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Monday, October 14, 2013

Why be frugal? Motivation

After weeks and maybe months of being frugal, we often want to give up and live the life we see others living.  Being frugal can be hard – especially if everyone else ‘seems’ to be having more fun because they are spending more.  So how do we stay motivated? a few ways…

- First of all, be realistic about your classmates and other students; you may think they are spending lots of money, but it’s possible they are raking high credit card debts or that their parents have lots of funds for them.  It’s also possible that they spend less on something you spend more on (maybe some other students have free textbooks from big brother or sister, or they have very low cost traveling back home).  Regardless, remember that you should be happy with what you have because you are content, not because others have more or less than you.

- Keep in mind your ultimate goal: being debt-free (or close to) after you graduate is the best reward you can image – yes, it may be 3 or 4 years away, but imagine the reverse situation: you finally get to work full-time with a decent entry-level salary, but you need to spend $400-$800 per month on debt repayment.  That monthly payment could be going to a great retirement fund, new furniture, a down payment on a house, a car or an apartment you don’t need to share.  But instead, you need to make student loan payments. The problem with spending money you don’t have yet, is that there is no guarantee of how easy it will be to repay – first, there will be some interest to pay on the loan, and second, if you can’t find a good paying job, paying your debt may take a huge chunk of your take home dollars.

- Reward yourself once in a while – and make sure it does not involve a huge amount of money (like the person on a diet rewarding herself with a huge piece of cake!): go out with friends once a month; buy a book at a second-hand store; buy one fancy coffee. 

- Dream a little: Write down your financial goals and put pictures up of the first luxury items you will buy once you graduate and have a good job: a cashmere sweater; an espresso machine; tickets to a musical.  Put this up in front of your desk or where you put down your purse or wallet at the end of the day to remind yourself constantly of why you are being frugal.

- Find a friend who is also cash-strapped and commiserate together – it will seem less hard if you don’t feel that you are ‘the only one on campus who does spend reading week on a resort’.  Laugh quietly at the fashion-slaves surrounding you (in a nice way, just to vent), and feel re-energized in your pursuit of a frugal degree.

- Give yourself a challenge – a no spending day (not a penny comes out of your wallet or your credit/debit card today) or a no grocery day – all your food comes from your home, no grocery shopping. 

For me, one of my motivations is my go-to book.  It’s the book I read when I get discouraged about stuff, financial or other, when I think I just can’t handle things right now.  My go-to book is a biography of a mom raising 3 daughters and a son, one of the daughters having cerebral palsy at a time when disabled kids were placed in an institution and forgotten about. I only need to read one chapter of that book to feel that if this woman could do with so little, I could certainly manage with what I have.  Find an uplifting book or song that gives you the drive, the courage and the perseverance to continue.

Perseverance is the key here – an extra day without shopping, an extra day without gourmet coffee, it all adds up.  Do not give up, and if you ‘lapse’ sometimes (we all do), it’s just extra motivation to keep on going.

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