Money, money, money. Can’t live without it, but we can learn about it.
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When I was a child, I used to think that having many possessions was a sign of wealth or affluence. In some ways, I guess it is. It’s costly to maintain, though.
I just spent a couple hours thinning my daughters’ wardrobes — for the second time in two months. While it’s lovely that FishChick5 has six pairs of pink pants, she really doesn’t need them all. Most of them are hand-me-downs and gifts, but still. SIX pairs? What are we — the Pink Ladies?!
We kept three and are donating the other three — along with a few other items. We thinned the herd, as my husband calls it. I suppose in many respects, it’s a good problem to have — as long as I don’t hoard those clothes instead of sharing them with someone else who could put them to good use.
Today, I’m learning that I’d rather have two pairs of great pants that wash well and feel great than a closet full of clothes that I don’t really love. But, this lesson took time to learn. My mom is nodding her heard right now.
FishPapa and I have been married for 20 years next month. We’ve learned a lot about money and each other in that time. Here are nine of those hard-won lessons.
1. Money goes quickly.
Money can be hard to earn, but it is so easy to spend! It’s kind of like messy houses: easy to mess up, and harder to clean up. I’m not sure, but I think that this is a law of nature. Money is easy to spend, so we have to be careful with it. It almost spends itself.
2. Paying cash makes spending just a little harder.
I used to avoid getting cash. I’d rationalize, “Once I break that twenty, the money disappears.” See point #1.
What I’ve learned over time, however, is that running plastic through a machine or even writing a check is much easier to do than handing over greenbacks. Paying in cash makes me want to spend less, not more.
3. Having a budget makes a huge difference.
For years we told ourselves we couldn’t budget because we didn’t have a regular income. FishPapa was self-employed and we never knew what each month would hold. Silly me — I didn’t realize that was all the more reason to budget.
When we are more careful in our planning, we are more careful in our spending. True confession: we’re also more careful with a little money than we are when we have a lot.
4. Little savings add up.
If you’re patient, trimming your costs on certain things can make a difference, even when it seems almost silly to do so. If I buy coffee on sale, like I did this month — Starbucks for $5.99 a package — and stock up, I’ll save a lot of money over several months. Regular price is about $8.99. Since FishPapa and FishBoy16 go through a pound a week, that’s a savings of $3/week or $156 a year. I could think of a lot of cool things to do with that money.
Books that have taught me better about money:
5. Pennies spend just as good as dollars.
When I had to clean my room as a child, I didn’t have a good place to store spare change. I remember throwing pennies away on more than one occasion because I didn’t know where I put them. True story. (Sorry, Mom.)
Even though they were pennies, they still spend just the same! Having a coin bin helps us “save” up for fun things. We currently, have a large canister with a map of Europe wrapped around it. The kids “donate” money for our France trip often.
6. A lot of really great things are free.
When I was younger, I thought it was cool to spend money. I have no idea why, but yes. Being able to afford the name brand whatever seemed the best course of action. I would get embarrassed about “free” or discounted things. While I still detest garage sales and thrift sales, I have learned the thrill of a great deal.
Bonus, you don’t need to spend money to have a good time. There are lots of great things to do, see, or visit without spending a ton of money.
7. Frequent bookkeeping helps me stay under budget.
Out of sight, out of mind. While I don’t want to be Ebenezer Scrooge, counting my stacks of coins every day, I know that frequent accounting keeps things (like budgets and bills) in the forefront of my mind. This helps me spend less and be more mindful of my purchases.
In a similar way, keeping updated scrapbooks always was a great reminder of how quickly the days with my children were passing. While my books are woefully neglected, the simple act of scrolling through old pictures can be the reality check I need to spend my time — as well as my money — wisely.
8. Procrastination is costly. So are messy desks.
I currently really struggle with keeping a neat and tidy desk. Part of it is the system in place, part of it is me. However, putting off that task cost me some money last month as I forgot about a utility bill for our investment property. I had to pay a late fee.
If I stay on top of things and keep my papers in order, we avoid spending more than we should.
9. Money is not a measure of success.
I have to remind myself of this: money is not a measure of success. Our household income is not huge; especially for raising six kids. We live a modest lifestyle, and that’s totally cool with me.
What’s not cool is when I feel like a failure because we don’t have more money in the bank or a big, fancy home of our own. That’s when I need to remember that my success is defined in how I love people and how I live my life, not what the check register says.
This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.