Monday, December 20, 2010

Is it worth it?

Among some of the extremely frugal things my family
does to save money- reusable toilet paper- aka Family Cloth
I've got my skeptics among you readers. I know that some, if not many of you have thought again and again why I bother doing everything I do. Does it actually pay off? Is it really worth it? Why am I bothering to make my life crazy over tiny little things that cost pennies on the dollar?

I've shared before with you my wonderful news when we reached our first financial milestone in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover steps- completing our baby emergency fund. Making under $25,000 a year, the first step on the Total Money Makeover is to set aside $500 dollars to be a Baby Emergency Fund, intended to keep you from needing to rely on credit cards, should emergencies crop up. We did that and now we're on step two- in the process of paying off our debts.

Even though it's not one of the official Dave Ramsey milestones, I had another milestone that I felt was important enough to share with you, something that helps me see the value in what we're doing, that I'd like to share with you all.

For the longest time, our income did not meet our expenses. Though we weren't spenders, our income was low enough that even the little that we spent was more than we were bringing in. Each month, we'd be going more and more into debt.
We cut and cut and cut and cut, and I took on an extra job, and my husband took on some extra hours, and we finally, finally got our spending to be less than our income. That was really hard work, I'll be honest with you.

Finally, once we weren't going further into debt each month, we could start actually paying it off. And saving up an emergency fund.

But at the end of each month, the money in our debit/checking account would dwindle to zero. And aside for the 50 dollars a month we were putting into savings, we really had nothing to show for all our effort.

Until this month.

My husband gets paid on the 10th of the month. I got a new job (writing a frugal column for an American magazine), but payment details are still being ironed out. (I know how much I'll be getting paid, but whether they're mailing me a check overseas or doing direct deposit is yet to be decided. And also when.)
This month, come the first, second, third, and fourth of the month, the bank statements looked different than they usually do. They weren't at zero. Or even nearing zero. There were a few hundred dollars left in the bank. And because I wasn't doing grocery shopping, that money stayed in the account.

Come the 10th of this month, and my husband gets his paycheck. In addition to the few hundred we had in the account, we now had my husband's complete and thankfully larger than average paycheck.
It sank in.
I have yet to get paid from my US based job. And even without that money, we not only didn't spend more than we made, we spent less than we made! And even after putting money into savings, we still had a cushion left in the bank.
Such a relief.
And I know I'll be getting more money soon from my other job!

That extra money that we have now? Its very comforting. It allows me freedom to do what I want and need to do.

When I want to buy over 300 pounds of bulk bought food, spending over 400 dollars on food in one go, I am able to do so, knowing that we have the money to cover it. (I am selling some of those 300 pounds of food to people in my community so I can make back part of those 400 dollars and not need to store 300 pounds of food in my teeny tiny apartment, but still get the bulk price. But even if I hadn't managed to sell any of these stuff, we'd still have the money to cover it.)

When our gas tanks finished prematurely (apparently there was a leak!), we were able to spend 250 dollars to replace the two tanks without freaking out about how we'd be able to cover the cost. (Now that they repaired the leak, that 250 dollars worth of gas is supposed to last us at least a year and a half.) (Note- these last two things happened two days apart.)

When I worked for someone and they didn't pay me the money they owed me... I'm able to handle this rationally and not freak out as I would if we needed that money to pay for our food and roof over our head.

When our drains in the bathroom backed up and started flooding the house, I knew that we'd be able to afford a plumber if need be. In the end, my handy husband Mike figured out how to clear the block without any special equipment or training! (My step dad brought over a snake, but Mike had cleared it out even before the snake arrived.)

And how could we do all this?
By cutting back.
Doing extremely frugal things.
Being willing to go without, and go to lengths that other people won't go.
By not being afraid to get our hands dirty.
By doing little things that, according to "economists", don't pay off financially. Because it's "just pennies". But... those pennies, they're what allowed us to reach this milestone.

Is doing all that worth it?
I'd have to say- 100%! Absolutely!

People might look at my life and how I'm living and think we're living a miserable, insanely stressful life.
Au contraire.
Our lives, because we're frugal, are some of the least stressful lives of anyone we know.
We know that we can afford to buy whatever we need. We know that we can afford the roof over our head. We know that even on our meager salary, we're able to put away money each month.
And we know that we won't need to ever go into debt again, and we'll hopefully never need to be on the receiving end of charity again.

My life, fortunately, is pretty awesome.
So yes, what we're doing, the life we're leading- definitely worth it!

For all those of you who are either frugal or very frugal- do you feel that the life you live is worth it? Does being frugal make your life stressful or decrease stress?

1 comment:

  1. The more frugal little steps I take, the easier and more satisfying it is. If it were stressful and I felt deprived, it probably wouldn't work very well. I would probably take my credit card and go on a buying binge to relieve the tension. I find it fun and my kids see it as a game. Fortunately, they have never been in a situation where we couldn't buy something they needed.


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