When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I’d easily spend $300 on a Coco Chanel wallet or Tiffany card case. And that evening, it was nothing to drop another hundred on dinner with friends. Sears, Kmart, Target and “the Walmart” were definitely off my shopping radar. After all, only poor people shopped those places.

When I look back at all the money I wasted buying status symbols that only serve to make other folks rich, it makes me ill. The genius who said, “Youth is wasted on the young,” sure got that one right!

Thankfully, when I turned 24, I married a man who can make a $20 bill last six months! He showed me how to manage our money so that it wouldn’t end up managing us.

These days when I climb into my 11 year-old Honda (156,000 miles and counting) – I smile. And the folks at my local Walmart, well, they know me by name. :) I’m ecstatic when I find scream’n deals on toothpaste, or save cash by dining in. And paying extra on my mortgage makes me downright giddy!

Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to live like Ebenezer Scrooge. It simply means living below your means – comfortably.

Here are five tips to get you started.

Invest in yourself. I believe in stimulating my economy. And don’t count on Uncle Sam or anyone else to take care of my needs. Dedicate a portion of every paycheck to savings. Whether you invest in the stock market, deposit money in a credit union savings account, a tin can or under your mattress – pay yourself. Even if it’s just fifty cents a week.

*“Backyard, Sauna and Room for a Pony”. Your mortgage or rent shouldn’t consume more than 28% of your monthly gross income. But remember – just because you qualify for a loan or have 28% to spend on rent, doesn’t mean you can afford to make the payments. Owning a home involves much more than paying the banknote. Home maintenance, property tax, and home owner’s insurance are just a few of many, expenses.

Note: Your total debts, (rent, car payments, student loans, credit cards, etc.) should equal 36% or less of your gross monthly income.

Paying Retail is for Suckers. It’s silly to pay full price unless you have to. Shop around on and offline before making purchases. And be sure to clip coupons and take them with you. Check out, My Simon, Fat Wallet, Retail Me Not, Deal Hunting, and Ebates, to find mind-blowing savings.

Budgets Rock. Whether you’re making a six figure salary or living off tips, the only way to see where you spend (and hopefully save) money is with a budget. Mint and Money Strands are two good and FREE budgeting tools. YNAB 3 is also a great choice, but the price is $60 bucks.

Got a Raise? Great! Good for you. Save at least 50% and put the rest towards paying off debts.

Don’t let a sense of entitlement make you poor. Instead, practice a little self-control and spend carefully.

*My favorite quote from Keeping Up Appearances – British Situation Comedy.

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