Some people are good a being cheap.

Am I saying that right? Some people just know how to stretch a dollar. They plan meals, purchase food in bulk and carefully portion, without letting nary a tomato go to rot.

Some people decide not to use their credit cards, and then forget those evil plastics even exist. Or better yet, they put ALL monthly expenses on the credit card, pay the balance in full, and reap the rewards, points, or travel miles at the end of each month.

They spend less than they make.

In an era when credit is easy to come by, and in many ways feels like a fact of life, this may seem like a quaint, old fashioned concept. But I look to some modern budget mavens as my financial heros. They’re dedicated to spending less and saving more. I want to be them!

I have a girlfriend who’d go on hiatus from buying clothes for 6 months or so. She’d enjoy a fun night out at a high-end restaurant on occasion, but religiously brought her lunch to work. She and her husband had a car loan, which they paid off aggressively. My frugal friend decided how and where to spend their money, and stuck to it. They eventually bought a beautiful home with the money they’d saved. Now they own a few more properties in a coveted city, which they manage and rent out for additional income. They’re doing pretty alright, and I still consult her for my financial queries.

My other hero is Mr. Money Mustache, an outspoken blogger who made a fortune with a regular job salary, and retired in his 30s. Granted, his views are pretty extreme, but he does outline common sense principles to financial “badassity”. It’s a good place to start.

Honestly, I’m not stellar at sticking to the family budget. I’m not the worst, but I go through phases of being motivated to track and reign in spending, pay off debt, or save for a specific goal. Then I somehow seem to lose my mojo. My credit card balance creeps back up, the savings drops, and the cycle continues.

I’m currently in a period of belt tightening. (Actually, due to second trimester, there’s a lot of belt loosening going on, too). But an upcoming maternity leave and planning for a third child means I’m inspired once again. While I’m no monk, here are a few strategies I’ve embraced lately:

  1. Review the bullshit utility charges. I recently knocked out a few bogus charges from our Verizon account. It’s worth the time to go through line by line. I called customer service to inquire what a “line fee” and other inexplicable charges are. Don’t even get me started on the deceitful strategies they employ to cheat people out of their own money. I look forward to parting ways with them once my contract ends.
  2. Run, don’t walk away from Whole Foods. Although beautifully curated, a few unplanned trips there will quickly devour our paychecks.
  3. Amputate temptation. I live in a suburb, so while I don’t pass alluring storefronts on the daily, there are many beautiful items to be coveted from Land of Nod, Athleta, and Pottery Barn catalogues. I called the number on the back cover, and ask them to stop tempting me with beautiful shit I can’t afford.
  4. Get friendly with the library. Tons of free entertainment for all ages!
  5. Freeze the credit card. I literally put one credit card in a bag of water and freeze it. I removed the other credit card from my wallet, so no option to use when I’m out.
  6. Treat debt like an emergency. This means slashing Starbucks trips, new clothes, and manicures. It means getting a more affordable car. And it means saying goodbye to the housekeeper. I just parted ways with ours of four years. As working parents, we love this luxury, but I could no longer justify if we are socking away money.

While I’m not stoked about cleaning the toilet or trading in my sweet car, I am stoked about being in a better financial situation before the babe arrives. Money is power, and being financially fit means freedom. I want both.

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