Little Wins


I put in a lot of effort to make sure my pup is well-behaved, and I’m always looking for ways to stimulate and train the little guy so he’s mentally occupied and happy. Now that he has the basic commands down I want to teach him some more advanced tricks, so I’ve been reading a lot of great books on dog behavior and training. The most persistent message in every book is rewarding good behavior, and never punishing the pup when he doesn’t get it right. Every few paragraphs, I’m reminded to give my little furball lots of praise for his efforts and recognize all the hard work he’s putting in. Mistakes should be corrected, but effort should never go unnoticed, as he shouldn’t ever have negative associations with the positive end goal in mind. It all makes perfect sense to me.

Although there’s a big difference between a poodle and a person (however, there’s a lot more similarities than meets the eye!) all the reward and praise talk got me thinking about the goals I’m working towards and how hard on myself I can be. No, I can’t go give myself a treat every time I refrain from spending (although I wouldn’t mind a cheese-based rewards system!) but I can be really hard on myself for my failures and have completely overlooked the positive behaviours I’m already exhibiting. It’s no surprise that I’ve had many failed shopping bans in the past and have made negative associations with my ability to move from Spender to Saver.

Truth is, I’ve done a pretty snazzy job at mastering some frugal habits already. I most definitely had some terrible money habits that I’m reforming myself away from, but once that bad habits are turned around for good, they can join the list of these positive, frugal habits I’ve got a solid handle on:

  • I never buy lunch. Ever. I have brown-bagged a lunch everyday consistently for about 5 years. This generally means consuming A LOT of leftovers, never joining coworkers at a restaurant for the lunch hour, and eating cold food when there simply isn’t enough time to wait for the elevators to take me to the one floor in our entire skyscraper of an office tower that has microwaves (yes, I’m bitter). Some nights I’m just exhausted and just don’t want to prepare a lunch, but will force myself to my feet to put together the simplest meal (if you can call it that – pasta with cheese thrown on top, anyone? Rice cakes and a tuna can?) because I don’t want to waste money the next day on an over-priced meal that will be over in 5 minutes that I’ll never remember. I also keep a couple cans of chunky soup and a bowl and spoon at my desk for any last minute food emergencies. They’ve saved me in a pinch several times.
  • I don’t own a car. To be quite honest, I only got my driver’s license recently at the ripe old age of 30, and did so begrudgingly. I have always lived in the city, but have spent many years working at jobs that were far from home, requiring anything from 1 to 4 hours’ worth of travel per day. I currently travel 75 minutes each way to work by transit. I do this because simply put, I don’t want to own a car. The costs of paying for one, maintenance, and insurance keeps me on the bus or on my bike. I’m eventually gunning for a role at work that will require being on the road all day, but it’ll come with mileage and maintenance covered. Until then, it’s biking and bussing for me
  • I don’t have cable. I moved out when I was 18, and I’ve never owned a cable package in my name. Actually, between about 18 and 26, I didn’t even own a TV; I eventually received one as a gift from a now-former boyfriend that was sick of not being able to turn the game on whenever he was over. I’m a huge book nerd, and didn’t miss having a TV at all. Once I got the TV, I never thought about cable – if anything, it was a bigger screen for me to watch my streamed movies on. Now I have Netflix which costs under $10 a month, and provides unlimited viewing pleasure.
  • I don’t have a land line. Same deal as with cable: once I moved out on my own, never signed up for it, never will.
  • I don’t care about name brands. For anything. Really, I just don’t care. I worked at a high-end shop all through high school and I got to see how drastically certain name brand items would reduce once the season was over. I would see $600 shoes sell off at $100, expensive purses and jackets sell off for a song. And I knew that the manufacturer was still making a profit. Tying in with my desire to never be a blind sheep, I can’t shell out for a name brand item because I know the price is super-inflated and I’m just forking over that amount of money to make someone else richer and me markedly poorer. It just goes against all my common sense and I simply cannot. Granted, there are some brands I respect when it comes to durability and performance and choose to buy their products, but I also take that approach to any “no-name” name brands I find to be consistent. Besides that, paying $100 for a shirt that cost $5 to make is not for me.
  • My main beverages are water and coffee. I’m still trying to stick to an exclusively at-home brewing habit for my coffee consumption, but I don’t buy juices or beer or alcohol for my home. Besides believing the price of juice is insane, it usually is not that good for you, and the good-for-you fresh-pressed stuff costs an arm and a leg (which is why when I travel I drink my body weight in fresh juices – 18oz fresh pressed juice for the equivalent of 50 cents in SE Asia? Or a $1 in Europe? Keep ‘em coming). I do like alcoholic beverages, but they’re also pricey (I realize this is not really the case in the U.S. – the taxes on booze in Ontario is highway robbery) so drinking is a special occasion thing for me. I’d love to indulge a bit more but every time I go to the liquor store, I know the price equivalent of even a cheap bottle of wine or a few loose tall cans of beer can go much further in groceries …so moderation it is!
  • The library is one of my fave spots. I adore books, so a fair bit of moolah would go towards my book habit back in my spendy days. Now, I get great mileage out of my library card. There’s a huge library down the street from my work, so besides getting my book fix there, it’s also a great place to go during my lunches while all my coworkers are at restaurants dining out for lunch every day.
  • I don’t have a gym membership. Because, I, uhhh, hate working out. So….this one is kind of a cheap grab, but frugal nonetheless! I walk and bike everywhere (because I don’t want a car) so that keeps me healthy without having to succumb to the extreme torture of exercise (nope, not being dramatic AT ALL).
  • My clothes and personal effects last for ages. My mom was born and raised in a tiny European mountain village where she didn’t have electricity until she was 10. She learned how to do everything by pure grunt work and elbow grease, and a lot of that passed onto our us kids growing up in downtown Toronto. We never had a dishwasher or clothes dryer in our home growing up – hand-washing the dishes and hanging the clothes on the line (outdoors in summer, indoor basement line in the winter) was the norm. Although I use my dishwasher now (because dishwashing is my most dreaded of chores) I rarely use the dryer and I hand wash many of my clothes. Delicates get some TLC in a washing basin placed in my tub, and all clothes get hung or laid flat on a nifty hanging contraption I got from Ikea. I seriously still own tons of clothes from high school that look brand new. That mentally also applied to things like shoes and housewares; things that get used lightly, cleaned often, and maintained regularly will take forever to wear out, and therefore won’t need replacing.


I got to admit, not too shabby of a list! However the goal is to not undo those good habits with the bad ones I’ve fallen prey to, as I have in the past. The goal is to keep adding new frugal habits to this list. Ones I’m currently working on adding are “never buying coffee out” or “I haven’t bought a new piece of clothing in X amount of months/years.” I’ll also be happy to see “I save 60-70% of my paycheque” and “I pay double the mortgage every month to pay it down faster” in a couple years’ time as well. With steady perseverance, I hope to add those points and more to my “frugal habits” list in the future.


Do you have any great frugal habits that you’re proud of?

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  1. Hey FD, a great post, continual APPRECIATION of oneself, one’s changing positive habits, what one actually has, where one lives, etc, etc … is ESSENTIAL for dissolving those old negative mind habits, it’s a miracle how they just aren’t there anymore.
    I also just came across a blogsite which looks really useful and supportive and you came to mind, didn’t know how to let you know about it other than here … it’s and i found it really interesting and felt you might too.
    Keep on keeping on, Marian

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement, Marian!! Also, thank you for the site recommendation – I look forward to checking it out! I love reading up and connecting with others who are on a similar path. I think there’s so much we can all learn from each other, and keep supporting and encouraging each other in a society that is constantly telling us to spend. For example, how you manage to throw extra chunks of money directly to your debt (and not just using it to buy treats, which is so tempting with an extra/side income source) continually inspires me to stay strong and put my sales bonus to debt, even when I really want to buy something to “treat” myself. Keep rocking!

  2. Desperado – this list is FABULOUS! You have to pat yourself on the back continuously. You have a solid foundation and you are building on it. I don’t think you will ever lose these good habits. They just seem so ingrained in you.

    And wow on the lunches – just WOW.


    1. Thanks Pru!!I’m trying to stick and expand on the good stuff Feels good to credit myself once in a while instead of just thinking of what I need to improve on.

      I got to credit my mama on the lunches. When I asked her how she managed to give us such a wonderful, abundant home on little salary and on her own, she told me it was all about harnessing the money you do have for the worthwile things and not spending a dime on the trivial stuff that doesn’t improve your life. One example she gave me is that since coming to Canada in ’79, she never once – not once!! – has bought her lunch at work. By never frittering on silly things, she was always able to put her resources where it mattered. It was so hard for me to dish out money for lunches after that!

  3. Hi there FD, I have just recently discovered your blog (saw your comment on Pru’s). I just wanted to tell you what a terrific job you’re doing. This is really inspiring, and very well written. I’m looking forward to following your progress–good luck on your journey!

    1. Thanks so much, Jill!! Your kind words are very much appreciated. I find it great that we’re both fans of Pru – she’s my blog crush. A female blogger talking about investment choices, savings, and paying down a mortgage quickly … and supportive of others to boot?? So inspiring! Thanks again for your note and for stopping by 🙂

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