Budgeting

Why Frugality Is Liberating

It lets you focus on what you really want.

Clare K. Levison (pictured at left) is a CPA and author of Frugal Isn’t Cheap. She is a financial-literacy spokeswoman for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Here are excerpts from Kiplinger's recent interview with Levison:

Isn’t frugality a synonym for deprivation?

Some financial gurus make frugality all about abstinence, but I think it’s about being smart—prioritizing and taking responsibility for your choices. It’s not so much “I won’t” or “I can’t,” but “I’d rather.” Ask yourself: What is most important to me? Where will I put my discretionary dollars? What will I truly enjoy? What will enhance my life? The goal—to quote my book’s subhead—is to “Spend less, save more, and live better.”

How can I spend less?

I encourage people to find one thing each day that they can do to save money. Get out of the habit of spending when you’re bored. Stay out of the malls, discount stores and online shopping sites. Call up a friend and have a chat, take your dog for a walk, go to the library to see what new books are available. Take care of the stuff you already have. Clean out your bedroom closet. It doesn’t sound like fun, but no one who does any of those things says, “Gosh, I wish I hadn’t done that.”

Should I cut up my plastic?

No. We’re moving away from a cash-based society. Online banking and other tools make it easy to check your accounts so that you’re aware of what you’re spending. You probably check Facebook and text messages every day. Just add this to your list. When you reach your spending limit, stop!

What do you think of tactics such as extreme couponing?

It’s a version of hoarding, and it doesn’t provide as good a return as it should. You spend all your time clipping coupons, and you accumulate 500 jars of mayo that you can’t consume in a reasonable time. “But it’s free!” you say. No matter. If you don’t need it, it’s no bargain. And you clutter up your life.

How can I save more?

Put your saving on autopilot. Have as much as 20% of your paycheck direct-deposited to savings. Save 80% of any raises or bonuses. And make it exciting. Saving is liberating, because you’re not beholden to a bank, credit card company or your parents. You’ll have money when you need it, which equates to independence and freedom—and that’s exciting. Think of fun things that motivate you. Saving for retirement may sound difficult and boring, but how about saving for a condo on the beach when you’re x years old?

Most Popular

Yes, You Can Collect Social Security from an Ex-Spouse: Here’s How
social security

Yes, You Can Collect Social Security from an Ex-Spouse: Here’s How

It’s always smart to maximize your Social Security benefits, and if you are divorced, one way to do that might be to take them based on your ex’s earn…
May 13, 2021
Refunds for $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break to Begin This Week
Coronavirus and Your Money

Refunds for $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break to Begin This Week

The IRS will start issuing automatic refunds in mid-May to people eligible for the unemployment benefit tax exemption.
May 14, 2021
18 Worst Things to Buy at Dollar Stores
spending

18 Worst Things to Buy at Dollar Stores

These discount retailers stock plenty of bargains, but some of the merchandise isn’t worth the buck.
May 14, 2021

Recommended

18 Worst Things to Buy at Dollar Stores
spending

18 Worst Things to Buy at Dollar Stores

These discount retailers stock plenty of bargains, but some of the merchandise isn’t worth the buck.
May 14, 2021
36 Best Amazon Prime Benefits to Use in 2021
Smart Buying

36 Best Amazon Prime Benefits to Use in 2021

At $119 for Amazon Prime, get your money's worth by taking full advantage of your membership. Here's a list of the best Prime perks.
March 17, 2021
Flying This Summer? What to Expect
Travel

Flying This Summer? What to Expect

Depending on your destination, you may need to show a negative COVID test or even prove you’ve been vaccinated.
February 23, 2021
What to Do When One Spouse Spends Too Much in Retirement
spending

What to Do When One Spouse Spends Too Much in Retirement

If one partner takes a less conservative approach to money, it can wreak havoc on a marriage. But the problem can be addressed by agreeing on bigger f…
February 10, 2021