Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice, that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
A topic during a tarot reading came up, the same topic came up today during a conversation with a friend, and it’s one that comes up a lot.
It’s one I wrote about earlier on doing this column.
The overwhelming topic of discussion in regards to money is simply- we all need more of it.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a young adult, attending college, nobody told me there would be times I would not want for anything, and others when I had to scrape by, and watch every penny. I just believed that if I worked hard enough, I’d always be able to earn as much as I wanted.
Ah, how innocent I was.
If I could tell my younger self anything I know today that I didn’t then, it would be to save during times of plenty, and get used to a lifelong frugal lifestyle. Instead, I blew money at times, and regretted it later. A lot of other people do this as well. When times are good, and you are feeling great, you sometimes become overconfident about the future. Things can change at any moment, and life can rip the rug right out from under you.
While people are saying that these days MOST people live paycheck to paycheck, I have to wonder if it wasn’t always so. Maybe our parents lived paycheck to paycheck, and they didn’t talk about it because they didn’t want their kids to worry. While my husband’s family have a saying that when they earned a dollar, they saved two, my mom didn’t have anything to save. There were times when she did very well financially, and others, we had to rely on family to survive.
Although some would like to assume it is all due to either good or bad decisions whether people prosper, some of it is luck, fate, and whether you are somehow blessed or not, and not in your control.
That is why it is always smartest to do as my husband, Ted’s family did. Save as much as possible at all times, and spend sparingly.
Ted always says his family was the last on his street to have a color TV, and his grandparents had dirt floors in their home in Macedonia before they immigrated to the US. My family tells me stories about how my grandmother gave her kids bacon to eat, and had none for herself, instead sopping up the bacon fat with bread, insisting she was happy with it. The kids knew better. At a young age, many of us learned what it meant to get by with precious little, yet somehow, we managed to survive, and thrive.
This is because our families taught us how to take very little, and maximize it.
One and two generations ago, that meant different things than it does today.
Today, it means buying secondhand clothes, and not eating out.
It also means drinking tap water rather than buying bottled water at the store.
It means having the same couch for ten or twenty years, and rationing your gas until the next paycheck.
It means borrowing books, DVD’s, CD’s, and using the computer at the local library instead of owning these things, yourself.
It means telling friends you cannot go on that road trip this time, and picking up extra shifts to pay down bills.
It means buying lottery tickets, and actually being genuinely disappointed because you did not will the multimillion dollar jackpot.
It means realizing you cannot retire anytime soon.
It means not adopting that dog you want at the shelter, but donating a little money because you can’t afford Vet bills, but you can afford a few dollars to help out.
It means taking a job you don’t necessarily want, but can live with, because it is closer to home, and you need to cut down on costs for gas.
It means grooming your dog yourself even though it’s a pain in the ass, because the fee to go to a groomer is unacceptable.
It means growing vegetables in the summer to save money on food, and it means saving the seeds from your own vegetables to plant next year, rather than buying new ones every year.
It means napping in your car at rest stops, rather than getting a motel, and it means packing all your own food for trips, rather than eating at restaurants.
It means learning home remedies, rather than going to the doctor every time something goes wrong.
It means not always buying “the best”, and when something breaks, going without for a while before replacing it.
It means getting damned good in general at going without.
I can’t even list here all the tricks my frugal friends and family have taught me over the years, and I also cannot begin to express how valuable all of this became for me.
I can share advice a much older friend told me her dad gave her, and that she always followed. “Pay your bills on time, and live within your means.”
I wish I had listened to her. I did pay my bills on time, but I confess, living beyond my means was not the rule. I don’t even know if I still own one single thing I bought on credit when I was younger. I wonder how life would have been different if I had eased off the spending, and instead did some investing? What if I had even just started a savings account?
Not everybody has the capacity to do so. So please don’t think I am saying the solution to financial woes is ALWAYS being frugal. For some people, it’s just not.
What I am saying is, IF it is an option, don’t pass it over. Nobody ever regretted being frugal, saving money, and spending less than what they earn.