Once my family and I had moved to Oklahoma, I went to the library and started reading everything I could about frugal living, saving money and getting out of debt. The Tightwad Gazette became a Bible to me, as I took over the family finances for the first time during a nearly 18-year marriage.

I opened a checking account under my own name, so I could be accountable for every penny and nickel both going into and coming out of the account. My wife protested that move, but I told her she would simply have to open her own account and be responsible for it. I needed to know EXACTLY how much money was in the account we used to pay household bill, and I couldn't do that if she was using the ATM card every other day and not giving me the receipts.

I drew up a strict budget. It covered all household expenses, with a little left over for savings and for minor expenses until the next pay day. I got a copy of my credit report and contacted all of my creditors, and made arrangements to either pay them off or enter a payment plan. For debt that was past the statute of limitations in Oklahoma, I wrote letters to zombie debt collectors demanding they stop calling my home and offer proof that I actually owed the debts. They all stopped bothering me. The one or two that did offer proof of my debt agreed to lower payoff amounts in exhange for agreeing to remove old debts from my credit report.

I opened a savings account, and I treated it like a bill. It was the first thing I "paid" after each paycheck, and in no time at all I had an emergency fund of about $600. I signed up for my new employer's 401k plan and contributed every pay period.

My wife and I made it a point of discussing every debt and household expense, and I adopted a new mantra when it came to shopping for clothing and household goods: never pay full retail. I purchased clothing from eBay and the clearance racks at stores. I purchased groceries from dollar stores and discount supermarkets. I fed a family of four plus a dog and a cat for $250 per month, and we ate well.

I adopted frugal living strategies developed by my grandmother, a woman who lived for nearly 30 years on nothing more than a Social Security check. Even so, she managed to buy new clothes, a new (used) car every few years and serve large family dinners during the holidays. She was doing something right.

My family has had a few financial speed bumps since that time, but I now make more money than at any other time of my life, I support a family of four (my wife can't work anymore) and we are able to pay all of our household expenses. The only debts I have are some medical bills (accumulated during a time we didn't have medical insurance) a car payment, a student loan and a tax bill.

If I had not adapted a lifestyle of Savvy Frugality, who knows where my family would be now? We could have been homeless, hungry and without hope. Now, things have turned around, we have a bright future ahead of us, and we can now save for our retirement and our own home. My goal is to accumulate enough wealth through frugal living and investments to be able to start my own business and then hopefully retire before the age of 60.

Impossible? Maybe. But then again, I was nearly homeless just five years ago, and now I'm dreaming of early retirement and business and home ownership.

2 comments

  1. K // December 8, 2007 at 11:29 PM  

    I loved reading your story. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    :-)

  2. SavvyFrugality // December 9, 2007 at 12:41 PM  

    Thanks. At the time, it was probably the lowest point in my life, but I would do it all again because it led me to make decisions that greatly improved my life and the living situation for my family. Sometimes you have to hit "rock bottom" before making the right choices.

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