Change can be thought of as a nasty word that requires persistence, dedication, and oftentimes, pain. In short, change is work. It’s something we can choose to do or something that can be thrust upon us, whether it be changing our diets, changing our outlook, or changing the way in which we handle our money. The latter can easily be the most difficult thing we choose to change. Notice, I said CHOOSE to change.
By definition, a habit is nothing more than a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. That last part is what keeps us engaging in the same activity or thought pattern over and over again. But it certainly isn’t impossible to change our habits – even financial ones. Sometimes, the first step in changing our financial habits is to adopt a different mindset. Both Mr. MMM and I learned a long time ago that, in order to reach our goal of financial independence, we needed to shift to a frugal mindset.
Over the course of our lives, we have had many successes and failures, but it wasn’t until we tied the knot that we decided to get serious about our finances and chart a vastly different course – a frugal course. And with one (almost disastrous) decision, we shifted to a frugal mindset and haven’t looked back.
We both grew up in lower middle class families that focused more energy on low cost of living (which is good) and less on investing and building wealth (which isn’t so good). After joining collective forces, Mr. MMM and I thought it best to incorporate low cost of living with building wealth. We have had a long and windy road to get to our current frugal mindset, but we know what we’re doing is the right thing for us and our financial future.
With our eyes firmly planted on the ball (AKA our financial future) we will be able to achieve our goal of financial independence within a few short years. But it wasn’t just a shift in mindset that was necessary to achieve our goals, we also needed to examine each area of our lives in which money can leave our precious grasp. In other words, we needed to put our mindset into ACTION. Here is a sampling of some areas in which we made significant changes or eliminated altogether…
This is probably the most important arena where it was vital to our finances to have a frugal mindset. When Mr. MMM and I were planning our amazing wedding, we were also planning to purchase a bigger home. You know, we wanted to move on up. I purchased the house we were living in at the time as my starter house and never intended on staying there any significant length of time. In fact, my actual plan was to eventually turn the house into a rental property and move to a bigger, more adult home.
In my mind, the time had come to jettison the small house and move into a house that could validate our success. Yes, I was that person. The long and short of it is that we found the perfect BIG home and were ready to sign on the dotted line, until we discovered the house had a mold problem that wasn’t easily remedied. On top of that, we were both having anxiety over the amount of money we were about to drop on up-sizing our home. We weren’t just planning to buy a bigger house – we were planning to double the size of our house. Double. After about a month of anxiety we decided to listen to our guts. Our guts were telling us to pull the plug. Thankfully, we were able to do so and still recoup our deposit because of the mold issue with the house.
Zoom zoom zoom
Cars! Where would this post be without mentioning cars? We currently own (free and clear) a 2012 Nissan Juke and a 2012 Mazda 3. Both our vehicles have around 80k miles on them and are in good condition inside and out. We don’t use our cars for frivolous travel and since Mr. MMM works from home, we are mainly a one-car family.
We maintain 2 vehicles because they are both paid off and we would be putting the same amount of miles on a single car if we were to only own one. Having 2 eliminates the hassle that would ensue if we have an emergency with our Mini Monster or Mr. MMM needs to get to the airport at 4am, which happens every few months.
We are of the mindset of buying reasonably-priced cars that will go the distance without costing us a fortune. We fully intend to still be driving these cars 5 – 10 years from now.
Buying clothes is something that can be extremely detrimental to one’s financial health if not kept in check. In fact, I used to spend almost 20% of my take-home pay on buying new clothes. Granted, I was really young and didn’t have access to the financial knowledge I do today. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
So, just how did I spend nearly 20% of my income on clothes? I needed a new outfit for every Friday night I went out with my friends – which was EVERY Friday night. Ridiculous, to say the least. As I grew up and stopped going out all the time, I also scaled back on the constant outlay of cash for new threads. But just because I scaled back doesn’t mean I still wasn’t overspending on clothes. I would say I overspent on clothes for at least a solid decade of my adult life. #frugalfail
Fast forward to a few years ago when I implemented a self-imposed clothes-buying ban. My ban lasted for nearly 2 years before breaking down and buying a few new items. These days, I am extremely conscious of how much I spend on clothes and how long I expect the garments to last. Ideally, any clothes I buy today will last me for YEARS and will be basic/classy in style. Hence, my clothes can be mixed and matched to make many different outfits across several seasons. All told, we are easily saving thousands of dollars each year (in comparison to our peers) by foregoing the latest fashion trends.
To say I have a frugal mindset in terms of clothes buying is an understatement. As far as Mr. MMM’s closet goes, I pretty much need to force him to buy new clothes on an as needed basis. He would be perfectly happy to walk around without tread on his shoes and holes in his shirts. Thankfully, he has been this way his entire life when he came to clothes – so no need to do any mental re-wiring on his end!
Interested in more clothes-related posts? See these:
- The Empress Has No Clothes: Year Two Of My Clothes-Buying Ban
- When Buying Stocks Is More Exciting Than Buying Shoes
I do love this category. In the not so distant past, I was one of those people who had the Ultimate HDTV package to the tune of close to $200/month. Yep. I really felt like having The Best cable package was in some way, a status symbol.
Fortunately, Mr. MMM never cared much about TV or sports, so when I suggested we try to scale it back, he didn’t fight me. In fact, his immediate response was, “Cancel it!” So, I did.
In reality, even though we had all the channels anyone could desire, we rarely watched TV. There would be entire weeks that would pass where we wouldn’t even turn the TV on, let alone need the ultimate package we were paying for each month. Taking that $200/month and investing it into low-fee index funds gives me a much bigger rush than having 500 cable channels at my disposal. Check out how cutting the cord will inevitably make you a consummate weirdo here!
We do maintain a Netflix lifeline and it has been more than enough to satiate our television viewing desires. And if there’s something else we want to catch, we try YouTube. So far we haven’t been disappointed. The best part? Mini hasn’t even noticed!
We have always been very good at entertaining ourselves with little to no outlay of cash. We’re fortunate to live in an area that offers plenty of parks, trails, and free events for us to indulge in. We’re not averse to hiking in all kinds of weather or hosting friends in our home for dinner and a movie.
Entertainment doesn’t need to cost money. Sure, hosting friends isn’t free, but it’s certainly much more cost effective to do so than to meet out at a flashy restaurant to buy overpriced food and drink because it’s the expected course of action. We started bucking that trend years ago and couldn’t be happier. Do we even notice our entertainment deprivation? Not. At. All.
My biggest past financial downfall was eating out. I absolutely LOVE going out to eat. Everything about it appeals to my senses. I love the food, the atmosphere, the social aspect…everything. This was an area that we had to curtail in order to reach our goals faster. And to be honest, we still struggle with it. There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t stop ourselves from going out to eat and begrudgingly prepare a meal at home.
Alas, we know the importance of scaling back on eating in restaurants – both for our wallets and waistlines. In order to meet this goal, we do our best to plan out our meals in advance and make certain there are plenty of leftovers for work lunches.
Interestingly, saving money on meals was our biggest money-saving hack after our housing and cars.
Mr. MMM and I did it up right when it came to getting an education. We both worked our way through school with little or no debt on the back end. While Mr. MMM chose a state school and had his employer pay for most of it. I chose to do 2 years at a community college and then transfer to a private school that offered a healthy academic scholarship to offset the sticker price. I was also able to obtain my graduate degree free of charge thanks to my employer!
This was one facet that we tackled completely independent of one another and still came out ahead. Thankfully, we both made financially savvy decisions when it came to college education when we were younger. Read all about our educational trials and tribulations here!
Want to read more about college? Check out these posts:
- You’re Not A Bad Parent If You Can’t Afford To Save For College
- How To Afford A College Education: Don’t Be An Idiot
- I Lived In A Trailer To Pay For College: Oh, The Horror
- Parents: Stop Taking On Student Loan Debt For Your Kids!
Finally, we come to vacations. We LOVE vacations, but not so much that we’re willing to EVER go into debt to go on one. Neither one of us grew up taking fancy family vacations. The best either of us got out of our childhoods was a quick jaunt to the Jersey shore (3 hours away). I’m not complaining, of course. I’m just stating that we’re fully aware that we can live a fabulously rich life without fabulously expensive vacations. After all, neither of us felt like we wanted for anything as kids.
Now that we’re all grown up, how do we handle vacations you ask? We plan for them and we pay cash. Even our not-so-frugal Disney vacation was paid for with cash. And because we splurged so much on that vacation last year, this year we are doing a more reasonable vacation to the beach. Other options for not overspending on vacations? Engage in a staycation. Our family has done 2 staycations in the last year and had a wonderfully memorable time each time. I highly recommend them if you need a break but don’t have the money for flights and hotel rooms.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list where you can implement a frugal mindset. But it definitely covers the heavy hitters and provides a starting point. Shifting to a frugal mindset was the start of a wonderful life and a bright future for our family. By doing so, we have been able to invest the difference to reach our ultimate goal of financial independence.
By making a mental shift to incorporate frugality into our lifestyle, we happily discovered that our options increased dramatically. And having options to do more of the things we actually want to do in our lives is worth every bit of perceived deprivation we partake in. With each month that rolls by where we keep our expenses low via a frugal mindset, we get closer and closer to having the option of not having to work a W-2 job at all. That’s not to say we will immediately quit our jobs when we reach our magic number, but it certainly is nice to have the option.
Note: We don’t feel deprived at all. 🙂
What’s YOUR ultimate goal? Do you operate with a frugal mindset? If so, what influenced your shift to frugality?