Living Frugally: Getting Off Track – It Happens to All of Us

Taz Bright helms this series. Taz is a father, speaker, long-time business owner and graduate of the school of hard-knocks. Taz uses his past business and personal finance experience to help steer others in a positive financial direction while, hopefully, avoiding the mistakes he’s made along the way. As a former 6-year victim of Identity Theft, Taz shares unique lessons learned while trying to regain his financial footing. Taz is a member of Toastmasters International, a martial artist, former bodyguard and a CrossFit athlete. As the owner of Bright Balance Ministries, Taz’s goal is to help as many people as possible reach long-term, solid financial stability.

Many of my friends know I’m all about being financially smart. They’re well aware of my belief in living below one’s means while expanding your means (generating multiple streams of income) and also the need for an emergency fund. These are the basics for saving and preparing for a satisfying retirement.

They know I love all things financial including investing in stocks, supporting small businesses and spreading the word about living frugally.

I’ve discussed with them the advantages of paying bills a few months ahead and saving for one year’s worth of bills.

In a recent conversation one friend made a statement to me to the effect of, “… as if you ever have money problems. You’re the money management guy.” Throughout the conversation she made it clear that she believed my frugal attitude plus the financial lessons I’ve learned equaled a life without money problems.

This is the part of the conversation where I laughed uncontrollably.

It did get me thinking that maybe Savvy readers have reached the same conclusion about us frugal, finance bloggers. Maybe people are under the impression that we’ve risen above making mistakes, slacking off and giving into temptation. Oh, how I wish this were true. So for any of you who feel your frugal living is supposed to be free from money problems, or that financial blog writers like SavvyJames and I never run into money woes, I write this post.

A while back I was at the store and saw an item I wanted. I picked it up, paid and left. Later that day I grabbed a meal at my favorite vegan restaurant, Field of Greens. Then after taking a friend’s son to GameStop, I suddenly found myself the proud owner of three used PlayStation games I’d wanted for quite a while. As if that wasn’t enough I ended the day buying two new outfits and seeing three movies at the theater. Yes, three.

What’s the problem with these purchases?

They were all outside of my spending plan. I had a budget already in place. I saved, paid bills, donated to a charity and reduced my debts. I should have been done spending at that point. But, I failed to control my impulse buying. Instead of remaining disciplined I gave into materialistic desires and marketing schemes. Despite having a definite path on which to travel, I veered off course. A budget is like the guard rails on a highway, it keeps you within the lines of discipline.

What’s the big deal about getting off course in this way?

Well, while going on this spending spree I didn’t look at my budget or my online bank account even once. I didn’t want to admit I was spending too much so I made it a point not to look at those things that would force me to confront the truth. The result was a negative balance in my checking account. Yes, you read it correctly. The “money management guy” was in negative territory. I had failed to take my own advice and went against what I teach others.

Live More Frugally … Save Money

So, how did I get back on track? Thankfully it was not difficult. Since I am generally not a spender I had some money in savings. I transferred money from savings to my checking account so that it was no longer negative. In order to help make up for that loss from my savings account I made three appointments to donate plasma at $25/donation. I also made myself return the games I bought. Did I enjoy doing so? Of course not!

I enjoy gaming now and then like the next man. However, the goal of catching up and getting back on track was more important than games I could repurchase later if I desired. Also, I sold a few items and was paid by a friend of mine to take her to work a few times a week. Thankfully I had some stocks that were doing really well so I sold a good portion of them and added the profits to my checking account.

Deep breath in … and out. Relief.

I didn’t enjoy this time behind the eight ball. The added pressure of having to play catch up while not falling behind in other areas was stressful. It reminded me of why it’s so vital to not only stay on track but stay ahead of the game. Remaining frugal and responsible is not only financially wise but it also has the added benefit of keeping additional stress @ bay.

No, we finance bloggers are not perfect. We stray, we make mistakes. The good news is that returning to our disciplines ways will get us all back on track and moving toward our goals once again. My encouragement to you, Savvy reader, is to learn from my mistake not your own. Stay away from impulse buying. Unplanned purchases can hurt you. They are the financial equivalent of jumping from a ledge that’s too high. The results are crippling or fatal. Either way, stay away from them.

James
 

James retired in 2005 after serving 21 years in the United States Army. During the latter part of his career, James' interest in personal finance was piqued based on his own experiences and observations of the way most Americans plan – or more accurately, fail to plan – for retirement and the difficulty many face in starting the process. His most valued education has been lessons learned from personal experience and through conversations with smart, savvy friends.

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