10 Things That Shaped My Frugality and Financial Outlook

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4. My best friend, girlfriend, and eventual wife Sarah

Sarah and I were friends in high school, but we didn’t start actually dating until we ended up attending the same college. Neither one of us knew anyone when we started – there were no pre-existing social networks for either one of us aside from each other – so that gradually pushed us closer and closer together.

Sarah is the one person in my life that I’ve never felt that I had to impress. I could completely be myself with her and never feel like I had to be something else. Most of my best memories of our years as friends and our later years when we were dating were of incredibly simple things, like just watching movies or going on walks or things like that.

When you couple that sentiment with her natural inclination to enjoy the simpler things in life and my own upbringing, we often found ourselves enjoying simple things, and we still do.

My first forays into frugality and fixing our finances were strongly supported by her, and it was through that process that we rediscovered a lot of the things that we enjoyed doing together that we had replaced due to having money. We started making meals together again. We started going on a lot of walks together again.

It was because of that shared history and our shared comfort level and our open conversation that we were able to make that financial turnaround happen.

5. Titan by Ron Chernow

For a long period in my life – most of the 2000s, actually – I devoured biography after biography. Politicians. Artists. Businesspeople. Religious leaders. Cultural icons. I was hungry to learn about the lives of those who had accomplished big things.

My big goal with each biography I read was to intentionally pull out one or two things that meaningfully applied to my life and then spend some time trying to meaningfully apply it.

During that period in my life when I was just starting to be more open about turning my financial ship around, I happened to be reading Titan by Ron Chernow. Titan is a biography of John D. Rockefeller Sr., the founder of Standard Oil. He pulled himself up from nearly nothing to build one of the largest companies in the world.

The big element I took away from this book was Rockefeller’s insistence on keeping track of every single penny in not only his personal life, but in his businesses. He kept a ledger of every expense and every dollar brought in. His success was in no small part built upon careful tracking and careful consideration of every single dime.

I attempted this practice for a while. It was really my first attempt at keeping track of every dime that I spent. What did I learn from it? Well, when I actually went through those expenses at the time, I couldn’t help but conclude that I was spending way too much.

One might think that this experience alone would have shaken my financial path of destruction that I followed in my early adult years. It didn’t, but it certainly unsettled things and it likely helped set the stage for things to come. Plus, I think it’s somewhat responsible for my continued use of spreadsheets and You Need a Budget for tracking my expenses, even to this day.

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