When I talk about extreme frugality, I’m not talking about ‘Extreme Cheapskates’ who take risks with their health and safety.
I define Extreme Saving or Extreme Frugality as living on 20 to 40% of one’s take home income. I am practicing extreme frugality, living on 25% of my net income, not as a lifestyle, but out of necessity. When I am out of debt, I will always retain a frugal mindset, although I will not practice it so extremely.
Are you the extreme type? Here’s how to tell if you are ready for extreme frugality to get out of debt. You are are ready if the following principles resonate with you.
1. You Can’t Outearn Stupidity
Dave Ramsey is fond of warning anyone who will listen that when you are in debt, you have to change your lifestyle. You can’t simply get two or three jobs without making adjustments in how you think about money and how you manage it. In other words, you can’t outearn stupidity.
2. You Are Not Your Crap
You must be willing to give up materialistic things and stand on your own with out them. This doesn’t have to be forever or for all things, however you need to know who you are without them. You need to learn what you mean to people without them. You have to break the consumerist, materialistic mentality that got you into debt in the first place. You need to really know that you can live without any of it. You are not the labels on your clothes or the hood ornament on your car. You need to give it all up for a period of time. You are not your crap.
I always thought that I was not materialistic, but now I can see that I was, at least somewhat. Digging out of debt is teaching me to be very conscious and very selective about the things that I want to buy when I’m out of debt and what they will mean to me. I’ve also learned that I’m more interested in experiences than stuff.
3. You Need to Live the Lesson
You are the type of person who needs to experience something in order to truly understand it. You need to feel the pain of the consequences of your past bad decisions. Most of us have learned the lesson of our financial mistakes mathematically, but there is more to learning a lesson than just math for some of us. For some of us, we need to LIVE the lesson. Some of us need to metaphorically feel the pain of the hot stove on our hand, to learn at a deep visceral and permanent level not to ever make the same mistake. We need to live through the consequences of being financially illiterate, gullible, and uneducated about personal finance.
Everyday when I wake up and go out into the world, I am keenly aware of the gulf between where I am and how I present myself, and where I feel I should be and how I’d like to present myself. It’s depressing. When I’m down, I remind myself of why I’m living this way and what got me here. When I’m taking crap at work I remind myself that my poor decisions with money, and resulting debts, have trapped me in this situation. I am living my lesson, thoroughly. And once I am out of debt, this is a lesson that will NEVER be repeated. EVER.
4. You Need to Get On with Life
By being an extreme saver, you get out of debt faster. You are ready to rip the bandage off quickly, to live with more discomfort, but for a shorter period of time.
I don’t want to pay this debt for 30 years and into my old age. Even the 10 year repayment plan for my student loans is too long. I’d like to save money and live abroad for a year. I don’t want to be in my 50’s before I can afford to do that. Debt carries too much risk for me. At any point in a 10 year or 20 year repayment plan, I could become injured or ill or unemployed and we know what happens to people who default on student loans. Life becomes a living hell. My goal is to be out of $140,000 debt in 3 to 5 years, depending on how much money I can make and save. I’ll be in my early 40’s by that point and still young enough to let my hair down and have a good time while I save for retirement.
These are just a few reasons that attracted me to temporary extreme frugality. It is not for everyone, nor should it be. Is extreme frugality right for you?
Frugality – ConeSlayer @ Flickr
Well Traveled – Andy Barrow @ Flickr
Burner – Muffet @ Flickr