I am working more and more on frugal living.
I like the challenge that frugal living presents, and I also like the results. If I’m frugal with my money, it goes further. I feel more content because I’m able to better afford the things I need. And I’m not constantly lusting after all the things I don’t.
I’d venture to guess that frugal living is important to many of my readers, too. If we all had unlimited money we wouldn’t be concerned about how to feed our families well or afford healthy cleaning products or clothing, would we? It would be easy!
If you’re still struggling with the frugal mindset (which, I’ll admit, I do sometimes too), let me give you 10 reasons why you should live frugally.
1. Clean Less Often
I don’t exactly like to clean, which you may have figured out from my post on cleaning short cuts last week. I like the result of cleaning, and I can even get behind the act of cleaning, if it doesn’t take too long and I see a purpose it (scrubbing the kitchen down after a massive canning session is awesome; picking up the kids’ toys for the twentieth time that day is not so awesome). If you have less stuff, you will spend less time cleaning it. That’s more time to do fun stuff!
2. Have Better Stuff
Frugal doesn’t mean cheap. Frugal means you select what you need very carefully, and choose it so it will last. I have a Vitamix, which is not cheap at all, but it works as a blender, food processor, grain grinder, and more. And it will last for 20 years. That’s frugal. I select fewer items, but I save up for them and select them to be high quality and extremely useful to me. I prize what I have and I take care of it because I know it is valuable, in terms of money and, more importantly, function.
3. Feel Pride in What You Own
When you amass ‘stuff’ for the purpose of having ‘stuff,’ then stuff doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just more stuff to have, to clean, to find homes for. It’s not valuable to you. When you select what you need very carefully, because you know it is very useful to you, then you will feel pride that you own it and treat it carefully. When you have to save up your money to be able to afford the items you really need, they mean more than if you just went to the store and swiped a credit card.
I know I’m saving up for items I really need, and that what I have is really worth it. I also like not having to clean all the extra stuff I don’t have. So when I see advertisements for all the new and flashy things, that in many cases, people around me have, I don’t really care. I feel content with the choices I’ve made and excited about selecting only the things I really need. I even sometimes feel “cheap” and wonder how much more life I can get out of something simple! It’s exciting to try to make something that’s broken work a little longer (like my vegetable steamer basket…) or find a new use for an old item. I enjoy seeing how many ways I can use what I have instead of needing to buy new. It’s fulfilling and leads to contentment with what I own!
5. Save Money
Okay, frugal living flat-out saves you money. I bought a huge pack of microfiber clothes, 25 for $10, and I use them for a million things. Some were used as diaper inserts (but I didn’t really like that). They are used for cleaning the kitchen. They are used (when clean, obviously) for covering bowls of soaking dough. I can grab them for any use I like and they hold up really well. I can re-purpose old jeans of mine that have holes in them to make my kids denim blankets for their beds. Not only is it frugal, it’s special! “Look, these squares came from Mommy’s old clothes!” There are lots of other neat ways to save money, too.
6. Reach Your Goals
We want to move to a farm. That’s not a secret. But to do it is going to require a lot of time, effort, and money (that we don’t exactly have). By selling items we no longer need and saving money in other areas, we’ll be able to get some of the money we need to make the move. I also posted this list of goals a couple of years ago. Curious how we did? We bought that furnace (with cash) in Dec. 2010. We paid off the student loan in spring 2011 (several months earlier than we’d hoped!). We saved a three-month emergency fund by late fall, 2011 (over a year ahead of schedule, largely thanks to a promotion that Ben got). We have been saving for retirement and college for nearly a year now. We are still looking for the farm property of our dreams! Thanks to hard work and frugal living, we have been able to meet most of our goals at or ahead of schedule! That’s pretty awesome.
7. Teach Your Children Well
I feel like I had to learn to budget and live frugally as an adult, because this was not modeled for me as a child. One “incident” that sticks in my head to this day is one Christmas, my parents bought my brother an N64 (back when they were brand new), even though they said they would never buy any video game systems. (If we wanted to play video games, we had a perfectly good Atari….) The day or two after Christmas, they ran out and bought a new 27″ TV for the basement. I felt this was extravagant and unnecessary, although I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11. A brand new TV immediately after Christmas? Did we need more? They said, “Well, the old TV in the basement wouldn’t have supported the N64 and he’s not using our family TV for it.” Okay then.
We already teach our kids about making budgets and grocery lists and how money is limited. We teach them that we don’t use debt; we pay for what we have with the money we’ve earned. It’s an incredibly important life skill that I want to impart now, so that when they are grown, they don’t struggle with how to budget or desiring a lot of unnecessary things they can’t afford (I hope). It’s so much easier when you’ve grown up with it than when you’ve had to figure it out for yourself as an adult.
8. Enjoy Fun Experiences
If you want to do something “bigger,” like take a vacation, you can! Frugal living doesn’t mean that these things are always out of the question. They must be planned more carefully and saved for, but they are doable, if you decide to prioritize them. My parents have since reformed their ways for the most part, and they want to take us all (there will be 10 of us by the time this happens — my family of 6, my parents, and my brother and his girlfriend) on a big Disney cruise vacation. My mom has been saving for this for a couple of years and it won’t even happen until March of ’14. Even living frugally you can still do awesome things like this, you just have to plan carefully! But when you go, you know you’re not racking up debt or taking away from another area of your lives. You’ve planned, you’ve saved, and you have the money to pay for this — so enjoy!
9. Re-Think Your Priorities
Over half the cell phones that are currently in use are smart phones. We don’t have smart phones. My husband’s “dumb” phone is 5 years old (and the battery dies in a matter of hours) and mine is newer only because the other one was stolen earlier this year. We may be among the very few young adults who don’t have smart phones, but they are not a necessity. We don’t take vacations at this point (except weekend trips to our parents’ houses a few times a year). We don’t go out to eat (unless our parents come to visit). We don’t buy new clothes — Good Will is just fine for all of us. I don’t buy many personal care products — a basic shampoo and some Dr. Bronner’s is about all we really need. I choose the cheapest cleaning products that work (usually, vinegar and baking soda, with a few select natural products). We don’t need brand names. Our kids don’t need to go to preschool or expensive activities. (We do ask grandparents to buy memberships to a few children’s museums as Christmas gifts though, rather than buying them more toys.)
We’ve really had to re-think, again and again, what is truly a priority in life. We don’t have the money to buy everything. There are many things that “everyone has” that we do not have. Making tough decisions sometimes feels frustrating, but ultimately it’s freeing. It’s why we have enough money to cover what we really do need. Although I can’t know other families’ finances, I believe at least some have not asked themselves these tough questions yet and are struggling to afford things because they have a different idea of what is necessary than we do. It has, as I mentioned, been very freeing to re-think what is actually necessary for us, and to let go of those things that would be “nice” but which we do not need.
10. Appreciate What’s Free
We spend so much time wishing we had more “stuff” or could afford more stuff that we often forget to appreciate what’s free. Walks around the neighborhood with family, trips to the local playgrounds, visiting friends, raking piles of leaves, making snowmen or snow angels, playing with buckets of water and mud in the backyard (all depending on season, of course), playing board games as a family, having a home movie night — these things, and lots more, are free. Many cities also have free “events” you can attend. Look for some fall-themed events soon. We love to do hayrides and sometimes pumpkin picking. We’ve often forgotten to appreciate these things, even though they are precious.
How about a child’s smile, or “Mommy, I love you?” Or watching a baby discover a new skill? If you’re not so busy playing with all your “things,” you’ll see it. See the baby discover how to sign “help” or walk backwards or play with older siblings. Listen to the creative stories that preschoolers tell (better than a book!). There’s so much out there! Kids know how to appreciate it all, and if we forget, we should let them show us again. It’s worth it.