Photo by Mathieu Turle on Unsplash

October 20, 2019

Mention the word frugal and all kinds of negative and frightening mental images come to mind with most people. The purpose of this blog is to offer principles, ideas and experiences that will bring you to the realization that being frugal is not about deprivation.

Living frugally simply means maximizing your hard-earned income and reducing wasteful spending so you can live well … regardless of how small or large your income is. It’s about you living better than you are now. It’s about living a less stressful and chaotic life resulting in a happier, more fulfilled life that is free of debt.

Being frugal will be a life-changing experience. It will require you to take charge over your financial well-being. It requires commitment and responsibility. It also requires honest assessments of your progress towards your goals.

The ideas and principles that I will share are from my own experience. What worked for me may not work for you due to differing financial circumstances, income level, savings and investment opportunities, level of debt and commitment.

That being said, the principles I’ll present are not theory. Rather, they are principles that have been implemented, tested and proven — through my own experience — to produce financial freedom.

The ideas and principles that I share are not meant to be an instruction manual as there are multiple ways to attain financial freedom. Rather, my hope is that the ideas and principles presented will give you ideas and the encouragement you need to develop your own Frugal Plan that will lead you to financial freedom and independence.

There is one principle truth that will be included in any path you ultimately decide to take: you must spend less than earn.

Your comments, questions and experience are important.

W.M. Brown

Frugal Plan’s Promise

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Psychological Barriers to Saving Money

This blog post is targeted to individuals and families whose household income is adequate to pay for the basics of life that include housing, food, water, health care and transportation.

We have talked a lot about the importance of saving (accumulating) money on this blog. Today, let’s delve into the psychological barriers that prevent us from getting started and block our way to saving successfully.

Having spent 32 years in the financial services industry, one of the lessons learned was that saving is relatively easy for some people and terribly difficult for others … including those earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Experienced taught me there are two psychological types of people — in regards to saving money — that determines whether saving money will be somewhat easy or a life-long challenge.

Category 1
Those who are motivated by goals and those who easily develop new habits find that starting a saving plan and staying with it fairly easy. If someone has both traits, they are ready to start today and are already developing saving strategies in their head.

Category 2
Those who are not motivated by goals and have difficulty establishing new habits have a very difficult time with saving money longer than a short period of time. These people must find within themselves a motivating force that will keep them committed to a life-long savings mindset and strategy.

Psychological Barriers to Saving Money

The need for immediate satisfaction
This need originates in the emotional parts of our brains, and can overwhelm the logical side that’s trying to point out we probably don’t need that new pair of shoes or a delicious (but pricey) dinner out right now. That’s why some people are more likely to use extra money to indulge in a shopping binge than to tuck it away in a retirement plan.

The “it won’t happen to me” belief
We hear of bad things happening all the time to others but believe that we have the ability to navigate our way out of financial trouble. In short, we all think we are above average, that it won’t happen to us.

Overcoming this belief is hard. Optimism is what gets most people out of bed in the morning, and while it doesn’t make sense to adopt a pessimistic attitude, it helps to be aware of this bias and not become a victim to it.

Peer envy
This is also known as “keeping up with the Joneses.” Not only does psychological pressure this come from friends and family, social media is an additional and influential source. If that person has a new car, why can’t I have one? Why am I not worthy?

We need to remind ourselves that having money and earning interest on it is much better that having a loan and paying interest. To top it off, my car is running just fine and that repairs I may need will be far less than the monthly car payments over five, six or seven years.

Fear of our own morbidity and mortality
Even if we can’t predict what will happen to us, one thing (along with taxes) is certain at some point in our life: illness and death. Some people really cannot see themselves being seriously ill or dead. But because we don’t like to think about our own morbidity and mortality, many people skip the important financial tasks of saving money for an extended illness or for the money needed for a secure and abundant lifestyle in our retirement years.

Not knowing how to get started
When it gets right down to it, it’s simply a matter of doing it. Take a portion of the money you usually spend and save it instead. There are hundreds of ways to start saving money and they are extensively presented on Internet websites and blogs, books, videos and podcasts. For beginning savers, keep in mind that saving a little bit often adds up to a lot and that saving must become a habit.

The purpose of this blog post is simply to present some psychological barriers we need to overcome so we can become successful savers.

What money saving barriers have you faced? How did you get past them?

Hard Times

“People don’t realize how easy they have it these days. Most kids have never known what it’s like to go without anything. They want something, they get it. If there isn’t enough money, they charge it. We never wanted anything because we never realized we could have anything. We never missed what we never had. Things were much simpler back then, and we were stronger for it. We worked together to keep the house in order, to put food on the table. We kept things going.”
― Clara Cannucciari, Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression

Consumption vs Frugality

Photo by Marcin Kempa on Unsplash

“Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”
― Elise Boulding

Simplest Money Management System Ever

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Managing your money doesn’t need to be complicated and it doesn’t need to take up a lot of your time. In the end, all comes down to with any money management system is:

  • Spending less than you earn
  • Saving and/or investing the rest

For those just getting started in adult life or those wanting to start managing their money, the Cash Envelope System is the most basic, easiest, simplest and least time consuming system there is.

All you need to get started is 3 letter size envelopes labeled BILLS, SAVINGS and CASH. All three of these envelopes are to be used every payday.

The first thing you do every payday is to pay yourself by putting money into the SAVINGS envelope. You can save a percentage of your income or simply put in a set dollar amount. It is important to not withdraw money from this envelope as this is how you will establish your Emergency Fund.

The second envelope you put money into is the BILLS envelope. Put the amount needed to pay your bills due before your next paycheck.

Finally, the money to put into your CASH envelope is to pay for your living expenses until your next paycheck. This is all you have until your next paycheck so spend it carefully.

The cash envelope system lets you know simply and easily how to divide your money up so all bills are paid, money is saved and how much you have to spend for everything else until your next paycheck.

You can always move up to a more advanced and specialized money management systems later.

If you are using a different basic and simple money management system, please let me know what it is.

“Being frugal doesn’t mean slashing your spending or depriving yourself of things that you enjoy. It means knowing the value of a dollar and making every effort to spend it wisely.”

Frank Sonnenberg, BookSmart: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness

If it Works, I Keep It.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

“My stove is old. My wallpaper is old. It’s the same wallpaper from when I moved here and I never changed it. Why would I change it? I just keep it clean. If you take better care of things, you can hold onto them longer. That’s how I still run things. If it works, I keep it. If it doesn’t, I see if I can use it for something else. If I can’t, and I usually can, I toss it.”
Clara Cannucciari, Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression

Buy in Bulk and Freeze It! (Meat)

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Buying meat in bulk from your local grocer when it’s on sale or directly from a local butcher will save you a lot of money. This is particularly important since meat is costly and makes up a large portion of your grocery budget.

The challenge in freezing meat is doing it properly to preserve the quality and taste of the meat for months down the road when you are ready to consume it. Freezing it properly is important because just throwing the store bought package in your freezer will not prevent freezer burn that destroys the quality of the meat. Let’s take a look at the proper way to freeze meat for the preservation of quality and taste.

How to prepare the meat

Step 1

Keep your meat in the refrigerator, at a temperature below 40 degrees F, until you are ready to freeze it.

  • The meat needs to be frozen within 3 days of purchase.

Step 2

Remove the meat from the store packaging.

  • Store packaging is not adequate or designed to preserve the quality or taste of the meat beyond a few days.

Step 3

For large pieces of meat, cut it into meal or individual portions.

  • For poultry, keep de-boned meat separate from the meat that still has the bones.
  • When freezing ground pork or beef, you can freeze it by portion or by formed patties.
  • Important: Do NOT rinse the meat before freezing it. If you want to rinse it, do it after the frozen meat has been thawed when you are preparing it to be cooked.

Wrapping the meat to be frozen

Step 1

Center the meat on a large piece of uncoated freezer/butcher paper.

Freezer paper can be coated or uncoated. Both perform equally well in freezing and preserving the meat.

Coated freezer paper has one side coated with plastic or wax. The purpose of coated freezer paper is to better contain the liquid leakage during when thawing.

Coated freezer paper cannot be recycled or composted.

Uncoated freezer paper, provides less protection against leakage when being thawed. To contain liquid leakage (water, blood and fat) when thawing, simply put a platter or bowl under the frozen package. The liquid leaked from thawing can simply be discarded and the platter or bowl washed.

Uncoated freezer paper without food residue can be reused before it is recycled: Make your own gift wrap; roll and stuff under doors and in window cracks for extra insulation; use instead of paper towels when cleaning windows and mirrors; line the bottom of a garbage can or litter box to absorb liquids and keep down odors; spread wet shreds around plants to discourage weeds; stuff into stored boots and handbags to help keep their shape; or use twisted for kindling when starting a fire.

Uncoated and unsoiled sections of the freezer paper can be recycled easily with regular paper by your local municipal recycling center.

While uncoated freezer paper can be home-composted, the much better options are to reuse and recycle the unsoiled areas because:

  • There is very little, if any, nutritional value to plants because nearly all the natural nutrients from the pulp are lost in processing.
  • Due to the weight (thickness) of the freezer paper, it takes longer than a season to degrade.

Step 2

If there are any protruding bones in the piece of meat to be frozen, cover the immediate area with paper padding to prevent the bone from poking through the freezer packaging which will allow freezer burn.

Step 3

Wrap the piece of meat tightly with the freezer paper.

  • Bring the top and bottom of the freezer paper together over the meat, then fold the freezer paper down towards the meat, making small folds, each 12 to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.5 cm).

Step 4

Tuck the ends of the freezer paper around the package.

  • Work out as much of the air as you can.
  • Secure the tucked ends to the package with freezer tape.

Step 5

Repeat Step 3 and Step 4 so that the meat is double wrapped.

  • If you are freezing patties together, put two pieces of freezer paper between them so you can easily get them apart after they are thawed.

Step 6

When freezing a whole bird, tuck the wings in, tie the legs and remove the internal organs.

  • Wrap it tightly in freezer paper and seal it with freezer tape.
  • Repeat so the bird is double wrapped.
  • Freeze the giblets, heart, and liver separately.

Step 7

With a magic marker, label the package with the date and contents.

Freezing the meat

Step 1

Put the wrapped meat in a freezer set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

  • It’s best not to freeze large quantities of meat together because it will take longer to freeze.

Step 2

Put the meat to be frozen in the coldest area of the freezer.

  • The packages will freeze much faster if the packages are separated.
  • The faster the meat is frozen, the less likely ice crystals will gather around the meat which causes freezer burn.
  • Once the packaged meat is frozen, you can arrange the contents of your freezer to your liking.

Step 3

Avoid frequently opening and closing the freezer as it is important for the meat maintain a frozen temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

  • It may be advisable to have a separate freezer (upright or chest) if you will be freezing meat on a regular basis. You can also use this second freezer to freeze fruit and vegetables.

Storing and refreezing the meat

Step 1

Store your meat or poultry at a constant temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

  • Your meat and poultry will remain safe almost indefinitely. However, the meat starts to lose its quality after being frozen longer than 6 months.
  • Any frozen meat needs to be consumed within 1 year and poultry within 9 months.
  • The quality of the frozen meat depends entirely on proper wrapping (tight and with two layers) and maintaining a constant frozen temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Step 2

Check your meat for freezer burn when you pull it from the freezer to eat.

  • Signs of freezer burn are brown spots, ice crystals and distinct frozen smell.
  • While meat that is mildly freezer burnt may be safe to eat, there will be a noticeable loss of quality … especially the taste.

Step 3

Cured meat like bacon or ham should NOT be stored frozen for longer than 2 months.

  • The salt used in the curing process causes cured meat to quickly become rancid after 2 months.

Step 4

You can refreeze your refrigerated raw meat safely.

  • As long as you thawed your meat in the refrigerator, you can refreeze it using the steps outline in” Wrapping the meat “and “Freezing the meat” outlined above.
  • There may be a loss in the quality of the meat after it has been previously thawed due to the loss of moisture.

Step 5

Cooked meat can be refrozen within 3 days.

  • Do not refreeze cooked meat if it has been out of the refrigerator longer than 2 hours.
Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

Though it seems like there are many steps required in properly freezing meat, it is actually quite easy. So, start buying your meat in bulk when it’s on sale and freeze it to reduce your grocery expense!