By Tawra Kellam
When people ask me about getting out of debt, they often ask "Doesn't it take quite a bit more time to be frugal?" Of course, doing work yourself does mean you spend more time doing certain things, but it also means that you will spend a lot less time and money working to pay someone else to do it. Many people work more hours to pay someone else to do a job than it would take them to do it themselves. Of course, if you make a million dollars a year and have no manual dexterity, this article is not for you.
Here are some examples based on my own experience with a family of 4. Because your household income is probably not the same as mine, some things that make sense for me will not make sense for you. I suggest that you read my examples and consider your actual costs.
Example #1: Buying clothes - One great way to save on clothes is to go to garage sales. This seems very time consuming to many people, but it really isn't. In the summer, I usually spend 3-4 hours every 2 weeks going to garage sales. That may seem like a lot, but if you compare that to how much time the average person spends shopping at the mall, it really isn't any longer.
Example #2: Meals - I usually average an hour and a half each day preparing and cleaning up from meals. Compare that to going out to eat: It takes the typical person 20 minutes to drive to the restaurant and 20 minutes to return home. That is 40 minutes. Then you spend 15-20 minutes ordering and waiting for your order. You are now up to one hour. If you plan an hour for eating, you are up to two hours total. Don't forget the 2-3 hours you had to work to pay for it! This assumes an income of $30,000 per year and a $40 family meal.
If you go to fast food restaurants instead, you could cut your time down to 40-50 minutes and 1-2 hours working to pay for it.
If you stay home and cook, it will cost you 15-30 minutes preparing the meal and less than $5 paying for it. I'm not saying that you should never eat out but, that if you do it regularly, it will cost you a lot more (in time and money). Is it really worth it?
Example #3: Buying a car - If you buy a new car with $500 a month payments for 5 years, you pay $30,000. Let's say you earn $30,000 per year at your job. If you assume 25% income tax, you must earn $40,000 to pay for your $30,000 car. This means that you have to work 1 year and 4 months for no other reason but to pay for that car. Is it really worth working over one year just to pay for a new car? If you decided to buy a $7500 car instead, you could afford to take a vacation from work for a year. Haven't you been saying you need more free time? If you didn't get that, get out your calculator and do the math. This is important.
Always consider the hidden costs, too. Would you feel more inclined to buy a security system for that $30,000 car? How much will that cost? Are the parts more expensive for the $30,000 car when it breaks down? Trust me, your new car will still break down almost as much as a used car. Ask my brother...
Be very careful when you start saying things like "Doesn't it take too much time to be frugal?" or "I can't seem to find time to be with my husband or children" or "I don't know where to start saving." Often, those are excuses that you have created to ease your guilt. If you think about it and do the math, living simply will give you more free time. If you'd rather not, you can always keep spending money and wishing you had more family time. It's your choice! But take heart- if you have read this far then you get and A+ for taking the first step and trying!
Tawra Kellam is the author of the frugal cookbook "Not Just Beans: 50 Years of Frugal Family Favorites." For more free tips and recipes visit her web site at www.LivingOnADime.com. In 5 years, Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 personal debt on an average income of $22,000 per year.