Intentional Spending: Frugal vs. Cheap

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

I’m in a facebook group for frugal living and a question came up regarding personal care spending.  The question went something like this: 

“Do you spend a lot for your shampoo?  I believe mine is making my hair fall out. “

The responses ranged from “do not skimp on caring for yourself” to “this could be related to something other than shampoo, such as thyroid issues or vitamin deficiencies.”  But the responses were consistently and unanimously on the side of not skimping on personal care items when choosing frugality could possibly cause you harm.

Obviously there’s no way for the internet congregation to know whether cheap shampoo is actually the cause of her issues, but assuming it is, then the group definitely sided with self-care over being cheap.

It made me realize that sometimes choosing a positive lifestyle choice, be it with your finances, your fitness or anything in between, being so extreme that it’s causing more harm than good is not the way to go.  While I can’t say that this is or isn’t the case for this particular person, there are many times that people put a goal over safety or good decision-making.  And that can be dangerous. 

I love being in groups sometimes because they do often bring out interesting discussions, and this group did bring up some pretty good points.  Here are some thinkable moments that came out of the discussion:

You only get one body.  Take care of it.  This should be a no-brainer but it’s a good mantra to keep in mind for so many reasons.  I know that I take my body for granted every single day.  And I need to stop that. 

Skimp in other areas so that you can pamper yourself and your body.  I think this is a great idea.  I have never been an every-two-weeks mani/pedi girl, and I don’t go to the hair salon often at all, but I do believe that you should figure out how to set aside money to pamper your body from time to time.  Massages, hair treatments, whatever is important to you…figure out how to incorporate it into your life in a way that makes sense financially.  Sinking funds or cash envelopes are a great way to budget for these items.

I don’t go to salons, but I buy nice quality items to give myself nice at-home hair treatments and manicures.  There are great products in the store that are affordable.  Figure out those great products that work for your hair and your skin.  Look for them when they are on sale, grab a coupon, or take advantage of specials.  And honestly, this is possibly a splurge area for me.  I have a face cream that I love, but I’ve also found a good store brand knock-off, so I alternate each time I purchase face cream:  one month cheap stuff, one month good stuff.  But for me, I’d rather spend the money to do upkeep versus spend a lot of money down the road trying to correct issues that could have been avoided. 

You should see a doctor/dermatologist/nutritionist/etc.  Let’s face it.  There are a lot of people who only go to the doctor if they are truly debilitated.  Things that are labeled as small, cosmetic, or discretionary are often overlooked until it spirals into a more serious issue.  I’m not sure if this is a frugal thing or not.  For some, it could be, but for others, it may be a hassle that just doesn’t rise to the occasion of a doctor’s appointment.  These “small” symptoms can often be the piece of a larger puzzle.  Squeeze those doctor’s appointments into your schedule.  They could be crucial for catching something before it’s too late.  Quick story which I plan to blog about later…a visit to the dermatologist for something I chalked up to my own vanity ended up catching a malignant tumor for me in November of this past year.  It wasn’t causing me pain, it was just annoying and I hated looking at it.  Even the dermatologist told me it was nothing, and said I didn’t have to do anything unless I wanted to.  And when it was removed and biopsied, the result was skin cancer.  So yeah, that’s my quick lesson about getting “little” things checked out. You just never know.

Try a different product. Many people in the group provided product suggestions.  Sometimes people feel like there’s only one product that works for them.  And while there’s no real way to tell if something that works for an internet stranger will also work for you, at least it does get you into thinking about other options.  Some people have been buying the same shampoo since the 90’s.  It’s routine and it’s comfortable.  But it could also be time to venture out to something new.  Our bodies change over time, hair included, and another product could be a better option for you.  Doing a little research and trial and error could be the answer.

I agreed with all of these points, but I question how frugal someone is living if it means that something as dramatic as hair loss still makes them question whether they should spend a few extra dollars.  In the days of extreme couponing and store discount cards, there are a lot of people that make big decisions based on price—even if the price difference is insignificantly small and does not justify buying the cheap product over the more expensive option. I shop based on price comparisons quite a bit, and a lot of times I regret skimping. 

Where do you stand on the issue? I have often times opted for cheap when I should have splurged, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is right, but I definitely feel like you should spend money when the cheap way is causing you harm.

What’s something you’re always cheap on? What do you always splurge for?

Buying Cute Affordable Glasses Online

Have you ever ordered glasses online?

For years, my annual trip to the eye doctor was always an ordeal. Because of the insurance I had, I was able to get a new pair of glasses each year, and I loved it. I love having different styles and colors and brands. And I love having glasses already planted in every space I need them without having to worry about toting them around. I keep pairs at the office, sunglasses in my car, and pairs of glasses in my nightstand, in the living room, etc. Any place I frequent, where I may also need to see something clearly, I keep glasses there.

I hated making appointments to get glasses. Going in seemed like such a hassle and it was always a numbers game with what insurance covers and what I like. And several times, I almost flipped the table over out of frustration with the whole process.

Over the years, I have accumulated quite a stash of glasses. I had several pairs of regular glasses and sunglasses. Eventually after assessing my insurance needs, I revised my vision plan, and opted to stop getting an annual pair. It just didn’t make sense to deduct money from my paycheck each pay period for something I really didn’t need.

But I still LOVE eyeglasses and occasionally I want a new pair just because.  So I found a place online, Eye Buy Direct, that has cute, budget-friendly glasses. They are quick with turnaround and the glasses are good quality. They have a few name brands, but they don’t really carry the Coach, Michael Kors, Gucci, etc. brands. But they do have Ray Ban and Oakley. Which is fine by me. I want something fun, colorful, trendy without paying a ton of money. When I want my expensive name brand frames, which I do still purchase occasionally, I can go elsewhere. For my play glasses and fun frames, this suits me perfectly!

For example, this cute fun red pair cost me less than $35 with prescription and shipping! Seriously…can you beat that??

What has your online glasses experience been? Have you tried it? If not, would you?

Why The Annual “State of My Finances” Is Important

state of finances 2

Money, money, money money….MONEY!!!  Some people got to have it, some people really need it…and some have no idea whether they have it or they need it because they don’t take the time to review their books.  “What books??” You ask.  Well, whether it’s a book or a spreadsheet or an app on your phone, I’m talking about your finances.

Every year kinda goes the same way when it comes to my finances.  I have a pretty strong start with being disciplined and focused, then I eventually lose focus but somehow the bills still get paid, and by the end of the year, things get pretty loosey goosey.  I am not aware of balances, I stop telling myself “no” to purchases as much as I should, I start becoming really focused on when I get paid again, and the paycheck-to-paycheck mentality kicks in a bit.  Then January rolls around and I force myself to get reacquainted with my finances, and I become focused and disciplined all over again.

So…here we are…it’s January and it’s time to know what’s happening with my finances.  It’s time to regain control, see the big picture, know my numbers and dates, and make the promise to myself to be more fiscally responsible than I was last year.

Where to begin:  I have a spreadsheet which has been my trusty companion for the last five years or so.  I use it to track account balances, financial obligations, and monthly payments.  So I pulled that out and got to work.  I went account by account, checked balances and limits, minimum payments, and due dates.  One page of the spreadsheet contains every debt that I owe for every monthly payment I make.  It has the date that those payments are due each month, the current balance of that account, the limit for that account, and the method which I make my monthly payments.  I update it for any new accounts and delete any old accounts that no longer apply.  I sum this all up and I see where I stand from a total debt perspective.  Then I compare that amount to the debt reported on my freecreditreport.com report.  (Side note:  Freecreditreport.com is a very useful tool. I highly recommend this or some type of credit monitoring service.)

So here’s the spreadsheet template that I use.

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After I’ve updated all the accounts on my current payment roster, I go to my other sheet that lays out my monthly perspective.  I put in my paycheck dates for the year, the amount of each paycheck, and the bills that I pay each month.  This is where I track each time I get a paycheck, and each time I actually make a payment towards my bills.  This is also where I become a little lazy because most of my payments are set to be automatically paid.  I like that these payments occur behind the scenes and that I do not have to monitor them on a daily basis.  I feel like I should stay on top of my monthly payments, but because God invented autopay, I just don’t have the need to monitor it super close.

budgetspreadsheetcapture

So…between these two spreadsheets, this is how I go about performing my “State of My Finances” review.

Upon completing my review, here’s what I found out— I kicked ASS this year financially!  GO ME!  1) I paid off all credit card accounts except one that I use for vacations and such.  2) My credit score has gone up, up, up despite purchasing a vehicle last year! 3) My monthly utility, cell phone, cable, etc. have all been kept at a satisfactory level.  4) I am spending significantly less than I make.  5) And I have a much healthier surplus at the end of each month.  YES!  This is what it’s all about!

Doing an annual “State of Your Finances” is an absolute MUST for everyone, and here’s why:

You know where you stand:  Every adult should know who they owe, how much they owe, and when they owe it.  You need to know whether you need to make changes or stay the course.  You need to know whether you can withstand a financial crisis or an unexpected life change.  While credit reports are a great way to know this information, sometimes they are wrong.  If you haven’t done your own work, you may not realize there are errors, and that can hurt you in the long run.  A good example for me is, when I was furloughed for 35 days, and missed nearly three paychecks, my boyfriend was actually surprised that I wasn’t a big ball of stress.  That’s because I knew I had savings, I knew I had credit cards that weren’t maxed out, and I knew what sat in my bank account.  Granted, it wasn’t a great time, I definitely avoided Target like the plague…but I was able to survive it unscathed.

Knowing your financial status is empowering:  Every year when I do my self-audit, I come out of the experience feeling better.  When they say knowing is half the battle, that’s legit.  You feel empowered to do better, to plot a course, to move to the next step.  Or you feel validated in the way you spent money in the previous year.  Even in the years when I realize my financial situation was not great, when I was completely under water and overwhelmed, I still completed my finance-check feeling better.  I’d rather know than not know.  Knowing your starting point helps you determine your goals.  Just because things aren’t great doesn’t mean you can’t improve and get to where you want to be.  Trust me.  I know first-hand, and maybe one day I’ll write about my journey to this point.

Not knowing is stressful:  Flying blindly is a bad idea.  Not knowing whether you are close to financial ruin or well on your way to financial freedom can cause stress.  Playing fast and loose with your finances is never a good thing.  Getting to a checkout line and not knowing whether you have $500 or $5 in your account is not cute.  Going to dinner with your girls, and having your stomach in knots because you don’t know what the waiter is going to say when he brings your card back…is a horrible position to be in.  Remove one source of stress from your life.  Know for sure what’s going on.  Either way, the money is either in your account or it isn’t.  Don’t add to the stress by putting yourself in embarrassing situations just because you don’t want to know your truth.

You can set the course and let go of the wheel:  What I’ve learned is that by going over my bills and payments in the beginning of the year, I actually figure out what my plan is for the year, set everything up, and then I don’t think about it.  I just let the auto-pay magic happen.  Because I know that I’m not the greatest at being disciplined, I set myself up for success from the beginning and then I don’t worry about it.  Over the course of the last few years, I always dread this audit, and then realize things are better than where I started.  But that’s because I’ve set payments up, I’ve updated when things get allocated based on my pay dates for the year, so I don’t have to constantly monitor and look at things in order for them to get done.  Lay out your plan and let it go to work!

You can take advantage of opportunities: Whether it’s planning a trip you swore you didn’t have enough money for, or increasing your contributions to your 401k, knowing definitively where you stand with your finances opens the door to more opportunities.  For me, if I have money sitting in the bank, that’s money available for me to spend.  But instead, if I allocate it before I see it, then it’s helping me accomplish a goal.  I know I’d much rather accomplish a goal than purchase yet another pair of jeans.  Let your money help you experience life to its fullest.  Don’t let it be the reason you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.  I’ve been there–it’s horrible.

Start your year off right.  Don’t hesitate!  Know where you stand financially and set yourself up to be in a better position when you review your finances next year.  I know you can do it!

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