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									Monthly Newsletter – February 2011                     

Frugality the New Black?                        want to plump up retirement accounts,
                                                some really common sense strategies often
By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau                         yield huge savings.
Believe it or not, some people have sailed      Try these 10 ideas:
through the recession without feeling its
pinch. One of them is Anitra Lynn McLeod,       Curb Your Appetite
a Salt Lake City, Utah writer. How? She's
embraced frugal living. The strategy let her    1. Track cents--You've heard it before, but
double her car and house loan payments          financial gurus say it's critical to know where
and she now owns both. It also allowed her      every dime goes. It's the only way to
to flee corporate America a few years ago.      identify and cut wasteful spending,
                                                according to McLeod. Frequently those
Belt-tightening models go by many names,        leaks are called the Starbuck's effect--the
whether its extreme couponing, voluntary        couple bucks wasted on daily treats that
simplicity, or just plain being a cheapskate.   add up to big bucks annually.
As the recession plods on, its adherents
grow. In fact, a recent headline announced      Several online site make tracking spending
that frugality is the new black. Jeremy         and creating budgets a snap and they also
Vohwinkle, a financial planning writer          provide a complete snapshot of your
( who has the            financial life. Even Vohwinkle, who's savvy
Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor         about finances, was surprised when he test-
designation, agrees and says, "Frugality is     drove such a site and discovered his
taking hold. What was a fad is now a new        grocery spending was excessive. By
normal."                                        spotting it and planning more carefully, he
                                                slashed that bill by about $200 per month.
Whatever the name, the lifestyle entails        Vohwinkle says that for lots of people, these
slashing consumption and ensuring that          online tracking sites create light bulb
every dime is spent wisely.                     moments.

For some, the process brings the realization    Resources:,
that excess stuff and frivolous spending
drain time and energy, dwindle savings
accounts, and derail long-term goals.           2. Want it or need it?-- Before buying
                                                anything, especially a shiny new object,
Whether you need to cut back because            McLeod asks whether it's a need or a want.
you're facing a fiscal catastrophe or if you    It allows her to decide what adds value to
her life. If it's a want, how much pleasure,      over 20 years old and her car is 17 years
ease, or contentment will it bring? What          old.
would you give up to have it? Weighing
such things is, of course, very personal.         5. Clothes: Most closets are bursting with
Some value art supplies more than tech            unworn items. Again, before bringing home
gadgets. So do your own calculations and          something new, ask whether you need or
create your own rules of thumb                    want it. To purge or modify your stash,
                                                  organize or attend a clothing swap or visit
Resource: helps you             consignment and thrift shops.
plan purchases and develop a savings
strategy to pay for them.                         Tip: Shops in upscale neighborhoods and
                                                  suburbs often feature designer duds at a
3. Lighter eats-- Processed food is               fraction of retail.
expensive, and you can cook your own
meals for a fraction of the cost that you shell   Resources:
out for convenience foods. Slash bills by;
using coupons, tapping bulk discounts, and
hunting for the best prices on items you buy      6. Diet challenges: You can participate in
regularly. McLeod carries a book listing the      numerous challenges aimed at slashing
prices of her favorite foods so she can grab
                                                  consumption. Six Items or Less
and capitalize on deals. When she spotted         ( dares you to
broccoli on sale, for instance, she loaded up     wear the same six items of clothing for 30
and bought 15 pounds, blanching and               days. The Great American Apparel Diet
freezing the vegetables to preserve them.
Tip: Ethnic markets in big cities often           s-for-participation) challenges participants to
feature rock-bottom prices on staple items,       wear, for one year, only things in their
such as beans, lentils, rice, and spices.         closets and the 100 Thing Challenge
Resources:,                     thing-challenge) encourages you to,,               embrace minimalism. Challenge participants McLeod                typically report a sense of freedom.
relies on Can I Freeze It?: How to Use the
Most Versatile Appliance in Your Kitchen by       7. Entertainment: Tap all the freebies in
Susie Theodorou for tips on freezing her          your city that you can. Museums offer
haul.                                             discounted or free days, movies are
                                                  cheaper during the afternoon, and an array
Wise Buys                                         of alerts are available depending on where
                                                  you live. Do an online hunt to find sites and
4. Buy quality--Yes, that $200 washing            publications that promote discounted and
machine is cheap. But how long will it last?      free events.
Paying more for quality typically is the less
costly long-term choice. McLeod consults          Resources: (sign up
Consumer Reports whenever she needs               both for your own city and in vacation
something new. Her washing machine is             destinations),
                                        , Search for freebie      gn=th_nav_gogreen;
sites in your city.                    
8. Purge--Excessive spending often goes          guides.html
hand in hand with excess stuff. For a
sobering portrait of what can happen when        10. Delay gratification--Vohwinkle
stuff piles up, take a look at some of the       frequently sees baby boomers getting
hoarding television shows. People are            financially derailed because of their love of
literally buried by possessions.                 cars. Some devote up to $2,000 per month
                                                 to car payments and insurance, put away a
A whole industry--think professional             mere $500 toward retirement monthly, and
organizers, the Container Store, and rental      still expect to retire in five years. "They say,
storage units-- has emerged to help people       'I've worked hard and deserve a nice car.'
purge and organize their excess stuff. But       But cars are a depreciating asset. If you
you needn't pay professionals. Take a DIY        replace them every five years, payments
approach by starting small, such as purging      never go away," he points out. Do you
one kitchen drawer or one shelf. Donate or       need an $70,000 luxury ride to commute 50
sell the leftovers.                              miles a day? The same goes for tech toys.
Resources:                                       Why camp out and pay top dollar for a
                                                 brand-new gadget, potentially riddled with;             bugs, especially given that their price will
decluttering-tips-to-start-conquering-your-      likely drop dramatically? "You're the one to
mess;                                            find those bugs and to pay for the privilege,"
                                                 points out McLeod.
lutter.asp                                       Additional resources
9. Green saves green--Houses can be              The internet teems with articles, blogs and
energy hogs, but you can reduce those            tips about cutting costs. If you're planning to
utility bills by boosting energy efficiency.     read any of the books, tightwads would tell
Your local utility company may offer free or     you to borrow it from the library.
low-cost audits to determine the projects
that will bring the greatest savings. Some       Books:
also offer rebates and incentives, as do
local, state and federal branches of the         The Cheapskate Next Door by Jeff
government. Other inexpensive DIY                Yeager(
projects, such as weather stripping,             oor.html)
programmable thermostats, new insulation,        The Complete Tightwad Gazette and The
along with eliminating phantom loads (those      Tightwad Gazette III: Promoting Thrift as a
blinking green lights on electronics) can also   Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy
have a significant impact.                       Dacyczyn
                                                 Frugal Living for Dummies by Deborah (database of rebate and         Taylor-Hough
incentives);            Websites and blogs: the lowdown
ain_Page--A program that promises to           on all things frugal, some of which are a bit
transform your relationship with money.        off-beat.,                  articles and tips,                           on everything from retirement and taxes to --The               frugal living.
Canada-based sites feature freebies,
coupon codes, and deals, along with            Be certain to plow all your new savings into
frugality tips. The Quebec outpost of the      vehicles that earns long-term benefits.
Voluntary Simplicity movement can be           McLean, for example, socks away 10
found at         percent of every single check that comes
                                               into her hands, even if that check is for $11. on everything,       And, she says, her frugal habits have not
including electronics, restaurants, home       diminished, but enhanced, her life. "I find
supplies and clothing.                         solace in it, and I really appreciate the
                                               things that I do have," she says. "You live
Gail Vaz-Oxlade serves up tough love           modestly and below your means, and if the
money advice at her site and blog,             worst comes, you have confidence and and       know you can feed and house yourself."
on Canadian television,

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