Extreme Frugality to Live within Your Means?

Don’t you wish you could just get control of your finances? Meet the Carters – this family of six took on extremely frugality to do just that.

The great recession has caused many of us to face the cold hard facts about our finances. Last year, Mr. Carter really took a close look at this Social Security statement and realized what he’s made.

“We were spending for years way more than we made. We were averaging $41,000 a year [chuckles] for 10 years but we were spending like we were making $120,000.

It was at that time Mr. and Mrs. Carter decided it was time for the family – two parents, four children – to live within their means and they did it cold turkey. When all the bills were paid, they learned they only had about $550 to live. It was then the family was quick to learn some frugal habits.

Frugality to the max

Here are some of the frugal practices the family now puts in place:

  • No more buying convenient individual size snack packs, this family makes their own applesauce or buys a big jar to lower the price.
  • No more supermarket bread by the loaf, they buy a big sack of bread flour to make their own loaf each week.
  • Need eggs? They raise their own chickens where the kids help to care for them and collect the eggs.
  • Now mom hangs up the laundry instead of using the dryer.
  • In the near future, Mr. Carter wants to start farming winter vegetables on their 40 acre lot.

Become financially responsible

Many of us were forced to become responsible for our finances when our economy failed and were forced to learn some of the frugal habits our elders practiced during the depression. Even though it hit us hard, I believe this wake up call was necessary. It is my hope – especially as a personal finance blogger who is going through my own financial perils – that people will seek guidance and practice good habits of saving money, making financial goals, and living within their means.

I know it is all too easy to succumb to upsizing a fast food meal to adding that extra sale the cashier persuaded you to buy, but ask yourself before you accept, “is this item really necessary? Do I really need it?” Ninety-nine percent of the time you won’t need it.

And if you have kids who whine and add the extra dose of persuasion for you to put that item on the checkout counter that will keep them happy for the next twenty minutes – catch your whit and tell them, “no” – or explain that if they have the money then they can purchase it if they really want it.

Again, ninety-nine percent of the time they will not want it. Their money is too precious to spend on such an item. And the next 20 minutes might lead them to become cranky that you didn’t buy it, but they will survive and so will you.

Take a step up

Perhaps we all need to take a look at our finances and put some frugal practices into play; to stop wasting what we work so hard for. Learn from our grandparents and their grandparents for key ideas to living frugal (it wasn’t a choice for most of them to live this way, it was second nature). Take the Carters learned habits above and a few more like:

  • Packing a lunch for work
  • Reusing items in the house another purpose.
  • Learning to make meals from scratch, grow some of your produce, and never waste food.

Then put that extra money saved into our savings and retirement accounts. I think many people would be surprised how fast the money will grow when making a conscious effort.

We might whine and complain like our children not getting their way, but we will learn after repetitive motion to adapt to our practices that are going to secure our future and teach our children to be financially responsible. So, don’t wait another day. Stop cold turkey and take control of your finances like the Carters did.

(photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

31 thoughts on “Extreme Frugality to Live within Your Means?

  1. Forest

    I’m sure this made them closer as a family and they will actually climb out of debt and become responsible to the degree that the kids will be well off in their adult life. Hardship from the extra work being frugal can develop into the ultimate freedom when you need far less money to live.

    Reply
    1. Money Funk

      your exactly right, Forest. Couldn’t have said it any better. It did bring the family together. The mother was happy about that. And yes, even though the kids may not be fond of the situation now, they are learning a lesson of gold. :)

      Reply
  2. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom

    I don’t necessarily agree that there’s a lot of extra work in cutting expenses back. It really is faster to throw together a sandwich at home than to wait at a drive thru window. I save at least 1/2 – 1 hour a day not running out to pick up a coffee or waiting in line to pick up lunch downtown. There’s a bit of planning involved but that’s it.

    I think the key thing for lots of people – and what I’ve found, is that you get used to having a higher quality of bread, veggies, eggs – even applesauce! when you make it yourself. It makes it hard to go back to just buying all of that stuff off the shelf.

    Good for them though! (Hopefully they really weren’t spending $120k and only making $40k for 10 years – or they’d be over $1MM in debt, wouldn’t they?)

    Reply
    1. Money Funk

      I hope you are right about them not spending that much either! But I think the exaggeration of terms, is still a thought shared by many.

      Frugalness does account for one slowing their ways to plan and make concious choices. I, for one, very rarely go to eat out unless its a treat to a good restaurant, because my home cooking is hard to beat. :)

      Reply
  3. Jenna

    I already do most of the stuff mentioned above, but I can’t wait until I’m living on my own to do things like compost (more than what we do already) and air dry my laundry (at least in the summer time). Chickens and gardening will be fun projects (although I don’t have much of a green thumb).

    Reply
    1. Money Funk Post author

      That’s great, Jenna! Don’t worry about the green thumb. Each year I planted veggies, the wiser I became to learning their growing temperaments. You’ll be a pro in no time growing veggies.

      Reply
  4. April

    I am fascinated with your title–story of the Carters aside, you could have quite a discussion on the question of “in this country, is living within your means a form of extreme frugality?” (Or, rather, “was it?” prior to the Great Recession.)

    Reply
    1. Money Funk Post author

      I didn’t think of reading into it that way! I should research that topic. It would be interesting to see how the figures breakdown on that. Thanks!

      Reply
  5. Money Reasons

    What a great story!

    I like the way the family is coming together as one unit, a true family! I have to wonder if half of the motivation is for the book that Mr. Carter is working on though :)

    Still it’s a great story, and I hope for the best for them!

    Reply
    1. Money Funk Post author

      Ya, I like that part, too. It’s great how the children are keeping them in frugal check. I didn’t realize there is a book in progress. That’s great that he is proving his worth to author it. :)

      Reply
  6. Danielle

    I saw a news story around the time when the egg/salmonella outbreak happened, that chicken sales went up. Real, live chickens, that people raised for eggs. Not only are you saving money, but you can control the living conditions of the animal (and give it a better life than those living on egg farms), and possibly avoid risking your family’s health at the same time.

    great article!

    Reply
  7. Sandy @ yesiamcheap

    A 40 acre lot? Oh man, what I would do with that. The kids would be learning some serious farming and I’d toss up a veggie stand in the summer in front of the house for some money. I get a decent amount of veggies from my little garden here in NYC so I can’t imagine how crazy I would go with more than my few little feet.

    Reply
    1. Money Funk

      It would be fun to have such a big lot! Have you ever checked out Urban Homestead? They have a stand on their porch. I need to visit them, as they are located nearby. I would love to have a full fledge garden, too.

      Reply
  8. Evan

    Great Story, but I don’t think they went to any sorts of extreme (at least compared to some of the sites online). What I found odd, and maybe it is because I am from Long Island, is that they are cutting back but have 40 acres! FORTY?! Sell 90% of it and you’d still have 4!?

    Reply
  9. Premium Finance

    Thanks for sharing. This is such a good read for people who are concern with their financial status.

    Reply
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  11. Mrs. Money

    I think extreme frugality can either be really fun and almost like a game, or it can be horrible and a bad chore. It depends on if you need to do it, or if you are just wanting to do it to save a few extra bucks. :)

    Reply
    1. Money Funk Post author

      Ya, Single Mom, Rich Mom has got me stuck on a frugality trip – I am now washing out the ziploc bags. LOL. Maybe that task is not specifically frugal, but its the principle of practicing such matters is. Definitely need to make it a game – makes the task fun.

      Reply
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  13. Briana @ GBR

    I’ve noticed that bigger families that you would think would be the big spenders are living so much more frugal than smaller families. I mean, look at the Duggars! I can’t even begin to imagine how much money it should cost to raise 19 kids (and counting). I would probably pass out if I saw that number on paper. But this family is truly an inspiration (especially since I want to have four kids of my own). Frugal living is the best living :)

    Reply
  14. Credit Cards

    Skip one weekend spending out, instead stay at home and make it a pint to invest that saved money in a SIP. You’ll be surprised to note the money you’ve saved and if in case you get good returns you’ll be extremely happy.

    Reply
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  16. Patricia

    I agree with Financial Officer, living within your means is something we must do, no matter how much money we own, but sometimes our time is more important than spending less money. If one can do something smarter with his/her time, it’s definitely better to do it. Of course, if it’s also a book involved, this family must be experiencing living frugally for the sake of maybe more money earned with selling the book, so the experiment might prove efficient. Lots of luck!

    Reply

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