Monthly Archive: June 2015

This is the first in a series of posts on Frugal advice. I haven’t had a lot of excess money to invest lately, so I figured I could share some strategies for a frugal lifestyle. I hope you find my insights helpful.

For those who aren’t in the marketing industry, I just want to take a moment to share a trend that marketers are using as an excuse to overcharge you. This can apply to anything from plumbing services to retail video games.

The key phrase to watch out for is when someone starts talking about “the value they provide.” I used to work for a company as a developer for less than $15 per hour who resold my skills to clients for $175 per hour. These clients would often end up spending hundreds of dollars to have minor text changes and image changes on their websites. The company charged this much because of “the value provided” by these services.

The source of this phrase is from one of the world’s most renowned consultants, Alan Weiss, and his book “Value Based Fees” (Affiliate Amazon Link). The thesis of the book is to charge fees based on the value that you perceive your clients/customers will attribute to your goods/service as opposed to your cost times a multiplier, or a fee that is competitive in the industry.

If a good or service is actually unique and superior, this pricing and marketing method is justified. However, 90% of the time in a competitive market, the quality to price ratio (what most people would call value) of the goods/service is on par with the rest of their industry. When someone starts talking about “the value” they provide, they’re usually trying to convince you that the quality of the goods or service is higher than reality to justify the price. Additionally, if they’re literally using the word “value,” it’s because they can’t think of anything that actually makes them stand out to provide that boost of quality. At this point, you’re paying more so that you can fund their marketing team and sales people, and not for anything you will actually receive.

If you understand the goods/service you’re seeking, and your initial reaction is that something is over-priced, you’re not wrong. Find another provider, and get a competitive quote. A service provider who is passionate about providing excellent service, and is willing to do what is necessary to make you a happy customer, doesn’t need to tell you about “the value” they provide. It will be obvious.

If you’re being sold to, you’re also going to be charged for that sales process.

We all want to be happier. This is a fact of life. The inalienable rights of all people include “the pursuit of happiness” along with life and liberty, according to the Declaration of Independence. In “The Pursuit of Happiness” (2006), Will Smith’s character mentions that it’s interesting the founding fathers chose the wording “pursuit of happiness” implying that not everyone can actually achieve happiness. The problem with our culture is that advertising has brainwashed us to think that “the pursuit of stuff” is the same thing as “the pursuit of happiness.” This confusion leads us on paths that have the opposite effect. While we think the new car / tv / video game will bring us happiness, we’re making ourselves miserable by spending long hours away from the ones we love.

Working at a job you enjoy or running your own business will hopefully lower the suffering in your pursuit. However, no matter what you do for the money, there’s always something you’d rather be doing, or people you’d rather be spending time with.

This brings me to the subject of frugality. While attempting to be frugal, you will still be miserable if you do not change your thinking. The desire of material goods causes suffering, and the happiness of getting what you want passes quickly. So if being frugal means never getting that fleeting happiness even though you are still suffering from the desire, you will be even further from happiness.

Happiness is a state of mind, which means no material object will will sustain it. You need to learn to be happy with what you have instead of what you wish you had.

I challenge you to cut your budget to the bone for a month, or even a week. This exercise will remind you of what you NEED. It will also teach you what you do with your free time, which may guide you to what makes you happy.

As a gamer, I have historically always had a game or two on the horizon that I was looking forward to. This reached its peak in 2012, and it made that year miserable for me. Lately, I’ve been focusing my time on the games I already own, many of which have free online play.

So far, this has been a rough year for me. There have been a lot of big expenses that were neither frivolous nor fun, but on the other hand, they would have been even more painful if I wasn’t already so frugal.