I was inspired to write about my experience living frugally after reading The Simple Dollar's post about the limits of frugality.

I understand how the frugality highway can seem to come to an abrupt end when you still need the extra road to maneuver for the income versus the payouts.

My personal experience includes medical expenses that mount about every 2 years just as we have paid down the previous surgeries and physical therapy sessions. It is these medical expenses that push our frugal creativity to the limit at times.

Unfortunately, because of the complication of this financial medical situation, none of the bills can be written off for tax purposes. But we try to find the areas that do allow us to use pre-tax dollars.

1. Health Savings Account (HSA) - I wasn't all that interested initially as I didn't see the big deal of the difference between pre-tax money taken out for medical or after-tax payments. Last year I decided to try it out and found it to be very useful for two reasons.
a) It lowers my taxes and I'm all for that
b) It is money set aside for me that I don't even think about - unseen, but saved.

The down side is that this year I found out I missed the window to re-sign up (I thought it was automatic) and now I will be tackling the medical bills with my own after-tax savings program, which means I will transfer a set amount to savings each paycheck.

Another lesson I have learned is that frugality is only limited by our own 'Eww, I couldn't do THAT' attitude.

As I have read through some of the more EXTREME ideas of frugal living, in the past I have cringed at the idea of putting my thermostat below a certain temperature mark or looking like a homeless person checking vending machines for change.

However, over time I have found that expanding my idea of frugality isn't done by laying the roadwork like unrolling a carpet, instead it takes a bit of planning, design and then the construction takes place. And in that construction I can't just pour concrete, I also need lay down the dowel bars to keep the concrete from cracking up.

This process will take time and mistakes may happen, even frugality fatigue may set in, but it must be done to get me to the goal that lays near the horizon. Eventually I may become that EXTREME frugal person that I read about and cringed.

Here are some ways I am working to lay that frugal highway in front of me.
First the increase of money:

1. HSA - see above
2. Getting a second job - This is the first thing I did, it is a part time job (16 hrs/wk) that gives me the added benefit of extra money plus discounts at the store I work at.
3. Pocket change - Even though this can range from 1.50 - 20.00 - this is money brought in via rebates, items sold or change found in the vending machine.

The other way to live frugal is a more gradual change, that is cutting back my expenses:

4. Utilities - Dropping the temperature in the house and increasing my layers. Also unplugging items that aren't used - this habit is a gradual one
5. Luxury items - Cable, internet, phone and memberships must be gone over to see what we actually use, watch and make use of. In April we will be dropping cable down to basic channels are even switching to the Dtv boxes. I can't totally remove from the house out of necessity.
6. Penny Pinching - I do this best by finding ways to re-use items or make something last longer so I don't have to buy anything new or used if I can help it. Most of my ideas are found online and from books checked out at the library.
And don't forget clipping coupons to save a dollar, or five, at the store.

And finally...
7. Ask - This includes asking for items for your birthday, holidays that you may need and it gives them an idea for what to buy you. I got some wonderful slippers for Christmas this year. Also ask for help when you need ideas on how to make the dollar stretch, sometimes another person's experience can be helpful in determining good and bad frugal ideas.

3 Comments

  1. Abigail // Friday, January 23, 2009 2:09:00 PM  

    Amen, sistah! I know the frustration of the debt going down and then rising back up. It's awful.

    My husband has a very severe, pretty-much-constant skin condition. It's nowhere near as expensive as surgery and PT, but in comes in dribs and drabs and frustrates our efforts to pay down debt.

    Then there are the side effects you don't see coming, such as weight gain while you're less active. For us, the steroids caused him to gain about 40 lbs over time. So there were two or three different points where we had to buy him new jeans. And his skin condition makes it uncomfortable to wear jeans more than once before washing. So we're not talking one or two pairs!

    I think it's a matter of letting yourself understand that no matter how valiantly you fight, you won't always be able to keep back the tide of debt. Understanding that means that you're a) less critical of yourself when life inevitably slips another trick past you and b)able to just be angry at fate from time to time, get it out of your system, have a little pity-party and then get on with life.

    It's what keeps me sane(ish).

  2. ~Dawn C // Friday, January 23, 2009 2:14:00 PM  

    Abigail~
    I agree with you.. fight valiantly, cut down on the self-criticism and get the anger out of your system and then move on down the road; going forward is better than giving up all together.

  3. Nick // Saturday, January 24, 2009 10:02:00 PM  

    I have started reading your blog here and there and I like what I see.

    Keep it up.