A personal finance writer finds out what it really feels like to follow her own advice.
When you read a lot of personal finance articles, the tone can start to feel disingenuous: “All you have to do is eat rice every meal, and never do anything fun. You’ll be debt-free in no time!”
It makes you start to wonder if any of these experts have actually followed their own advice.
Sometimes personal finance writers can forget what it really feels like to follow our own advice, especially once we’ve become accustomed to a frugal lifestyle. It may get easier over time, but most sacrifices intended to improve your financial situation are going to hurt when you first implement them.
So here’s the real skinny on what it’s like to follow common financial advice. If you plan to make some of these changes, hopefully you’ll realize that it’s going to be hard at first–but also worth it. You’ll learn that you can live on far less than you ever thought possible, and it won’t make you miserable.
Bring Your Lunch
When I decided to start living more frugally, switching to packing my own lunch from eating out was one of the hardest changes. During college, I ate out several times a week, sometimes multiple times a day. When you have a stressful work life, the prospect of leaving the office for a nice meal can be the only thing that keeps you going.
When I decided to bring my lunch with me, I had to plan. Even worse, nothing I made at home tasted as good as breadsticks from Pizza Hut, or chicken salad sandwiches from the nearby deli.
Going out for lunch is also more fun than heating up your leftovers in the break room and eating at your desk. Over time, I got used to bringing my own food and started using my lunch hour as a chance to walk to the library or run errands.
I learned to love using my time productively instead of wasting $10 to $15 on a meal I’d barely remember the next day, especially when I started to notice how much money I was saving.
I’ve never cared what kind of car I drive, as long as it works well and doesn’t make scary noises on the highway.
Get a Roommate
The most drastic financial decision I ever made was moving in with my boyfriend, and another mutual friend. I’d been living alone for two years and loved having a place to myself, but I also really wanted to move in with my boyfriend. We had trouble finding an apartment we could both afford, so we asked a friend to move in with us.
It was a big change, going from my own place to having two roommates. I missed not having the freedom to walk around in my underwear, blasting the Spice Girls. The first few times I had to wait to use the bathroom, I definitely questioned whether I had made the right choice.
Thankfully, the almost $400 I saved every month quickly made up for any discomfort I felt. Suddenly, I had breathing room in my budget and could afford to join a nicer gym, travel to Spain–and best of all, to pay off my student loans early. In retrospect, having the extra roommate seems a small price to pay for a few inconveniences.
Drive a Used Car
I’ve never cared what kind of car I drive, as long as it works well and doesn’t make scary noises on the highway. It was only during my last job that I realized my car, a 1999 Toyota Avalon, was the oldest in the parking lot. I owned it outright, though, and didn’t need to make monthly car payments
Sometimes I’d feel embarrassed parking my sedan next to my boss’s Mercedes convertible, but most days I loved not having a car payment. The freedom of owning my car surpassed any desire I had for satellite radio or Bluetooth speakers. I still get a little jealous when I see someone my age who has a nicer car, so I try to remind myself how good it feels to be debt-free.
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Fight the Inner Diva
Sometimes my inner diva comes out and I get envious of people who seem to be “living it up.” But I’ve learned that the reward of financial security is worth the inconvenience of being frugal. I know I can weather any storm, because I live on just what I need.
Keep reading: Moving In Together? Tips on How To Not Fight About Money