complain about how much you hate your job, or daydream often of owning your own business, frugality can free you to live your dream. 
  7. Freedom from some tough choices. If your wants are in control of your life, you can have some tough decisions. What happens if your favorite band is releasing a CD right when rent is due and your bank balance is low. Do you buy the deluxe edition CD and hope the landlord is understanding? If you are frugal, you know that within a month the CD will be cheaper and eventually you can find it at thrift stores. Or you could check it out from the library. 
  8. Option of having more or better. If you spend money as soon as you make it and don't practice frugal tactics, you're limited in options. If you have $25 for a book, that's all  you can buy new. If you have $25 for books, but shop at a thrift store, you can buy 5-10 for that price; a yard sale could yield 25-100 books for that price. If you are willing to buy clothes from the thrift store, you can nicer name brands or even designer apparel for the price of Wal-Mart clothes regular price.
  9. Better food. When I was less frugal, I wasted money on fast food and junk food. It tasted like crap and cost me a lot. Now that I'm frugal, I get much better food. The money I used to spend on a fast food meal can make a pretty elaborate meal at home. I shop at farmer's markets and scoop up whatever is in season and cheap, and have thus discovered Jimmy Nardello peppers, dragon's tongue beans, and Sicilian eggplant. I've tried new recipes to use up garden surplus, bargain purchased goods, or trash (roasted squash seeds!). 
  10. You get your life, not the Jones'es. When trapped in the consumer mindset, you have to have the latest gadgets, even if you don't use half of the features, the flashiest car even though you hate to drive, and a house in a fashionable neighborhood with impeccably fashionable landscaping and decorating. When you are frugal, you chose what is important to you and put your money towards that. If you want to have elaborate landscaping, you can do that, but if you'd rather live cheap and travel extensively, that's an option too. Your money is spent on what makes you happy.
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