Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Power of "Making Do"

Frugality is in! And long overdue, in my opinion. Many major newspapers include columns and blogs about how to cut back and save money. But frugality isn't just about surviving the recession. It's about wise money management.

When Professor Stanley (The Millionaire Next Door) studied self-made millionaires, he was surprised to find them living in normal houses, driving normal cars, and saving money any way they could. One of his chapters described them as "Frugal, Frugal, Frugal."

And it makes sense. To amass wealth, you've got to live beneath your means. And since savings aren't taxed, $1000 saved may net you just as much as a $2000 earned. And when you think about it, $1000 is simply a year of $20 weekly savings. Invest $20 a week starting after high school graduation and invest it wisely to retire with over $1,000,000. Don't believe me? Google "interest calculator" and put in $1000 per year at 10% interest (average stock market gain) and see what you've got in 50 years.

That sure does simplify things. All young people have to do is to come up with $20 at the end of each week. If all our earnings are gone by the next paycheck, we can either earn an extra $20 by mowing a yard or babysitting, or, we can find ways to cut back. That's where "making do" comes in.

My brother works as an engineer for a large company. He recently walked into the coffee room to find that, apparently, the coffee machine carafe (the glass container that the coffee drips into) had broken and his engineer friend had "made do" instead of purchasing a new machine. To the right is his fix looked.

Now most of us would have gone right out and bought a new coffee maker for about $20. Former generations were more innovative and not embarrassed in the least to "make do" with what they had.

I've noticed that my grandad often replaced a tool handle with his own piece of wood rather than throw it away and buy a new one. I watch mom tear off a tattered collar, turn it over, and sew it back on to keep a comfortable shirt she liked. No wonder she saved plenty to retire comfortably.

The next time something breaks, don't immediately replace it. See if there's a way to make do. Make do every week and invest your savings and you just might become wealthy.

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