I am proud to belong to a rare breed of saving-savvy women who succeed in being self-reliant through their own efforts. The journey to my financial independence began when I started a regimen of reserves-building with my first pay.
My humble upbringing coupled with a spouse who goes by the mantra 'money-come-money-go' has made me sensible about spending and tight on thrift. Although I have to forgo most of the so-called modern trappings that my peers enjoy, I can look forward to having a personal nest egg. Currently retired from full-time employment, I am sustained by my funds while pursuing my dream – a career in freelance writing.
Saving has not always been plain sailing, as I have had to put up with being labelled 'stingy' even by family members, not to mention being ostracized by 'classy' clans. It entails being quite 'thick-skinned' and strong-willed enough not to follow the crowd. While my children grudgingly support my budget controlled lifestyle with occasional rebellious tantrums, my husband remains aloof, even embarrassed by my fetish for frugality.
Here are the prudent practices which I swear by and are seven slow but sure steps to achieving self-$ufficiency:
Cash Is Best
Always pay cash in any transaction (other than buying a car or house). Do not fall for hire purchase schemes, however attractive they may be. My philosophy - if you can't afford it, you don't need it! Using credit cards merely postpones the payment - until month-end.
Exercising at home beats incurring travel and gym expenses. Mopping and sweeping the house, vacuuming and scrubbing bathroom floors and walls work out a great sweat while toning the body at the same time.
Instead of calling a contractor and getting billed for service and transport, I :
attend to simple repairs such as faulty faucets, loose door hinges and knobs
repaint the house and varnish floor tiles with the help of family members
clean the air filter panel when the air-conditioning unit gets blocked
As far as possible, I try to do-it-myself. I make my own:
greeting cards and birthday cakes
health drinks with fruits and vegetables
skincare concoctions such as a facial mask using egg white and cucumber
I try to cut down on utility bills as much as possible. Besides ensuring that the lights and fans are not ‘working’ unnecessarily, I restrict telephone calls to off-peak hours. I also use gas instead of electricity to boil water.
Chicken parts: I boil the bones for soup, shred breast meat for sandwiches, grill wings, stew thigh meat and stir-fry entrails.
Vegetables: Blanch leafy portions, retain stalks for making stock.
I use cooking oil, soy sauce and sugar sparingly and till the last drop. Call me thrifty, but I find great satisfaction in squeezing toothpaste till the tube is flat and not a drop more can be squeezed out.
Leftover rice is fried or made into porridge the next day
Surplus soup is reused as base for gravy or stock
Unfinished meat/ vegetable dishes are turned into ‘chop suey’
Water from washing vegetables are used to water the plants
Shopping plastic bags are used to line waste bins and store garbage for disposal
Boxes are used for storing non-perishable items
I sell unwanted household items and used paraphernalia at flea markets. It gives me great joy to see someone else appreciate these items, which are still in good condition. Buying a booth and spending a good part of the day at flea markets not only assists with the spring cleaning bit, but it promotes family bonding as well.
I abstain from buying new:
Clothing and accessories every pay day (my children and I mainly made do with 'hand-me-downs' from my well-heeled sister; new clothes/ accessories only on birthdays/ New Year)
School text books. As far as possible, I give the younger children hand-me- downs.
Eating out is limited to hawker fare. Lavish dinners are reserved for special occasions.
While I was working full-time, I used to set aside a fixed sum of at least 10% of my salary to be kept in the bank.
$tretch Your Ringgit
Buy local labels instead of imported brands
Now you know how I managed to help settle our home and car loans as well as take the family for holiday outings. Impressed and inspired? Then welcome to “The Thrift Club” and reap your rewards in the long run!
Article contributed by Sue Chuah