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Frugal in Small Things, Credit Card Lover for Big Things

Feb 27, 2008
I know a lot of people who carry a rather large amount of debt, yet they claim to be frugal. And they are... with small things. They try not to eat out a lot, keep driving that same old paid off car, and watch what they spend on groceries.

But where they go wrong is with the technology.

A lot of people get into debt because they want the latest and greatest technology. This has become particularly prevalent in areas such as home theater, cell phones, video gaming systems and MP3 players. Even people who don't have a lot of money too often have the latest gadgets in these areas.

And it means they carry quite a bit of debt.

Having nice things is wonderful, but as a rule if it's making you go into debt you need to rethink your money strategies. For example:

* Do you really need a big screen television, or can you keep using your old one until either it dies or you have the money saved up for the big screen. Try to avoid putting it on credit.

This is particularly challenging for people right now, with the upcoming switch to digital broadcasting that will make some televisions require additional equipment to receive signals. Many would rather just upgrade the whole set. But if you don't have the money for a new set, be financially smart and start saving. There's still time, and there are coupons from the government for the equipment to adapt your old TV.

* Video games and movies get expensive fast if you buy them. But if you're buying several a month, consider a Netflix, Blockbuster or GameFly subscription. Just think how often you really watch even your favorite movies, or how many games you really need to have available to play at any one time. If you're spending more than the cost of a monthly subscription to one of these services on purchases, they can probably save you money and give you a greater variety.

* Think before you upgrade. People love to upgrade cell phones, MP3 players and such because they want all the new features? How much do you really need those features? Can it wait another year or two?

My own cell phone is 3 years old. It doesn't take pictures, although it does have a color screen. I've never downloaded a ringtone or texted anyone. Sure, some of those features would be nice, but do they matter on my budget? No.

Learning to be frugal even in these areas can be a huge help to your overall financial picture. It takes some self control, and you have to remember that having the latest technology is really not that important. Just think of the money you could save so that you have a cushion in case of a lost job, an illness or other circumstance. Spread out your frugality to cover all the ways you spend your money, while still enjoying your life.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at
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