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Frugal Living Guide -- an Interview


I recently did an interview with Pat and I think you find her and her site fascinating as I certainly did.

Q. What is your definition of frugal living?

A. My definition of frugal living is taking conscious control of our individual resources and quality of life. Each of us make choices every day, and each choice changes our financial, emotional and physical situation to a degree. It's our responsibility to make the choices that allow us to live in the way we really want, not in the way we are told we want.

Q. Is there a difference in frugal living and simple living?

A. Yes, there is. Being frugal covers such an enormous territory that it can also be an anti-consumer, environmental, or a religious choice, among other things. While I realize that simple living can also encompass these things, frugal living is a means to an end, not the end itself, so that many people with many distinct goals use the principles for their own purposes. Simple living is an end in itself, so if you're not in agreement with the basic principle, it doesn't appeal to you.

Q. Some people say that they would like to start a frugal lifestyle, but they just don't have the time to devote to pinching pennies. What suggestions do you have for these people?

A. Start where you are. You don't have to invest a major amount of time to see results. Being frugal is often more in what you choose to not do. The most important time you can spend on it, will be in learning basic strategies. The actual doing can be done in the same amount of time that you are now spending, a few things take even less time. As an example, if you keep a list of what you need from the grocery store and make it a point to go only once a week, then buy only what is on the list, you'll save time and money. Refuse to go any other time, and refuse to buy anything except what is on the list. You'll soon become an expert list maker, and be much more aware of how you spend your food money. Another thing you can do is put aside 15 minutes a day for doing 'frugal' things. 15 minutes is not much, but if you can't find that, make it 5 minutes. You can do such things as repair an item of clothing, or clip a few coupons and paper clip them to your grocery list, or mix up a cup of powdered milk and add it to your regular milk. You'll be amazed at how much you can do in 5 minutes. If you're consistent, it will become second nature, and will 'grow' on you!

Q. What are some of your favorite frugal tips?

A. Probably the best one is 'don't go shopping!' ... so many times we use shopping as recreation or entertainment. If you really think you need something, wait at least three days to think it over, longer if its a major purchase. Another thing is get everything down on paper and look at it. An interest rate of 10% may not sound that bad, until you compound it every 30 days and add it to the cost of an item for however long it will take you to pay it off. Make lists and carry a calculator! The more you can actually see where your money is going the easier it becomes to decide where *you* want it to go. There's just one other thing I want to say here, and that is, don't let money or method become more important than anything else in your life. Fanaticism is not pretty, no matter what the cause. Stay balanced.

Q. Are there pitfalls to being frugal? Have you had times when trying to save money actually cost you more money?

A. I think we all do things to the extreme at times. Sometimes we will buy something second hand or on sale and find out it doesn't do what we need, or simply is of poorer quality than we can use. It's frustrating, but even if you shop at a 'high quality' store and pay a good price for something (i.e, you're not trying to save money on the purchase) you still run the risk of bringing home less than suitable merchandise. Besides all that, I think sometimes people who are trying to be frugal are targeted by unscrupulous offers. Cheap is not frugal. I have bought things, brought them home, and got rid of them, all in the same day. The saving factor is that if you don't pay much for an item to begin with, you don't lose much

Q. What are some of the goals you've managed to achieve by being frugal?

A. We got to trade in our old car for a new(er) one. If we could have waited a little longer, we could have paid cash for it; as it is, the payment schedule is short, insurance is very low as are license plate fees. A few other things...a new reel lawn mower, and paid our property taxes on time, within the last few months. The car payment is the only one we have, the pantry is being stocked for the winter, and we don't really need anything right now, with the exception of a new thermostat on the water heater. I'm going to try to learn how to do that myself, so it shouldn't cost much.

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