Every frugal family has a unique reason for choosing this lifestyle. For some people, it’s a job loss. For others, it’s the birth of a child or the desire to be a stay-at-home parent. For us, it was a gradual change, but I do still remember the day I made the conscious decision to live frugally.
When we arrived in North Carolina before my husband began graduate school, we had quite a bit of money in the bank (about $10,000 to be exact). We’d saved for a year knowing we would need a little padding until I could find a job.
In the beginning, I wouldn’t say we were frugal. We spent too much on groceries. We bought a lot of new things for our apartment. We adopted a puppy (which I absolutely don’t regret). Even though we were careful, we weren’t what I would call frugal yet.
We’d been living here for two months, and I had no leads for jobs despite sending a ton of resumes. I was beginning to worry that we were going through our savings too quickly. It’s scary to look at the bank account and see a lot of money going out with nothing coming back in.
Then I finally got a call for a job interview. I was thrilled. I even went out and bought new clothes for the interview. They called me in for a second interview. Then a third and a fourth. I met everyone in their small office. I thought I had the job in the bag. Our spending had gradually increased. I was so sure I’d be working full time soon.
They invited me back to meet with the president of the company for the second time. I was positive this was the hiring interview. It was such a relief.
The day before the meeting, they canceled. For some reason that I’ll never understand, they decided not to hire me at the last minute.
Devastated does not describe how I felt. I was completely crushed. After two months of sending resumes and six weeks of interviewing with this company, I thought this had been my shot. I thought this was the perfect opportunity. But it didn’t work out.
I was absolutely depressed for days. Then I started fretting about money. Our savings was running out. I had been counting on this job for six weeks, so we’d spent more than we should have leading up to the rejection.
I realized I would have to take a part-time job outside of my field until I could find something else. I also realized we were going to have to live on a lot less money than we’d hoped. Even with freelance writing jobs, it just wasn’t enough to cover the gaps.
If I couldn’t do anything to increase our income, we’d need to decrease our spending. At the very least, we’d be able to get by without increasing our debt or worrying about paying our bills.
Frugality empowered me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get on with my life. I realized that I had more control over our financial destiny than I thought. For so long I thought the only answer for us to improve our financial situation was to make more money. When I realized that wasn’t the case, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
We made under $20,000 that year. And yet we were still able to plan our wedding, pay off a chunk of credit card debt, and keep our heads above water. We didn’t start saving again until we paid off our credit card debt and I was hired full time, but I’m still proud of the progress we made on such a small income.
Even though our income has finally increased some, the lessons I learned in that year will stay with me forever.
What made you decide to live frugally?