If you are a regular reader of this silly little blog, then you’ll know that a few weeks ago I was lamenting about having recently financially “biting off more than I could chew”, due to some serious travel planning and over-extending of credit to max out my R.R.S.P. this year. Well, it turns out that these flagrant – yet heavily loaded with “E2 Faith” that it will all turn out in the end – actions have yielded an unexpected dividend…
You may remember that, despite having no money come through the door these days, yours truly borrowed about $11,000+ from my good friends, Mr. Visa & Mr. L.O.C. with the promise that I’d have it all paid back quickly, because, you know – my earning potential is just so high these days! Actually, the truth is that I knew we had our tax returns to come, but didn’t know how much they’d be; I just had “faith” that if I committed to booking our trip to India, and also to maxing our R.R.S.P.’s that the universe would just take care of us. But until I actually get proof that yes, indeed, we are in the universe’s good books, I needed a back-up plan – a “Plan B” so to speak – to make sure that one way or another I didn’t plunge myself into credit card interest Hell… And the name of that plan? “Frugality”!
It reminded me of an online post I read quite a few years ago which has stuck with me ever since; something written by Donna Freeman, a blogger over at MSN Money. In fact, the title of the post became a mantra for me – one that I believe accurately describes how life truly is, versus how our Western world tries to trick us into believing it should be. You know what I mean – I’m talking how the media, Madison Ave. and all the other shiny, flashy distractions that try and make us feel incomplete if we don’t have the newest, best, and fanciest do-hickys being peddled at the moment. The title of the post was “Being Broke is a Valuable Life Skill”; and in it, Donna described how being in her late 40’s and broke after a divorce caused her to re-examine and employ every single aspect of frugality she knew, so as to get herself back on track. This included her attending college, which meant her earning potential was limited for a couple of years, and so she did everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – she could, to save her pennies and live on the cheap. Hence, she learned the valuable life skill of “being broke”. Here’s Donna explaining her philosophy:
The reason this post resonated with me so much is that, growing up in a family that didn’t have a lot of extra cash, I’ve also always been frugal – a habit that I thankfully inherited from my parents. But as an adult, I’ve learned one major lesson; a lesson that wasn’t passed onto me, but discovered myself. It’s this: That we CAN have the good things in life that we want – things like incredible travel experiences, or a good car, or yearly vacations to Mexico, top of the line appliances, etc. – as long as we put our focus on being frugal in all the other areas of our life, so that we can save up enough to pay for these things. Here’s what I mean:
Last month, suddenly being $11K in debt made my fiscal sphincter tighten beyond recognition, all in anxiousness of (a) the impending tax returns, and (b) wondering what to do if these weren’t enough to cover my mounting debt; a scenario which had about a 100% probability. Then I remembered what Donna said about “being broke was a valuable life skill”, and decided to approach every single (fiscal) situation I encountered by first asking myself “Is there a way I can do this for less money?” and then going hard. I was surprised to find with a little digging and research, I actually came up with a few new ones, as well as relied on some old faithful tricks.
Here’s what I came up with, starting with accommodations needed for my upcoming trips:
- When I speak at TEDx Stanley Park in May, I have to stay in Vancouver for 2 nights: Rather than shell out $200+ plus a night, I’ve joined Airbnb and found a room downtown for 2 nights, for $118- total! (This includes a free coupon for signing up)
- In July we are going to Portland, Oregon for the WDS – can’t wait! 6 nights of hotels at $200 U.S.D. per night is too steep, so we’ve opted for a hostel, for about 40% of that cost. Plus we’ll get to meet some cool travellers while we are there.
- In Sept I’m going to be in Sydney, Australia for 3 days before flying up north to Cairns, where Paula and I will spend the week with her family; I’ll use Airbnb for that as well, and will save another couple hundred dollars.
- This week I had to go to Vancouver, and wanted to keep it tight – so as always, I parked the car at a friends place (free) and walked on the ferry, ($16.25 each way) then took public transit ($5.50 each way) into town, and stayed with friends. I never buy coffee or meals on the ferry as it chews up any savings, so all in all my round-trip transportation costs were $43.50 versus close to the $200 – I’d have spent if I’d taken a car instead.
- I also took the McDonalds Survey before I went and printed off the coupon… The result? A Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal for $5.35 instead of $7.85 – a savings of $2.50 for 1 minute online.
- I shopped at the Farmer’s Market and made soup this week using meat scraps I had in the freezer (chicken backs) creating approximately 10 meals at a cost of $5- total. Yep, that’s $.50 cents a portion.
- I walked more so that I wouldn’t have to put gas in the van, and was able to stretch a half tank out over 3 weeks!
In addition, I applied all my tried and true methods for saving cash – as outlined here – to keep me on the financial “straight and narrow”, which I can honestly say has made all the difference in my bank balance.
It’s been a month since I wrote that original post, and the good news is that we got the taxes back from the accountant, and are in pretty good shape – ironically, mostly due to the extra 4K we put into our R.R.S.P.’s! We’ll still have to come up with a bit of cash to pay off, but I’m confident that within a month (and barring any unforeseen circumstances) we should be on track by the time we land in Delhi, India on April 23rd… Yep, it’s less than 4 weeks away!
And I think that’s my point: that all in all, this financial leap of faith has taught me to, well, have a “financial leap of faith” – but only as long as we are willing to work hard and save to make up the shortfall – hence by being broke is a valuable life skill… because by being broke and surviving (or better, thriving) we learn the fiscal lessons that get us through the rough patches. It means knowing that we (or anyone) can have their cake (Say, like a trip to India) and eat it too… that’s just as long as the cake is homemade, or it’s bought on sale for half price! I’m glad recent events reminded me of this brilliant philosophy – it’s an unexpected dividend of this recent brash, yet exciting financial splurge.