Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frugality: It's a lifestyle choice

One of my all-time favorite websites is Merriam Webster's dictionary and thesaurus site. I have used it for years.

I just checked and if someone is "frugal", they can also be called: economical, thrifty, scrimping, prudent, penny-wise, stingy, cheap, miserly, parsimonious (awesome big word, have never used it in my life), tightfisted. 

Some of those have positive connotations, some not so good, LOL. But I'm not worried about frugal as a label. I see it as a lifestyle choice. There were times - after divorce with either a part-time job or for awhile NO JOB - when frugality was a necessity. These days, it's a choice.

And I will preface this by saying I do not believe my way is the right way by any means. I just know that for me to be truly happy in life, this is the path I have to stay on. I would not presume to judge the way anyone else lives their life. Just hope they don't judge mine either :)

I lived a lot of years beyond my means, using credit cards and buying things I thought I "deserved" or "needed," when really I think I was trying to buy happiness. At one time in my life I added up my grocery receipts for the month and they were $1,000 (that was during my "all organic" phase). $12,000 a year on food! Wow, that makes me cringe big-time now. But that realization started me down the path of choosing frugality which ultimately led to Dave Ramsey. If you haven't checked his ideas out, I'd recommend it.

Those years were spent in debt, which is a horrible feeling. I think debt is one of the greatest anxiety-inducers there is, and I think the rise of credit cards was one of the worst things that ever happened to our country. 

Suddenly nothing is out of reach if you are willing to pay for it... later... and forever. You become tethered to that debt and as it deepens, you sink down with it. And if you think you have to have everything you want, you will never be happy because that is impossible. And the things that are worth pursuing in life are usually not ones with price tags anyway.

I hated that feeling and vowed never to go down that path again. I do not own a personal credit card (but do have one for business use) and I don't want one. If I cannot procure whatever it is by other means, then I don't want it. 

As my pastor said a few weeks ago in church, "We don't need most of what we want." It's true. Fortunately my husband and I are on the same page with this. We both drive 12-year-old Toyota vehicles with hundreds of thousands of miles on them. The first night we spoke after reconnecting, we realized we both drove 2001 Toyotas and thought that might be a sign. We also both knew of Dave Ramsey, that was sign #2 :)

I love that car. I don't need anything more. It's economical, easy to park, runs great, Brady loves it, don't worry if it gets a ding, why would I want something else until it stops running? What is the reason to have bigger, better, newer? I can't see one that makes any sense. 

I spend between $60 and $100 at the grocery store each week now, never ever more. I don't get every single thing we want and I wait until things are on sale, and that's good for us I think. I don't want everything I want all the time, then I will get too used to that and not be grateful for what I have. 

I love to shop for clothes at Goodwill and the sales at Walmart. I can find all I desire there and even then, I ask myself, "Is it really worth spending the money on this?" Half the time I put whatever it is back because I realize I don't really need it. I'm trying to fulfill some other need inside me. Now, snow boots, gloves, hats, etc., those are actual *needs*. But a 25th tank top? Probably not.

I want Brady to see that we can live happy, full lives without the latest X and Y. He came home the other day and said, "Oh Mommy we HAVE to get an Xbox." Then he paused. "What is an Xbox anyway?"

Oh my gosh, how easy it is for a child to get caught up in so-and-so has this or that and not even know what it is! He also told me, "Mommy, I am SO not going to use my money to buy an Ipod, so you have to get me one."

LOL! "No, kiddo. I think you can play games plenty well enough on your Nintendo, the computer and the plug-in joysticks to the TV. You are welcome to buy one with your own money, but I don't believe there's a need for one. Just because you want it, doesn't mean you need it or have to have it."

It also helps that I personally don't haven an "i" anything or even a smart phone, nor do I want one. Along with faith, kindness and love of nature, this is one of the main things I want to teach him. I don't ever want him to feel the soul-crushing weight of too much debt. I had to learn the hard way, I hope he doesn't.

I am so much happier living this way, more content, more grateful for what I already have. I hope Brady will see that and remember it. Again, we are the filter by which they view the world and they are watching every little thing we do. And let me tell you, Brady will call me on it if I do opposite of what I say we should! And I am grateful for that as well :)

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