I’m often called a penny pincher.
I’ve also been told my wallet squeaks when I open it.
I’ll accept it, I’ll concede: I’m frugal; I’m a tightwad.
It’s a learned habit that has served me well.
Starting off as a single mom at nineteen, I had an instinctual reaction from birthing a child: my son became my priority in practical money matters. That was my start to becoming financially practical.
I won’t tell you that I perfected financial skills in that twenty-plus years since, but I will say that I feel confident that we can weather difficult situations because I know how to be frugally flexible.
Frugal flexibility means that you have firmly set your priority expenses and always pay those items as soon as your money is available; then you prioritize those needs that remain, and those things that you want, to appropriately divvy the money from there.
This means becoming practiced at making solid choices and having a realistic idea of what your wants and needs are.
Here’s my favorite starting tip: MAKE A LIST.
First list those things that don’t allow a choice, the monthly have to pay list.
Below that, make a list of the immediate things that you need.
Below that, make a list of the immediate things that you want.
Were you honest with yourself when writing those lists?
Static Priority Expenses:
- Utilities (gas, electric, water, trash)
- Vehicle Payment
- Babysitter fees
- Credit card payment
- Household supplies
- Savings account
- Emergency items
- Savings accounts
- Emergency items
- Cable TV
- Dining out
- Outdoor Furniture and décor
- Garden flowers
Here’s the basic concept:
Pay that first list.
- Get those priority items paid. No getting around that.
Now, how much do you have left? Will what’s left pay everything on that second list?
- No? Then assess what can be held for the next paycheck from that second list, you now have to be frugally flexible.
- Do you have a particular clothing need?
- Can it be covered by shopping at Goodwill or a garage sale? Make your money stretch by bargain shopping.
- Can it wait until the next paycheck?
- Push it back and make the same choices next time.
- Are there household supplies that can wait?
- Hold them on that shopping list, unless there’s a great sale on those items to help make your money work for you.
- Yes? That’s terrific, and you now have the option to make great frugal flexibility choices here.
- Shop for affordable and practical clothing: clearance racks, seasonal sales, or secondhand/consignment shops are great alternatives.
- Pay more on that credit card or that vehicle loan if it’s high interest so that you can eliminate that expense in the future.
- Stock up on household items that are on sale, so that you can free up money for other things next paycheck.
- This same method works for your stockable food items.
Now you have the third list to consider.
- If all your money was used on the first two lists, your choices are obvious.
- You have to make your situation work for your budget.
- In order to have things that you want, you’ll need to find ways to lower your priority expenses and free up some “fun” money.
- Or accept that you are only able to meet your needs, and find free entertainment alternatives to suffice.
- If you have some money for that third list, let’s stop and reassess first.
- Could you make your money work for you?
- Is it possible to use some of that money to apply to credit cards on the second list to pay them down
- Could you apply extra money to mortgage or vehicle loans on your first list to pay them down?
- Can you reduce your future expenses and free up money that could be used for other items:
- Build up a savings account
- Stock up on household needs
- Create a vacation fund
- Establish a plan to buy one big ticket want every year or two
- Develop a drastic scheme to pay off your big expenses and retire early
There’s your start; there are your basic questions and lists.
Practice thinking about your needs and your wants and your goals. It’s easy to find frugal flexibility when you practice. :)