11/09/2012 05:51 EST | Updated 01/09/2013 05:12 EST

How to Stop Indulging -- And Save


Have you ever calculated how much you spend in take-out coffee, lattes, frappucinos, smoothies -- the list goes on. I did it once and couldn't believe it. My daily coffee habit was costing me a minimum of $600/year.

That is a very low estimate because it didn't include the latte after lunch, the coffee on the run while doing weekend errands or the chilled drink in the summer. If I add in all the others, it's probably over $1000/year.

What about the muffins, croissants, bagels, lunches, and snacks. How much is dribbling out of your wallet to pay for those things? If you're like most people I know, you don't want to know. Because if you know one of two things happens -- you feel guilty or you have to change. Both choices are lousy.

What if there is a third choice? One which ensures that you are on top of your spending and still lets you have the treat? I'm not suggesting that I have a magic solution. I'm suggesting that you follow some old-fashioned lessons that my mom taught me years ago.


17 Things We Spend Money On Mindlessly

Mom told me that before I spent on my treats, make sure I had enough money to pay for my basics. The treat would be more special if I felt I had earned it. How did I earn it? By ensuring that I paid before I played. In that way, there would be no guilt, no feeling badly, no mom's voice in my head telling me I was avoiding facing my obligations. I could have my latte, guilt-free. And with a lighter load. That latte was a legitimate reward for good behaviour.

This attitude also means, though, that the coffee is a treat, not a quick coffee fix because I was too lazy to make it at home. We all have the excuses -- it takes too long, you're too tired to get organized. After all, it's only $2.50 and you work so hard and it's the least you can do for yourself. Blah, blah, blah.

Honestly, it's not that hard. You just have to decide; do you always want to be making up for your financial deficits because you frittered away your money? Or do you want to take charge of your life, challenge your poor choices and make changes.

Frugality has come back in vogue as we realize that the big spending party is over. We are feeling financially pinched. That's not so bad, really. After all, we have too much stuff and we don't know what to do with it.

Some days, I feel like I'm drowning in stuff. Purging your junk is the new favourite weekend activity. You invite a girlfriend over, whose role is to be your conscience. The two of you go through your closets and get rid of stuff. Your friend's job is to make sure you don't pull stuff out of the garbage bags. My friend took all the garbage bags with her when she left to be sure I didn't sneak out some of my treasures. I felt fantastic afterwards, a little lighter. Like a bit of a burden was lifted off my shoulders.

The new frugality liberates you from the mall and from the temptation of being drawn to every new thing. Every time you look at something, you realize you have to find a place for it. Listen to what Marketplace has to say about Frugality -- it's a smart way to live.

We are more than our stuff. Frugality shows you that. Practicing frugality is tough at first; it requires you to change your thinking from reward as spending to reward as saving. There is a big difference, however, in the ultimate outcome. Frugality leaves you with more, spending leaves you empty. Try it. It'll grow on you.