Updated on 08.19.09

That’s Just the Way It Is?

Trent Hamm

Two weeks ago, I was hanging out with a large group of people when one of them made the comment, “Well, you know how it goes… the money comes in, the money goes out … and maybe a little bit more!” This comment was met with laughs by several people.

I just kind of half-smiled, looked down at my drink, and said, “Well, that’s one way to live, I guess.”

The other person turned to me and said, “What do you mean? That’s just the way it is.

That’s just the way it is?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the average savings rate in America has hovered between 0% and 5% over the last decade. For those uninitiated, this refers to the percentage of personal income that people do not actively spend (meaning they save or invest it).

Now, let’s say the savings rate is 3%. Let’s take ten people and put them in a room together. Three of them are Simple Dollar readers and they’re socking away 12% of their income. Everyone else is spending 1% more than they’re bringing in.

In other words, given that there are a lot of people out there who are saving way more than the national average savings rate, there must be a lot of people who are also saving significantly less than the savings rate.

Thus, the norm for a lot of people is to actually spend more than they earn and just hope that windfalls will come along to help them out. That’s just the way it is, after all.

Staying up late stressing about bills? Having a pile of debts that suck away a big chunk of my income? Going into utter panic mode if something goes wrong? Tied to my job because I need the income, regardless of whether I like it or not?

If that’s just the way it is, count me out.

I prefer a different path. Why not cut back on the things that aren’t important to you?

Instead of a $300 cell phone with fifteen different gadgets and service that costs $100 a month that you rarely use, why not just get a freebie phone with just the text messaging that you do use?

Instead of trading in your 2007 vehicle for a 2010 one, why not subscribe to a maintenance schedule and drive that vehicle to the 200,000 mile mark, since you mostly just use the car to go to work and to the grocery store?

Instead of keeping up with the Joneses on whatever fad happens to be going on amongst your friends, why not just figure out what you’re interested in and stick with it?

For me, that’s just the way it is. I’m not facing a mountain of debts, praying for a windfall, living paycheck to paycheck, or anything like that. I’m living my life quite happily without all of those worries but with all the joys my life can provide.

Whenever you’re facing things you’re unhappy with, most of the time, you can make choices to change it. That’s just the way it is if you don’t bother to do anything about it.

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  1. That’s an excellent analysis of the savings rate. Statistics are notorious for what they DON’T say.

    According to several surveys, most people live paycheck to paycheck.

  2. Joseph says:

    I wonder what the median savings rate is in this country. That would probably be a less deceptive figure than the average savings rate.

    Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the median savings rate is negative.

  3. Joanna says:

    What a great post, Trent. I have some friends that regularly frustrate me by using “that’s just the way it is” to justify overspending that is *clearly* keeping them miserable. (as evidenced by constant whining about debts & lack of financial freedom to buy a house, etc.)

    When I pointed out to one that he had reduced his monthly expenditures by over $1,000 when he moved in with a friend nearly a year ago, he realized that $12k would have paid off his credit card debt. It seemed to be an aha moment where he actually viewed the world from a different perspective, but not sure it’ll change his actions.

  4. sid says:

    It always amazes me when people at work complain about some kind of unexpected expense coming up and having to put it on the credit card (pay it off over a few months) or tap into a line of credit from a bank. These are usually $500-$1000 expenses like a car or appliance breaking down. And these are people making more than $50,000 a year , most of them with a spouse making similar amounts of money, yet they have no savings at all. I guess that’s why they buy a lottery ticket every week.

  5. Torrey says:

    I’m right with you. I have been around people like this who think, for example, student debt is impossible to pay off.

    We have friend and acquaintances who think we make a lot more money than we really do. In actuality, we just maintain a strict budget and pay cash for everything.

    Bottom line is: If you want something enough, you make the effort. “That’s just the way it is” is a lazy cop out!

  6. Kris says:

    I am around people like that at work all the time. It’s like people forget that they do have some control over their money.. and their lives for that matter.

  7. Bill in Houston says:

    We’re actually doing okay, despite having purchased a new house last fall and pouring money into it (new roof, skylight, air conditioner, painting). Even with the big bills (the roof was fortunately covered by our deductible, so it only cost $2500) we’re still managing to sock a little away. We were saving about $400 a month over our expenses, which is pretty decent.

    I used to stress over ensuring that we had the cash to pay the bills, save up for the house, make the car payment and our student loans. Our mortgage is stable (we just got a $50 a month deduction on our property taxes that we’re pointint toward principal reduction), we pretty much know what our monthly bills are, and now my wife has taken over writing the checks. She does ask me every payday, “Did you put money into the house account?”

    I did marry a smart one.

    Now that the big things are out of the way, we’re back to funding our emergency pot and rolling up debts to pay them off faster.

  8. Jules says:

    @ Torrey: I can sympathize with your friends–every paycheck, I think, “My student loan is STILL 5 digits?!” But then I remind myself that, on a salary of almost-minimum wage, I’ve managed to pay back almost $9000 in a year. No, lab techs don’t make a lot–so I’ll be going for a PhD next year.

  9. Em says:

    I often think your posts are softer on budgeting musts than they could be, but this post is spot on. Nicely done.

  10. Jason says:

    Having done a little research on savings rates recently, do you remember the criteria for their calculation on the actual rate? Most of the ones I have found do not include any retirement contributions.

    Not that this is an excuse to live beyond your means; however, from what I remember the 0-5% is, in reality, a little (read very little) bit deceiving. The savings rate for Americans is abysmal, of that there is little doubt. However, should we endeavor to change tactics when explaining this to people?

    Just telling someone they don’t save enough doesn’t seem to work. What seems to have worked recently is scaring the bejeebers out of folks (the personal savings rate has risen in the last year to 6-8% depending on the reporting institution (w/o retirement factored in).

    In our case, including investment vehicles (Roth IRAs, 403(b), 529, taxable investments, etc.) our family’s savings rate is in the 30-36% of income range. Without these, it falls to the 12-15% range. I don’t underestimate the extent to which we do not save in this country and the impact it has on quality of life. At the same time, I want to see meaningful statistics (not your fault Trent) which might encourage people to do more.

  11. Meg says:

    Some people need a major kick in the behind to make them change their ways.

    My sister (now 26) has been living with my mother for a couple years rent free (my mom is so nice). She has a small student loan and a car loan. Never has paid extra on either of them. She makes about 20k a year (I think)

    She thought it would be nice to move out and thought she would try to buy a condo through a low income housing program. The loan lady (?) looked at her case and said ‘you’ve lived with your mother for how long and you don’t have any saving?’

    And so my sister *finally* set up an automatic savings plan.

    My mother and I are very grateful. My sister never wants to listen to anyone (in the family especially) about money. (all of us have been strongly suggesting she save up first/last, etc.) She just wants to spend it on junk.

    Maybe someday she can actually move out.

  12. Kevin M says:

    Good for you for piping up, Trent. But I wonder how the rest of the conversation went?

  13. Tyler Karaszewski says:

    Lots of people will blame all their problems and failures an anything or anyone else but themselves. That’s just the way it is.

  14. David C says:

    “That’s just the way it is” sounds like a cop out for not wanting to take charge of your life.

    I am not debt free yet, but I am breaking that chain one link at a time. Soon I should be saying “That’s just the way it WAS!”

  15. “That’s just the way it is”–has anyone ever thought how many of those good ‘ole sayings there are out there that are just as counterproductive as that one?

    That’s the kind of saying that keeps you in a rut, and provides a justifying mantra for being there. Like a coping device!

    This may be a good idea for a book…

  16. Michael says:

    I empathize with you in that conversation, Trent. Don’t you feel the slight…threat in that “what do you mean?” You’d better not make me realize I could do better!


  17. Borealis says:

    I agree with the post. But watch out for the statistic about the average credit card debt.

    First, many people who pay off their credit card every month have a debt that is counted.

    Second, people with no debt are only counted as a zero, and thus a hundred people with no debt are still averaged out to have debt.

  18. Anna says:

    The opening of this article struck me as a cautionary tale, but not in the way intended. I’ve got the mental picture of someone making ajoke, maybe not even meaning it at all, everyone laughing a little…and then the voice of seriousness brings it all to a halt.

    Reforming, replacing bad habits with good and healthy ones, is the best thing a person can do for themself. Going public with the process and helping others is a close second.
    Thinking that this dynamic should govern every social interaction, however…not so much.

  19. J.D. Roth says:

    Trent, the Pesonal Saving Rate is a bit of a misnomer. It doesn’t include retirement savings like 401(k) plans. Still, your point is valid and this is a fine post.

  20. Laura in Seattle says:

    Excellent post Trent!!

    I had a similar moment several months ago when my mother told me she was taking out a loan for several thousand dollars to pay for non-necessary COSMETIC surgery. (Sidenote: I don’t know exactly what she makes per year, but I know it is less than 40K.)

    I said, “What do you mean, you took out a loan to pay for it?” because she had just declared bankruptcy (for the second or third time) a year before.

    Her response: “Oh, well…you’re always going to owe money to someone.”

    Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!

  21. Julie says:

    I’m having similar conversations as I’m about to move out into my first apartment. A lot of people I’ve spoken to have said that I’ll need to buy a ton of stuff (furniture, appliances, etc.) and that’ll push me into debt, but “that’s just the way it is.”

    Well, thankfully, no. I’ve got a very kind mother who’s let me live in her home while I’ve been working full-time for a year. I’ve got about seven months’ income saved up specifically to deal with all those new-apartment expenses without going into debt. I don’t plan on using a car when I move out, as public transit in Montreal is more than adequate for daily needs. I’m not getting cable or satellite.

    Am I nervous about the new expenses I’ll be paying as I transition into living with my boyfriend instead of with my mom? Sure! But that doesn’t mean I need to worry about thousands of dollars of debt at the same time!

  22. Jim says:

    “Staying up late stressing about bills? Having a pile of debts that suck away a big chunk of my income? Going into utter panic mode if something goes wrong? Tied to my job because I need the income, regardless of whether I like it or not?”

    In my experience a lot of the people who are living paycheck to paycheck don’t seem to worry about it as much as I would. I think that is a big reason they are like that with their finances and I’m not. If they worried about money more then they do then they probably save more and spend less. But since having debt and little savings is not something that seems to bother them they don’t have any problem with it and continue to do it.

  23. It’s amazing the attitudes some people have and that they blame all their problems on everyone/everything but themselves.

    I was talking to someone recently about buying a car and they couldn’t comprehend not buying/leasing a new car if you could afford the monthly payments. I told him if you can’t pay cash for something then you can’t afford it (other than a house)… he thought I was crazy.

    As for the savings rate discussion, the official data is spotty at best and it can be debated that it’s not calculated properly. The main thing to remember is that 50% of Americans don’t have 1 months worth of savings in the bank. I’d rather not be one of them :)

    -Gen Y Investor

  24. Mike says:

    Excellent post. I do wonder about the savings rate calculation and hows it’s determined. A large portion of my savings (23% of my gross) goes to the 401K because of the recent market downturn represents a significant buying opportunity for long term growth. I maintain a stable emergency fund. Hard to believe I can save well into 5 figures a year have a 0-1% “savings rate”….

  25. JP says:

    Well said! And a very timely for me to read today, as I’m adjusting to having lost my job last week. I’m still struggling to get my finances in order, and so appreciate articles like this.

  26. S. says:

    I loved this post. I have made similar comments to my sisters and have been told “not everyone is cheap like you. I work hard for my money and I am going to enjoy it.” My reply was ‘So when you borrow the banks money to go to Disney World for the umpteenth time do you enjoy it as much as if you used your own money to go?”. Snarky, I know but she answered yes I do , I love WDW. DUH!

    I just laugh to myself when I get the cheap comment, because I know it coming from the point of view if you save anything you’re crazy. We were once in debt beyond our means and lived paycheck to paycheck. It felt it akin to the out of control feeling when running across a rope brige. We cut that rope a long time ago and I enjoy having my feet firmly on the ground.

  27. Louis-Philippe says:

    Generation Y Investor , what you said about the buying/leasing if something I’m crazy with you!

    I would gladly prefer to wait until I have enought money to buy a specific car or get something else cheaper.

    At least now you have access to 0% interest on 24/36 months terms( maybe longer) so it’s at least better than to buy a 20 ooo $ car with a 9% interest rate !

    I wonder why a lot of my posts are not accepted, is it because of my english ? I’m not a native english speaker but I do enjoy the simple dollar very much and would love to comments on topic with the others !

  28. Steven says:

    “Personal saving is the amount left over from disposable personal income after expenditures on personal consumption, interest, and net current transfer payments. This amount is available to acquire financial assets such as bank deposits and mutual funds, to use towards acquiring a home, or to reduce liabilities by repaying principle on mortgages or consumer debt.”

    Straight from the government website at http://faq.bea.gov/cgi-bin/bea.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=65&p_created=1133814477&p_sid=WTQI1oGj&p_accessibility=0&p_redirect=&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9MTAsMTAmcF9wcm9kcz0mcF9jYXRzPTQxLDc0JnBfcHY9JnBfY3Y9Mi43NCZwX3NlYXJjaF90eXBlPWFuc3dlcnMuc2VhcmNoX25sJnBfcGFnZT0x&p_li=&p_topview=1 . (I’m one of those people that want the original source of info, so I like to provide it as well when I can.)

    Retirement and 529 accounts don’t count because you can’t pull money from them, without a penalty, and there are exceptions to that still.

  29. stella says:

    There are millions in this country who have worked all their lives. Who have saved as much as they could, given that their minimum wage salary didn’t really allow for it.

    Many have never had the advantage of healthcare insurance even though they worked (Wake up, folks. There are millions of working people who are uninsured because they are not offered healthcare by a company and/or because they cannot afford what is offered.) Instead of cable, fancy phones, expensive dinners out and expensive vacations, whatever money they have or credit available to them, is used for necessary healthcare. It’s not like they have EXTRA money for anything, let alone emergencies.

    Prices increase on everything, including very basic food items. But the wages of these folks rarely increase.

    For these people, Trent, it is “just the way it is.”

    Many of these people do not have a college degree (although many do), so their job opportunities are limited (although a college degree, including an advanced one, means little these days). They are not lazy, they do not shirk responsibility and they do not overspend or buy on credit.

    They do not complain, even though their lives are challenging.

    The people who come to blogs like yours, particularly those who have conquered their own debt issues, don’t seem to understand that for many people, life is tough not because of anything you do wrong, but because you are severely limited in terms of income.

    Try being a parent, even if there are two, with children on minimum wage. No healthcare insurance. No benefits. NADA. Miss a day of work, even when you’re sick and you not only lose your pay for that day, but you may lose your job.

    I’m pretty fed up with the lack of understanding and compassion for a huge part of society that doesn’t have the luxury of over-spending and incurring debt, like a lot of the critical, judgmental types who post here.

    Many of you are clueless about how hard it is for people to live. I guess if you live in your protected worlds, as some of you seem to do, you may not notice how the people working in service industries make so little they can barely live in the best of times.

    Meanwhile, a lot of you made over-inflated incomes and threw away your money on “stuff” and then boo-hoo, you were in debt. YOU all get sympathy and support. These people, who have done nothing wrong, get NOTHING.

    And then of course, you all are the first to complain if heaven forefend, your taxes are raised and might be used to help others.

    It would be better if you all spent less time judging others and HELPING those who really need it.

    People who could never afford half-million dollar homes, who make $100,000 and up a year. Now you have financial problems? No savings? No job. Hey, welcome to the real world. Oh, yea. That’s “just the way it is.”

  30. Paula says:

    Wow, great post! I know so many people who think like this and start to believe it. I was brought up with a very frugal father and a spendthrift mother (although she is very generous and an absolute sweetheart!). Dad was a big saver and had no debt. He made do with what he had or did without. My mother, on the other hand, rarely saved anything, and always had some credit card debt (which she usually hid from my father).

    To make a long story short, they divorced almost twenty years ago but reconciled ten years ago and live together. My father is planning on working two more years and retiring at 62. He has actually saved a sizeable nest egg and will be fine financially if he never works again. My mother has continuously borrowed from her 401k for personal loans, has about $10k in credit card debt and may have to stop working soon due to disability. Unfortunately, my mother will probably have to depend on my father and later on, my sisters and I, for financial support.

  31. KED says:

    Trent loved the post. “That’s Just the Way it Is!” took my brother and his wife into bankruptcy few years back. I am so worried, they are around 42, and they have nothing but debt and no savings many years after the bankruptcy. Still spending like crazy, the newest purse, the newest golfcart for their 13 year old, new bedroom furniture, eating out daily….you get the picture.

    Both my husband and I work (I work only 20 hours a week) but we have only one debt, our house and we both have automatic savings plans. My 15 year old is getting my Jeep that is paid for and has 120,000 miles on it…..she is thrilled. We also recently acquired a curbside vanity for her room and refinished it for less that 10.00. Again, she is thrilled.

    We have a beautiful fulfilling life with our children, travel, read, save energy by “solar” drying our clothing, cook and can fresh food from our garden. That’s just the way it is at our house! The simple life, not keeping up with the “Jone’s” so to speak :-)Everyone should try it!

  32. J says:

    I think the choir has assembled and you’re preaching to it :)

  33. Chris @ BuildMyBudget says:

    Even better, a friend of mine told me yesterday that his wife is finally interested in knowing about their finances. After 9 years or so together she is hinting at gaining an understanding of the finances and learning what she can do to improve their situation. I think that just like your friend who said it is what is–it really comes down to being educated, and ultimately motivated.

  34. Kevin M says:

    I think Jim (#18) and Chris (#23) have valid points. Most of these folks probably don’t think twice about living paycheck to paycheck and being in debt up to their eyeballs because they don’t know any better. That was the gist of my first comment as well…I was wondering if Trent took the opportunity for a little self-promotion and pointed him to this blog.

  35. Adrian says:

    “Instead of trading in your 2007 vehicle for a 2010 one,”

    Do people actually do this? If so, i am shocked..

  36. Count me out also. It is amazing that we control almost every aspect of our income, yet so many deal with their finances like they are victims.

  37. chessiq says:

    #16, Laura in Seattle, made me laugh to tears! “Her response:
    “Oh, well…you’re always going to owe money to someone.””
    Amazing how people doing not-so-smart things have “smart” responses!
    On a serious note, you should have asked your mother why she doesn’t want to be the person to whom money is owed, instead of one owing. Just a thought.

  38. TimG says:

    I googled “disposable personal income” and I do believe that includes retirement savings. That’s tragic. One other comment, because of “boomer” demographics (largest cohort of people in peak earning years / near retirement) this chart probably looks better than it really is.

  39. Despite a 4% national savings rate, I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone you know is saving more than that. In fact, the irony is, everybody is doing well in this economy if you ask them.

    Statistics are ridiculous.

  40. DB says:

    There is none so blind as those that will not see..

    There is none so deaf as those who will not hear…

  41. Chere says:

    You have helped me so much! I am looking at the reality of my financial life as well as the realities of other areas of my life. These principles cross the lines between my spiritual and physical existences….ultimately a very pragmatic and utilitarian (dare I say, American) philosophy.

    With the intimidation factor reduced by your approach, I have made progress and am embracing the idea of simplicity and authenticity in so many ways. I am learning to look specifically at behaviors, attitudes and ideas surrounding how I live and by what I am motivated.

    My ideas of “how things are” are constantly shifting…. JFK’s “Why not” and MLK’s “the dream” also extend to simple ways that we live….you rock massively. Thanks.

  42. Dan says:

    #25…um yeah Adrian…it was called “Cash for Clunkers”…many folks traded in their perfectly working, perfectly paid off vehicles to finance something sparkly new….

    several of those people have recently lost their jobs, and now, have their “new” car repossesed…great program….

  43. Great post – I really enjoy the bits of personal finance philosophy you offer. It really highlights the fact that getting by financially is equal parts money savvy and mindset. So many people are so inertiatic (is that a word?) and resigned to the status quo. I think it is much easier for people to settle for a less than ideal situation passively than to take initiative. It, in a way, absolves you of guilt if you can just chalk it up to some kind of inescapable norm.

  44. There is a fine line somewhere along this spectrum. I agree that we should always question certain things like people saying “that’s just the way it is, you always owe someone some money.”

    But where do you draw the line between reality and fantasy? When are you being too “pie in the sky” about something instead of just being honest about some not-so-fun things about life that we just have to accept.

    I wanted to be a pro-ballplayer for the longest time, but eventually I realized it wasn’t going to happen. “That’s just the way it is” helped me grapple with that. But if I would’ve ignored it and kept trying, it would’ve been a lost cause and a waste of time.

  45. Bobbi says:

    RE: adrian

    Actually I got a letter yesterday from the dealership where I bought my last car… I don’t have it with me, so I’ll have to paraphrase.

    Dear ___,
    Congratulations! You’ve successfully driven your 2004 ____ for FIVE years. By now you must be ready to upgrade to a newer vehicle. Please come see us as soon as possible and we can make that happen.

    Needless to say that vehicle was purchased before I gained a greater understanding of our finances. I WILL NOT be returning to purchase another vehicle. In fact, if I hadn’t snowballed the payment I would still be paying on that vehicle!

  46. Fenton says:

    Well said, Trent. My wife and I used to live paycheck to paycheck. Until we decided not to. Thanks to a lot of your tips here, in only a month we’ve gotten out of the paycheck-to-paycheck mentality and can actually breathe again. We’re paying bills earlier, saving a lot more, and just this week, when my wife’s car needed repairs, I didn’t have to think about whether or not we had the money for it.

    It is completely a choice to continue to live paycheck to paycheck. And a choice I’m glad we changed.

  47. Randy says:

    If personal savings rate excludes 401k, my annual savings will be close to zero (probably negative the last few years). I save for large expenses and pay for them as they come. Oh, sure, I’ve got some in savings right now, but the amount doesn’t change much from year to year. It goes up, it goes down. When it goes down, I work to build it back up.

    I’m funding my son’s college education, so it’s going down overall, but not the $10k-$15k/year it costs. Instead, some of the money is coming from cash flow…

  48. Kevin says:

    @Dan (#27):

    [Did anyone actually trade in their 2007 vehicle for a 2010 one?]

    “um yeah Adrian…it was called “Cash for Clunkers”…many folks traded in their perfectly working, perfectly paid off vehicles to finance something sparkly new.”

    Dan, you should really read the qualifying criteria for the “Cash for Clunkers” program.

    The passenger car you’re trading in must have a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 18 mpg or worse.

    Note: that’s for PASSENGER CARs. Not SUVs. Very few 2007 passenger cars had some bad mileage (the only ones I can think of are sports cars).

    The car you’re buying must have mileage at least 4 mpg better than the one you’re trading in, and it must cost $45,000 or less.

    The rules for trucks and SUVs are a little different. They have to be a 2001 model or older.

    So no, nobody’s trading in their 2007 vehicle under the “Cash for Clunkers” program.

  49. Kim says:

    Although much of what people assume they have no control over is a matter of their choices, there are some things that are out of our control. For instance, while trying to recover financially from a devastating business failure, suddenly my parents needed help and moved in. Now we are obligated to try to keep a roof over their heads. In the midst of this, we both lost our jobs. In the past year my husband was unemployed for 8 months, and I have been unemployed for 9 months and counting.

    We cannot sell our house as 1) my parents live there and 2) the market is not conducive to the sale at this time. But, we are now living in another part of the country as that is the only place my husband could find work.

    So we now have $2300 in housing expenses each month, but our income is down not only by my income of $35,000/year, but my husband took a $10/hour pay cut.

    We don’t have large bills other than our living expenses, but we are seriously worried about keeping our house, as my husband is due to retire in 7 years, and this home is where we had intended to spend the rest of our lives, and it is where my parents live. We cannot help them financially aside from providing a roof over their heads, and their medical bills are a continuing drain on their limited income.

    My husband’s retirement cannot be delayed for long, as he has a very physical job and that job has over the years done damage to his body.

    So, when people feel trapped, you could say I’m there. Am I trapped by credit card debt? No. Car payments? No. But we are being eaten alive by simple living expenses and providing for my parents.

    Am I overwhelmed? Absolutely. Do I think there are things we can do to alleviate some of this? I’m sure there are things, but I can’t figure out what they are.

  50. Shelly says:

    The problem is that our society has taught people to feel like they “need” things that they don’t really need. That’s how they end up spending more than they have.

    My mom is a great example of this. I love her, but she was laid off from her job a few months ago and had to accept a part-time job because she couldn’t find anything better. She and my stepdad kept the same lifestyle with less money. They were barely making ends meet before — now they can’t pay their bills at all.

    My friends. . . they all say they don’t have any money, but then I constantly see them going out for coffee, drinks, movies. . . none of those things are “needed,” but they think otherwise.

    People don’t understand how my husband and I are still doing fine — my husband has been unemployed for 10 months now and the unemployment checks are less than half of what he used to make. It’s because we understand the difference between needs and wants, and we limit the wants. We’re still paying our bills on-time and our credit cards off in full every month (and taking advantage of the rewards). It’s not to say that we never do anything we want — we go out for dinner or a movie now and again — but we keep a budget and limit ourselves. We still have fun, and life is a whole lot less stressful when you’re not worrying about making ends meet.

  51. Kaizan says:

    As a very minimal saver, I found your blog post and all the comments interesting. I have a few friends who are very careful with their money, and they are constantly the butt of everyones jokes for their frugal ways.

    It’s interesting that buying fancy toys etc with debt has become the norm, and spending less than you earn has become socially negative…

  52. Strick says:

    In a sense, sometimes that is just the way it is. I owed $25K in medical bills this year despite having insurance with a $5K “maximum out of pocket” (learned terms this year like “usual & customary”, “experimental and/or investigatory” [it doesn’t mean what it sounds like it would mean], “acceptable balance billing”, and many more that makes the “maximum out of pocket” number worthless)

    I’m doing fine, but that $25K could have bankrupted some, and it just as easily could have been $1M (charges seem completely arbitrary to me)and bankrupted anyone.

  53. Lee says:

    You’re so right it hurts. I had a similar discussion with a few friends at work. One was complaining bitterly about “Why can’t it be payday today” (we got paid less than a week ago), and the others just nodded agreement.

    I probed. After all, I’m still technically using what I got last payday. The current paycheck is effectively earning me 3% in my savings account.

    It turns out, to cut a long story short, they all live way beyond their means and spend more out every single month than comes in.


  54. danielle says:

    DH and I went into “crisis” savings mode when we had to use our emergency fund and the balance went from 25k to 19k. It will be back up to 25k in another month or so. but yeah, we twitch if ING goes under 20k. don’t think many people our age (early 30s) think like that.

  55. KAD says:

    Trent, I totally agree that a lot of people trap themselves because they think this way, and your post seems to have struck a chord with lots of readers.

    But be honest, now. How did you wind up on the road to financial Armageddon, if not because you, yourself, used to think this way? I guess I’m slightly surprised that you didn’t bring that up in your post.

    Like Michael, above, I would be interested to hear whether the conversation continued, and how.

  56. Rachel says:

    My sister recently totaled her car. She is now thinking what to get next. I suggested she find something she can pay cash for and drive it as far as it will go. She tells me she can handle a car payment, hers was less than $300 a month, not bad, she said. Also, she wants a car that will hold its value. Why? Her ex has not paid child support in so long he now owes $13,000. Her child has special needs, and she works full time. Why not cut as much as possible to focus your time and energy on a special needs child? She is not a minimum wage earner, and recently commented to me that she earns more than my husband does. But yet she is always struggling financially. I think she had bad habits with money. She spends more than she earns. But she does not want to listen to anyones advice. Oh well…

  57. Now Trent…..everyone knows that with 0% financing at Nebraska Furniture Mart, you can not afford not to fill your house with furniture. ;) Thanks for the post.

    I have a few friends that subscribe to the theory that “I am only young once, so I must have this stuff NOW.” I hope they realize they are going to have to work much longer in their life to pay for some furniture that they didn’t need, while I will be on the beach, thinking about the crappy car I drove for years to get me to that beach. :)

  58. butterandjelly213 says:

    “Instead of trading in your 2007 vehicle for a 2010 one, why not subscribe to a maintenance schedule and drive that vehicle to the 200,000 mile mark, since you mostly just use the car to go to work and to the grocery store?”

    I would love to drive my car to 200K (crossed over 100K earlier this week). However, the maintenance schedule in the manual for my car (2002 Chrysler Sebring) only stretches to 102K miles. Can someone point me to a good maintenance schedule that gets into the higher mileage levels? Chrysler’s website didn’t have anything (at least, nothing I could find) – probably because they want me to go in and buy a new car now that this one is “so old” – and I’m far from an expert on auto maintenance so I wouldn’t know enough to distinguish good from bad. Thanks!

  59. Jim (18)–“In my experience a lot of the people who are living paycheck to paycheck don’t seem to worry about it as much as I would.”

    I think they DO worry about it, but may not know how to change it. If you’ve never had strong money management skills, and you’re surrounded by people in the same situation (statistically most people live paycheck to paycheck), you may not have any idea on how to embrace it. Mechanically mabye, but not emotionally where it counts.

    The other thing is that they may have developed coping devices, such as being able to put on the happy face in public even though their financial house is so delicate. This gets back to the subject of the original post, they tell themselves “that’s just the way it is” then go about trying to cope as best they can within the limits of their circumstances.

    Some people become very good at hiding pain and distress, which may seem to outsiders to be a lack of concern.

  60. Robert says:

    I think Kevin really nails the situation for many people. Most people living paycheck to paycheck probably realise that their situation isn’t very tenable.

    The problems of not having good money management skills, peer pressure to spend like the others around them, and often poor self-control that is constantly being encouraged by advertising on TV, etc. all come together to leave them frustrated and worried. As a coping mechanism they convince themselves situations like this are “normal” and that they should not worry. While this coping mechanism can stop their worries for a little while, it obviously doesn’t actually help them to fix their financial problems.

    Unfortunately, for those of us who managed to avoid or overcome these problems, it can be just as frustrating to see our friends and family basically sabotaging themselves (at least in the long run) by continuing to make the same financially self-destructive decisions. But the best we can do is offer advice and experience, and hope that they will stop trying to cope by denial, and actually take the steps to master their finances.

  61. J says:

    @butterandjelly213 – you just keep using the same mileage intervals as before when you go past 105K. So if, for example, an oil change is every 5K you do it every 5K, a major tune-up is every 30K you do it every 30K and timing belt is 100K then you do that at 200K. Things like tires and brakes you replace as they wear out, just like before.

    I would advise that you start setting money aside for repairs and car replacement. It’s likely that the car will need something or other (alternator, fuel pump, CV joint, tie rod ends, shock absorbers, etc) that will likely cost $500-1000 to repair that isn’t part of the “regular schedule”, but doesn’t warrant getting a whole new car over, either. If you start saving now for the next car today, when something big dies in this one that isn’t worth fixing, you pay cash for the next one and let compound interest work for you. It’s the same idea as a car payment you would pay, but in reverse!

  62. Georgia S says:


    Thank you for your comment. While I agree with the sentiment of this post, I must admit that when I read what Trent said: “Well, that’s one way to live, I guess,” I thought it sounded pretty smug. I don’t agree with the person at the party who stated “That’s just the way it is,” but I felt like Trent’s response could’ve been a little more sensitive/less sarcastic.

  63. angela says:

    I think there will always be people who will live beyond their means. The people who try and live within their means or under their means have decided this will be their path. I try to live in harmony with life. When I shiver in the winter, I remember to relax and I am not as cold. When I get pulled, I go in that direction because it is the natural force of nature. I need harmony. I need to get through some ugliness with debt currently and when I am done, I will be in harmony due to the cut backs I have already made.

  64. KCDesi says:

    Hello All

    I realize the Personal Savings Rate does not include contributions to the retirement funds. How about the payment for mortgage? Are you not really paying towards owning the house in the future?

    How about paying more than the minimum on the house payment??

    How about paying more than the minimum towards your car payment if any?


  65. twiggy says:

    Hallejuh and Amen! You have hit the nail right on the head! The other comentators are right when the say “thats just the way it is” is a cop out.
    This lack of personal fiscal responsibility is one of the root causes of the current economic crisis. However, on this site, you are preaching to the choir. It evident that most people reading this blog already know how to live within their means. How can we get this message out to the materialistic masses?

  66. brad says:

    #35 Strick

    did you go to an ‘out-of-network’ provider for your services? that can greatly affect your cost (and is the reason you were balance-billed).

    also, the “out of pocket maximum” isn’t worthless, its just tied to the services mentioned in your benefits.

  67. Marc says:

    RE: #39 ButterandJelly

    #42 is right one the money! Just use the same maintenance schedule (ie 20k service is the same as 120k service). If you take your 100k mile car to the dealer, that’s what they will do. The advice to save for (and expect) some non-routine parts to break is also excellent. In most cases periodic repairs are still cheaper than would-be payments on a new car.

  68. Jim says:

    The personal savings rate that the BEA calculates is the total personal income AFTER taxes and social security minus the total personal expenditures. And its not calculated on a person by person basis but is instead figured by adding up all of the income and spending of Americans. I’m not sure if / how they account for retired people spending out of their nesteggs or unemployed people spending theirs savings, etc.

  69. Steven says:

    Same link I posted above says the savings rate goes negative when they spend more than they earn.

  70. Tom says:

    This is just another example of how most people don’t even lend a thought to savings; they just let the chips fall as they may. If they come out ahead one month, great. If they don’t, bummer. Too much is left to irresponsibility!

    I would say I live paycheck to paycheck (after contributing 5% of my income to a 401(k), contributing the maximum to a Roth IRA, and socking away %1000 into a savings account).

    I think maybe a lot of people see some extra cash in their accounts after paying the bills and decide that it is free spending money. That is one way to think about it…

  71. Tom says:

    *edit* $1000 monthly, not %1000.

  72. Strick says:

    #46 Brad –
    did you go to an ‘out-of-network’ provider for your services? that can greatly affect your cost (and is the reason you were balance-billed).

    -I did go to an out of network provider (that is where the ambulance took me).

    also, the “out of pocket maximum” isn’t worthless, its just tied to the services mentioned in your benefits…

    – which is worthless. Even if my benefits description detailed the tens of thousand of billing codes that would be considered not covered in an emergency, I’m not sure how I could pick apart which of those services would not have been performed on me at the time. But of course none of this is in the described in the plan anyway. Only after the fact are you told half of the procedures performed were “experimental” or “investigatory” or that your insurance is only going to pay X for that procedure no matter what.

    If you are in an accident and owe $25K after the fact, I just don’t agree that it is helpful to have known your “maximum out of pocket” is $5K. All that means is you will only pay $5K for all the little procedures that fits your policy and at the rate that they think it is worth, none of which you can know ahead of time (unless this is something planned ahead of time of course, but I don’t think thats the sort of thing that most of us worry about, since we can plan for it).

  73. Rich says:

    “Congratulations! You’ve successfully driven your 2004 ____ for FIVE years. By now you must be ready to upgrade to a newer vehicle.”

    LOL at this, but 5 years has traditionally been the advice for when to buy a new car, where the maintenance amount starts to outstrip its value.

    Don’t know how realistic that is anymore for modern cars. Heck, it could be that they “don’t make ’em like they used to.” As for me, my car is 26 years old (one year too old for cash for clunkers) and gets 12 MPG. It only gets driven about twice a month, so it doesn’t need to be ultra comfortable, incredibly efficient, or really reliable.

  74. Rich says:

    #38: “My sister recently totaled her car. She is now thinking what to get next… she wants a car that will hold its value.”

    Good luck with that whole “holding its value” thing. Kinda tough to do with an auto.

    Which incidentally is what is stopping me from buying a new car when mine is 26 years old and rusting. I don’t drive the 5 miles to work, and if I did–it’s only 5 miles. The car would sit there and leak money faster than my car leaks oil! I’d be staring at tens of thousands of dollars just…sitting…there.

  75. Deena says:

    Love this post. My younger sister teases me and my husband all the time about us driving an almost ten year old Corolla and a 10 year old van. Other than our mortgage, we have no debt. We own both of our cars and pay off our credit cards every month.

    She and her husband both drive less than 3 year old cars. They don’t have kids, and they live in the house I grew up in. They help with the majority of the bills.

    However, what they don’t realize is that for us, cars are not a status symbol. What we drive does not reflect who we are other than frugal people who aren’t into debt.

  76. Trent–Amen to every bit of that!!

    What also bunrs me up is the phrase “It’s only money”.

    Sure, this is true and it is important to not let saving money and living frugally rule your life, but I view it in as simple of terms as possible–that is, the more money that I can save, the less I will have to stress out about how to make more money, the faster I can get to a level of income that I can live comfortably off of, and in the long run, the less hard I will have to work!

  77. Ravi says:

    Hi Trent! Thank you for this post which means a lot to me. We seem to have a common approach and attitude to life. BTW, I’m yet to buy a car relying on good old public transport and my two wheeler. It would be simple to even buy a second hand car but I refuse to add to the mess that we’ve created here in Bangalore. And oh, on that average savings rate that you mention, here’s a fact: In India, it is around 30%. Check out this link: http://www.rediff.com/money/2009/feb/16bud-gross-savings-rate-up-from-29-point-8-pc-to-30-point-7-pc.htm

  78. Ravi says:

    Oh sorry, I forgot to mention: I have ZERO DEBT and have consciously stayed away from having/owning credit cards!

  79. Dr C says:

    I think some of this “Well, that’s the way it is.” stems from two psychological trends that impact our finances. One is what some term as “emotional soothing” which basically means when I get stressed, I do ‘X’ to comfort myself so I don’t feel bad. The problem is that the ‘fix’ is often short-lived and the real problem has not been addressed. Some of these have a financial cost that range from minimal to potentially large. Over-eating is one example of this, but you can ‘go up the line’ to drinking/drugging, gambling [big varation here] to purchasing a lot of stuff you don’t need. Feel better now?

    The other is giving your kids stuff they don’t really need because you don’t want them to feel deprived (or whatever word to justify this behavior). This ties in with the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ but also reflects the above thinking/feeling pattern projected on ones kids. I see this with my wife and other with kids. Their kids just have to have the latest gizmo or toy or clothing style, etc. or they just won’t fit in (some truth in that unfortunately).

    With that said, there is always a place for bad luck. I purchased a house (finally) thinking it would be a good investment. A couple of years later, I discovered a roof leak that my insurance company decided was pre-existing and so would not pay. Discovering mold was not a positive outcome in all this. Well, there went my nest egg I’d been building up, with a little debt.

    I will comment on how the contractor I used (this is probably epidemic), charged me quite a bit less than what he would have charged if the insurance had paid for the work. Interesting.

    Overall, I think if one plans as part of their routine, you don’t run into this mentality. I’d hate to say it, but I believe most people don’t.

  80. brad says:

    #52 strick

    -I did go to an out of network provider (that is where the ambulance took me).

    ouch!! thats no fun and is what happened to a friend of mine. but the kicker is since he just called 911, (instead of one of the two ambulance companies that are ‘participating’) the ambulance was out of network too!! thankfully he had a large chunk saved through an hsa, so it wasnt too bad for him.(only broke his ankle, substantially less serious than what you went through)

    – which is worthless. Even if my benefits description detailed the tens of thousand of billing codes that would be considered not covered in an emergency, I’m not sure how I could pick apart which of those services would not have been performed on me at the time.

    i agree with you that us insurance companies do a horrible job educating members what is actually covered. all we do is send you that huge book at the beginning of every policy year and expect you to read it. thats not how it should be. this big push towards ‘retail health’ is very important to the company i work for, and initiatives like ‘retail health centers’ (google: “florida blue”, if you want to know more) are designed to change the way insurance is bought and thought of.

    -If you are in an accident and owe $25K after the fact, I just don’t agree that it is helpful to have known your “maximum out of pocket” is $5K.

    youre absolutely right and i agree

    -(unless this is something planned ahead of time of course, but I don’t think thats the sort of thing that most of us worry about, since we can plan for it).

    you can kind of plan for it. for instance i found out what ambulance company is participating that is closest to my house and saved their number in my phone as “ambulance”. that way if i break my leg in the backyard i will just call them instead of 911. and i know where my local urgent care center is(solantic). i can save hundreds by going there instead of the emergency room. if i had to pick which hospital i was sent to though, that i dont know, so i would be unprepared in that regard. but there are some things we can do to be better consumers.

    let me know if you ever have questions about health insurance, i dont mind finding out the answers for you.

  81. getagrip says:

    I think the response of “that’s the way it is” came as a defensive one. Trent challenged this guys comment and the guy took it personnally, because that is how he lives his life, and deep down he knows it isn’t helping him and it’s putting him at risk. However, chances are he also isn’t willing or actually fearful of making the hard choices to truly change despite feeling uneasy about his current situation.

    We forget how hard it can be to initiate those changes. We have the momentum built up in our lives, to include our comfort zones, habits, likes and dislikes, and it’s hard to keep open about really looking at where you are and where you want to be. Often it takes a significant event, birth of a child, loss of a job, or other external hammer to shake us up.

    Due to that momentum I’ve seen people turn down opportunities for free college because it would interfere with their “social lives”. I’ve seen people mocked mercilessly by family because they’re trying to take training or learn skills to better themselves. I’ve seen social groups who profess to support each other whip out the claws and shred someone because they’re getting ahead or drifting in a different direction than that of the pack’s momentum and the pack doesn’t like it. People tend to talk a good game, but the social animals in us tend to resent, rather than support, folks who strive to get better than we perceive ourselves to be.

  82. Robert (60)–Outstanding point! The media play a huge roll in shaping people’s spending habits. Unless you conciously resist it, you’ll just fall in line and do what you’re being instructed to do, which is to spend.

    Even at the political level spending is encouraged as a way to juice the economy. Notice that Cash For Clunkers specifically applied to NEW cars, and specifically excluded used ones.

    In some quarters the program was hailed as a boon for consumers, but it takes more debt to buy a new car than a used one, even with the government rebate. It may be nice to buy a new car, but is the higher debt level really in most peoples best interests?

    The only solution is to tune it all out, and do what you need to do. I’m not sure most people have that much confidence in themselves and their convictions.

  83. Jeroen says:

    This reminds of my own experience a week ago. A couple of friends were gathered to play a game. And one of them had just started smoking again (after almost 3 years being clean!) I was saying that the money (roughly 5 EURO a day! And that’s 3 years ago, it’s even more now) was my main motivator to quit. He said: ‘5 EURO a day? You don’t even notice that, do you?’ I didn’t know how to react. I calculated for him that 5 EURO a day is 1825 a year, which is more than what he makes in a good month. He remained unconvinced… Some people…

  84. Matt says:

    To put it in perspective, 20% of my before tax income goes into a retirement account, and 1/3 or roughly 33% of my take home pay goes into savings (split between emergency fund, house down payment, and a small sum towards taking a nice vacation someday. I by no means make a lot of money (25 just out of college) nor do I live frugally (I spend at least $150 a week on hobbies, and $200 a week for my foodie habits) How people cant save is a complete mystery to me, because If I wanted to scrape by I could easily sock away more than 50% of my take home income…

  85. Strick says:

    Brad – Sounds like I need you in my corner, you sound very knowledgeable about the whole health insurance thing! I wasn’t the one calling the ambulance (I was out cold), but that is a good tip to know given it is a close hospital that is out-of-network!

    Do you think Aetna is ripping me off? The providers seem to think their lack of coverage is typical, but by the way you describe it, seems like everything should have be in my policy somewhere. e.g. they denied the charges from a couple of assistant surgeons as unnecessary, but nothing in my manual says what number of surgeons are necessary for emergency procedures so I know to turn some away if I’m awake. And there is nothing that describes which of the lab work done on me would be determined unnecessary and which would be necessary in case I wanted to instruct the guy from the lab which test orders he should ignore from the doctor.

    Either way sounds like I should get a different insurance carrier, but I’ve had similar experience with others in the past(unfortunately I’ve always been self-insured, so I kind of feel like there is no one, like my employer, that the insurance companies care to satisfy in the whole process).

  86. Steven says:

    Guys, when you have an emergency, they are suppose to give you the in-network rate because your life could be in danger and you’re not suppose to worry about saving a few bucks if you could die. The insurance company will fight it, but let them know it was an emergency and talk to the hospital as well. Actually, the hospital will probably fight you more because they will get less money. You gotta pester them and get it escalated if necessary or contact your local news station if they stonewall you.

    Granted, this was said at the orientation when my company switched insurance plans and someone brought up this very topic. Don’t know if they were making it up or if it’s for real, but worth checking out.

  87. butterandjelly says:

    @J (#61)

    Thanks for the info! As for the saving for maintenance and the next car, it’s underway!

  88. brad says:

    #85 Strick

    Do you think Aetna is ripping me off?

    its hard for me to say without all the details, but heres how participating/nonparticipating works(in a nutshell, dont consider this comprehensive by any means).

    aetna contracts with the participating dr. bob. aetna says, “look dr. bob, ive got x-million members, x-thousand are in your area that may come to you for service. in exchange for us possibly giving you so much business, you can charge $100 for a routine visit, but we are only going to pay you $40.”(this is called an allowed amount) so strick, depending on your plan you would pay a certain amount for a co-pay (could be $10, $15, $25, $?? bucks, just depends on the company and plan), the insurance company would pay dr. bob the difference between your co-pay and the allowed amount, and dr. bob would just write of the $60 bucks as a loss.

    so in this example:

    you visit dr. bob for routine office visit
    Dr. Bob charges $100
    you pay copay of $20
    Aetna allows $40 and sees you paid a $20 copay
    Aetna pays dr bob $20
    dr. bob writes of $60 as a loss.

    the benefit you get from going to a participating provider is that he has to accept the payment the insurance company negotiated with him. so he cant come after you for the other $60.


    if you go to dr. eli, who is NOT participating. this is what happens.

    you visit dr. eli for a routine office visit.
    dr. eli charges $100
    you pay $20 copay
    aetna allows $40 for this service and sees you paid $20
    aetna pays dr. eli $20.
    dr. eli then sends you a bill for $60 bucks explaining that your insurance company only paid $20 of the $100 billed.

    in that case, you are stuck and owe the dr $60 bucks.

    next post address what to do when you owe dr money…

  89. brad says:

    …when you owe any dr. or hospital or clinic money, there are some things you can do that most people dont know about.

    if you owe a dr. $1,300 for a procedure, you have a few options.

    a. pay in full. not very practical for most people.

    b. set up a payment plan. you CAN work with hospitals and drs. to avoid getting credit dings because of outstanding medical debt. tell them ‘look, theres NO way i can pay this off right now, heres what i make, heres the obligations i have but i would love to work with you, lets set up a payment plan of $50 every pay period.’ this is an option most people dont know about or are scared to try. but it works.

    c. offer to pay a discounted amount in full. one of my buddies (not the same one mentioned earlier) rode an out of network ambulance. $800 bill. he called and said “ive got $500 i can pay right now to settle the debt”, and it worked. best part of this plan is its a game, just see how low you can go! most hospitals have so many payments run to collections that they will gladly take a reduction in the amount due for the lump sum of cash.

    but strick, unfortunately, since you went to an out of network provider, there isnt much that can be done in terms of preventing the dr/hospital from holding you responsible for the remaining amounts. it is INCREDIBLY important to stay in network when dealing with your insurance. you lose a ton of protection and benefits when you go elsewhere :(

  90. brad says:

    #86 Steven

    -they are suppose to give you the in-network rate

    im not sure if you mean the dr or the insurance company, but either way, this statement isnt 100% accurate. no dr bills at the in network (or ‘allowed’) amount. they bill much more. the insurance company will not cover your entire claim if you receive services at an out of network provider. you will be ‘balance billed’ by the provider for the difference in the charge and the insurance payment.

    -you’re not suppose to worry about saving a few bucks if you could die

    i agree. in matters of life or death, how much something is going to cost shouldnt be a priority. thats why i stressed to strick the importance of knowing and planning ahead of time, because when your little girl breaks her arm in the back yard, you cant say “hold on, let me see what neumors charges for a broken arm. im gonna check solantic too.”

  91. Robert says:

    I’ve never commented on this site, but this post compelled to comment.

    I agree that a lot of people aren’t saving nearly enough, and they need to change their habits. But Trent’s response of “Well, that’s one way to live, I guess” just really bothered me.

    Trent happened to disagree with this person. That doesn’t give him the right to be rude and snarky. I doubt that this person will want to be friends with Trent. Whatever happened to making connections, maintaining good relations to people? That kind of comment doesn’t support that goal at all. You can disagree with someone without being offensive like that.

    Now granted, Trent didn’t post the rest of this conversation, so maybe he did offer this person some advice on how to change their life. But still, the tone of the comment was really not nice.

  92. Trent what you encounter was the passive acceptance that you are supposed to have certain bills . . .

    The week after I paid my car off, I had several associates asking me when I was buying a new one . . . apparently, “everyone” has a monthly car payment. Not me, not now– that’s the way it is here.

  93. David045 says:

    We live paycheck to paycheck because my wife lost her job due to health reasons and losing half your income is a tough thing to overcome. Our mortgage company also made an error in our escrow account and it has taken me over a year to get that straightened out. I received a $700.00 check from them yesterday which will definitely help restore our food pantry.
    We have given up a lot of things during the last 2 years in order to survive and it has been a struggle but we are seeing positive results from being frugal. We plan to continue our austerity program for a good long time and build up our bank accounts.

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