I've written before on frugality creep, and the incremental changes that happen when saving money becomes a mindset, a way of life. It's very difficult - and very uncomfortable - to shift too quickly from an average endebted, consumeristic lifestyle to severe pennypinching. In our lives the shift from spending to saving has been gradual and is ongoing.
For me there were certain big changes that happened early on, mostly the obvious ones: keeping and using a price comparison book, switching to CF light bulbs, hanging all my laundry up to dry, eating out less and less, learning to bake bread, selling off extra vehicles. But even as I enthusiastically set aside old habits and took up new ones, there were certain exemptions to my spending habits that I wasn't even willing to consider giving up. I think that's normal, and if you're new to frugality I think it's okay to devote your energies to learning new habits and skills for the time being. But when the new habits and skills have become routine, and the frugality bug has still got you bad, there comes a time when those exemptions start looking more and more profligate. Then it's time to reconsider them.
Confession time: I'm vain about my appearance in one particular way. I always wear foundation makeup when I'm out in public. I don't wear lipstick or eye makeup more than a few times per year, and most of the time I couldn't care less what clothes I'm wearing (so long as they're clean and warm enough). But for many long years I've spent good money on a cosmetics counter brand of foundation. I go through about two and a half bottles per year. That probably adds up to about $100 per year.
This was something I just wasn't willing to consider cutting out of my budget for quite a while. It quietly held non-negotiable status, and was paid for out of my mad money budget. Now you may argue that $100 per year isn't very much money, and that's the exact argument I made to myself. But $100 is $100, and there are lots of efforts I make to save us even smaller amounts per year. Why turn around and blow that much on a non-necessity? So recently I decided that I needed to at least consider some alternatives. If I couldn't simply give it up and let the world see my splotchy skin and the occasional zit, then I would at least try a cheaper brand. Off I went to visit the drugstore cosmetics aisle, a trip I hadn't made since high school.
You know what? On my very first try I found a product that matches my skin tone, has a good SPF rating, and works just about as well as the high end stuff I've been buying for years. It's a little bit thinner than my usual brand, so I may use a little more each day. But it costs less than a third as much for the same size bottle of the expensive stuff I've used for so long. I feel pretty foolish for having let a mental prejudice get in the way of saving money for all these years. And I feel silly for still refusing to be seen without foundation. But I do feel good about finding a cheaper alternative that works. Now I have no reason to go to the mall, ever.
We still have some non-negotiables in our budget. I'm not thrilled about these, but unless and until the feces really hits the rotating oscillator, my husband isn't giving up his beer, and my dirty little canned soda habit will continue.
What are your non-negotiables? Have you managed to overcome any? Please share in the comments!