Once upon a time, I said that the real key to frugality is simply thinking ahead. Well, I’m going to amend that.
Planning is still an integral part of living affordably. After all, if you plan to bring a lunch to a long excursion, you won’t be tempted to buy fast food. (Savings: $5-8.) If you plan ahead on every purchase — that is, not buying the first model you see on impulse — you ensure that you always get the best product for your needs. This avoids the costly desire to upgrade, and gives you a better chance of having a long-lasting item, which saves on replacement costs. (Savings: Immeasurable.)
Similarly, you can avoid stores that you know will tempt you. (I try never to go into clothing stores unless absolutely necessary. In fact, I try to avoid malls whenever possible.) You can also plan out your budget, so that you know ahead of time exactly how much you can afford to spend. This means you always have money available for bills.
But you know all this. You’re intelligent folks who are working toward being frugal. You know the basics. You know the axioms. In fact, you probably even know this second part, too: Keep pushing.
That’s simple enough, right? I mean, who doesn’t know that you can’t be complacent in life? On some level, we all know this. Most of us even practice it.
I suppose the real questions are, “Do you practice it enough? Do you realize just how valuable a resource persistence is?”
I was recently struck by the sheer power of dogged determination. It has saved me a lot of money over the years. While I know this abstractly, once I sat down and thought about it, I was rather amazed by just how true this was.
For example, our new phone. Our old one recently gave up the ghost after 6-7 years of faithful service. (We could dial out, but the person on the other end couldn’t hear anything.) While phones can certainly last longer, this particular one owed us nothing. The plastic antenna cover had fallen off about a month before its official demise. We had replaced the battery once. Most importantly, it had survived far too many of my temper tantrums. Which I’m working on. In the past, though, these often meant the poor device got thrown across the room. Sometimes at walls. All of which it bounced back from. We decided a DNR was the most humane thing.
We would have gone shopping for a new one, but my mom happened to have one in abeyance. It was free after rebate, and she figured hers would eventually die. (See what I mean about forethought? She’s the queen of anticipating needs.)
So we charged that one up and used it. For two days. Then it stopped working. We put it back on the base to charge, but that did nothing. I pulled out the instructions and reviewed them. It was a relatively simple phone, so there could only have been a couple of reasons for it not working. As it turned out, the battery pack had come unplugged in back. Simple, easy, and then it was working just fine.
I felt proud. True, this was a minor thing, but I’d saved us the inconvenience of dealing with customer service. And allegedly there are people out there who’d have assumed the phone was just badly made and bought a replacement. So a quick bit of persistence on my part paid off.
Certainly, though, this determination has saved us on bigger things. Like when we’d resigned ourselves to paying for a new Xbox 360. Despite having gone through all the resources two or three times, I decided one day to do one last search for Xbox problems/fixes. Paging through the results, I found an article about a new glitch that Microsoft was fixing for free. It turned out not to be relevant to our situation, but the piece mentioned that “Red Ring of Death” consoles could be fixed for an additional two years after purchase.
With that information, we got Microsoft to repair the Xbox for free. That saved us $200. Technically, those $200 would mainly have been gift cards. But getting that many rewards point would have taken a lot of time and effort. In fact, we saved at least 2-3 months, during which Tim would have had no way to play video games. Hardly a life-threatening condition, but it would have resulted in increased restlessness, which could have resulted in more entertainment expenses.
Instead, thanks to a little extra effort on my part, Tim has his games and we have the rewards points to use for holiday gifts. That’s a pretty happy outcome for everyone!
Let’s not forget about the time Tim needed to switch insurance. If I had taken the operator’s first answer (or her second, third, or fourth), Tim would have been uninsured for one month, and his conditions would have been considered preexisting for a second month. That would have been, at minimum, $500 of medical bills. It probably would have been closer to $1000.
Finally, there was Tim’s trip to the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC). We got the bill later and it was around $400. Not quite in our budget. So we called and requested a financial aid packet. We were told that, since he had insurance, there was about zero chance we’d qualify. While we’re still waiting for the final bill, the last operator I spoke to said the hospital is covering at least 80%.
It’s actually a tad astounding, really, when you sit down and think of all the ways that frugal folks save by being persistent:
- We clip coupons.
- Most of us don’t use coupons right away, but instead wait for sales, thereby getting the most bang for our buck.
- We make sure that warranties are honored.
- We try to fix things if they’re “already broken anyway.”
- Before we buy new, we shop used
- Before we buy at all, we see if we can do without
- If we can’t do without, we see if there are lower-cost alternatives
- We comparison shop to get the best price.
- We’re always looking for new frugal hacks, never complacent in our savings
- We spend less so that we can pay down debt faster (saving us interest charges)
- We spend less so that we can save more money (gaining us interest from banks)
- Most of you save for emergencies, so that unexpected charges don’t go on a card, where interest will accrue.
- We find ways to pay less for our entertainment, including taking advantage of free previews and movie tickets. (Incidentally, Coke Rewards has reinstated the AMC tickets as a redemption option.)
- We constantly differentiate between “need” and “want.”
Okay, well I’m sure there are plenty of other ways that I haven’t thought of. Please help me out by naming some!