Friday, April 20, 2012

Our Frugal Lifestyle

What does it mean to be frugal?  Is frugal the same as cheapskate, tightwad and miser?  Being frugal doesn’t sound like fun!   How can I learn more about a frugal lifestyle?  Why choose a frugal lifestyle?  I hope I can help answer these questions.  I by no means am an authority on this topic, but I have lived and researched the frugal lifestyle for several years now, so I can share my personal experiences with you!

What does frugal mean?  Well Webster says that frugal means “thrifty”.  Thank you Mr. Webster, truly insightful.  I think of frugality kind of the same way I think of natural resource conservation, “the wise use of natural resources.”  (My definition from my professional training and experience in that area.).  Only frugality is the wise use of your financial resources.  I personally do not believe that someone who is frugal is in the same class as a tightwad (a stingy person) or a miser (a person who hoards and is stingy with money).  Being frugal means making sure that you are wisely using your money so that you have the freedom to spend it the way you want and need to.  A miser just holds on to money with a clenched fist.  Miser is the base word for miserable, a person who doesn’t share and give is just that. A frugal person knows that while it is smart to spend less than you make and to save, it is also important to give.  Frugality can take on many different forms and look very different from person to person.  I find that frugality is more of an attitude or spirit than a set of actions of rules.

Attitude of Frugality
Money is like your temperature, it is not the disease, just a symptom.  If you do not plan and are immature, you will always have “no money”, even with a substantial income.  If you have a plan and behave like a grown up (whether you are 10 or 100) then you will have plenty, even if your income is considered low.  What’s the deal?  I believe it’s all about the heart, spirit and/or attitude that you bring.  Here is a list of characteristics that I find help me and our family to be frugal;
Patience - I find this to be the secret weapon of the frugal!

Content – Not having a case of the “I’ll be happy when’s”, see that you must be happy in this moment or not at all.

Grateful- Being thankful for what you have now (not just stuff!), this also grows contentedness. 

Maturity – Growing up and getting over the foot stomping, “But I want it now!!”  3 year old mentality.  See patience!

Stop comparing to others- The Jones are $200,000 in debt and miserable, you don’t want to be like them!! 
All of these characteristics are intertwined.  I have by no means mastered all of these but the longer I am on this road, the better I get at all of these. 

Our Frugal Story
We have always been fairly frugal.  Neither my husband nor I have ever been big spenders and don’t have a compulsion to be “in style” .  However we just didn’t have much knowledge on how to manage our money, so our money “happened” to us instead of the other way around.  And as Sir Frances Bacon said “Money is a good servant but a poor master.” That is very true.  Thankfully a little over 3 years ago we took Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” class through our church.  This class gave us the knowledge, support and determination to get our act together.  Yes it made us do the dreaded “B” word, a budget.  I am a huge supporter of this class.  It has turned our financial world around.    I encourage you to read Dave’s “Total Money Makeover” to get a clear picture of his plan and how it works.  There are worksheets that will help you set up a budget.  The budget does take about 3 months to get used to and tweak, but now, we love it.  We meet at the beginning of every month and plan where every dollar goes.  Does this mean, no more fun shopping, no more eating out?  Not necessarily!  If these things are causing you to bleed financially, then maybe these stop for a time, but a budget doesn’t have to = NO FUN. In fact after you are on a budget you can do these things and have more fun, because you won’t feel guilty anymore.  Actually, our experience after getting our budget in place was one of peace, freedom and….wait for it…..feeling richer!! I know it sounds strange but it is very true.  I will always have a budget, it has been the key to financial freedom for us.  We paid about off about $30,000 of debt in 18 months once we started the plan.  In those 18 months we had to buy a “new to us” car and had a child that was gravely ill with a ruptured appendix that required emergency surgery, stays in two different hospitals and emergency transport .  Let me just tell you, even with insurance, that was not cheap, but it was priceless! We have now been debt free for 18 months.  It is a fantastic feeling!

What does frugality look like in our family?

Our really big front windows pre curtain.  We live on a main road now and I was tired of feeling like window display.  However I was appalled to find that cutain rods for this wide of a window were going to be over $70! 
So we cut a maple sapling (very abundant here) and bought some metal flower pot holders and made a much more interesting window treatment for $15!!  Found the curtains for $15 per panel so that was a good deal too.

As I said before, frugality is going to look different in everyone’s lives.  We are frugal for several reasons, first we work in natural resources, while our work is very enjoyable and rewarding, it is far from financially rewarding.  So being frugal for us is a necessity.  However just because it is a necessity doesn’t mean it has to be a drag.  It’s fun to save money!  Here are some of our thrifty strategies
-Budget!  Money is spent on paper before the month begins.  Every dollar has a name even if it is miscellaneous or entertainment. We use a cash system.  We get out the money allotted for use that week and put it in my lovely cash system.  If you run out of money in a certain category…well then no more is to be spent on that till the next cash allotment!  Obviously less is spent than comes in, that equals savings!

-Most kid’s clothes handed down from family and friends.    This is such a huge lifesaver!  I still do have to buy some things like jeans and shoes, but can even sometimes find those that are gently used that will work. 
-Many of our adult clothes are second hand. 

-Making things instead of buying them (beware!  this isn't always cheaper!)

- Cook at home most of the time.  Don’t buy prepackaged foods, except for the occasional frozen pizza or some canned soups!  Staples like pasta, tomatoes, and veggies cost much less than buying those things premade out of the freezer case.

- Keep our monthly grocery bill at or below $400.  We don’t by meat, my manly hunter/fisherman supplies lots of healthy meat for us as do some local farmers!  Canning and freezing garden produce helps greatly too!
- Wait on buying nonessential items, sometimes your patience is rewarded with a big sale or finding it used, or even better….FREE! 

- Buying high value/low cost park or science center passes.  These allow entry into many different parks and science centers around the state and nation for free!  This is much cheaper, wholesome and educational entertainment than a night at the movie theatre, which we rarely do. 
-No cable/satellite bill!  We haven’t paid for TV in 9 years.  I estimate our savings conservatively at  $6,700.  That’s nothing to sneeze at!   We still are able to get all the network channels and most importantly PBS, for free. 

- Use our public library, which oddly I have to pay for here, but the amount I pay is more than worth it as much as we use it.  That reminds me…I need to renew my books!!
- Limit retail shopping.  The more you see, the more you want.  If you stay home (and off Amazon) the less you will buy. 

-I don’t coupon, I find it to be a huge pain in the ass.  I’ll use a coupon if it lines up with my needs and time frame otherwise I just go to the least inexpensive place to get it. 
-I shop at Aldi’s.  Do you have Aldi’s near you?  Seriously, check it out.  The food is great quality, especially the produce and is half the cost of big chain groceries.  Just this week I got a 4lb bag of oranges for $1.49 there.  I went right across the road to Kroger and the same amount of oranges there were 2.98.  This is not a rare occurrence.  I never come out of Aldi’s thinking, “Crap, how did I spend so much?!”  Usually I come out of there saying, “Holy crap, I can believe I got that much food for that little of a price!”

-I cut my husband and son’s hair.  I estimate this savings to be $ 200/year.  
Frugality Sources
My fave Frugal blogs
I’d love to hear some of your frugal strategies! 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen sister. We do most of our home improvement shopping at the local recycling center or Habitat for Humanity resale shops. You can get some amazing windows, doors, and almost anything else you can get a Lowe's. We have a lot of charitable friends who have given us some great things that they longer needed and we share that same philosophy. "Do I need this or do I just want this?" that is the question. Sandy