Three Small Financial Tweaks You Should Make Before Winter

The end of the year is fast approaching. Soon you’ll be bellying up to your Thanksgiving feast and perhaps playing chicken with other holiday shoppers in some mall parking lot. Of course, you may be thinking about your holiday shopping already. And if you’re smart, you’ll also start working on your financial plans for 2018. It’s never too early.

Here are three simple things that you should do for your finances before year end.

1. Make a financial plan for the upcoming year.

There is no time like the present. Never put off tomorrow what you can do today. I am sure that you have heard all of these clichés before. These sayings may be old but they are true. Now is the time to formulate your financial plan for next year.

Although most of us tend to think about budgeting as a weekly or monthly exercise, you can benefit from making an annual spending plan, too. After all, some expenses (like those holiday gifts) only come around once a year.

Here’s how to do it:

Make a list of your monthly income and expenses from the current year. Be sure to include every expense including the small ones like entertainment. You can then make a projection for next year’s budget from the current year’s expenses. Look for areas where you can trim excess expenditures to increase your bottom line. The total amount of money left over can be used to pay down debt or to start investing.

While you’re at it, craft a plan to reduce your debt in 2018. Find one or two credit card bills or student loans that you can totally pay off before the year is over. You want to finish each year in better financial shape than the previous one.

Feeling ambitious? Take the time to make a five-year financial plan.

2. Review your investment portfolio.

Smart investors buy and hold, but they don’t just “set and forget”. Periodically, you should re-balance your portfolio. The end of the year is a perfect time.

Review your investment strategy over the past couple of years and see how it worked for you. Were you too aggressive or too conservative in your investing? Did your portfolio outperform the market as a whole? You may think that you are a master investor, but if your performance lagged the market, then you may need to look at picking up an index fund.

Check over your portfolio and rebalance if necessary. Make sure that your asset allocation plan is still in line with your goals. You may find that your portfolio mix has shifted dramatically during the year. It only takes a few minutes to get your portfolio back into balance. You should also update your contact information and beneficiaries. Save yourself the headache of making these changes in the New Year.

3. Increase your contribution amount.

Did you know that your investment contribution amount should never stay the same? If you are contributing the same amount to your retirement plan as in 2014, then something is wrong. Every year that passes you should increase the amount of money that you contribute to your 401(k) or IRA. Your company may have provided you with a raise over the past 10 months or an end of the year bonus. A portion of this money should be applied to your retirement portfolio.

At a minimum, try to increase your contribution 1% every year. Although you shouldn’t miss 1% every time you add it, over time those small increases become 5% and 10%, which means a big long-term boost to your investments.

Don’t have a retirement plan? Open one!

Well that’s your hit list for the end of the year. I hope that this helps you in your wealth building goals! If you start tackling some of these now, you’ll have a few less To-Dos on your list when the New Year rolls around.

Reduce Your Food Bill: 8 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Costs

Everyone knows that food prices inflation is likely. After all, prices always seem to go up. However, even without food prices inflation, you are likely paying more than you need to when it comes to feeding your family. If you want to slash your food bill, here are 8 easy things you can do:

1. Create a Meal Plan

One of the reasons we rush off to buy pre-made food is due to lack of planning. Look at your schedule and create a meal plan. Include easy to make meals for days when you are busy, or consider using a slow cooker that can be preparing your entrees while you are doing other things. When you know what’s coming, it’s easier to make food at home.

2. Shop with a List — and on a Full Stomach

Psychologically, you are more likely to impulse shop and buy more food than you need when you shop on an empty stomach. Make a list of what you need for the week’s meals (use your meal plan to help you), and stick to it. The EPA estimates that Americans waste $100 billion in food each year; only buy what you need, so that your money isn’t wasted.

3. Buy Seasonal Produce

Make an effort to buy seasonal produce. It’s cheaper than buying items out of season. You can also save by buying local in some cases, since you won’t be paying for shipping costs. (If you want to put in more time and effort, you can save more on produce by starting a garden.)

4. Consider Items that Last Longer

Some foods last longer than others. If you get off track with your meal plan, or something unexpected happens, you can avoid waste by choosing items that last longer. Apples, oranges, and root vegetables (parsnips, potatoes, carrots, etc.) all last a reasonably long time, but still offer you nutritional value.

5. Do It Yourself

Whether it’s cubing or shredding cheese, making pasta sauce, brewing coffee, or baking cookies, you can save money by doing it yourself. Convenience always costs more. Plan a little time to shred a large amount of cheese (and freeze some for later). Brew your own coffee, rather than buy it. Bake cookies from scratch rather than buy pre-made dough. You’ll  save a great deal of money when you cook as much as possible from scratch.

6. Filter Your Own Water

The cost of bottled water starts to add up. Instead, buy a nice bottle, and re-fill it. You can get a filter for your home, or just use the tap, if you don’t mind it. A little outlay can go a long way toward helping you save money on water.

7. Stop Drinking Your Calories

Speaking of water, you can save money each year by cutting out your habit of drinking sugary drinks. Soda and sports drinks all have high calories — and they cost more than drinking water from the tap. If you want a little flavor, you can occasionally add fresh fruit. I like to add a slice of lemon or lime to my water, or sometimes a piece of crushed watermelon.

8. Buy in Bulk

While there are some things you don’t want to buy in bulk, there are some foods that are cheaper if you buy them in bulk. Buy on sale and in bulk, and you will save money over time as you use your food storage for meals.

What is your best tip for saving money on food?

5 Ridiculous Ways to Save Money

When it comes to frugal living, it’s possible to save money if you make certain lifestyle choices. Without kids and pets, you could save a lot each year. But many of us like the emotional benefits that come with some expensive decisions, like having a mortgage for that home you bought, and sending the kids to college.

That money spent has to be made up somewhere. Some people decide to make more money as a way to offset those costs. Others, though, take frugality to the next extreme. While there are some quite sensible things you can do to save money, there are also some crazy ways to be frugal. Here are some of the more ridiculous ways that some people save money:

1. Toilet Paper

One of the more common strategies to save on toilet paper is to buy two-ply, and then separate it out. That way, you now have one-ply toilet paper, and it should last longer. I’m not actually sure if this would work, however. Wouldn’t you need more toilet paper if it were that thin? I suppose if you had the, er, discipline to a two-ply amount with one-ply it would save you money.

Another interesting idea is to use cloth toilet paper. It sounds kind of gross, it’s true, but is it really that much different than using cloth diapers? You could even get a diaper pail to help out with your cloth toilet paper needs.

2. Take the Condiments from Restaurants

Many restaurants offer packets of ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, relish, sweetener and other items. These are free for the taking. You can just swipe and go. Some restaurants no longer set the condiments out because of this. However, in most cases you can ask for a little extra. Not bad. Go in, order something off the value menu, and then take a few extra packets of what you need. Spend $1, and get several days’ worth of condiments in one go.

Why stop at the condiments? You can save on napkins by taking a few from the dispensers. Might as well get the best bang for your buck.

3. Reuse Liners

You can use the liners from cereal boxes in lieu of sandwich bags, or other storage bags. Even better: Those huge bags of generic cereal that you get at the store can save you more. It’s even possible to save the packaging from bacon, wash it well, and then use it to freeze other meats. It will reduce what you spend on saran wrap and storage bags.

4. Stop Using Shampoo

This one is actually something I might consider. There is a movement away from shampoo right now. You can save quite a bit if you just stop using the store bought chemical stuff. You can use various items instead of expensive shampoos and conditioners, including baking soda and vinegar.

It’s also possible to reduce what you spend on soap by washing less. Take a shower every other day (and save on water), or just soap up once or twice a week. Do you really need to use soap if you are washing away most of the sweat with a shower?

5. Shop the Lost and Found

A number of places feature lost and found boxes. Libraries, churches, and stores all collect lost items. If you need something, you could go shopping at lost and found boxes. Check to see if there’s something you need or want, from a new pair of earrings to an umbrella or a book. You can’t beat the free price!

What do you think of these extreme frugality tips? Are they feasible in your life? What are some of the more outrageous frugality tips you’ve heard?

Top 5 Ways To Save Money Without Noticing

What’s better than saving some money? Saving money without really noticing that you’re saving money. How do you do this? Take a look at some of the less important things in your life and see if you can cut back. Or, take a look at some of the things you take for granted and cut back. Or, just trim something you don’t even use much anymore but still pay for… all these things can be removed to save you a little bit of money without you noticing one bit.

1. Cancel that Netflix Account.

How many movies do you really watch? Cancel that Netflix account and instead go with something like Redbox where you pay $1 a night (often times free with a promotional code) and save yourself that $20-$30 a month you’re paying now. I know I’ve been at my friends’ places and seen the same Netflix envelopes month after month.

2. Drink more water.

Get a water bottle, fill it up and drink from it during the day. Get used to drinking water and you won’t drink more expensive stuff like soda and coffee. Get used to drinking water and you’ll likely eat less, cutting out those expensive snacks. Get used to drinking water and improve your health, which means less in health care costs down the road that will be difficult to quantify. As a corollary, when you go out to eat, ask for water instead of your beverage of choice. This is a directly quantifiable savings because do you really want a $2 soda?

3. Visit the library.

Books are expensive and I’ve done a scientific experiment that has definitively proven that the only reason why you would ever buy a book is so that you can put it on your bookshelf to prove how educated you are. Seriously, I have done such an experiment because I know that after I read through a book once, there is a 99.99999% chance that I will never open it again and thus the only logical reason to ever buy a book is to show off. Okay, I’m being facetious but let the library be your bookcase and not only will you save money, you’ll save space, and even some trees. DVDs are available at the library too… so you can scratch off #1 too if you just do #3.

4. Switch to CFL.

Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs will save you huge on your electricity bills since the bulbs use about a quarter of the electricity of their regular light bulb equivalents. Now, the bulbs will be more expensive but the lowered electricity bill plus the longer lifespan overcomes the initial price hit without minimal cost to you.

5. Reduce phone, TV, internet or just threaten to cancel.

Do you really need 23094820394238 minutes on your cell package? How about 290384029 channels? Heck no, I have like 500 channels and all I watch are ESPN, The History Channel, and maybe Oxygen (okay, not really Oxygen); but if you don’t want to give up all those options, consider just calling up your cable company and demanding a better rate. Verizon is coming into the neighborhood soon so I think I’ll be calling up Comcast and asking them to reduce my rate or I’m jumping ship. Either way, paying less for the same service is certainly an invisible way to save money!

Emergency Debt Management

If your finances are not just messy, but causing anxiety attacks, then it’s time to go into EMERGENCY mode. If you can no longer meet the minimum payment or you are continually forget payment for one credit card or another, it’s time to go into EMERGENCY mode. If you are dead serious about getting rid of this dead albatross around your neck and you want it done quick, then you might consider some of these EMERGENCY measures.

However, I want you to understand and accept that there are some financial situation that you can NOT handle on your own. These are rare, but they exist. If your health or well-being is jeopardized by your financial situation, then please seek professional help.

f you think you can handle it on your own and you are committed to, then read on. NOTE: I’m not a kind person. I don’t kid around. There are some harsh ideas in here, but if you are now in a financial emergency, then you must treat it like an emergency.

Emergency Debt Management

  • Know Thy Debt: Gather all your most recent credit card and other debt statements together. List them by name, type, total balance, and minimum due. You need to know the monster you are fighting before you can fight. Are you able to make the monthly minimum payments? Then KUDOS! You are in a good place. If not, then find out why. If it’s a matter of simply not having enough money, then don’t worry, continue reading, you will get ideas on what to do to get enough money to meet the minimums.
  • Least to Greatest: Arrange your debts from the least to greatest according to the outstanding balance. Different folks have different suggestions for how to arrange your debt, but I know that the younger we are, the more impatient we are to kill these debts. Arrange your debt from least to greatest so that you can get rid of the smallest debt quickly, see immediate progress, celebrate, and be motivated to work on the next smallest debt.
  • Negotiate Lower Interest Rate: It’s time to call the credit card company and ask them nicely to lower your interest rate! The higher your interest rate, the higher your minimum payment and less of your money is actually working to lower your balance. You want that interest rate to be as low as possible, single digits or even zero percent. Call and ask for the supervisor immediately. Don’t bother with peons. Nicely ask for a lower interest rate. State that you are having difficulty meeting the monthly minimum payment (truthfully or not) and rather than defaulting, you want to be able to continue to pay. Threaten them with moving your balance to a competing credit card company who offered you a lower interest rate. You will usually get a lower interest rate simply by asking nicely. There are companies who are just HARD! You may have to follow through on your threats by transferring your balance elsewhere. If you have room on your other credit cards, call them up and see if they’ll give you a deal if you transfer your balance to them. If you don’t have room, then you’re out of luck. Since we are in EMERGENCY mode, chances are, you don’t have the credit-worthiness to apply for another credit card in order to transfer the balance. Don’t apply for a new credit card, that’s just more trouble down the road.
  • Pay the Minimum: Yes, pay the minimum! No matter what, pay the very minimum on all these credit cards. If you had called up the credit card companies and convinced them to lower your interest rate, then there is a little breathing room. Do not slack off, pay the minimum on all your cards at all time! Arrange for automatic payment through your bank or through the credit card companies. I’m assuming here that you have the funds necessary to meet the minimum. If you don’t, read on for more suggestions.
  • Pay MORE than the Minimum: The idea here is NOT to maintain your debt, but to get RID of your debt. You will have to pay more than the minimum! Where are you getting the extra money? You already have it! When you negotiate a lower interest rate, your minimum payment is lowered as well. The difference between your new minimum payment amount and your old minimum payment amount is what will get you out of hot water. Every month, pay all the credit card companies the new minimum amount, but heap all the “extra” money, meaning the difference between the new and old minimum amount, on your smallest balance credit card. The extra amount will quickly add up and KILL that small credit card. Then, take all your freed up money, the difference between the old and new minimum PLUS the minimum payment on this now defunct credit card, and apply it to the next credit card on your list. THAT credit card will soon be gone because you are. Do you see where we are going with this? Without need new sources of income, using just what you have now, you are going to systematically kill off one credit card after another.
  • Pay EXTRA: In order to really get rid of your credit cards quickly (and for some people, quickly means in five years), you will want to apply extra money to the balance. Where will you get the extra money from?
  • Hold a garage sale:  Gather all the stuff you purchased using your credit cards and sell them! I kid you not. Sell all those books, clothes, toys, extra T.V.s, radios, computers, programs, everything that is not absolutely essential! We are in a financial EMERGENCY and we don’t want to stay there. Sell everything that’s not essential. You will easily make hundreds of dollars because we young’ins just love to gather crap that we don’t need. Sell textbooks online. Post on Hold a good old fashion garage sale. Clear out the lovely, yet useless furnitures. Bookshelves, gone. Extra lamp you don’t turn on more than once a week, gone. The five backpacks that you don’t use, gone. I won’t be surprised if by doing this, you have enough money to kill one credit card immediately!
  • Live a STERILE existence: Yes, it’s time to live the life that you actually can afford. You are probably in this mess, same as me, because you want to live the life to which your parents accustomed you (or should have). Now, it’s time to live the life that you can afford. The sad fact is, you CAN’T afford much! And with credit card debt hanging over your head, you can afford even LESS! This is motivation enough to get rid of credit card debts so that you actually have MORE money to spend on yourself! No more luxuries! No more movies on Friday nights. No more dinners out, period! No more lunch at the nearby fast food joint. No more manicures. No more hair-cuts. No more shopping, obviously. These are all things you CAN’T afford. Really, think about it. Were you ever able to pay for these things with cash or only with credit card? If you haven’t got the cash, you can’t afford it. If you have the cash, but you can’t pay the minimum on the credit card, then you can’t afford it. If you have the cash, can pay for the minimum on the credit card, then use most of the cash to pay down the credit card, and maybe treat yourself once in a long while. Just remember, YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT! Don’t fool yourself or your friends into thinking that you can. You can’t.
  • Get a JOB: Yup, time to get a job in order to pay the debt monster. Even if it’s only babysitting one day a week, it’s a job that will bring in extra money to help pay down the credit card debt. And know that this money is NOT for you to spend. You’ve already spent this money when you used your credit cards three years ago. Time to payback what you owe. Maybe keep a small percentage, say 10%, for yourself, but otherwise, send it off to the credit card companies immediately.


6 simple ways to save more and worry less

If you had to rely on your savings to live, do you know how long it would last?

Forty-seven percent of Americans said their savings would last three months or less if they went through a financial crisis.6 simple ways to save more and worry less 1

Whether your stash is large, small, or somewhere in between, putting away a little – or a lot – more doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, following a few steps can make a large impact, especially over time.

The following strategies can help you boost the amount you’re putting away, and build momentum into your savings plan.

Have goals for your savings.

The idea of saving more may sound appealing, but without direction, following through is usually an uphill climb. It’s incredibly hard to get anywhere without a destination.

Sit down with your family and talk about what you want to accomplish, both in the coming months and also in the years ahead. Together, create a list of what you want to save more for, such as a plush emergency fund, an upcoming two-week vacation, college, another vehicle, a new deck, or retirement.

Narrow your focus.

If, after outlining your goals, you have a long list, circle the top two or three you want to accomplish.

Then, consider zeroing in further, and start setting aside more for just one of those goals.

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that focusing on a single savings goal led to a higher probability of being able to carry through and reach the actual target.

One of the reasons for this lies in the way different goals can compete for one another.

If, for instance, you can’t decide whether the extra funds should go for a new washer and dryer, a home renovation, or retirement, that can actually make it harder to save more.

Focusing on just one simplifies the process.

If you center your efforts on a single goal for six months, reevaluate after that time period. You may want to switch the focus to a different goal, or increase what you’re putting toward the original goal.

Look for small improvements.

More than two-thirds of those recently surveyed by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, said they could set aside $25 more a week toward retirement than what they are currently saving.

One way to do this is to simply reduce a couple of small expenses you have each month. Just look at the plans you had for upcoming weekend night then “choose a substitute.”

That might mean a cheaper dinner, just going out for drinks, or renting a movie instead of going to a theater.

If you take one day of the week to plan out your meals, you can make one big grocery trip – and later on, avoid grabbing takeout several nights in a row for dinner.

Make it automatic.

Treat savings as a bill. And just as you can pay some bills automatically each month, consider doing the same with savings.

Some financial institutions let you arrange an automatic withdrawal from your checking account to a savings account. Also check with your employer for automatic deposit into your savings accounts.

After lining up automatic payments, take a few months to try out the setup. Aim to increase the amount saved by a certain dollar or percent each year.

Build on inertia.

Think about any skills you have that could generate some income to dedicate to your savings. This might be babysitting, yard or garden work, tutoring, teaching a foreign language, turning a hobby into a moneymaker, or taking on a part-time retail job.

A few other options to create additional funds to save: hold an annual yard sale, clean the garage and sell extra items on eBay, or work toward a bonus at your job, and when you receive it, transfer it directly to your savings account.

Planning your Retirement: Do you know the answers to these questions?

No matter what your age, sex, or marital status, you need to know a few things about yours and/or your spouse’s retirement plan. When setting your retirement goals, you shouldn’t leave anything to chance and getting the answers to these questions can eliminate future surprises.

1. Do you have a pension or retirement plan at your place of employment and are you eligible?

Some companies do not offer retirement or pension plans and some jobs within companies are not eligible for these plans even if they are offered.

2. How much will your pension or retirement plan be worth when you retire?

This information is necessary so you can decide if you need additional savings such as an IRA to supplement your retirement benefits when you decide to retire.

3. If your employer provides a retirement plan, what happens to it if you change jobs?

Your employer can tell you if your retirement plan can be rolled over into an IRA, cashed in, or left with the company if you should leave the company. You will need to decide which is best for you to do.

4. If you retire early, what happens to your retirement plan with your employer?

Your employer can tell you when you are vested with the company and what you can expect to receive in the way of retirement benefits when you decide to retire.

5. Will pension benefits be reduced by Social Security?

In some instances, your benefits could be reduced by the amount of Social Security you draw. Discuss this with your employer to see if this happens with your pension.

What else has a significant effect on the market valuation of a Stock?

Current Ratio

Current ratio is current assets divided by current liabilities, an important indicator of a company’s ability to meet debt obligations. The higher the ratio the better, as it means the company has more liquidity. For example, a current ratio of 2.5 means that the company’s current assets, if liquidated, would be equal to 2.5 times the company’s current liabilities.

Debt Ratio

Debt ratio is total liabilities divided by total assets, indicating how much of the company’s current possessions have been financed with debt. For example, a debt ratio of 30% indicates that 30% of the company’s assets were bought with borrowed money. The question of leverage depends to a great extent on the economic climate. When money is expensive (i.e. interest rates are high) a large debt ratio can spell trouble, as the cost of servicing the debt may become unmanageable. When interest rates are low, on the other hand, high debt ratios matter less, as cheap borrowing allows a company to grow faster than would otherwise be possible.

Inventory Turnover

Inventory turnover is cost of goods sold divided by value of inventories, indicating how much product a company holds in order to meet sales requirements. Generally, the higher this figure the better, as it means less product is being held in warehouses at any one time (i.e. dead money). The sector plays an important part in how useful this indicator is – for example a company in a sector selling few high priced products (such as a shipbuilder) will tend to have a better inventory turnover than, for example, a supermarket.

Stock Price Valuation

Having analyzed the above factors, several ‘models’ can be employed to determine if a company’s stock is over or undervalued. Examples might include ‘dividend’ models which focus on the net present value of a company’s dividends, or earnings models which examine the present value of expected earnings, and even asset models which concentrate on the value of the company’s assets. Whichever model you decide to use, you must be consistent in your application.

Corporate Analysis vs Fundamental Analysis: Stock Investing

Corporate Analysis

The financial health of a company can be determined by studying the company’s financial statements (its accounts). From these certain useful ratios can be calculated, usually divided into the areas of profitability, price, liquidity, leverage, and efficiency. Ratios from a particular company are compared to other companies within the same sector in order to get a handle on the sector norm.

Net Profit Margin

A company’s net profit margin is net income divided by total sales. This ratio indicates how much profit the company makes from its sales. For example, a net profit margin of 20%, means that $0.20 of every $1.00 in sales actually profit.

Price/Earnings ratio

The Price/Earnings ratio (or P/E Ratio) is a security’s current stock price divided by the earnings per share (EPS) of the previous four quarters. This tells you how much you must pay to get rights to $1 of the company’s earnings. For example, if a stock’s price is $50 and the EPS for the last four quarters was $5, the P/E ratio is 10 (i.e. $50 / $5 = 10). This means that you must pay $10 to “buy” $1 of the company’s earnings (buying a single share for $50 entitles you to $5 of earnings). Within a sector, comparing P/E ratios usually reveals some interesting facts – the lower the P/E ratio the better.

Book Value

Book value is total net assets (assets minus liabilities) divided by total shares outstanding (in issue). Imagine a company with $5 billion in cash and no liabilities whatsoever. You wouldn’t expect the book value of that company to be only $3 billion, would you? (If it was, hungry investors would buy it up in the expectation of liquidating it and turning an instant profit). Depending on the accounting method used, the book value of a company can be overstated or understated, for example Enron used highly dubious accounting ideas to create a book value far beyond any real possible valuation.

Will frugal living make me rich?

I don’t know about you, but I wonder sometimes if living frugally means that eventually I will become rich. After much thought on the matter, I decided that no, living frugally, in the exact sense of the word, will not make me rich.

Living frugally got me out of debt. Living frugally keeps me out of debt. Living frugally means that I have some money saved in case of emergency, some money for my retirement, but I’m not rolling in the dough.

I’ll bet that living frugally does the same for you. I keeps you in the financial black. And that means we are doing better than the majority of this country.

What frugal living also does is give us the option of becoming wealthy, slowly, steadily, through financial literacy. We don’t have debt! We don’t waste money! That means, we have money left-over to invest wisely.

So, if you are digging yourself out of debt, or you are sick of baked beans and cutting your own lettuce, hang in there. If you are in college and wondering why you are depriving yourself of the spend-happy lifestyle that your friends are enjoying, know that you are far ahead of your friends financially. Once you are out of debt, you’ll begin to find bits of money that you can use to build wealth.

What about me? I’m not rich yet, but after getting out of debt, I started saving money and investing money. I invested money in a home for myself. Within three years, I have $150,000 in equity. I have almost $20,000 in my retirement account. I have $5K in my emergency fund. I donate money every month. I’m not living the high-and-mighty lifestyle of the rich and famous, but I’m worth $175,000 three years after having nothing.

Now, I’m turning my eyes to investments that will return money that I can spend today, and not when I’m old and retired. I’m not ready to make any moves yet. I’m studying. I’m learning. I can afford to learn and be cautious with my hard-earn money because debt is not driving me. Frugal living gives me this option.

Frugal living won’t make me rich. But it gives me the choice to be wealthy.