Taking a Vow of Frugality

Temporarily giving up spending saves money at first, but then what?

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In the new online magazine the Root, blogger Natalie McNeal writes about taking a vow of frugality. Since February, she's avoided malls, fancy dinners, and pedicures. She compares it to taking a different kind of vow:

Once upon a time, I was financially promiscuous, giving up my cash to any peep-toe pump, nail salon or hair-dresser on the block.

The result? The nasty gift that keeps on giving: a credit card balance.

After all, the average household carries a credit card balance of $9,658, according to cardtrak.com. Far too many of us are victims of STDs, spending transaction diseases, and we are suffering.

Since taking the vow, she says she's saved hundreds of dollars a month.

I like her idea, but taking a vow and going cold turkey on spending is not an approach that would work for me, for the same reason that I avoid anything resembling a short-term diet. I much prefer making gradual changes to prevent any unnecessary shock to the system.

One of my goals, made earlier this year, was to start bringing my lunch to work instead of buying it. I still eat out when I'm too rushed (like today), but I got into the habit of bringing lunch made from dinner leftovers about three times a week, which saves me about $25 a week. I don't think I could have made that change overnight. And since the goal isn't to cut out spending altogether, there's no need to feel guilty for having a relapse.