As an undergraduate student living on loans the importance of frugality has become a familiar concept in my life. I?ve been fortunate to have my parents helping me through college but that hasn?t lessened the need to save money. Especially during this part of my life everything saved can be used for my benefit somewhere else. Keeping a budget and minimizing expenses are both skills and require practice and discipline. It takes time to learn the best ways to do it and realize the true value of what you have saved. By staying frugally minded, people can learn perspective, discipline, practice good consumer habits, and gain skills with a lifetime of benefits.
To keep in perspective I like to think in terms of loan payments. An average student loan payment is four hundred and fifty dollars per month, which is about fifteen dollars a day. When making decisions on spending money or what I can do to cut costs, I try to consider what kind of impact an allotted amount of money could have on my student loan debt. For some people this method of perspective might take on the form of a car payment, a credit card bill, or even a future meal. Whatever the chosen comparison, this frame of mind is a great tool for keeping in mind the opportunity cost, or the value of sacrificing the next best alternative, of one?s financial decisions.
The discipline involved in being frugally minded can also be highly beneficial. Disciplining oneself financially forces them to be aware of their spending and the implications of that spending. To practice financial discipline, I steadily check and keep track of the balance in my bank accounts, consider how long it will be until more money reaches my account, and consider how much will be deposited at that time before making purchases or committing to any sort of payment plan. Keeping a documented budget and staying within its limits is also a way to practice responsible, disciplined spending habits. By doing these things, a person can set up and successfully utilize a budget to plan savings, keep a safety expense cushion for emergencies, and more easily predict what they can afford in the future.
Being able to recognize what future costs a person can afford is an invaluable part of practicing good consumer habits. The more informed a financial decision is, the more responsible the consumer?s decision can be. An informed decision, however, is about much more than just if someone can afford the purchase. It is also about determining the value of the product in relation to its expense. For a student like myself the most familiar example would be choosing a college to attend. It?s important to consider the tuition rate in relation to the programs of study available and resources, such as job placements services, offered to alumni. Other examples may include shopping for a home or car.
All these skills have lifetime benefits. Being fiscally responsible has helped me make good decisions in college and will continue to assist me as I move into my future. For instance, in my past year of college I made the decision to drop my meal plan and provide food for myself. In making this decision I had to use those skills to make a good decision for myself. I did a good deal of research on the costs of both providing food for myself and keeping a meal plan while also considering the value of the convenience in not preparing my own meals, grocery shopping, etc. I used good consumer habits by making myself informed. From there I compared prices and looked into my budget to see if I could afford to purchase food immediately instead of off loan. Thankfully, that was an option for me. It has required discipline to be conscious of what food I buy, remembering to use coupons when available, and being conscious not to eat out beyond my budget?s allowance, but by doing so I have saved over six hundred dollars a semester (without considering the interests rates of the student loans) and I get coupons from rebateszone. Just by switching the method by which I eat, I will save nearly three months of student loan payments in this year alone.
Frugality is not being cheap. It is being responsible with your finances and cutting costs/ saving where you can. It is being aware that how you chose to spend your money can make a difference in other parts of your life. Being responsible in itself is a skill, and element of ones character, that can be useful to you as an individual and is valued by others as well. It can improve your lifestyle and your relations with others, especially in a professional setting. The longer you practice frugal-minded habits, the more natural they will become. It can become a natural thing for you to make good decisions with your money. It?s a valuable asset to anyone in any stage of his or her life.