Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finding Frugal: An Introduction

"Ballin' on a budget" - My Friend's Older Brother

For those unfamiliar with the term, "ballin'" is a verb form of the noun "baller". The word "baller" is primarily used in modern day hip-hop slang to describe someone who is doing well financially. It can also be used to describe a basketball player, but in the context in which we used the term in our joke, it was referring to doing well financially, not basketball. I know some readers understand a definition better by seeing the word used in a sentence. I will demonstrate it's use in a sentence here: "Man that Mark Zuckerberg is gotta be ballin' so hard right now with all that Facebook money."

A couple of years back I was working at a bookstore and used my employee discount to pick-up "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Living on a Budget" by Jennifer and Peter Sander. I decided to read this book because I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and figured a budget could help me solve this problem. One afternoon, I was chatting with some friends between my college classes and had the book with me. A friends' older brother noticed the title and jokingly suggested writing his own book titled "Ballin' on a budget." I thought this was a really funny, clever play on words. From there we made numerous jokes about his book "Ballin' on a budget" which would cover topics such as where to get the most genuine looking fake Nike sneakers and how to package cheap alcohol in expensive alcohol bottles to make people at parties believe you are a high roller.

Those of you worried that I'm now going to tell you that this is basically going to be the "Ballin' on a budget" blog can relax now. If I felt inclined to write a satirical blog, I would consider it a worthy topic, but that's not what Finding Frugal is all about. I did however mention that joke for a reason. When my friend made this joke, it was so funny because a title like "Ballin' on a budget" is so starkly in contrast with the serious and boring topic of personal finance. I know for sure that part of the reason I prolonged looking into managing finances is because I assumed it would be either too boring or too complicated for anybody under 30 years of age. Modern society seems to think that attempting to spend less money is synonymous with having less fun, a preconception I've come to find is quite off base. I have found I've noticed there are blogs who seem to be aware of this preconception and do their best to write about frugal living in more entertaining ways. They often times use words such as "Sexy", "Fun" or "Fabulous" in their titles and/or posts and do their best to present seemingly mundane financial advice in a more stimulating, exciting way.

When I was reading various frugal living blogs, I felt that certain demographics weren't as represented as others. I found a ton of articles geared towards reducing grocery costs for families. Articles geared towards a more affluent crowd about managing stocks, IRAs and savings accounts were quite easy to find. There were many posts with an environmentalist perspective focusing on reusing household items. The ultra-frugal had their place to discuss how many years (maybe decades is more accurate) they wear the same pair of jeans or t-shirts before replacing them. It was more difficult to find other types of blogs. I found very few specifically geared towards young adults. There also weren't too many were geared towards people who have a developing interest in frugal living but want to start with some small basic changes and don't want to drastically alter their lifestyle overnight. The middle class and wealthy class demographics also seemed to be more represented than the low-income class. Most of the tips on saving money seemed to be geared towards helping build wealth as opposed to helping those with little money stretch the small amount they have.

Here on Finding Frugal, I intend to do my part to represent those underrepresented demographics. I will readily admit that I am just beginning to practice frugal living and this will be as much a documentation of learning to be frugal as it is a place to find tips and advice. As for my personal perspective, well, I'm 22 years old. I'm a college student who works 30 hours a week at minimum hourly wage. I live with my 6 month old son and his mother, my fiance. In other words, like most of my contemporaries in college, I don't make much money and do my best to manage it as efficiently as possible. I know what it's like to run out of gas on the way to work, I know what it's like to run out of diapers for your child, I know what it's like to open the fridge and see it's low on food, I know what it's like to run out of nearly all necessities a day or two before you get paid next and wish you had managed your finances better. It's this perspective I will bring to the discussion. To the experts and writers who've been exploring a frugal living lifestyle for many years, some of what I post will seem like "common sense." As for the rest us who have been conditioned by television shows, movies and advertisement to indulge in consumer culture, live from paycheck to paycheck (or better put from broke to soon-to-be-broke) and feel that it's time to change, I say to you: let's get started.