Why Be Frugal?

DSC_0687This might seem an odd question from the Frugal Goddess, but it is worth asking. Being frugal means more effort and often deferred gratification. There has to be a pay-off or nobody would do it willingly.

There are really three groups of frugalistas. The forcibly frugal are too poor don’t have a choice. This group  grew much larger in the USA during the crash of 2008 and is still growing. Sadly, the rest of the world has always had a large population in this group. For the forcibly frugal, there is no need to ask why. How is the question. How to feed a family, how to obtain shelter, how to survive.

The middle class frugalista understands the concept of deferred gratification. There are many, even in this over-heated consumer environment, that are willing to do the work to achieve a dream. This group understands the relationship between prudence and success. To be middle class is an exercise in compromise. A person with a moderate income can make choices, and satisfy some desires, but not all. For this group, a consistent frugal lifestyle means home-ownership, college for the kids, and the opportunity to do a few really amazing things like travel to the world. If this type were to go on impulse, all the surplus would be frittered away on trips to the mall, and they would have the debt-load of the average American family. For these frugalistas, frugality really does make their dreams come true.

But it does something more as well. It creates a deep sense of peace. It is well known that money problems are one of the biggest sources of stress in our culture. And that money fights are one of the biggest causes of divorce. Frugal people avoid all of that. And if the parents are frugal it sets a very good example for the whole family.

Though it may seem that we are through, there is actually one more type. The members of the voluntary simplicity movement tend to be very well off. Maybe even rich enough that waste is a mere inconvenience, not a life-threatening disaster. But this group is interested in a green life-style, and in a sustainable solution to the “human” problem. This involves avoiding waste and conscious values-based spending. That is the very definition of frugality. This group has a very different problem from the first two groups. The first group has no problem staying frugal, it is staying alive that concerns them. The second group may have temptations, but a commitment to a greater reward will keep them on track. But, for the voluntary frugalista, it is commitment to an idea of what is right that drives the frugal lifestyle. For them, the answer to the question “why be frugal” is an intellectual one. But, even so, there are rewards other than virtue. The voluntary frugalista gets the benefit of self-knowledge and clarity. This translates to more time doing the things that are truly rewarding, and less time spinning in circles.

Whatever your current financial situation, a frugal lifestyle is worth it.

Advertisements

How Much is Enough? Six Tips for Knowing when to Stop

If You Don't Know what you Want You'll Never Have Enough

The question “how much is enough?” is at the very heart of a frugal life richly lived. It is the backbone of frugal abundance. We live in a culture that resists the concept of enough. For the inhabitants of the “developed world”, the answer we must give is that no amount is enough. The economy we have created depends on MORE, and just enough is considered an ill.

But sensible people trying to live a good and pleasant life know that this is hog wash. Too much clutter in our material possessions or our time leads to a frenzied life where we don’t fully use or enjoy the things we have. So what is the cure? Try these six simple tips to get back to a state of happy balance:

  1. Before you bring in ANYTHING new, look at what you already have and ask yourself what the purpose is. Do you already have something that will accomplish whatever it is you are trying to do? For example, if you want to make crepes, do you really need to buy a special pan? Or would the cast iron pan you have work just as well. This also applies to time—before you add something to your schedule STOP and ask yourself why.
  2. Do you know the real cost of the things you want to acquire? Don’t forget to add in the cost of maintenance, repair, and auxiliary doo dads that you will need to make it work. When it comes to your time, remember to include travel and preparation time. These are things you need to know before committing yourself. If you don’t think it through you may bite off more than you can chew and end up with TOO MUCH.
  3. Where are you going to put the new thing? If it doesn’t fit in your house it won’t fit in your life. The same goes for new activities. When are you going to do the new activity, including prep, practice, and travel if applicable? Things without places create clutter and eventually misery.
  4. How does the new thing fit into your value system? If you don’t know, don’t buy it till you find out. You only have so much time, money, and physical space. If you let in a bunch of stuff that does not serve your value system, it just becomes a distraction. It also drives out the things that are in harmony with your values, and therefore robs your life of meaning to one extent or another. For example, if your values include bonding with your loved ones with a real sit down dinner, adding a lot of early evening activities is actually a form of clutter and will soon become TOO MUCH.
  5. Have a plan for buying things and committing your time. If you put the big pieces in first, such as travel or buying a house then the smaller decisions become easier. If you know that forgoing a new outfit will get you closer to a trip you want to take it removes some of the sting of saying no to yourself. This also works when dealing with family members. If you all agree that going camping is important it will help when you have to nix the new sneakers. Well, maybe not every time, but it will certainly help.
  6. Now apply these guidelines to what you already have. Do you need to purge anything? Cancel anything? Get rid of any time commitments, memberships, or subscriptions? Does all that you have serve you and your values? Be honest, and then start making a pile for charity. And don’t be too quick to fill up the spaces that get opened up. Open space and breathing room are essential to a happy life and a sign that you have just the right amount.

Try these six tips to create a life that is the right size for you. Not all of them will be easy, but the results will be worth it.

For more on this topic check out these links:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/09/23/frugality-in-a-consumption-crazed-society/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/08/30/false-economy/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/11/01/time-and-money/

Spring Cleaning is Frugal and Fun

It's Spring! Time for a Clean Sweep!

Today is the first day of spring! So what does spring cleaning have to do with frugality, and how can it possibly be fun?

Frugality is all about old-fashioned values, and requires that we maintain what we have. A little over a half century ago we were all much more affected by the natural changes that came with the seasons. Spring was a time to open up the house and sweep out all the mustiness that came with being stuck indoors all winter. Now we have advanced ways to make the indoors comfortable all year round. We control our environments with technology. We can almost ignore the seasons. But there is a natural exuberance to the spring that it would be a shame to ignore.

Our stuff may not need to be “aired out”, but it does still need to be maintained. Starting the new season by deep cleaning will prolong the life of our interiors and furniture, and create a sense of order necessary for a frugal life. Spring cleaning means knocking down the cob-webs on the outside which then knocks out the internal cob-webs.

But how can this be fun? Some of the actual work may be a pain in the neck. That is why we only do it a couple of times a year. But if you do it as a family it is a team-building, self-esteem building activity. And when you are done it is fun to see the results. So go ahead, order a pizza and get out the cleaning rags.

Here are a few things you may want to include:

  • The windows, at least the insides. Save the outsides for later if you expect more foul weather.
  • The kitchen cupboards should be emptied and wiped down. This is a good opportunity to reorganize as well.
  • The stove and refrigerator should be cleaned inside and out.
  • The furniture should be pulled back from the walls so you can clean under and behind where it usually is.
  • All rooms should be cobwebbed and dusted.
  • The carpets and drapes should be cleaned.
  • As you clean make a list of anything broken so it can be repaired.
  • The laundry room should be cleared out and scrubbed down.
  • Any other obvious messes should be cleaned up.
  • The winter things should be put away, and the summer things taken out and repaired as needed.
Just try it and see how great it feels. Happy spring, my frugalistas!!

Here is a link on frugal and green cleaning to help you get the job done: http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/09/30/clean-it-up-cheap-and-green/

The Frugal Goddess on WordPress.org!!

 

The Frugal Goddess is now at  http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/ a wordpress.org site. I will be publishing the same high quality advice on living a rich full life using fewer resources. Only the format is changing.

This change will give The Frugal Goddess more flexibility, more beauty, and more support for creativity. Please come see the new site for a healthy dose of frugal abundance! And don’t forget to subscribe.

Don’t Just Watch! Play Sports for Frugal Fun

 

Equipment Need Not be Expensive

Yesterday we talked about playing music; today I will discuss playing sports. The principle is the same. Being an actual participant and not just an observer is more fun and less expensive. Gone are the days of sand lot softball and “going out to play”. For many years now the schools have filled the gap for kids, though many of these programs are now threatened by hard times.

But it is not just kids who can benefit from playing sports. The state of children’s and teenager’s after school sports program is large enough for its own post, so I will concentrate here on the grown-ups.

Do you have a sport you already play and love? Then you are lucky. If not, why not at least consider it? Is there something you have always been attracted to but never tried? Think about your physical condition and natural inclinations. There are many types of sport—some involve teams, some are done in the company of others but not as a team effort, and some are real solo activities. For example, softball always involves a team, cycling is often done with companions, and skiing is pretty much solo.

Sports also vary in costs, both to get involved and to stay involved. Skiing can be pretty expensive if you don’t live near snow, but tennis is very reasonable once you have the equipment if you stick to public courts.  You will want to rent or borrow the equipment at first to make sure you really like it, and then check out used equipment stores and craigslist.

If you have never played a team sport, you may have to ask around a bit, especially if you are self-employed or work for a very small business. Bigger companies sometimes have a team you can join. If not, look in the yellow pages first or search online for local teams. Then check out the parks and recreation department in your town, or ask at a gym of sporting goods store. There are some great side benefits to playing on a local team, besides the entertainment value. It gets you off the couch, which will improve your health naturally. And it builds wonderful connections with your fellow citizens. Have you ever been out at a tavern and seen a whole team come in for drinks after the game? That could be you. So, get fit, make friends, get outside and PLAY!

Cheap or Frugal? What’s the Difference Anyhow?

 

So many times when I tell people about my writing I get a strange response. “oh—I don’t like that word-frugality” they say. “I don’t want to be cheap” Or sometimes “I don’t want to live in a poverty consciousness.” It is easy to see where these ideas come from. The shift in our value systems as a culture has given the honorable qualities of frugality and thrift a bad name. At this point for many these words are bundled up with other words such as miserly, stingy, and cheap.

But this was not always the case. The founders of the United States had a very different view—hence all the wonderful sayings about frugal living from the best minds of that era. For example “A penny saved is a penny earned.” and “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” both from Benjamin Franklin. They did have a word for cheapness back then—they would have said miserly, but they knew the difference between miserly and frugal or economical. The question posed in this post would never have arisen back then.

Today is a different story. In an atmosphere where things and experiences (that can be purchased) have taken the place of actual connections with people to large extent and going into debt is the normal way to get our needs met and our wants satisfied it is hard to imagine the value of delayed gratification. It is to the advantage of the market to make us believe that frugal is the same thing as cheap.

It is true that some behaviors are “cheap”. For instance—going out to dinner and ordering the pasta instead of steak is frugal. Not tipping the waitress is cheap. A frugal person would not go to a place where they can’t really afford to be there. The same with going out with friends and “forgetting” your wallet. A frugal person would just suggest a less expensive form of entertainment to begin with. Or they would save up for a big night out and thoroughly enjoy it, knowing that spending their time and money that way was the best use it could have, and without guilt. That is the true meaning of frugal abundance. It is to know what you want, and then going about making proper provisions to get it.

A cheap person only has one way of interacting with money—hoarding it. A frugal person is adaptable and responsive to the environment. They are willing to spend when appropriate while getting the best value for their money. This may mean that they are slower to reach for the wallet. This is not the knee jerk reaction of the miser, but rather the behavior of a self-aware person living with-in their means. In the end, it is the big spender that experiences lack, and his frugal sister who lives in prosperity.

Happy Holidays and a Big Roll Out of Frugal Fun in the New Year!!

Happy Holidays from the Frugal Goddess

My regular readers may have noticed that I haven’t been posting lately. This is because I have been working on some great new material which I will be rolling out starting with the new year. I have been talking about the concepts and tactics of a frugal life with folks from all over the place, getting an idea of what would be most useful now. There are still many who associate frugality with lack. I will continue to work on eliminating that myth.

As I look about the world at the close of 2011 I see so many people struggling with the economic side of their lives. The struggle continues despite the occasional uptick in the market or spurts of prosperity. The Frugal Goddess writes to the forcibly frugal who may be facing even more dire circumstances in the coming year. She writes to the increasingly small and increasingly squeezed middle class, and to boomers hoping to be able to enjoy their golden years. She even writes to the voluntarily frugal—those people of means who are drawn spiritually to a live of sustainability, simplicity, and justice.

The philosophy of frugal abundance is based on the idea that prosperity is based on more than just money alone. We must each look into our own hearts to determine what is most important and then go about crafting a life based on our deepest values. Material wealth may be a part of that mix, but for most of us it is not at the center.

The entire system of frugal abundance is based on knowing and understanding your resources on every level, and then maximizing every resource available. It is also about understanding the flow of energy through your life so that nothing is wasted. We start with the outcome in mind and then figure out how to get there using every resource available. These resources are not limited to money but also include our connections to others, our own talents, and numerous ways we have of interacting with the world.

So, dear reader, I wish you a loving and peaceful end to 2011. And I hope you will stop by often in 2012 as the Frugal Goddess continues to help you connect your values to your wallet. And if there is a subject you really want to see get tackled please make a comment or email me and let me know. Blessings to you all!

%d bloggers like this: