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Turning point

August 20th, 2009 at 11:19 am

I am seeing this question pop up elsewhere, and since we also seem to have several new people, I thought it would be fun to ask again, "What made you turn frugal?"

And since I asked first, I guess I'll also answer my own question. My ex-wife and I were $330k in debt and our combined income at the time did not add up to more than $40k a year. Our monthly budget was so tight that, at the rate we were going, we were literally two months from eviction. I'm sure my ex would disagree, but I kid you not we were in very bad shape.

So yes, it was complete and utter fear that drove me to frugality. I tried to turn the ship around, but my ex somehow interpreted that as me not loving her or something, which eventually lead to my divorce that by now I'm sure the regulars here are tired of hearing. Big Grin

Of course, I'm still here, not out of fear anymore, but because it makes a whole lot of darn good sense. Yes, it still represents a peace of mind that I seek, but frugality is a critical component to any plans towards financial wellness.

Oh, and I am forever grateful to those who have helped me get to where I am today. I wouldn't have been here if it weren't for you guys. Thanks again, gang!

So, what about you? What was your turning point towards frugality?

13 Responses to “Turning point”

  1. monkeymama Says:

    I think many people have already answered this, but it is good for so many new people hanging around (yay for new people!)

    My dad grew up in poverty and was raised very frugally. He will never change, though he can boast "upper middle class" these days. My other grandparents struggled much during the depression. You can say frugality arose out of necessity, but our family has since thrived financially by being frugal, so frugality has carried through the generations. My dh and I were both raised very frugally. We don't really know any different.

    I put myself through college (mostly) on a shoestring budget, which kind of sealed the deal. I really learned the difference between "need" and "want" in those times.

    My spouse is very different. Much more spoiled, but he lived at home until he married me. Most every dime he has ever made has gone into savings. Not sure he would have a clue how to survive on his own, but he is a hard worker and a big saver. Which is all you really need to be frugal, I guess. He doesn't "work" now, but he saves us tons of money with his careful grocery shopping, home cooking, etc., etc. He definitely learned a frugal trick or two from his family.

    I think we found life to be very easy, early on, because of the financial choices we made. But we struggled a bit in 2005 (birth of second child, dh could not find work when I had trouble returning to work, etc.), and so have since been working on our financial education (better investing) and our long-term financial goals, since. Realizing there is always room for improvement. IT was a good lesson to learn that saving a few years wasn't enough. It takes a lifetime of good financial habits to do really well!

  2. Ima saver Says:

    Watching my mother struggle to put food on the table and pay the bills on time. I never once saw her buy anything for herself. I was only 10 at the time, but I saw what a hard life she had and I did not want to live that way.

    BTW, did you pay off all of that debt??

  3. Broken Arrow Says:

    Yep! Debt-free since 2008!

  4. Caoineag Says:

    I always knew I didn't want to live hand to mouth like my parents did and I even got through college on a shoestring budget. However, the first two years after college we spent way more than we should have and when I set us down to develop a plan, found out that my hubby had additional debt equal to the amount I thought we had. We actually paid most of that off pretty quickly.

    Course we then bought a fixer upper that we spent a lot of money on but no one said we wouldn't have any backsliding. :P Now I am paying that off and committing to no more debt. I have always kept my fixed expenses low but had never been exposed to the concept of saving up a cash reserve or a budget. Getting there though. Smile

  5. ceejay74 Says:

    I followed an American path that now seems typical, when many of the horror stories of ignorance and poor management are coming to light in the news and online. Constantly dug myself into a deeper and deeper hole without really comprehending what I was doing wrong. At one point realized that I was about to go beyond the overdraft allowance in my checking account and that the credit cards were getting close to maxed out, so dug my heels in, came to a screeching halt and took stock of everything.

    From there I slowly developed a monthly budget, then longer-term plans and goals. I've never looked back. Even though it's a bit humiliating to acknowledge how badly I screwed up and for how long, it's far preferable to continue living in denial.

    This community really helped me get past feelings of shame over cutting back my lifestyle and pinching every penny, and have cheered me on to take control of and pride in my finances. Misers get a bad rap, but I've found that they can be very good people. Smile

  6. MomEsq Says:

    I have always been a saver, while my husband is a financial free spirit. He came to the marriage with about $30,000 of credit card debt (why in the world someone would charge a year of college -I have no idea), while I brought $100,000 in law school student loans. We bought a small house that is constantly in need of work, and filled it with two children. We make a decent household income, and live a modest lifestyle, primarily because the cost of day care and my student loans along with the cc debt have hamstrung us financially.

    One day, freting about the checkbook balance and the cost of car repairs on my 10 year old used car, I thought: this is crazy. We both work all day and make decent money, but it's not working for us. Maybe if I stopped letting money manage us and started managing the money, we could live the life we dream of.

    Of course, I just started, but so far, things are going great! I credit the blog and you guys for keeping me on track!

  7. Apprentice Bliss Hunter Says:

    When I realised that with planning and discipline I could turn money from something I never seem to enough of into something which enables my dreams...

  8. frugaltexan75 Says:

    My dad is a saver. My mom is a spender. I grew up enjoying the good life not realizing that we didn't really make enough money to support it. As I grew older, I saw how much heartache and strife the money issues caused my parents, and I vowed to not be in credit card debt like them.

    Then I graduated from college. I had the plan all mapped out, a great budget, and a lot of hand me down furniture. What I didn't realize was just how much it would cost me to not only set up my first apartment, but also to set up my first classroom.

    For two years I went on a spiral of maxing out credit cards, and using some trust fund money to pay them off (first year.) Second year, lumped several of them together into an AIG loan. (A lot of the money was spent on classroom items or more professional clothing, etc.)

    Then I moved back home. (long story) I didn't get a paycheck from June till September. In August I had to set up another classroom in a totally different grade level in a public school. By February of that year I had resigned. (again, long story.)

    I furiously job hunted, and came across this company selling Fire safety equipment, specifically a product called Halon. I was enamored with the Halon, and didn't really think the whole thing through very well. Starting out, I sold enough product to make it into the "Gold Club." And moved up the training ranks to manager trainee. In May I opened up my very own office in Waco -- following everything I'd been trained on.

    By mid-June all my credit cards were maxed out again, and another loan I'd managed to take out had just enough money to either pay my receptionist or pay the phone bill. Paid the receptionist.

    (From February to June I made about $900 total in commissions. Yes, I am hard headed and stubborn.)

    Started signing up at *every* temp agency in Waco. I was only two months in to a six-month lease. Managed to get a few day jobs, and a few repeat jobs, but NO ONE would hire me -- over qualified. I just wanted to pay my rent!

    Mid-July I moved out of my apartment and back home again. Continued to job hunt. Only bill that was getting paid was my car payment and insurance (thanks to help from parents.) At my wits end, I asked if there were any job openings in my parochial school system. There was one - I got it.

    Dad gave me $200 for gas money and food to get there. Took everything I could fit in my Honda, left my cat with my parents. I lived with the Kindergarten teacher and her husband for three weeks before I got my first paycheck. Then found a place to rent and had my furniture and cat sent to me.

    By that time, all of my credit cards were wanting at least $800 minimum payments. My monthly paycheck was about $1600. So, after paying rent, utilities, car, and food, there was little left. None of the companies would work with me.

    Filed bankruptcy in January, 2001. Went on a complete cash basis for a little over a year. Read Mary Hunt's books, found several frugal living forums, and got coupon happy. (For years I was called "Coupon Queen" in my family. I also now have the reputation of being very good with my money -- NOW, not then.)

    So now here I am nearly 9 years later. I've managed twice now to save a year's worth of living expenses (first year's worth used when I spent the better part of a year helping a family member - the second set is being spent now to go back to school.)

    I get very panicky when thinking about ever getting into that same type of situation of 2000. I do use a credit card, but religiously pay it off well before it is due. After following Mary Hunt for many years, I discovered You Need A Budget with it's idea of living on last month's money this month.

    I have definitely learned the value of living without things, and waiting to purchase other items till you have actual cash value for them.

  9. gamecock43 Says:

    wow- frugaltexan: I had no idea. I have only read the posts where you are very in control of your finances. Congrats on how far you have come in life! Amazing how quickly finances can just rear up and cause chaos in ones life.

    And great job as well BA. I think it's a very commendable thing to be able to get out from under so much debt.

  10. Broken Arrow Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story everyone, and thank you for the compliment gamecock.

    I should probably qualify that of the $330k we owed, about $160 was mortgage, and another $130 or so was actually her student loan. During the divorce, the house was sold so that took care of the mortgage, and my name wasn't on her student loan, so I got to walk away from that as well. The $40k left was my own debts, and that's what I dug out of.

    An observation that I find comforting from all of your stories is that we seem to come from all walks of life. Some are natural savers while others are not. And I find that comforting because I am not a natural saver myself, but it appears that you don't have to be to do well, so long as you are willing to change.

  11. SavingBucks Says:

    Congrats on getting rid of the debt! My frugal journey has had starts and restarts. My parents were immigrants and my dad never made much money. Mom did work for the "rich folk" at times -- cleaning house when the 5 of us were in school and ironing (I remember that - and to this day I am a lousy ironer). Fast forward to my first marriage -- we made decent wages but spent quite a bit. Never teetering toward the brink -- always steering away from the edge of the cliff! But a nasty divorce swung me back to frugal reality. I was able to hang on to my home (paid off now) by the skin of my teeth. I also had a goal of completing my degree. My employer generously paid for about 90% of my education. So, I saved enough to pay my bills and take a leave of absence for a semester at a time. I even paid $400 extra a month on my mortgage at that time. The bonus was that I met my DH in one of my classes! He is also like minded with frugality. He loves his "toys" but is patient enough to take care of the big bills first and pay cash if possible. Our next goal --possible early retirement for me and less work for him!

  12. ralph Says:

    Great question! My turning point came about when I started blogging here, just a year or two ago, when it was time to pay the college tuition and we had no savings, only debt! We had been sinking for years, ever since we had kids, really. We just got lazy and charged things, then took "advantage" of our great credit rating and used way too many 0% CC offers, always with the thought that it was only "temporary". Ummm-hhh. You all know how that usually works out.

    Now we have gotten more frugal but much harder times are a coming so we need to amp it up big time. My first hurdle was convincing my wife that we do indeed have a big problem. She looks at my (formerly, until last year) decent 401k balance and thinks we have a huge cushion, even though I am trying to make her realize that money has to cover us from the time I get forced out of work due to age, which will (not can, will) happen anytime from now to 10 years from now, until death. THAT is a long time!

    Anyway, I have a tough row to hoe for the rest of my life probably, and this place is great for moral support, tips, ideas, etc.

  13. princessperky Says:

    I live in a world of extremes, either spending willy nilly, or not at all. Without careful constant attention I tend to be one or the other.

    At some point I decided to clamp down on the spending, and keep the no spend phases...mostly I don't notice the 'frugal' stuff.

    Until a guest or something says 'ran out of baggies' or 'had to buy more papertowels'...then I remember we are frugal.

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