Living Frugally: Staying Frugal Through the Struggle, Part I

I remember the day it happened with amazing clarity.  As the morning sun heated my face, I stared unbelievingly at the bank statement that indicated a balance of -$1,540.  What? There’s no way my account is negative!  I have $15,000 in there!

What happened?  Someone had stolen my identity!  While pretending to be me, this individual had written hot checks and committed other crimes in my name.  He had substituted his picture for mine on my driver’s license.  The IRS came after me for unpaidID Theft taxes as he had taken two jobs in my name.  My business failed, I was evicted from my home, my car was repossessed, I was arrested multiple times, and it became difficult to find consistent employment.  How did I recover from this tragedy and pull myself back above the poverty line?  By recovering my identity and frugal living.

First, I sold all the unnecessary stuff: music CDs, books, jewelry, DVDs, a PlayStation console, etc.  If I didn’t need it, it was sold, period!  The money I made from selling merchandise was set aside for fuel since I would need a car for job interviews.

Second, I cancelled any non-essential subscriptions like satellite TV, magazines, Netflix, internet, etc.  It would take a while to find work and having added expenses would negatively impact any income.

Third, I combed the local papers and labor halls for odd jobs.  I took any job I could find and put aside as much as I could.  Two of my main concerns were food and fuel costs for anyone who would give me a ride to where I needed to go…and of course I searched for the lowest priced fuel.  I also made a commitment to walk to any job interview that was less than two miles away in order to cut back on the fuel expense.

One of the hardest things for me to deal with during this time was suddenly not having money for certain activities with my young son.  Like all good fathers, I wanted my son’s respect and my financial situation made me feel as if I was losing it.  Fortunately, my frugal mindset taught me to find free or low-cost events, close to home, for us to attend together.

During this time I learned to exchange my talents and services for goods I needed…the art of bartering.  If a parent couldn’t pay cash, I taught private martial arts lessons to their child in exchange for dinner for me and my son.  This meant the meager groceries I’d already bought would last a bit longer than originally planned.

While going through all this I insisted on saving as much as I could. I literally had numerous hiding places for my cash: jars, a hole in the back yard (no I’m not kidding), and an actual piggy bank.  For a long time I struggled, got a few steps ahead, got pushed back a few steps, and repeated the process over and over.

In the midst of all the setbacks, drama, and inconveniences I noticed something…my savings was building!  I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and told myself, “This living frugally really does work. Keep it up.”

How long did it take me to fully recover, to get back on my feet?  Tune into Living Frugally next Saturday and we’ll continue the conversation.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. Leona.

    I appreciate the kind words. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

  2. Wow!!!
    Your positive attitude and approach are inspiring! I can’t wait for part two.

  3. Thanks very much Jason. It was unfortunate but I pray my story inspires others to be prepared for something like this to happen.

  4. I enjoyed reading your post. I feel terrible that that happened to you, but I was really impressed with your determination and resiliency. I look forward to reading more next week.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jason. Always great to have you join the conversation.

  5. Excellent article and I’m looking forward to reading the continuation of the story next week. I’ve always placed identity theft into the pile of “it won’t happen to me”. Not the best strategy and clearly something I need to work on. Thanks for sharing.

    • Great to have you join the conversation, GreenMoneyStream. Like you, I have generally come to believe that identity theft is something that will not happen to me. However, SavvyTaz’ experience serves as a real eye opener.

    • Green Money Stream: Many people, including myself before this event, don’t really put much stock in Identity Theft protection plans or educating themselves on what identity theft really is. Here’s a fact- There’s enough information about you on the internet for me to steal your identity RIGHT NOW!
      Doesn’t that make you feel all cozy and secure?
      Contact me on twitter (@bbminister), Google + (Taz Bright), or on Facebook (Taz Bright) if you want information on how to protect your identity 24/7.
      Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback on part 2.

  6. Wow, what an inspiring story. Being creative and consistent are key factors! I’m looking forward to part 2.

    • Maria, You are absolutely right. Looking for creative solutions and being consistent, particularly during difficult times are key factors to finding success. Keep an eye out for other Savvy Discussions, Quizzes, and Recommendations throughout the week and ‘Living Frugally’ blog posts every Saturday. Thanks for stopping by.

    • + Maria at Pocket of Money: I appreciate your time and comment. Definitely stay tuned for part 2 next week. I think you’ll find it educational 🙂

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