I have been working my way through a series of posts by various authors over a long period of time on the subject of Frugality.
You can have the fun of the hunt, if you follow the link on my blogroll to Anne’s Blog and then click on one of her entries that sound like they are to do about this subject you will likely be off on your own hunt!
Most of the posts I have read really have struck home with me. To me, being frugal is a way of life. It is part of my up-bringing. I grew up overseas, as many of you know, born and raised in Bangladesh. My parents had many opportunities towards excess, as a Canadian dollar was often worth about 25 Taka (their currency). And yet, excess was not how I would describe my childhood home. Clean and Simple, yet Beautiful, Warm, Inviting and Hospitable are words that I would use to describe my childhood home.
I have learned, slowly, that to many being frugal is not a thing that brings happiness. I have to laugh because being frugal brings me much joy! My mother once pointed out that whenever someone complimented me on something I would reply with a “Thank you, I got it at such and such place, for such and such price.”
I hadn’t noticed and realized I did it kind of out of pride. So I have worked on curbing that response.
Being frugal is something that takes practice. And the nice thing about being frugal is that it is something that you can continually tweak and adjust. In an example Anne used about buying used cars, she points out nicely that a car used to last and last and so buying used was worth it. But now with emissions standards and general cheaper manufacturing, new cars don’t make it much past 10 years! So being frugal is not necessarily buying a used, used car.
Practicing Frugality is like taking a walk. You start off and perhaps you have a pretty good idea of the path, where it goes and where it leads to, but then you turn a corner and, “Wow! I had not thought of that before!”
I’d say there are stages of being a Frugal person too. Let’s see, initially there is a very anxious and fearful stage. You know you should, but it is hard. Being frugal requires you let go of many habits of excess. It is truly hard to picture life without the excess!
Then most people move on to a stage of Missionary Frugalness. Being frugal brings a lot of joy, once you get a little more practiced. So you go around preaching Frugal Habits. You see excess in many of your friends life-style and the addictiveness of learning to do with less makes you just want to share. After all, don’t good friends share?
Then next stage would be fairly logical in my opinion, a bit of burn out and despair. For some this can be the end of the Frugal Habits. A lifestyle change becomes something more of a Frugal Experiment. For others, a certain air of doggedness comes around. There is realization that being Frugal actually requires some effort. The removal of excess leaves a feeling of emptyness and denial of self. Then there is the realization that some of your efforts were misguided.
I can think of one such example that I kind of “fought” over with my MIL. She really wanted me to use cloth diapers and home made disposable baby wipes. I can not remember the number of recipes I received for making the baby wipes, and I had much joy in giving away many patterns for cloth baby diapers. I was in my Frugal Infancy. At this stage of life, being frugal was born out of our complete lack of money. Yet I fiercely protected my use of disposable diapers and wipes, not because I felt they were the frugal choice, but because… in my Post-Partum State, I knew I could not handle folding 3 rolls of paper towels into nice piles and mixing up a solution of liquids to make them into baby friendly wipes. And the thought of any more housework was horrible.
Yet today, I could see myself using cloth diapers. Why? Because I have many frugal habit successes under my belt and they are truly habits. So making the change to cloth diapers is “do-able” in my opinion. That being said this is a of a non-issue for me.
But in terms of attempts at being frugal that I feel have failed. Hmm, okay at many times using dried beans were failures. When I was working, I simply couldn’t get things together enough to reconstitute the beans. Then, I would be there at five o’clock, looking at those little rocks and wondering how I would be feeding my family in half an hour. Which would necessitate a trip to the grocery store, hungry family and a blown grocery budget.
Another area that I have yet to figure out well is cleaning products for the bathroom. To make it simple, I have issues with cleaning the bathroom and garbage cans. So, there are times where I will convince myself that I will use a simple vinegar or bleach and water mixture and clean the bathroom. Then there are times that the thought of touching the toilet finds wanting to pack up the entire house and move rather than clean that thing! So, in the interest of saving on moving costs, I think convince myself that if I have the Mr. Clean thingy I will truly clean the bathroom more often. Or, that really cute toilet brush I saw, or the spray that will clean the shower (on city water, maybe, on rusty well water, not a chance!).
I have found that I save more money making a menu and grocery list than I do attempting a garden.
I have found that Homeschooling, the family and I eat far healthier and I have shaved at least $50 off our bi-weekly grocery list.
I have found living in the country has saved us a lot of money off the grocery bill. When you don’t have the convenience of the grocery store, you do find yourself thinking 1 hour for fresh cookies is worth it!
I have found the savings on the grocery bill are off-set by the car gas bills for the month. And the monthly oil-change bill. And the increased insurance, and car repairs.
Er, and you had better add the cost of library fines to the above as well!
There are many habits that don’t have to do with spending money that really increase your ability to be frugal, and that is another reason that I say it is a life-style.
Learning to use a Calendar. BIG habit that frugal people use. To me this is synonymous with planning. Why? Well, it eliminates Guilt! To me guilt is the enemy of a frugal life-style. Guilt will lead to excess.
Learning to take notes and keep them in an organized fashion. I have a simple notebook (pretty, but just full of lined paper) by the phone. We (read: I) write down all the phone numbers we take while on the phone. I’ll note what was said in a particular phone conversation down in the book. Then if there is an issue down the road, you just flip backwards and BINGO!
Drying laundry before putting it in the dirty laundry pile. So, no throwing wet face clothes in the laundry hamper! Why? Well, there is the mildew factor!
The Home-made is best movement. Yes, that is an excellent source of pitfalls and successes for a Frugalist. Home-made in the sense of longer lasting, I’m all for it. Especially when it comes to adult clothing. My hubby is 6 feet 6 inches tall, and I am 5 feet 11 inches tall. Home-made clothes fit and since I am a decent seamstress, they last longer. My daughter is a very lanky tall 5 year old. She can wear a size 8 child in height but needs a size 4 in waist! I will buy most of her clothes second hand, except for the few things I can convince her to wear that belonged to big brother. But for Sunday clothes, I have learned that one or two pretty dresses by Mamma last far longer and look much better on her. For my son, oh, I am truly blessed. I have received hand-me downs from an Angel since he was 18 months old. I rarely buy that child clothes. At his age and size, there are few pickings in the second hand store because boys “wear” their clothes.
But home-made cleaning supplies. Hmm, some are cheaper and just as effective. Others are more expensive and cheaper products are available. In particular laundry detergent.
Anyhow, it wasn’t my goal to get into specifics. Perhaps I can make a list of my favourite Frugal Habits later on, but for now I just wanted to chime in a second!