M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2013
Muse -- a source of inspiration. There was a time in my life when my frugal muse was Great Lakes Higher Education. They were the financial service company that serviced my enormous student dept. Graduating with $97k in student loans, I jumped at every chance to save a few dollars. Sadly, they'd dangle an item in front of me (auto debit for example) but then would not lower my interest rate as promised. Finally I got fed up, I got mad, and I got fired up. The debt was paid in seven years, not the 30 they were hoping on.
Our frugal ways continued after the student loans were paid off. The only debt we carry is a modest mortgage. Many people associate frugal living with deprivation, however, it comes with an upside. Because of our frugal ways we were able to walk away from a private school that was very ill-fit for our family. In doing so we left a rather large tuition payment (a full semester for two children) on the table. Freedom sprang from our frugal ways. Now we are locked into a contract dispute with the school. I have actually enjoyed revisiting the area of contract law, and am comfortable with our position that it violates Wisconsin law. However, we have to convince them and likely a judge, before we get our money returned.
And so now I have a new frugal muse, thank you Madison Waldorf School, for reminding me that a frugal life is one that offers the ability to stand up when something is not right. To speak our mind, to fight for what we believe is right. And my ultra frugal ways will allow us to cover payments for a new preschool while we fight this battle. Because of MWS nothing goes to waste in our house these days. Food scraps, newsprint, and brown paper all go to the compost pile. We turn the furnace down to 58 degrees when we are not home, and up to only 61 degrees when we are here. Clothes dry on an indoor drying rack instead of running the dryer. Date night was substituted for lunch when no cost of a babysitter was required -- complete with coupon and paid for with a gift card received months ago. Bills are paid via our credit union's on-line system, saving us not only the cost of checks, but postage as well.
There is one bit of fat that can still be trimmed, you've heard of the latte factor I assume? The idea that those daily or weekly expenditures on a gourmet coffee or other incidental add up. Well I have that problem, not a latte, but rather a cafe au lait. My work day ends at 3pm, and I've developed a new habit of picking up the coffee treat as I head downtown to collect the kids from school. It does not seem like much at the time, about $2.50. But then my frugal mind goes to work. That cost adds up to about $12.50 a week, maybe a little less because I use a punch card and get every 10th one free. But over the course of a year it totals $650, half a mortgage payment. Yes, even this self-described frugalista has areas that could be cut. We all need treats in life, especially when the karma gods seem to work against us. My goal is to cut back in different ways -- get a black coffee instead of the au lait, saving a dollar or so. Making more at home so I do not run out by mid-afternoon when I can use a pick-me-up. And possibly bringing in a coffee pot to the office to brew a final cup of the day there.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any great frugal ideas for Fall, please leave a comment!