Monday, August 16, 2010

Things I can do without

When contemplating frugality, people often get worked up about what they'll miss the most. They think their new life will be beans and rice, going to bed when then sun sets to save electricity and wearing holey jeans from the thrift store. That's not how I roll. I want a full, fun life and a decent balance in my savings account. Naturally, I can't have it all, but there are things I can happily trade off in exchange for stuff I really do like.

Regular eating out
Eating out is expensive. You can often cook food of equal quality at home for 1/4 of what you spend in a restaurant. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy eating out, but it should be a treat, not the norm. Some people save money eating out by not tipping as well, or by sneaking in their own food. Both of those practices are appalling and rude, and anyone who does that is certainly no friend of mine. If you can't afford to eat out, don't eat out. Behavior like that is what makes people hate the thrifty--behavior like that is cheap, and I do not want to be cheap. Frugality is not stiffing a server, it's knowing what you can afford and adjusting your spending accordingly.

The other problem with eating out regularly is the huge quantity of food they give you. As a frugal person, I want to eat what I paid for, but often it takes me two or three sit-downs to get through one restaurant entree. That food doesn't last as long as stuff I make at home, so I typically eat it daily for three days, which is a bit boring. When I was eating out often, I gained a lot of weight just trying to keep up with the large amount of food I brought home all the time. I dislike gaining weight, but not as much as I dislike wasting food. The sensible thing to do is just eat out less often.

I've already said that I dislike shopping, but there have been times where I got into the shopping habit and did it more to get out of the house and feel like I was accomplishing something than to buy things I actually need. No more. I shop seasonally, and pick up a few pieces when the temperature starts to change. Now that I've been in my profession for over a year, I have a good base wardrobe to build on, so I end up needing less. The more you own, the more your things own you and I would rather have no more than what I actually use.

Books of my own
I've stopped buying books. I am an avid re-reader, so I used to buy books I knew I would read again, but now I don't even do that. I've found that I don't read anything unless it has a due date. I check out so many library books, and am very aware of them needing to be returned, that I never actually read any of the books I own. Once I realized that, I stopped acquiring them, and actively started getting rid of them. I now buy a few books a year from the sale rack at the library ($1 each) and then I bring those traveling and leave them behind along the way. If I really love something and want to read it again, I know I can get it but I don't need to own it. I make an exception for Nancy Drew books because I collect those, and the few books that I truly love and want to see on my shelf. Maybe someday when I have a bigger house I'll keep books again, but right now, they just look like something I'll eventually have to move.

I'm not going to be one of those assholes who says "I don't watch tv", but I kind of don't watch tv. I do have a few tv shows that I enjoy and keep up with, but I don't watch them on tv, regularly scheduled. I wait for DVD, and then get them from the library or netflix. It was an adjustment at first, but I've been living this way for so long that I actually get angry at the thought of promising myself to a tv show every Tuesday night. What if I want to do something else? Your life might be very different than mine and cable and tv might be more important, but there are workarounds as well. Try to find ways to watch your shows online or have viewing parties with like-minded friends. This is how my friends and I watched Sex and the City years ago. Someone's mom had HBO, so she would go over there, tape it, bring it to my house and then we'd all watch it together. It was free entertainment, and more fun that way.

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