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Redefining Frugality

Are rewards programs destroying your finances? All those points might be killing your budget and making you poorer. There is a better way. #rewards #miles #points #budget #travel #bonusesFrugality has changed from a few decades ago.

Growing up in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin frugality was a necessity of life. Rural communities once had strong emotions started during the Great Depression. My grandmother spoke of having one egg per week (and we were farmers—the rest were sold) which the man of the house ate because he did more physical work and needed the strength. 

We also heard stories of eating lard sandwiches and “learning to like it, too”, as Grandma Accountant used to put it. Things were hard in those days; harder than anything experienced in these parts by anyone under 100 years of age.

Frugality was an ingrained part of life. Debt was to be avoided like rabies. Old-timers knew it was impossible to survive either. A lot of good men met their end back in those days when things turned sour and the lessons were never forgotten.

Frugality was more than just not spending or bragging rights for a blogger. Spending on anything not an absolute necessity was akin to sin. And it was hard to look up at the cross on Sunday morning if you committed such an egregious sin. 

Those days are long gone. Only a few with a long memory remember grandparents warning of the perils of frivolous spending. 

It was easy to define frugality in those days. Frugality meant saving a very large percentage of your income and sacrificing at least some necessities. Frugality also meant industriousness. Flaunting of wealth was as bad or worse than foolish spending and nobody wants to be the fool.

The lines have blurred in the last decade. Frugality is easier because it is easier to game the system. We even brag about it—a social crime in the not so distant past. 

Now we can travel the world on someone else’s dime and still claim the trophy of frugalism. Websites and blogs abound in strategies to shift your spending to another’s financial statement. Gaming credit cards is all the rage. And credit cards are not the only game. There are so many moving parts in the financial system now you can drive a truck through it without hitting a frugality checkpoint.

But is this really frugal? Not by any definition from the past. Our grandparents would not consider the current state of affairs frugal. They would actually be appalled at modern behavior passing as financially responsible behavior. 

With new rules and a new world order it is time for a better definition of frugality. It is unacceptable to claim current spendthrifty behavior as actually frugal behavior. This has always led to disaster in the past and there are no indications the laws of economics have changed.

So today we will attempt to redefine frugality for a modern world with options to game true frugal living. 

 

Measuring Frugality

The problem stems from what we measure. In the past we measured frugality by spending levels, or better yet, by the savings rate. In the backwoods it was common to see 50% savings rates and higher, emphasis on “was”. People just did not spend what they earned. 

Money is no longer an accurate gauge of frugal behavior. A few quick financial maneuvers can provide points from whatever source good for cash, prizes and/or travel. The tax-free cash doesn’t count as spending in most people’s minds. That is an unfortunate belief to have. 

Travel is the worst offender. Free and semi-free travel is all the rage. It has even affected business and first-class travel as so many can now achieve such levels at very low cost. First-class isn’t what it used to be according to what I have read.

The damage to the environment is all the same. The climate doesn’t care if you think you are frugal as you dump a few more tons (or tonnes for my non-American readers) of carbon into the atmosphere without personal financial cost because you cashed in some points. Earth thinks you still did the spending; Earth thinks you are less than frugal regardless what you exclude from your budget.

Redefining frugality in a world or rewards points, bonuses and free handouts. All that unrecorded consumption affects the planet and environment while exposing your finances to new risks. #risks #finances# #frugal #frugality #spending #rewards #rewardsprograms Measuring “earned income spending” is not the truth. Your impact on the planet is still very high if you engage in off-balance sheet spending. (Yes, this is a twist of words. I know spending goes on the P&L. I used this analogy as a twist on the questionable behavior of public corporations that use off-balance sheet debt to mask their true financial condition.)

All spending counts. Better yet, all consumption counts!

Because the claims of frugality are so easy to fraudulently (an ethical crime only) acquire today a better way to assess frugal behavior is by measuring consumption. 

I’m guilty of the same crime. I avoid travel as much as possible, but have no problem if people travel to me. How is that different from a blogger taking a free trip to a conference just because they are a blogger? The environmental damage is all the same; the resources still consumed.

I’ve gone a step further (and hence have committed a higher crime). My home (and water) is heated and cooled by a geothermal heat pump. Very energy efficient. Then I plow said savings into a 3,000 square foot home with a hot tub, Jacuzzi and a two acre pond. (Save the “hypocrite” catcalls for later.)

Odds are my next vehicle will be electric or some hybrid of such. The miles will be driven with a lower environmental impact. Yet, the massive consumption of an auto purchase is present.

My carbon contribution to the atmosphere is smaller than most Americans and probably on par with a typical European. This puts me well above levels of African nations and most nations, for that matter, outside Western Europe and North America. I have to be careful how loudly I proclaim my innocence.

And the free gifts keep coming. Over my adult life I received plenty of free promotional items as enticements. Blogging is no different. They even have laws now where bloggers have to disclose if they received compensation or free use of the item or service they blog about.

On The Wealthy Accountant Facebook group I have asked people what they consider spending. The vast majority confess they don’t consider credit card rewards as spending. Well, it is tax-free income so it shouldn’t count as spending then either, should it? 

But it is spending! Consumption, too! 

Measuring frugality is extremely difficult due to all the changes in modern society. Spending has been distorted and even CO2 emissions are an inaccurate way to measure frugal behavior. Each method can be gamed. A good start might be to track your CO2 emissions or equivalents with a basic calculator from the EPA. It isn’t a perfect solution, but better than mere spending as a frugality gauge.

Greenhouse gas emissions are also a problematic measuring tool. That electric vehicle might spill less pollutants into the air as you drive, but the contribution from production might be tremendously high. At best it is hard to measure.

And not all costs are included in the environmental equation. The polluting of the land, water and air extracting oil is not included in the price of a gallon of gasoline. We act as if dumping pollution into the environment is a free ride. The tragedy of the commons is in full swing. 

 

Building a Better Frugal Human

If spending and CO2 emissions do not accurately reflect frugal behavior, what does? It all circles back to consumption.

Asking you, kind readers, to track your greenhouse gas emissions would be too much. Even the accountant in me would not stay true to that course for very long.

A better way to determine your level of frugality is to measure consumption and its equivalents. If you get a better price you are considered more frugal. An electric vehicle is still better for the environment than an internal combustion engine (ICE). If you reduce costs by utilizing technology you are still frugal. 

But you also must include all the free rides from gaming the system. Using points to fly around the world first-class is still something like $30,000 or more in consumption equivalents. 

This is different from taxes, by the way. Business owners can shift personal spending to the business ledger legally. It doesn’t mean you (or I) were frugal. Deducting my travel expenses to FinCon or other financial or tax conferences, while a deductible business expense, is really a personal expenditure to be added to the frugality thermometer since their is an element of personal pleasure. 

If you are not brutal in your assessment of consumption you will inevitably game the system to your favor, skewing the results and fooling yourself into believing you are really frugal when you are actually not. 

I have been known to brag about spending only about $20,000 per year to live. This is true. But. . . 

But that is not a true picture. What is the cost—and continuing costs—of maintaining 3,000 square feet of home? The pond? Hot tub? And what about the stuff from the business? Do I acknowledge business meals as also a part of personal consumption? I had better if I want a true picture. Thousands in annual credit card cash rewards used for books for my personal library are personal consumption, even if they are business related! I would buy and read them even if not in business because I enjoy my work.

I see bloggers all the time claim serious levels of frugality. It does not take a deep dive to determine this is smoke and mirrors. Their social media feeds are filled with travel tales that paint anything but frugality. Add the actual cost of the free airline tickets as real consumption to the expenditure column and the consumption level starts to look quite hedonistic. 

 

Why Does It Matter

Why do I or should you care about frugality? Does it really matter if we don’t count the freebies of life in our frugal measurements?

Actually it does if you consider your impact on the climate and the world at large. The impact on the environment is your concern as it does affect quality of life. If you dump pollutants into the air with reckless abandon you by default give permission to others to do the same. When the herd of lemmings run off the cliff in synchronized fashion it makes a splatter spot at the foot of the cliff noticeable to all. 

Keeping spending low by pushing the cost on somebody else is a bit rude, but acceptable in our modern world. The spending shift is sometimes by design of those doing the paying; those without any real frugality concerns. These gifts are nothing more than inducements to get you—or others in your sphere of influence—to take up the additional consumption.

Overcome spending, consumption, debt and financial problems. Rewards programs are designed to get you to spend more and keep you in debt. Break the cycle with these secret tips. #secret #tips #spending #consumption #rewards #debt #financialproblemsYou are better than that. Gaming the system is not a bad thing and no worse than gaming the Tax Code to reduce your tax liability (a really good thing). I am 100% for using credit card rewards and still accept the benefits of business ownership. If my meal or travel is paid by someone else it is still an acceptable behavior as long as I acknowledge I engaged a level of consumption.

But when it comes to consumption I have to admit I am less frugal than I pretend. As I grow this blog and other business projects I find I am on the road more often. I can call it whatever I want as long as I am honest in admitting my personal consumption is really personal consumption. It is hard to be truly frugal as a business owner of any size. Businesses spend to survive.

My personal spending is low. When I bow out of the business life a few business expenses will end up on the personal financial statement it was really on all along and some expenditures will cease. Travel and other consumption will stop or be severely curtailed. Then I may regain my badge of frugality. True frugality

Until then I need a serious reality check and so do you. You are consuming more than you admit and if you want to really be frugal that has to stop because the planet can’t take anymore. And shady personal accounting will not lower environmental pollutants anymore than shady accounting made Enron a profitable company.

 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

Free Tickets to Any NFL Game for You!

Learn the secret to scoring free tickets to any game at any time. Enjoy football, soccer, hockey, baseball or basketball from the inside. You and your friends will have the best time ever! #wealthyaccountant #hockey #football #free #tickets #basketball #baseball I preempt our regular programming. I had an awesome post planned for today, but then my oldest daughter returned from college and told me something that made my mouth sweat. (You can enjoy the planned awesome post Thursday.)

Regular readers may remember I swore off commercial television decades ago, including my beloved football (not to be confused with soccer, my non-North American friends). Still, football is a massive part of the backwoods lifestyle of Phuket, Wisconsin. (Can you blame us? It’s all we have! Either that or admiring our frozen tundra.)

Now I know what you’re thinking. You like football and if you enjoy the sport you should be able to enjoy the sport. I agree. But readers around here are frugal and it takes a king’s ransom to get into the game! If you’re lucky enough to be in the 1% it’s still affordable, but if you’re in the 1% somebody else paid for those tickets or you don’t attend such extravagant events. Paying for NFL game tickets is for the 99% and chumps.

You can blame this post on procrastination. All weekend I kept promising myself I’d write Monday’s post early and get a jump-start on posts for when I was at FinCon in a few weeks. Instead, I focused my attention on YouTube videos of the Red Green Show. I think you’d agree it was a good trade-off.

Before We Get Our Free Tickets

I’m writing this late Sunday night (because I never wait until the last minute to write what needs to be published Monday). The Packers are playing the Bears in the late game. Yes, I’m missing all the action once again. But my daughter’s words echoed in my mind: free Packers tickets.

If you gave me free tickets to an NFL game I’d sell them. I have never—and never will—watch an NFL game at a stadium. If God hates me I might end up forced to watch a commercial laden television broadcast at the family Thanksgiving gathering.

Score free tickets to any sporting event you want. Planning is simple and fun. You might even get paid to attend a football, soccer, basketball or baseball game. #wealthyaccountant #free #football #baseball #soccer #basketball #tickets One reason I’ll never watch a game at Lambeau Field is because I heard they play the commercials in the stadium to all the chumps who coughed up serious change to attend. Is there any way to avoid this garbage? You can correct me in the comments, but it;s what I’ve heard.

Deep down I secretly hope the Packers get clobbered early in the season. It is soooooo annoying listening to the nonstop football discussion as if it makes any difference. I hear it at the office, from family, clients, at the gym while lifting weights and worst of all, in the friggen steam room at the gym when I just want to do is unwind. (FYI: I can’t name the coach or a single player on the team.)

Yes, I defend your right to watch any sport you want; I just don’t want to hear about it.

And my dream came true! Due to the nugget of knowledge imbued by my daughter I was interested enough to check Yahoo Sports to see how the Packers are doing tonight and they are getting gutted 20 to nothing. Hahahahahah!

Ah, the gym will be so quiet tomorrow as the proletariat licks their wounds as I workout. (Okay, smartass! I procrastinated more than you thought. I saw the 20-0 score on Yahoo and went back to enjoying Red Green. Then I vomited a little in my mouth when I went back and saw the final score. Looks like a mass shooting is a high probability at a gym near a certain accountant’s establishment. God, how I dream of the time each year when the Packers are out of the playoffs.)

By now you’re probably wondering if I have the goods. I do. The reason I tell you all this stuff is because the information I need to impart takes all of 15 words to explain and I have column inches to fill. This is powerful information and needed dissemination. So, on to the meat of our presentation.

How to Snag Free Tickets to Any NFL Game

Once again, I don’t have insider information on any of this so you just have to trust me.

Football tickets are expensive. I’m guessing they run a hundred bucks or so per person, plus parking, program (do they charge for those things or even still have them?) and food. They probably charge to use the restroom.

Attend any sporting event free with this little known secret. Planning is important. You and your friends can enjoy any football game for free. You might even get paid to see the Super Bowl. #wealthyaccountant #superbowl #sports #sportingevent #planning #americanfootballThis is serious ka-ching. The kids have to stay home at these prices or dad would be set back a thousand smackeroos or more!

No more procrastinating. What I discovered is more than free tickets to any NFL game; you actually get paid to go to the game!

It works like this. Game day is a messy experience. Stadiums need to keep on top of the garbage intoxicated fans keeps throwing everywhere other than the waste basket so they pay people to come to the game and tidy up.

Each team is different, I’m sure. But all teams have the same problem and need to keep things tidy on game day. And this is where my daughter came in.

The secret she told me was PTK (Heather is a smarty pants and is the VP of the Wisconsin PTK) sends people to Packer games all season to raise money for the organization. For the Packers at least, you need at least 10 people to attend during the game. I was told the group was paid ~$800 for 5 hours of time during the game and they actually get to see some of the game (always a downside).

For frugal people like you this is a monster idea! Not only can you save hundreds on an expensive habit, you actually have a very part-time side gig! Aren’t you excited?

There is a potential catch. I’m unsure if only non-profit organizations are allowed to do this. But that is a small speed bump people for folks as intelligent as the people around here. Heck, you can gather your buddies from the tavern league to get the requisite 10 people. (Hey, if you consider NFL tickets an acceptable expense you also probably spend crazy amounts of money on watered down hooch at the local tavern.)

Game Plan

Every team in every major sport probably has a similar program. If you really do love the sport, this is a good way to support your team while enjoying the game from the inside. Rather than crack open your wallet for an expensive outing, consider participating. You can attend the game for free and get paid!

Yes, you don’t get to enjoy those very comfortable seats. Instead, you can walk around as you enjoy the game. When you see trash blowing around you pick it up and put it where it belongs. As a responsible citizen you do that anyway. Right?

Regardless your sport of choice, check into this nugget of information. Check what the rules are for your favorite team. You can earn a few dollars while enjoying a great time out with friends. If it requires a non-profit, join one. Then volunteer. The organization probably keeps the money, but so what? You help a good cause while getting free entertainment. Think of all the fun.

Disclaimer

I know I was facetious in this post. It was about the only way to write it. Just because I walked away from spectator sports decades ago is no reason you can’t enjoy the game. I made my choice; you should make yours without regard to a crazy accountant’s personal decisions. The idea is short, sweet and to the point. But sporting events are expensive and this information can make game day more fun than ever, raise money for a cause (or you) and allow you free attendance.

My choices are different than yours. You can maintain a frugal lifestyle while enjoying the good things in life. I bet helping out on game day would make the game even more pleasurable. It is different than passively sitting in a chair and watching the game. You can be part of the team effort.

Honestly, I enjoy the excitement the guys at the gym express when the Packers are doing well. I don’t watch, but still cheer on the home team. I only know the name of one player. (Rogers is still the quarterback, right?)

Spending money is okay, no matter what you’ve heard. Overspending is a different story. Professional sports can set you back serious coin. Especially while you are reducing debt and building toward financial independence, you should focus on reducing spending. Now you can keep spending low as you build your wealth and enjoy the things you like in life.

And I saw the Packers eked out a close one. Must have been a nail biter. The guys at the gym will be excited. I’ll be excited for them, too. Go Packers! Even if I never see a game this year.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here.