Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thoughts on Frugality

Budgeting and frugality are a hot topics right now and our house is no different. It's great that as we dive into these conversations in our house, there are tons of other people discussing the same stuff and posting tips online.

SimpleMom has been posting about budgeting. She says to think of your budget as a way to direct your dollars. I've always thought of a budget as a way to RESTRICT spending, but it's much more freeing to think of our budget as a way to give your hard earned dollars a job to do. We finally put together a serious budget and are approaching our first month of really tracking how our dollars are being spent against the buckets available. This Sunday will be my last grocery visit for the month and I'm excited to check the budet and find out if it will be a scrimpy or a splurgy trip to Safeway.

I also came across this great description of frugality on
"I used to think being frugal was spending as little money as possible — but that’s just being cheap. Now I know frugal is being wise with your purchases and spending money carefully to receive the most value."

I really like the idea of being intentional instead of cheap. I also think that being frugal also gets unfairly lumped with "going without." Instead, I'm trying to think of being frugal as "learning to get by and be happy with what you have." This is a hard concept in our commercial driven, and stuff-based society. How do we shift our perspectives to stop worrying about getting the next, best, new, improved product and instead find contentment in what we have and joy in the ability to make do, stretch, improvise, innovate, and create to meet our needs?*

Of course, it's a journey, but here are the concrete actions I'm trying to take on my quest to be content with what we have:

1. Ditch the catalogs. I've started to make a habit of dropping the catalogs straight from the mail into the recycle bin. It's really hard to avoid the urge to just "see what's out there," but if I don't see that beautiful kitchen table, pair of shoes, fancy tent, or flippy skirt, I won't know what I'm missing. On the plus side, I think the companies may be on to me (or giving up on mailed advertising in general), because the number of catalogs in our mailbox seems to be dwindling.

2. Avoid the urge to cruise the store. This is my downfall in Target. I always want to wander through the furniture area and quickly puruse the clearance rack to check for good deals. You know what's a better deal than an $8 sweater? Spending $0 and wearing the sweater already in your closet.

3. Multi-task with your tools. This is big in the kitchen. I love gadgets! And there's always a specialized tool out there that is the ONLY right way to slice strawberries, beat and egg, or mix your batter. You know what else works? A knife, fork, and spoon. Imagine the confidence in knowing you can be a great cook with simple tools.

4. Reuse, reuse, reuse. I'm trying to embrace an attitude of creativity and innovation. It feels good to find new life in something that would otherwise be destined for the trash or recycle bin. I just wish I was more crafty, so that those re-used things would be prettier...

5. What else?

We try to do things like delaying purchases for a week or a month to see if we really need them and keeping a list by the caldendar of our WANTS and NEEDS, so that we aren't swayed by the fancy advertising... but those things don't really help changing our focus to being happy with what we have. What works for you? How do you cultivate an attibute of contentment?

*Of course, the larger spritual picture is that we shouldn't be focused on our stuff at all and instead find contentment in the life, love, and journey God has placed before us, but my brain isn't going there with this post...


Carmen Goetschius said...

Being intentional, not cheap... this sounds excellent. Good ideas BTW. Target kills me too.

Thanks dear!

I try to think about the function of things over and against fads.... Especially with clothes. Do I need a pair of new shoes or do I simply want a new pair of shoes. Nothing like living in Zambia will cure you of this ridiculousness. Now I just have to figure it out back here in the States!

SBM said...

Great post! These are are concepts that we need to repeat to ourselves over and over. Saying it once is not enough to make it stick. Love your blog! Staci

Cailean said...

Great ideas! I love SimpleMom too and how inspiring it is to simplify. Target is such an easy place to end up with a cart full of stuff when you just got for paper towels (for example)! We are having to seriously cut down on expenses and can use all the ideas I can get!

Colleen said...

I love this post. It is definitely a constant topic in our home too. And I am so with you on the Target thing! I don't even go there anymore unless I can't get the item anywhere else! We've been trying to approach the budget with the "intentional" spending idea too, and it seems to be working out right now. If I see something I like, I don't get it, I put it back and wait to see how I feel about it given some space!