Saturday, October 20, 2012

Frugality and other F-words

You've all heard the sad, sad story about the guy who scrimped and saved his whole life so that he could relax and live out his dream some day -- and then he was struck ill and passed away right before his dream could come true.   It's the reason people like me should lighten up and live a little, or so I've heard.  We've all gotta have a little fun now; we owe it to ourselves.

Do I agree with that?  Do I believe I have an obligation to splurge on things today because I might just kick the bucket tomorrow?  Hah!  Nobody who calls herself 'Miser Mom' would ever subscribe to that brand of magazine.  In fact, if I were being all uppity (and I know I climb up on my uppity horse far more often than that particular horse needs a rider), I'd say I have obligations to something and someOne far bigger than myself, thank you.  I do believe I have obligations, but Frivolity and Self-indulgence are low on my obligation list.

Frivolity is low on my obligation list.  But I still have a lot of frivolity anyway.  No, really, I do.  A family that eats Pirate Dinners together might or might not be splurging, but it's not a family of self-flagellation and drudgery, either.

The famous parts of frugality are getting stuff for small amounts of money: foraging, if you will.  But getting stuff is not what it's all about; frugality also means being grateful for what we already have:  finding unexpected uses for everyday things.

It's frugality that means my kids have more yard-sale-purchased toys than they know what to do with; and it's frugality that keeps us from overwhelming them with yet even more junk.  Why buy an X-box, when the kids go all happy and "look-at-me!" playing with a cardboard box?

It's frugality that means my closet is full of clothes I like to wear, clothes rescued from giveaway piles or purchased for pennies at yard sales.  It's frugality that means my cupboards are stocked with homemade and locally produced foods that we can use to feed ourselves and our friends.  It's frugality that means my husband and I are more likely to read to one another or to go for a walk together than to pay for outside entertainment in the form of movies or restaurants.   We can dance in our own living room.  Sometimes, we do!  Ordinary occasions become festive!

And in the areas where I don't want to scrimp -- charity, health, theater, bicycles -- frugality frees up the space to help us afford those things.

Perhaps you've seen those t-shirts and bumper stickers that some runners show off: they say, "My sport is your sport's punishment."  Translation:  running is a pain in the butt, unless you get good at it, at which point it becomes a joy.  If you know someone who loves running, you have seen that joy.  (If you look around our large country nowadays, you might also conclude we have more than a few people who could use more of that kind of joy in their own lives).

And that's the main problem I have with the whole "you have to live it up by spending money" narrative.  Because once you can do it right, frugality is . . . fun!  It's freeing.  For me, it's the way of life that allows me to live many of my dreams right now, not to wait for some long-distant day.


  1. Frugality definitely brings freedom. I just paid off my student loans before they ever became due (went back to school to get my teaching license). Frugal living let me save up the money to pay them off, and having them paid off will give me more flexibility, especially once I pay back my emergency fund.

    I do wear plenty of new clothes (gifts from others), and I also flex the thrift store acumen. And most of our furniture is hand-me-down or dumpster/curb finds. Those little areas that aren't so key to me give me so much more freedom in the areas that do matter.

    1. Woo-hoo for paying off loans! That's a huge gift to yourself; much more liberating than buying some new gizmo you then have to take care of! And I think we 'shop' at a lot of the same places (heh). -MM

  2. I really liked this post. We do the same with kids have never gone without and yet we are so frugal...I can't understand why people waste their money on meaningless rubbish lol

    1. If your kids are content with playdough and plants (and it looks like yours are), then why mess up the balance with play stations and other passive entertainment? How lovely to raise a family who is grateful for the gifts you already have! -- MM