Monday, November 3

Bring in, sell off, save up

By now, some of you have probably heard about Ramit's challenge over at I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

On Friday, he announced that people seem less worried about where to invest than about how to save money immediately. And so he created the 30 day challenge to save $1000.

Three days in and he's already received a lot of flak.

Partially, it's from how he went about it. (Have you ever heard someone sneer in an article? If not, check his out.) He promised no "retarded" frugality tips, like buying OJ from concentrate, starting a garden or buying day-old baked goods.

"I’m not trying to save $1 or even $10 per week, because it’s not worth changing your behavior for that kind of money."

[A brief moment to indulge my petty side: Tip #2 (Sunday) is designed, by his own admission, to save $10-20 a month.]

That bit of acerbity out of the way, from what I’ve seen so far, these tips won’t help me. But that shouldn’t surprise me. Or make me bitter. (Though it does, a little.)

I’m used to not being the target audience; hell, that’s why I started this blog.

I’m tired of (comparatively) rich people talking about how they were surrounded by debt, stressed all the time; and after reading one book, they were able to make some “serious” changes and get out of debt quickly.

At least, the bitter part of me gets sick of hearing about how those changes tend to be nixing their mani/pedis, not going out to eat and cutting back to basic cable.

See, I thought that's how most people lived.

But based on Ramit’s first tip – taking your lunch to work three times a week – I’m not representative of the majority. Personally, I don’t even know anyone who eats lunch out three times a week to begin with. I guess Ramit and I run in vastly different social circles.

And, really, who’s to say how I would live if I could bring in a real income? Maybe I’d be more frivolous. Maybe I wouldn’t. I do know that it’s pointless to get angry or offended.

The fact is, most people’s tips won’t help me specifically. Either they’re things Tim and I can’t do (Get a second job? Neither of us can even work a full-time first one!) or they’re things we’re already doing (Turn down the thermostat? As I write this, the windows are open on a cloudy, 54-degree day!).

So we're in a less-than-common situation. I knew that going into the PF blogosphere. People living on disability or unemployment aren’t exactly the biggest audience out there (especially for people selling seminars or books) so we can’t really depend on getting advice that is built specifically for us. At least, not mainstream advice.

You can either get mad and waste the energy you’ve got, or you can tinker with things a bit, until they suit you better. I take a little from column A, a little from Column B.

In the meantime, I have to give Ramit credit. His challenge galvanized me into action.

Whatever you think of the tips, there is a certain appeal in breaking frugality down into bite-sized pieces. Almost any frugal step can seem too hard when you consider it as a lifelong change. You feel years’ worth of deprivation in seconds and instantly want to go and do something tremendously un-frugal.

So, in making it a 30-day challenge, he has made it a reasonable, very-achievable goal.

For my part in this challenge:

I plan on putting my foot down more on nonessentials spending this month. But there really isn’t that much more fat left to trim from the budget. So I am focusing more on bringing in some money.

I re-posted the wedding items on Craigslist. Then, I went around the house and started looking more critically at household items. I took pictures of several things -- a still-shrink-wrapped Buffy Season 1 set, an exercise ball, a Grecian vase from a going-out-of-business Museum Store -- and listed them on CL. I also started looking around on the “wanted” section to see what other possessions people might buy.

One woman is looking for affordable baby clothes, which reminded me that I had a bunch stored at my mom’s. (I dabbled in eBay for awhile.) So that may be $5-10 there.

Another woman is interested in a couple of my wedding items. That could be another few bucks. (I’m actually pretty shocked and the fact that no one seems interested in 90+ glass plates, most of them never used for $40. But such is life!)

I’ve also been getting on Cash Crate and Inbox Dollars every day, figuring I can earn around $50-100 this month from something like that. (If you’re not signed up, go to my “Make Money Online” tab. I have information and links to the programs.)

Later this week, I want to go to some used bookstores and sell a bunch of books that are just gathering dust. (I love to keep books, but I never reread them. It’s the same reason I don’t buy movies.)

I’m also doing research on new-subscriber prices for the various cable/satellite companies. If the deal is good enough, I may just switch. (And if it’s DirecTV or Comcast, CashCrate will give me $80 or $15 comparatively.)

So, will I make $1000 in 30 days? Only if I fall into Scrooge McDuck’s money vault.

But I figure it’s still worth a nod to Ramit, since his challenge did get me revitalized about saving.

What about you?

Don’t worry about keeping up the habit, making it a life-long pattern. Don’t even worry about December’s budget. Just focus on November. How much do you think you could bring in, sell off or save up?

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Blogger Naturally Frugal said...

I've been reading about Ramit's 30-day challenge, and had the same reaction as you. The way he bashes other frugal bloggers, then uses they're #1 tip to save $10-$20 (um, hello bringing lunch to work) is definitely hypocritical (and who uses the term "retarded" anymore, except for frat boys?), but to each their own I guess.
I also don't understand why he wouldn't want to save $1. I mean, if he starts dumping his change into a glass jar or piggy bank, he'll be saving a lot more than $1. I am always happy to have an extra dollar lying around, either for the bus or maybe a splurge on a morning coffee.
I'm going to keep reading to see if he has any good tips, but so far everything he's suggested is a frugal hack I've already read about, and not very original.

November 3, 2008 at 4:24 PM

Blogger Meg said...

Yep, I reacted the same way, too.

I'm not always the most frugal person and there are many things that my husband and I could still do to save more money if we thought it'd be worth it. However, I would never dismiss a frugal tip as stupid or "retarded" just because it wasn't something that I would do. I've known far too many people for whom "just" a dollar could be the difference between eating or going hungry.

But, obviously, those people aren't who he's writing to -- just as he's not writing for you or me. I work from home, so packing my lunch isn't really necessary, lol. And I was so proud that we kept the heat off even when the temps dipped into the high 30s recently -- but not with the windows open, lol.

However, kudos for him for admitting that maybe this frugality thing isn't all hooey. Personally, I think it's a whole lot easier for most people to save money than to make more, but who says you can't do both!

November 3, 2008 at 8:41 PM

Blogger Shevy said...

I think it's pretty funny that he never thought being frugal was worth it until now. Let's see if he can come up with any really useful tips that aren't either ones everybody else already knows or ones that only target people who have been spending tons of money.

But at least he's at least somewhat open to frugality now.

November 3, 2008 at 11:16 PM

Blogger Abby said...

Well ladies, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who got rubbed the wrong way by some of his words.

That said, this could be an interesting thing to keep an eye on in the coming days.

And since the last half of the month will be reader tips, I will be quite interested to see what pops up.

November 3, 2008 at 11:21 PM

Blogger Bouncing Back said...

I already bring my lunch to work 4 if not 5 days out of the week, I keep the thermostat really low, I have some things listed on E-bay and Soo not too sure how the 30-day challenge will really help me out in the long run. But I'm willing to follow it, I may learn a new trick or two, you never know.

Without reading his background, maybe he is really new to the world of personal finance/frugality. And naturally frugal is right, so far this information is already out in the blogsphere.

November 4, 2008 at 7:27 AM

Blogger Ramit Sethi said...

Hey all,

Thanks for the comments. I'd be very interested to get your tips for the later part of the month.

The truth is this wasn't written for people who are already doing a bunch of frugality hacks already -- you're just not my target audience.

This is for people who normally have a bunch of financial fat they can cut out of their lives.

But hopefully I can suggest some tips for earning more and optimizing your current spending that might be valuable for you.

In any case, if you have tips that have worked, please contribute!

November 4, 2008 at 7:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had never heard of Ramit's website but I am going to check it out.

November 4, 2008 at 8:19 AM

Blogger Abby said...


I think we all get that you're not targeting us as an audience.

Having checked out your site a few times, I already knew that your site just isn't geared toward the same people smaller/frugal blogs are.

I may get sick of never being in ANYONE'S target audience, but that doesn't mean I hold you personally accountable!

That said, I do hope you accepted the kudos for at least spurring me into action. And I'll definitely keep an eye on your 30-day-challenge, because you never know what people have and haven't thought of yet.

November 4, 2008 at 10:40 AM

Blogger Meg said...

Hi Ramit! Nice of you to stop by and comment!

As far as frugal tips that I'd suggest... hmmm.... I think they should all visit, The Frugal Wiki, for lots and lots of tips which they can also add to.

(Yeah, totally shameless self-promotion, but what the heck. I'm very proud of my lil' wiki.)

November 4, 2008 at 12:49 PM

Blogger Abby said...

Meg: You shamelessly promote your lil heart out! I'll be sure to check it out in the near future!

And you're right about how quickly small purchases add up. Hence the "sticker shock" when you open up a credit card bill. I suppose it's why most frugal plans suggest moving to cash. Sigh.

November 4, 2008 at 3:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, I hadn't heard of his site before and I totally agree with your reaction to his comments about frugality. You have to start somewhere! I look forward to following your progress with the challenge.

November 5, 2008 at 11:11 AM

Blogger Meg said...

Awwww, thanks Abby ; )

November 5, 2008 at 2:33 PM

Blogger Tracy-Jayne said...

This is the first time I've ever been to your blog and I think I'll be back!

Never EVER think that nickle and diming through your days doesn't make a difference. My husband and I decided on and followed a simple savings and spending plan over the past year. In very basic terms, we determined how much he earned (at least the minimum - as a home business owner our income fluctuates quite a bit), tithed, saved a % and very strictly determined how much we'd allow ourselves to spend in other categories (like clothing, food and fuel).

We don't shy away from any opportunity to save a single penny! The amount of hamburger most of my friends would eat in a single meal gets stretched to 3 meals in our home (and actually tastes better too!). We avoid paying full price for anything, menu plan, shop with the sales. I gladly accept 'hand-me-down' clothing for my kids and grow a veggie garden. Water and electricity is used very sparingly and we helped our kids start their own small businesses (they're now 11 & 7) which provides their pocket money (and teaches the the value of hard work and good financial management).

Frugality is something we do as a family because we taught our girls early that it benefits all of us. They've realized that, for example, because they don't wear brand clothing we have the funds to pay for their drama classes they love so much.

I once read that frugality is "spending less in order to have more". I love that! By managing our money very, very carefully and not spending any more than we absolutely have to, as a family we are able to provide more extramurals for our kids and go on a short vacation every few months (gotta love camping!). We're also able to save in an era where personal savings are at an all time low in modern history.

I realize that for many frugality is about survival, and we've been there too (3 years without income). No matter what your frugal state of being is or the reasons behind it, don't underestimate the huge difference small changes can have! Keep sharing tips and encouraging each other. It's worth it!

November 6, 2008 at 8:06 AM

Blogger Abby said...


Thanks for reading and for your comments!

I love the quote about frugality. I will definitely have to keep it in mind.

It sounds like you and your kids are pretty industrious! What kinds of businesses do kids start? My mom took me for walks and we picked up cans (Alaskans are terrible litterers) which we recycled each week. I got to keep the profits.

November 6, 2008 at 10:18 AM

Blogger Tracy-Jayne said...

Hi again

Glad you like the quote! If I may ask, doesn't your mom have a MSM blog? If I'm thinking correctly, it's actually a quote from on her her posts!

My daughter began doing some beading as a craft. An old lady who just adores her paid her for one of her necklaces. My husband and I saw an opportunity, added a little more to what the lady had given her and helped her choose some more beads, learn some new designs and taught her basic book-keeping skills and the concepts of cost-of-sales, gross and net profits, savings, capital and tithing.

She was 8 at the time and has since gone on to plump her bank account and fund some of her own purchases, including saving 50 pounds spending money for a holiday to London in July. We're from South Africa and at the time the exchange rate was 16 to 1 so it was a big achievement for her.

Our youngest started to feel very left out because her big sister always seemed to have some spending money (the large age-gap doesn't help either). When we were invited to participate in a kids craft market we took the opportunity to help her start a small handmade soap business.
She was 6 at the time and needed more help than our eldest as she was slower in her maths and logistical reasoning than her sister was at a similar age, but it was a very good incentive for her to catch up!

She also has pet bunnies and keeps 50% from the sale of any babies. She understands that I keep the other 50% because I buy their food.

Since then the beading business has become highly competitive and Amié (our eldest, now 11yo) was struggling to keep up. Jess (our youngest, almost 8yo)was also not making high profits on her soaps and was losing motivation. So I've joined the 2 of them now in a combined business - we make and sell handmade, natural soaps, bath salts and scrubs and lotions.

My husband has his own software development business and works from home. Amié helps him with data capturing and the like from time to time and earns extra money that way too. We feel this is a wonderful opportunity to involve her in the work that feeds us as a family too.

November 7, 2008 at 2:28 AM

Blogger Abby said...

Wow... All I can say to that is: Brilliant! Those are some industrious kids you have there. And they'll be pretty darn money smart when they're out on their own.

November 7, 2008 at 10:45 AM


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