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Monday, February 1, 2010

The Ick Factor

When it comes to saving money, sometimes you need to rethink your priorities and decide what is more important to you- being frugal, or keeping high standards.
I like bright, bold furniture and retro styled homes. If I would have decorated my home to taste, I would have chosen furniture quite different than the earth toned furniture I have now. I made a choice, cheap over style. My home is decent; I furnished it cheaply. My personal taste was put aside for more important goals.

This matter of tastes is just the beginning of a whole mindset change that frugal living requires.

The biggest mindset change that one can make if money is tight is the “Ick Factor”. This specific mindset change is not required, but in my opinion, it is the one that can have the biggest effect on finances.

I have friends that are repulsed by wearing any clothing from a thrift store. If some stranger even breathed on the clothing (Ok, slight exaggeration), no matter how many wash cycles the garment goes through, these people do not even want to think of putting that tainted clothing on their skin.
These people must have state of the art, brand new furniture and appliances, newly printed books, clothes straight off the assembly line... and a whole boatload of debt to accommodate their expensive taste. To these finicky people, anything previously loved is irrevocably damaged and “disgusting”, no matter how good its current condition and no matter how well it was cleaned.
This mentality of “I must have new” is the first and most basic of the levels of “Ick factor” that could be eliminated before try to save money.

There are more advanced levels of “Ick Factor” that can be removed, and as each layer is removed, like layers of an onion, more money saving opportunities reveal themselves.

Cloth diapering is something that saves a ton of money. Some people are revolted at the thought. Their revulsion is costly. If they were able to get over that, they'd be able to save more.
Even those who have reconciled themselves with the idea of cloth diapering have gotten grossed out by my idea of cloth toilet paper. That is fine. Not everyone needs or wants to take extremely frugal measures, however, that "Ick Factor" is costing them more money. (As an update, in the 4 weeks since I posted my post on cloth toilet paper, we've gone through 3 rolls. We were going through a 36 pack every month and a half. We're saying a ton of money by using “Family Cloth” as I've since learned its been dubbed.)

Dumpster diving is another great way to save money. We got a matching set of couches plus an additional arm chair from the dumpster. I saved a bunch of money by not needing to buy a new set. I didn't even need to pay the price I would pay buying second hand furniture, nor did I need to pay for transporting the furniture from somewhere else as the dumpster was right outside my front door. Yes, some people might be revolted by the thought that my furniture came from the garbage, but I put aside the “Ick Factor” and enjoy my free furnishings.
I made my dehydrator for free and got free wood for shelves and got some bed frames and kitchen cabinets all for free, because I was able to prioritize. My priorities were to save money; my desire to furnish my home exactly to my taste and have nothing pre-owned was put to the back burner, if not extinguished completely.

When it comes to frugality, one must prioritize. One must decide that saving money is most important, anything else comes second. I do not believe that one who is born finicky is doomed for life. People have the ability to change. People can change their feelings and comfort zone by exerting a little effort. If one decides that they need to save money, they will realize that all those things that they refused to try because of the “Ick factor” are really not so terrible after all, and that in fact, they might even prefer the feeling of money in the bank to the feeling of newly bought clothes.
For those in tough financial situations that aren't willing to venture outside their comfort zone, my heart goes out to them. They'll be chasing away creditors for years, stressing about not having a red cent, getting their utilities shut off because they haven't been paid... while I lie on my hand me down hammock, drinking my own homemade lemonade, bills paid and food in my tummy and perfectly content with life.

ETA: I have no issue if someone can afford new and chooses to buy new. This post was aimed at people that do not have the money to buy new, even new on sale, but are hopelessly in debt because they refuse to admit that it won't be so harmful to maybe not always  have new.
I think everyone will agree that there must be some mindset change in order to save money. Maybe for some people, the mindset change needn't be "buy used instead of new", but everyone needs to define needs and wants and realize that they can't always have everything they want if they don't want to be in debt.

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