As we confessed in our post Frugality Is A Choice, Not A Punishment, we were not always frugal. In fact, some might even say that we were the complete opposite of frugal. To us, frugality was associated with being cheap, and neither one of us desired being labeled as cheap.
Just the word “cheap” implied that we were inferior, substandard, low-quality, shoddy, and low-end. We assumed that people who viewed us as being cheap would think that we were miserly, stingy, tight-fisted, penny-pinching weirdos. I guess when you really look at it, we were afraid of cheap.
Facing Our Fears
But, after we had our epiphany we knew that adopting a life of frugality meant that we would need to reach beyond our comfort zone. We knew that in order for us to achieve FIRE, financial sacrifices would have to be made. We also knew that we would be going against mainstream ideology by living below our means.
As we tried to imagine our future, it didn’t take long for us to become overwhelmed by the idea that we were working towards a seemingly distant dream, and would have to be in this for the long haul. These assumptions consumed our thoughts and caused our emotions to go on a roller coaster ride as we tried to imagine how our lives were about to change.
And despite that fact that we were excited about our newfound dream to achieve FIRE, we somehow managed to convince ourselves that in the interim, our lifestyle would suffer tremendously because we would now be forced to give up the luxuries we had become accustomed to. Our minds knew that we wanted this, but our hearts were still steeped in skepticism.
But, eventually we knew that we would have to face our fears and accept our new reality. Therefore, we were forced to digress and embrace the possibility that we may need to concede to being viewed as…that dreaded word…cheap.
Setting the Bar
The first step we took in our attempt to adopt a frugal lifestyle was to figure out which expenses could be reduced or eliminated. Using our bank and credit card statements as a guide, we went through each expense line by line and created a list of items we knew we would have to get rid of. This was a daunting process, and as each expense was added to our list, we realized that this was the moment that we were going to either succeed or fail
We each decided to pick one thing that we believed we couldn’t live without, and try to find a way to either reduce or eliminate that expense. Mr. FE decided to work on his comic book habit, and I decided to try to cure my addiction to Starbucks. We had both picked some ambitious goals right out of the gate, so we knew this would be the real test.
The Comic Book Challenge
Mr. FE’s comic book collection was (and still is) his pride and joy, so he decided the first step should be to create a catalog so he could get a proper assessment of his inventory. It wasn’t an easy chore given that fact that his comic books had taken up our entire spare bedroom. When he finished the project he came to the conclusion that he owned approximately 4,000 comic books.
Mr. FE then decided to take a couple of days to ponder how he should handle this new quandary. He knew that he didn’t want to give up the hobby he has loved since he was a child, and looked forward to acquiring new reading.
Then Mr. FE came up with a solution. Instead of accumulating more comic books, he decided to make trades. Mr. FE was happy with this compromise because it meant that he could continue to enjoy his hobby without spending a single dime, or adding more comic books to his already bloated collection.
For the comic books Mr. FE couldn’t get by trading, he’ll find on Ebay. That way he can track down what he’s looking for and send an email to the seller to negotiate better deal. Then in order to keep control of his spending he assigned himself a $25.00 monthly allowance. Now instead of dropping an average of $1,800 a year on comic books, he spends $300 or less. Mr. FE succeeded in his challenge to find a frugal alternative.
The Starbucks Challenge
Starbucks wasn’t just a place to enjoy a beverage or two, it was more of a reprieve. My one true salvation to help me deal with the trappings of my 9-5 job. Psychologically, I was addicted to the temporary euphoria and I knew that giving this up wasn’t going to be easy. But knowing that Mr. FE was brave enough to conquer his challenge meant that I needed to at least try to meet mine. So not ready to give up my latte just yet, I set out on a mission to find a replacement for my iced passion tea.
All it took was a couple of key strokes in the Google search engine, and lo and behold what did I see? A box of Tazo iced passion tea for $3.49 at Amazon. Six quarts worth! Then I started to research other retailers and discovered that a seller in our area not only carried this same tea, but that it was on sale for $2.99 a box. Woo hoo!
The ease of this first task came as a complete surprise. For some reason, I had believed that Starbucks had some secret recipe behind their tea, and that it was locked up in a titanium safe in a deep, dark dungeon that only Howard Schultz had access to. I was shocked at just how easy this was. Shocked, I tell you!
Then came the big one with my much-needed caffeine jolt. First, I tried to give up coffee altogether, but this turned me into something that resembled a grizzly bear and the office joke was to stay away from me until at least noon. So in an effort to redeem myself I reluctantly returned to Starbucks. I decided to consider it as an investment in my career. That was until Mr. FE discovered what I was up to and challenged me to do better.
So my research resumed as a looked for a way to make a quality brew at home. After going through four coffee makers and a lousy pod coffee machine, I eventually struck gold with my $2.99 Melitta Pour-Over cone. Not only did I manage to save a ton of money, but I no longer missed out on my daily trip to Starbucks. Mission accomplished!
The Moment of Truth
After we both conquered our initial goals, we soon realized that frugality was not about being cheap. Yes, frugality is about saving money, but it’s more than that.
It’s about finding more efficient ways to manage your life.
Mr. FE discovered how much easier it was to have a catalog of his comic books, and he looked forward to the challenge of making a worthwhile trade.
By making my own coffee and tea, I had spent less on gas and had freed up a substantial amount of time from standing in long lines, and then I found a new way to channel work stress by taking an afternoon stroll during my lunch hour.
Soon we experienced a domino effect as we started to apply our new skills to other areas. We both noticed that the quality of our lives improved dramatically. We became obsessed with frugality and no longer cared about how other people viewed us, nor did we care if they thought we were cheap. For us, we were proud of the fact that we had finally conquered our fears.