When it comes to frugal living, I am a true believer. I am a lawyer by trade, with over twenty years of experience in the field. From both my professional and personal experiences, I am convinced that the failure to live a disciplined, controlled lifestyle is the root cause of many of our most pressing societal issues.
I therefore have no doubt that the United States, indeed the world, needs desperately to return to principles of frugal living. I see the proof every morning as I drive to work surrounded by large SUVs, each occupied by a single person. I marvel at the sight of minimum wage workers smoking cigarettes during breaks as they check messages of iphones. No people, regardless of income levels, are immune to the out-of-control monster known as overconsumption.
The failure to live within our means, let alone to pursue a frugal lifestyle, haunts us at the micro and macro levels of our society. From the individual to governmental levels, we are falling deeper and deeper into a seemingly bottomless hole of debt. The nation at large maintains a national debt three times the entire GNP of Japan, and still we spend like there is no tomorrow. Think about just that statistic for a moment: the nation’s total debt is more than three times the total GNP of the world’s third largest national economy. Unbelievable. Somehow, however, Americans shake our collective heads as European nations drown in debt, while oblivious to a domestic debt level that exceeds that of Greece and all other troubled European nations combined.
Our lifestyle of overconsumption affects us in ways far beyond the financial. The obesity epidemic is another direct consequence of our inability to know when enough is enough. This, in turn, leads to a host of increased incidence of diseases, ranging from diabetes to hypertension to heart disease.
Fortunately, we are seeing a budding return movement to frugal living principles. Americans, still struggling through the aftermath of the Great Recession, and with an 8.3 percent unemployment rate still haunting us all, have, at least to some extent, received the financial responsibility wake-up call. Google the words frugal living and you’ll find any number of websites, many of which are great sources for ideas and information on the subject. I will, from time to time, refer to these other sites, as I intend for this blog to complement rather than compete with these existing blogs.
So why, you might ask, do we need a new blog devoted to frugality at all? For two reasons. First, we still are so bad at it. Much like with diets, many well-intentioned Americans vow to spend less with each New Year’s Resolution, only to quickly fall off of the budget wagon by Valentine’s Day. Saving money and living within one’s means takes discipline, awareness, and constant focus, all of which this blog will hopefully provide.
The other reason why I believe this blog is needed is that much of the writing on this subject gives frugal living a bad name and proves counterproductive in turn. Let’s face it, for the vast majority of Americans, frugality does not come naturally. In order to encourage and promote disciplined, frugal living, it’s imperative to demonstrate practical frugal living. Instead, much of the writing on this subject causes it to appear, in a word, kooky. Suggestions that people search for food in grocery store dumpsters, tailgate tractor trailers to increase gas mileage, and bake muffins from molded bread turn the average person off. Can such practices save money? Yes. Are they practical? No. Reasonable persons intrigued by the frugal lifestyle read suggestions like these and think to themselves, “If this is frugal living, count me out.”
This brings me to the purpose of this blog: to discuss effective, practical methods of living within our means. In doing so, I hope to go beyond the standard suggestions of adopting a budget, spending less than you earn, and brown bagging your lunch. These are all great suggestions, mind you, and I will turn to them from time to time. But when I do, I intend to provide new twists and perspective on the common themes. My hope is to provide suggestions and insights that go a bit deeper while maintaining a focus on lifestyle choices that are practical and reasonably achievable by the average consumer.
You will also find that some of my ideas are contrarian. I will propose, for example, a heavy reliance on credit cards in lieu of cash purchases – provided your statements are paid in full each month. There will be times when I will encourage wholly discretionary expenditures, but only out of the practical understanding that it sometimes takes money to save money.
Let me also offer a warning: some of what I write will not be for the faint of heart. This is no place for excuses or denials; the subject is too important. My purpose here is to effectuate constructive change, to help people improve their financial health. In doing so, I liken myself to a coach, and while I don’t subscribe to the harsh coaching style of Bobby Knight, I do call a spade a spade when it comes to foolish spending habits. So if you drive a huge SUV or spend money on cigarettes that help to kill you, you may find some of what I write harsh or offensive. Just remember, the purpose is not to offend, but to motivate and improve.
Whether you return regularly or not, please understand the urgency of this problem. We have to come to our financial senses, and we must demand that our governments do the same. I don’t know whether the United States can overcome a 16 trillion dollar debt, but clearly time is of the essence if we are to do so. The same is true for the millions of Americans carrying tremendous debt loads under the false impression that the government will always be there to bail us all out in the end. Debtors cannot count on an insolvent government for financial relief. I truly hope that you understand and join me in this plea for frugal, responsible government and personal spending.
So there you have it: an introduction to what I hope will become a blog responsible for constructive financial change. Please visit weekly, as I commit to at least one new post per week and help you, and, hopefully, our society, master and enjoy truly practical frugal living.