Every person who saves money is counterbalanced by several people, like me, who waste huge gobs of money for no other reason than we're poorly educated in the fine art of frugality. My parents were somewhat well-to-do, but they were always smart with money. My mom cut coupons and sewed patches on our clothes when they were torn. She also used frequent flier miles and cooked almost all our meals at home. So why am I the antithesis of that? I have a few theories, but they're irrelevant to this article. I want my kids to have nice toys, clothes, food, and vacations. Don't all parents? The fact that I want the best for my kids should not hamper my ability to save money. My good friend, Angie, is an expert penny pincher, and she does it all while providing nice things for her family. That's how I want to be. In the mean time though, I can always poke fun at myself for my ignorant behavior. These are some ways that I've noticed people needlessly wasting money.
The ideal situation for housing is to either own a home or to pay as little as possible in rent. There is value, for some people, in renting. Some people want to have freedom to travel and no responsibility. Heck, most Europeans rent their homes rather than buy. So, renting is not necessarily a bad thing. It is bad to spend too much on it without earning anything in return (equity). I spend 2800 dollars a month on my rent, and that is a huge waste of money. I've realized, in this past year, that I am not building any sort of future by spending that kind of money on something I will see no return on. I would be better off to invest in a commodity or put my money into a business, rent a small house, and build what is equivalent to equity in another investment. But, I don't, and I'm a dumb dumb. The good news is that I'm moving next month and I'll be paying half as much. That extra money is going to go directly into my children's college fund. Smart.
I wrote an article a few months ago where I expounded the importance of dressing well, even for kids. I still believe that dressing well is vital to our sense of pride. I'm not saying we all need to have huge egos. I'm saying that clothes make an impression on people, and dressing well makes everyone feel better. In other words, don't be a fat slob. Not to specifically pick on fat people, it's just that they are the ones who have the hardest time pulling of a stylish look. The point here is not about looking good; it's about looking good and saving money. I learned this lesson just this week when I took out all my boys' old clothes for a garage sale. They have stuff I bought at Macy's, really high quality stuff, that they only wore once! I did a quick calculation in my head, and I figure I'm getting rid of 1000 + dollars of clothes. The sad part is that my return on that investment is going to be -900 dollars if I'm lucky. I've been to garage sales in my neighborhood. Everyone should frequent a wealthy neighborhood to loot all the stupid people like me who wasted money on kids clothes. That's what I'm going to do from now on. Who cares if my neighbors make fun of me for buying their old crap? It's perfectly good crap!
This is an area that I am, for once, not guilty of transgression. It's a simple issue; what vehicle should we drive that fits our needs? Yet, for many people it's not so simple. It's a matter of image. I drive a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It wasn't necessarily cheap, but it certainly isn't a Lexus or Land Rover. It's a normalish family car that fits our needs perfectly. We go on long cross country trips, and we need a big car that gets good gas mileage. We have the perfect car for our needs. I have a funny true story about a guy and two Lamborghini's. There's this guy I know who, by all accounts, is a perfectly normal guy, except that he's worth about half a billion dollars. But, he lives in a normal neighborhood and has normal family time. You'd never know he was so rich. But, a friend of his had bought a Lamborghini and started to make fun of this guy who didn't have one. So, this normal guy with tons of money went and bought himself a Lamborghini even though he barely fits into it and hardly ever drives it. I couldn't think of a better example of wasting money for the sake of image. Yet that's what people do. Why buy an Audi when there are Volkswagen's? Why A Lexus when there are Toyotas? Buy what you need and stop the insanity. Collecting cars or having an interest in super-cars is different. But, for everyday transportation, just get what's necessary.
Again, this is an issue that I don't intentionally screw up. I screw it up because nobody ever taught me better. Angie wrote an awesome article for my blog which I entitled, The Big Money Saving Post. In that article she teaches how to simply save money on everyday expenses. One topic of conversation is groceries, and I learned a lot by reading it. I have tried to cut coupons in the past. I just get overwhelmed by them and I end up quiting. The goal is to go into grocery shopping with a game plane and a list, with coupons associated with each item on the list. If I usually buy Tree-Top juice yet Motts has a coupon then I guess I'll be buying Motts. Don't necessarily change eating habits, just make the coupons fit the circumstances. I was also unaware of all the coupon based web-sites available to me. My mistake is always going into a grocery store with no plan and no list. Oh, I try to only buy what I need – again, like the Europeans who have tiny kitchens and buy only what they need each day, fresh. It's a great idea, which I have sometimes had success with and sometimes not. I need to improve. My two boys are growing, and I certainly remember how much I consumed at a teenager. I'm afraid if I don't get smart soon that I'll just go broke from food expenses alone.
Use Angie as an example of how to save money. Use me as an example of someone who is learning to save money and still has a long way to go. I am not a rich person. As a matter of fact, I am probably very close to average. Rich people waste money because they don't really care and it doesn't hurt them. In that case, I can't argue with them. For normal people, like us, we need to be more careful with our finances. We cannot afford frivolous expenses that have no investment value. This is an economy where people are losing jobs and where there are an increasing number of people receiving food stamps. Being grateful for what we've got is as simple as taking the time to think about our purchases before we make them. Not only will we save money, thereby giving us a better standard of living, we'll also better understand the value of things. The more we save the more appreciative we become. I'm not a bad guy. I simply have a money saving deficiency.
Like this article? Be sure to visit (and subscribe to) Keith's parenting & caring for kids blog, Mekeliki. Keith is an awesome stay at home dad who spends his days home schooling his two boys, playing, writing insightful articles, studying languages, and exercising. :)
P.S. Be sure to read my new eHow article -How To Dress Your Kids Well On A Tight Budget