Sometimes Less Really Is More


What's Hot


2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

14 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security ChecksGrow

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

8 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances — and Be HappierGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

7 Free Sources of Manufacturer Coupons You Can Find OnlineSave

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

Fixing Your Credit? Do These 5 Things, Avoid These 3Credit & Debt

Is there something you're dying to have but can't afford? For the answer to be no, you don't have to be wealthy.

On Sunday we went to lunch with my life partner’s mother and her longtime companion. The most exciting part of the meal was the very large black bear that ran around in a field behind the restaurant until employees chased it away. The most interesting part was what his mom said about flowers.

She’d gone to a local nursery and was so taken by the blooms that she bought more than she needed. In fact, it had been a long time since she bought anything she didn’t specifically need.

“It was nice to want something,” she said. “I haven’t wanted anything in a long time.”

That’s not because she’s clinically depressed or too impoverished to dream. It’s because she’s satisfied.

I don’t know his mom (whom I’ll call “Maggie” to protect her privacy) very well yet, but she appears to be one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. Retired for decades and divorced for longer than that, her frugality made a rich life possible.

Not wealthy-rich, but experience-rich. She seems to have friends everywhere she goes, she’s traveled fairly extensively, and she keeps busy with swimming, auditing university classes, attending lectures, and meeting with a group of fellow plein air painters.  

Years ago an acquaintance tried to dragoon her into a multilevel marketing scheme. Maggie said no thanks. The friend persisted along the lines of, “But the money you could make! Isn’t there something you’re dying to have but can’t afford?”

Maggie’s immediate answer: “No, not really.”

I’m getting closer to that state all the time, and it feels perfectly wonderful. I have everything I need and some of what I want. How many people get to say that, and to mean it?

I’m no minimalist

To be clear: I don’t aspire to live sackcloth-clad in an empty room. But when it comes to both decor and couture I’m built for comfort, not for speed. The house that LP and I share is fairly plain, and heaven knows I’m not much for self-adornment.

We’re definitely willing to spend on what matters to us: family and friends, charitable and religious causes, the arts.

We have our splurges, some shared and some not: travel, beer-making supplies, movies, lunches out, the occasional pound of pepper bacon from Mr. Prime Beef. And just like Maggie, we bought more bedding plants — both flower and vegetable — than we’d planned. (What can I say? It was a long winter.)

Yet we frugal-hack our dollars to the utmost. The farther that money stretches, the more personal goals we can reach. For example, we must plan our own retirements and we’d both like to leave something for our families. (I have a life insurance policy but I’d also like to leave more than that.)

One of the most effective frugal hacks we’ve found? Don’t buy anything you see the instant you see it. In fact, don’t buy anything until you’ve thought it over and then looked for ways to get the best possible price (discounted gift cards, thrift stores, price comparison websites, yard sales, Amazon gift cards I get free from Swagbucks).  

Not buying has another benefit: less clutter. We’re both trying to get rid of things, in part because we don’t want to leave a lot of stuff for our kids to have to clear out and in part because we both find a pared-down home quite calming.

Frugal-hacking the wants

Here’s how Maggie keeps the clutter down: Anytime she brings a new possession home, two current ones have to go. I admire that kind of resolve.

Again, it’s not that I don’t want things. Certain items will never go away: mementos from friends, an art clock made by an artist friend, small treasures from my daughter’s childhood.

Some of the things I want are gleefully ephemeral. For example, tonight I’ll attend a midnight showing of “Now You See Me” with a friend, and will utterly enjoy the Diet Coke and kettle corn that have become two more of my personal indulgences.

But I frugal-hack those wants just as I do my needs. One of those discounted gift cards will pay for both ticket and treats. I’ll be using a soft drink cup that initially costs $7 but can be refilled all year long for $3 a pop (as it were).

This week’s email coupon from Cinemark is for a free small popcorn with the purchase of a large drink (i.e., the $3 one). I’ll upgrade to a large, which comes with a free refill, by paying the $1.75 difference. Then I’ll dump the popcorn in a plastic bag and immediately get the free refill for my companion; she’s driving so she shouldn’t pay for snacks.

Popcorn and Diet Coke are neither nutritious nor necessary. But I want them, I’ve budgeted for them and I’m going to get them. Even faux minimalists like to cut loose now and then. It’s very satisfying.

More stories on DonnaFreedman.com:

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

💰🗣📰

Read Next: 5 Easy Ways to Save on Your Cell Phone Bill

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,990 more deals!