Learning to Live Lean

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, 
and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
Luke 16:10

This time of year every media outlet in America is abuzz with tips, programs and pills to help you shed unwanted pounds. Advertising dollars are spent like pennies. Gyms are packed. There is no shortage of advice on how to get and live lean.

The best fat I've ever trimmed though hasn't been from my waistline. 

My greatest weight loss accomplishment wasn't fitting into a smaller pants size.

It was learning to live financially lean.

No I'm not a financial guru (although I reside with one). But I have learned (mostly by osmosis) a few tips. Here's my top five.

1. Cook From Your Pantry - I plan my meals around what I do have not what I don't. This requires me to make substitutions in recipes but it also makes cooking a greater adventure. By using what I have on hand I significantly decrease food spoilage.

2. Use Cash - Money spends quicker but much more responsibly when you limit discretionary purchases to cash. If I said I haven't rebelled against this particular tip a time or two or a hundred I'd be lying but it is also the most effective way to keep yourself (or your spouse) accountable to the budget.

3. Make Substitutions - I used to exclusively use high-end, name brand cosmetics and toiletries. I have found by switching to a generic but still high-end brand such as Costco's Kirkland, I get the same quality at significantly lower cost. 

4. Shop the Clearance Rack - I have boots that cost me $12, jeans for which I paid under $2 and necklaces I bought for $2. No I didn't "settle" with any of these purchases. I just waited. Patiently. Eventually the things I want will go on a significant sale and if they don't I figure I didn't really need them to begin with. I save thousands of dollars each year by purchasing my family's clothing needs at near garage sale prices and still have the pleasure of using never-used items.

5. Spread the Love - My daughters and I share shoes, shirts, scarves and jewelry. Any item that's "one size fits all" finds its way onto more than one body in any given year. By sharing we each expand our wardrobe at no additional expense. Even if you don't live with a whole gaggle of same sex individuals like me, you can still employ this principle with a friend or relative (such as a sister or aunt) who has similar size and taste as you. Consider arranging a regular mid-season swap where you trade some items without any need of return.

Are you ready to lose the weight of your worry by tightening your financial belt? Which one of these tips could help you the most? Do you have another idea you'd like to share? Share your ideas in a comment below...

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