Four Ways To Live Your Best Frugal Life

Four Ways To Live Your Best Frugal Life

Adapting business tactics to your personal finances.

I take pride in my pursuit of a business degree. Trudging through hours of coursework relating to accounting principles, marketing strategy, economic theory, and other “businessy” topics, my perspective on personal finances has changed. When grocery shopping, I’ll think well, what’s the ROI, return on investment?

When walking to class, I’ll remember that assets equals liabilities plus owner’s equity. So perhaps one day I’ll run a corporation.

I find myself business minded now, which coupled with my love for travel, causes me to live frugally. Living on a budget doesn’t have to feel suffocating. Your bank account and credit card aren’t chained to a fence in prison.

Instead, it should feel empowering to live economically, because you have the ability to be picky about where you invest your hard earned cash. Here are four tips to live your best frugal life.

1. Grocery shop for what you really like.

I like oatmeal and peanut butter. I like eggs and bacon. And I love avocado toast but my grocery bills aren't extravagant at all. Instead, I can get by with spending fifty dollars for a week on groceries by just getting what I like. I don’t buy unnecessary items that end up sitting in my freezer for months nor do I buy colorful vegetables that end up rotting. Grocery shopping is cheaper than eating out for every meal, so if you just buy what you like to eat, the essentials, you save more money than you think.

2. Be aware of your “free cash flow.”

This is a term in accounting used to measure a company’s ability to earn a profit. Just subtract capital expenditures from cash earned from operations and there it is.

But I know, that’s complicated if you have never taken a class in accounting. In regards to you and your life, be aware of the amount of money coming in and the amount of money going out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Payday might be on Friday but, your bank account isn't locked until then.

You aren’t limited to making payments only on Fridays. Be aware of what’s coming in every two weeks and the set payments that will be going out. Car payments, rent, utilities, gas, and groceries are non-negotiable. Daily expenditures like Starbucks actually do add up.

3. Know why you’re doing it.

During my study abroad trip in China, I diligently kept track of each kuai and yuan in order to see if I could afford the trip up north to Beijing. I ended up not being able to go, so I came back home and made new goals. I’m going to work hard, save money, and travel next summer in China.

The experience of traveling for two months abroad made me reconsider what I wanted for myself in the future. When I’m in the middle of a grueling shift with testy customers, I just keep my goals in mind. Every minute I’m a dime and a nickel closer to affording the next trip.

4. Save small.

I opened a savings account when I got my first paycheck. I began by putting thirty percent of my paycheck into the account.

But then I began playing a little game with myself.

If I stopped myself from committing an impulsive purchase, then I would transfer between three and five dollars into my savings account. Small amounts compiled together someday become big amounts. Sooner or later your nest egg will become a whole chicken coop.

Every time I drop a penny into the teacup on my desk I feel like Michelle Tanner shaking her piggy bank. Saving money is addictive and fun. It makes you proud when you know that you're doing something that will benefit yourself in the future.

Cover Image Credit: NBC News

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Why Working With Special Populations Doesn't Make Me A Good Person

What you're missing from the bigger picture.

"What do you do?” might be one of my least favorite questions. Let me tell you why. I am currently a Registered Behavior Technician at a wonderful program (MAP) nestled in the heart of North Carolina. Usually when I tell someone what I do, their response is either an uncertain nod or a plain look of confusion. At that time, I break it down by saying, “Basically, I work with children who have autism.” Now, more times than not, the response I receive is along the lines of, “Wow, that’s so amazing of you” or my personal favorite, “Good for you. I could NEVER do that.”

I understand that working with special populations isn’t for everyone, just like being a neurosurgeon isn’t for everyone. But, working with special needs children doesn’t make me a good person, a saint, or a hero. Every time someone tells you he/she is a teacher, do you gasp and express how much you could NOT be a teacher? What about when you meet a pediatrician? These people work with children just like I do. I’m certain if you spent one day in my shoes you would see just how much you COULD do my job.

Maybe not all of the technical work, but after a day with these children you would be humbled by how much you could learn from them. After all, these children are just children. They want to be accepted just like every other child. They want to be understood and to be part of a community just like the rest of us. My job has given me the opportunity to get to know a handful of the more than 3.5 million Americans on the spectrum. I’ve gotten to know each of their personalities, their quirks, and what makes them unique. I can’t help but imagine a world where everyone gets to know these individuals as I have. A world where we accept all of those who might appear or act different from us and educate ourselves on these populations. A world where that education helps us see that they aren’t so different from us after all.

Working with individuals with special needs doesn’t make me a good person, because I do it for selfish reasons. I work with them because I don’t know what my life would be like without them. They have taught me so much and changed my life in so many ways. I get to play a small hand in these children’s lives. I get to help them learn fundamental life skills you and I take for granted.

But, I also get to leave work everyday having learned a lesson. These children have taught me to be a better version of myself and to appreciate even the smallest of things life has to offer. Each day they challenge me to laugh more, have more fun, and not take myself so seriously. They show me more love than I ever knew possible. Maybe it isn’t with their words. Maybe it’s with the smiles and giggles when we’re singing their favorite song, or the way they look at me when they finally get something they have been working so hard to learn.

The hugs, the kisses, and the moments where our two worlds collide and we finally connect; these are the moments that remind me how much these children have to offer the rest of us. If only we would take the time to let them teach us, we would be more selfless, less judgmental, and have a greater appreciation for life.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. My hope is that this month we work to spread awareness for Autism, as well as other special needs. We take this time to learn something new, to help educate others, and to stop looking at these individuals as though they need special people in their lives to help teach them and focus more on opening our minds to the things they can teach us.

Cover Image Credit: Katharine Smith

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11 Things That Changed When I Quit Working In Retail

"Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin"

As of three weeks ago, I no longer work in retail. I was very lucky to find a paying internship for the summer so with great sadness I put in my two weeks and moved on from my sales associate job title. I’ll always remember my retail experience fondly (because of my amazing co-workers and managers, customers generally suck tbh), but I have noticed some pretty interesting changes since I started my office job.

1. Missing the Group Chat

I never thought I would miss being bombarded with notifications but man do I miss the staff group chat. There’s nothing better than complaining about customers and catching up on work drama with all your co-workers.

2. Less Movement

No longer do I walk laps around a store for hours, instead I sit at my desk and stare at the computer.

3. Work-Out More

A side effect of sitting down all day is that I’m much more willing to work out now. I used to never want to go to work with sore legs because I knew how much you move around in retail. But now, being sore isn’t as inconvenient.

4. Make-up

Don’t wear it anymore. There’s no longer the pressure to have my physical appearance match up with a store’s branding. Which is awesome because I can sleep later and my skin is happier.

5. Weekends

I get full weekends off now and its amazing! No more weekend crowds and more pool time for me.

6. Free Time

Yet even with weekends off, I have a lot less free time during the day. Working standard hours instead of retail shifts has been an adjustment but hey, I’ll get used to it.

7. Customer Service Voice

My awful, high pitched retail voice is gone for good. Plus I no longer have to interact with strangers constantly which is a plus.

8. Defender of Retail Workers

Another side-effect of not having to be nice to people to keep my job is that I can now call people out for being rude to retail workers. Something I could never do when I was one. I may have moved on but I still have your back.

9. No More Holiday Dread

I could finally enjoy Memorial Day this year instead of dreading it. In the retail world, holidays mean tons of customers and extra-long shifts. But in office job world, I got a three day weekend.

10. Less Socialization

I sit in my cubicle all day so I don’t really talk to my co-workers as often as I did on the sales floor. Plus since I’m an intern there’s not as many people my age in the office.

11. Goodbye Discount

Unfortunately there’s no employee discounts at an office job. Which is probably good for my wallet but I’m still sad about it.

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