Despite the good example that her parents set with their thrifty lifestyle, Sarah didn’t really ‘own’ her frugality until her last year of grad school, when giving up her job and focusing solely on her studies spelled tough financial times.
“Growing up with parents who saved and spent wisely, I had always just done it, in a ‘doesn’t everyone live like this?’ sort of way,” she says. “During that year, though, I realized what’s behind that kind of lifestyle, where it originated and what makes it important. I learned what it really meant to have to stretch each dollar and make them all count.”
To her surprise, she actually liked the challenge of living on less and the frugal lifestyle stuck.
“...I felt proud of myself for making it work on less money than I’d thought possible. And part of it was that I ended up liking it,” Sarah says. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a little more cushion than I had that year. But figuring out how to make things work felt like a puzzle, and I love a good puzzle.”
The tough realities of that year taught Sarah some valuable life lessons about budgeting, living on less, and readjusting her values, and even though her steady career means that she doesn’t have to live as frugally as she did then, she continues to apply these money-saving skills in her daily life. Sarah has even combined her thrift expertise with her passion for writing and is a regular contributor to the frugal living and personal finance blog, Wise Bread.
Sarah’s articles about simple living (What is Simple Living and Why Should I Care?), responsible money management (The First Payday: Helping Your Teen Understand Money), and debt freedom (Five Steps Toward Financial Independence) have found a good home at Wise Bread. This website, which aims “to guide a new generation of money-conscious readers,” is a blogger community made up of personal finance gurus, professors, homemakers, professional writers, and people like Sarah, who faced tough times and survived to share their experiences and educate others.
At Wise Bread, you will find information and articles that cover a huge variety of thrifty living topics; personal finance (Life After Debt: What’s Next?), frugal living (Fess Up to Your Addictions: How to Satisfy them on a Frugal Budget), career and income (Building a Better Business), and more. A diligent and devoted disciple of thrift could soak up knowledge and ideas for days—literally. The bloggers’ original and often humorous articles are highly informative, but if you don’t find the answers to your questions there, you can always check out the Wise Bread forum where users post all sorts of questions, comments, and tips.
Wise Bread's motto really nails what thrifty
living is all about: “living large on a small budget,” or at least living large
within your means. After reading her articles, one can see why Sarah and Wise Bread are such a good fit. She says
she thinks that the reason people buy and do things they can’t afford is
because we (our society) have largely forgotten how to see the good in an
ordinary day. We turn to exotic experiences and material goods to fill the void
that we think exists in our everyday lives.
“My days spent working and with my family are rarely adventuresome and exciting, but they’re rich and good,” Sarah explains. “This everyday good, what I call ‘the normal good,’ is more subtle...but it’s sustainable--both financially and emotionally--for much longer and will bring us more joy in the end.”
Having lost site of the everyday good, our values have become skewed and the spending cycle has perpetuated; we yearn for the rush that we expect from buying more and doing more. Sarah says that people can find joy in a more simple way of living and break this cycle, but they must first give up the false notion that life without lots of possessions and adventures is boring. Considering the events of the past two years, appreciating the ‘everyday good’ is timely advice.
The economic downturn and debt crisis are wake-up calls and they show us that now, possibly more than ever before, we must reassess our values and how we manage money. Individuals, corporations, and governments continued to spend, racking up credit without ever really knowing how they would pay. The downturn closed businesses, left people jobless and governments even more strapped for cash than they were before.
To get off of the living-beyond-your-means debt-rollercoaster, Sarah says you must combine practical steps—like making a budget and sticking to it--with some introspection. One must figure out why they spend, before they can ever really change their ways.
“Being aware is often half the battle here. Once you know why you do what you do, you can start to catch yourself doing it and change things. I think this is the only long-term way to change spending habits,” Sarah says.
Once you’ve figured out what’s driving your spending, learning how to better evaluate your wants and needs should be the next step you take. When it comes time to decide whether or not she will buy something or go somewhere, Sarah says that she asks herself a series of questions such as, is this necessary, is this good for me, or can I afford it? She admits that it’s not always easy to decide what’s truly needed, but these questions definitely help her to eliminate those things that aren’t essential for her or her family’s happiness and wellbeing.
Part of Wise Bread’s appeal, and I would say a major contributor to their success, is that their writers live what they write and apply what they preach to their own daily lives. Without a doubt, Sarah’s experiences--as a child of two frugal parents and the year of strict scrimping and saving that gave her a new appreciation for thrifty living--have enriched her writing.
Overall, Sarah hopes that the articles she writes will inspire people to make a change in their lives; not just to start a budget or to spend less, but to move away from the idea that to live a good life one must go beyond their means to buy their happiness.
“In general, I hope that what I write compels people not only to action, but also to thought,” she explains. “That they take what I say and figure out how to make it work in their own lives. I want to help people learn to enjoy the lives they have without always thinking that they need to have, see, do, or be more than they already are.”