Living Frugally: Try Leaving Your Wallet at Home

The other day I left home to run a few errands. While out I got a little hungry and decided I’d grab a snack. While walking into a convenience store and felt my pocket to be sure my wallet was there.

It wasn’t.

A picture of my wallet flashed in my head: Sitting on the bedroom shelves next to the Xbox. I left the store just as hungry as when I arrived. It was then that a few things struck me.

First, I wasn’t all that hungry. I’m one of those vegan, all-organic, 6-meals-a-day, CrossFit-trained guys. I can (& do) eat a lot and prefer to never skip meals. The slightest growling of my stomach and I’m searching for sustenance: vendors selling fruits on the side of the road are a favorite and the new Vegan smoothies at Smoothie King are always tempting. And Ooooh veggie rolls … mmm, I’ll take six please.

See what’s happening here? I’m not really hungry, I’m just enticed by the thought of enjoying great-tasting, healthy foods. I imagine the flavors, textures and even the temperatures in my mouth. It’s the anticipation created by my imagination that makes me feel I’m hungry. In other words, it’s make-believe. (Enter Mr. Rogers.)

If you’re like me you have to resist against this make-believe hunger or your very real wallet and bank account will suffer. On this particular day I was very happy I didn’t have my wallet with me. I completed my errands and made a really good sandwich when I got home: Freshly baked bread; sautéed mushrooms, onions and peppers, a little kale, spinach, almond cheese slices & mustard. Cost: $0.00. Being frugal tastes sooooooo good.

Second, I didn’t spend unnecessarily. I didn’t do it on purpose but not having my wallet was very freeing and it kept my bank account from losing a few dollars. There was no feeling of regret — “Man I wasn’t supposed to spend that money, now I have less to (fill in your blank).” Instead, I thought I should do this more often. In my head I calculated what I would have spent for a bottle of water, a banana and an apple.

I then looked at my budget for the next few weeks and decided I could transfer that total to my Scottrade account. After all, if I had it to spend I had it to invest, right? This allowed me a few more dollars toward creating assets instead of throwing money out the window. Moving this money into my Scottrade account is an act of discipline which helped me remember impulse buying isn’t an option. If I step outside my spending plan and find myself in the convenience store or at a fruit stand, I need to pay the price for lack of a better phrase. This will keep me focused and help me build my asset holdings. That’s a win-win situation.

Keep in mind, I’m not encouraging you to leave your license at home. If a police officer asks for identification you should be ready at all times. But do we really need all our credit/debit cards every time we leave the house? No we don’t. Once all your bills have been paid, you’ve added to your savings and donated to charities, pull your cards out of your wallet and place them in a secure place in your house. This way when the craving for that PS4 game hits or those new shoes beckon you or the bin of pre-owned movies whispers sweet nothings in your ear you can respond with, “Sorry guys my money is, thankfully, at home” and walk away victorious.

Third, forgetting my wallet forced me to be disciplined. I felt very accomplished having stuck with my budget and spending plan. Although it wasn’t planned discipline, forced discipline worked just as well. Being frugal, as mentioned before, is very much a discipline and skill. It’s not about a magic formula or being cheap. As the saying goes, “Begin with the end in mind.”

The frugal life is about choosing to enter the future on solid financial ground so that when economic earthquakes hit we are not washed away in the inevitable landslides or swallowed up by sink holes. We must keep in mind that there are forces and powers in place which have heavy influence over the economy we take part in. Laws are passed and deals are made daily which affect us. We’re not invited to the meetings where papers are signed concerning our way of life but we are subject to the results none-the-less. What we can do is create a cushion against the things we cannot control. It’s up to us to grab hold of our finances, our habits and desires and steer them in a positive direction in preperation for rough times. Save when times are good so you can spend when times are rough.

Stay Frugal!

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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