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Getting to frugal

I have a confession. In my personal life, I have the "cheap" gene.

Cheap is bad. Cheap leads you to avoid issues, take shortcuts and incur unnecessary stress.

Frugal is good. Frugal ensures you get value for that which you realize is a realistic and healthy use of your funds.

I sometimes have anxiety when buying non-essentials. This can even happen when buying things that are required, but my "cheap" gene is talking me out of them. How do I personally address this?

For non-essentials I'll ask, "what is my per-hour fun cost?"

When I do this it frequently steers me toward good decisions. I realize a $25 board game or computer game (played with friends and family) is a good value if I get at least 10 hours out of it. This assumes I really use it and don't buy 8 or 10 of them before I use the prior ones to their potential. As a bonus I have something tangible my friends and I can, perhaps, use again in the future.

An experience doesn't have to be tangible. But I try to ensure that unless the experience is unique, I am keeping an eye on reasonable cost-per-hour. $60 an hour bar-hopping, sucking down designer drinks and paying parking and cover isn't all that fulfilling for me. For just 1 hour of that, I could see like 5 movies at the theater for around 7 hours of fun. For 2 hours of ordinary bar hopping I could hit up a 3-hour once-in-a-lifetime rock concert with my favorite band. You get the idea.

Another question I'll ask is, "Am I buying an asset or tool that will realistically yield savings? If so, how much?"

I often realize a $40 expense for a tool I want, if I am using it to complete a NEEDED project RIGHT NOW, means I spend $100 less because I'm doing it myself. That's a net savings of $60. Needed projects are deck repair or replacing that rusted hot water heater, not make-work excuses to buy a tool. In this way I leverage needs to get good-value, high-quality tools I want... but I wait until I have a need. I don't wander the hardware store every weekend building up an arsenal of tools I "may use some day."

So there's my advice, for what it is worth. If you try to limit buys to an immediate need and make the purchase a productive asset where possible -- and if you factor in your per-hour fun cost for recreation -- you may find a way to fight past the "cheap" and get to the "frugal."