Part of a thrifty lifestyle is saving and making money in efficient and sometimes unique ways. This might mean shaving $10 off your grocery bill, renegotiating your cable (or cutting the cord altogether), or starting up a side hustle walking dogs. These are all great things that will improve your bottom line, but at a certain point, you need to reevaluate what is important to you if you truly want to become debt-free once and for all. If you live for your morning Starbucks routine, do you realize that dropping that $5/day coffee habit will save you $1,825 a year? Are you a smoker, because if so, that $7 a day is $2,555 a year up in smoke (literally!)
Being aware of what we consider “essential” to our lives and what is ACTUALLY essential to our grandest dreams and fullest life is the first step towards really achieving those dreams. One great way to refocus yourself is to stop and look around you at those who may have significantly less than you.
Chances are good that if you live in a larger city, you have a fair amount of homelessness around you. While I’m not suggesting you compare your level of suffering to theirs, I will ask that you consider the concept of “essential” in light of their way of living versus your own. What do you throw out daily that could be of huge benefit to them? What do you refuse to give up weekly – like dinner out or that daily coffee run – that could drastically improve their life?
I am not suggesting you drastically alter your lifestyle for someone else, but just stop and think for a moment where that $5 coffee or breakfast or random goofy app on the Google Play store could go if you focused where you spent it. If you were spending $5/day on non-essentials, but cut 2 days a week out, you’d save $520 a year.
Would you significantly feel the loss of that “wasted” $10/week? Probably not – in fact, missing 2 of your 7 indulgences per week would make those other 5 more significant! In addition, you’d have another $520 to throw at a credit card or student loan or car payment. That’s a great deal!
But imagine for a moment that you socked away $5 a week and the other $5 you put towards improving the lives of those around you who are in poor circumstances. You’d still have a decent amount to pay off debt, you’d still NOT feel the sting of deprivation, and you’d be setting an example for your children and possibly DRASTICALLY helping someone else.
During the winter, I like to create care packages for the homeless, but they are just as important during the summer. So I took my $5 to my local Aldi and looked at what I could get. A box of granola bars was $1.20 for 8, and a 24 pack of bottled water was $1.99. Add in a box of bandages and we’re at $5. This isn’t a lot, but hydration, some food, and some first aid can be a major deal when you’re living on the street.
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If you were to get together with some friends/family and assign them each a $5-$10 grouping of items you could contribute a small amount but maximize the impact of each package.
Some things we included were:
- Hygiene products
- Lip balm
- Other non-perishable food items, like cereal bars, peanuts, dried fruit, trail mix, etc
- T-shirts that would otherwise have been donated to Goodwill or thrown away. In addition, old ball caps or other hats are great during summer months.
- “Hot Hands”
- We also printed out information on shelters, cooling centers, food banks, breadlines, and other places that help the homeless with day-to-day needs.
You can include a LOT in a gallon freezer bag, so have someone pick those up. Again, Aldi or other cheaper grocers have those cheap. Pack each bag with essentials, and keep them in your car to give out as you come across someone in need.Click to Tweet - Did you know you can change someone's life for less than $7?Click To Tweet
The power of a bunch of small sacrifices lumped together for a good cause can be dramatic, and not just in a dollars-and-cents sense. The impact of this giving can help alter your perception of what is necessary for you to be happy. It cultivates kindness and empathy in your children (and in yourself). It creates a sense of community and fosters responsibility. Thinking outside yourself creates perspective that is invaluable, and on top of everything else, you’re helping another person.
So trust me; the small self-denial it will take to give up some indulgence, even if it’s only scaling it back, is 100% worth it in the long run. You won’t miss it and you’ll be better in the long run for it.