I’m now reading another book. This one is from 2000 and is called The Average Family’s Guide to Financial Freedom. It’s a guide to how one family, living on $65,000 a year, built a new worth of $450,000 in just 8 years. It’s interesting but they don’t go into great detail. They talk about adjusting your attitudes toward your stuff, and they talk about all of the things that they wouldn’t compromise on. With their list, I’m not quite sure how they saved as much as they did. I’m less than half-way through the book though. It’s a quick read and fairly interesting. I’ll let you know if it gets any more specific or truly helpful.
They make the same point that the good frugal authors do. It’s all about the spending. They point out that if the “pay yourself first” shtick actually worked, there’d be a lot more people actually saving and out of debt. The idea isn’t to save, it’s to control spending. Every time you don’t spend a dollar, you actually have two – the one you didn’t spend and the one that you will make when that first one is invested. They talk about how they controlled their spending and lived on half of what they brought in. With a family. Impressive.
They have inspired me though. We are about to get tighter in terms of how much money we have each paycheck. I am going to tighten it up a little more even than that. $100 won’t make much difference to us – it’s a dinner out for the family at a nice restaurant (Older Boy orders off the adult menu now. Ouch!) – but it will help pay the Visa off that much sooner. It will pinch some, but it won’t actually hurt. As do all families, we tend to spend what we have each paycheck. I am just going to make sure we don’t still have it when we start spending; I’ll increase what we pay to the debt. I have never subscribed to the pay yourself first motto. I pay my bills first. Whatever’s left gets divided between the family for spending and the debt to pay it off. If we watch what we spend – shopping loss leaders and sales with coupons for groceries, thrift stores for clothes and books, that sort of thing, we should save enough that the family won’t even notice that we have less money each paycheck.
I am the primary spender in the family. I buy clothes, groceries, pay the bills, and anything else we need routinely. I am where it’s at for saving money. Or at least not spending it. I am prone to impulse buying, too. I’m going to need to start asking myself those questions that everyone keeps advising you to ask when you’re tempted by an impulse buy; “Do I need it? Do I have something that does the same thing? Can it wait?” That sort of thing. I went shopping armed with a list and coupons to stores where I had listed loss leaders, then finished up my shopping at the store that has the best prices overall, and I did manage to save money.
According to the book, that money isn’t saved, it’s not spent. That seems like a silly nitpick until you realize that you’ve bought things that you didn’t really need when they were on sale, telling yourself that you’d saved so much money on it. Really all you’d done was spend money on something that you didn’t really need. It’s a valid distinction, and an important one. I need to quit thinking that the be all and end all is saving money. Really it’s not spending it in the first place! If that means using coupons and shopping loss leaders to keep myself from paying more than I need to on groceries, then that’s fantastic, but it’s not actually saving money; it’s just not spending money that I don’t need to. Same goes for my stockpile. I’m buying things at their least expensive so that I don’t have to spend more money on them later. It’s an entirely different way of looking at things and I am really beginning to like it. Especially since, like I said, I’m prone to buying things that are on sale, thinking I’m getting a great deal. If I didn’t actually need it, it wasn’t a good deal.
I din’t think much about that distinction while I was reading the book, but now that I’m telling you all about it and sort of trying it on, I really think it’s important for me. All my life I’ve been told that saving money was the thing to do. So I kept spending on whatever I wanted but buying them on sale. I was saving money after all. But the thing to do is not spend. If you can not spend, you automatically save money and have more to work for you later on. I think I can make this work. I have just had an “Ah-ha!” moment. Seems silly that it took this long and this many books for me to finally see it, but so be it. At least I’ve got it now.