'Frugal' doesn't mean 'deprived'
Being careful with your cash means it goes further. But that just means you get more out of it.
I didn't see it that way. Although temporarily broke, I wasn't deprived. In fact, having relatively little made me that much more grateful for what I did have. In the grand scheme of things, I had quite a lot: food, clean water (hey, water-borne illnesses kill people all over the world), shelter, family, friends, a radio, a library card, a computer and, in midlife, a university scholarship.
You know what else I had? Peace of mind.
I was (and still am) aware of so many people constantly shopping, searching, seeking, coveting. They were always after the Next Big Thing, the newest gadget that would fix their lives and make them truly happy. What they often wound up with were empty wallets and a sense of being let down -- which they then tried to fix with more shopping.
Understand: I like buying things. I just don't do it very often. Not because I'm too cheap to spend, but because I already have everything I need and some of what I want. This sense of enough has been the greatest blessing of a frugal lifestyle.
And when I do need/want something else? The money is there. Saving where I can allows me to spend where I want. (Not that I pay retail if I can help it.)
Looking at money differently
If you're new to this -- and especially if you're experiencing forced frugality vs. voluntary simplicity -- then you might feel a little deprived.
Or a lot. Maybe you were accustomed to buying whatever you pleased the instant you decided you wanted it. Perhaps high-end furnishings, frequent travel, luxury attire, and the finest food and drink were the underpinnings of your life.
In that case, then technically you are deprived: You no longer have the things that you formerly considered necessities. But living richly doesn't have to cost a lot. That's the whole point of the Frugal Nation site: to live the best life you can without going into debt to achieve it.
Look at your situation as a learning experience, not a punishment. And if what you learn is that you want to go back to buying things? The "save where you can so you spend where you want" rule does more than just get you through tight spots. When times are better, you'll get lots more bang from your newly increased bucks.
However, you might surprise yourself by being more canny with your coins. Frugality, whether embraced or forced, helps you look at money differently. Sometimes the "I'm broke! How can I get the best possible deal?" mentality morphs into several different filters:
- "How much does this really cost?" (Translate "smartphone upgrade" into "one-third of a take-home paycheck." Ouch!)
- "Could I get by with what I already have, at least for a while?" (Will the new phone make a big enough difference to be worth 13-plus hours of work?)
- "What's really important to me?" (Am I sure this is where I want to put that much money right now?)
Such filters are the default settings for those who are happy being frugal. But they're filters, not blinders, i.e., sometimes the answer is: "Yes, I'm going to spend -- on my terms."
Thus you might limit lunches out to once a week, but decide that it really is time to replace that ancient computer. You're also likely to use a discounted Groupon for that noontime meal and to postpone your laptop purchase until the great holiday deals start showing up.
The fact is, you get fed and you get your computer. You just do it intentionally, not blindly.
For me, that means a stress-free decision. The money is there and I've found the best possible price, whether it's for an ice-cream cone or a cross-country trip to see my dad.
So stop thinking that "frugal" means "can't ever have fun again." On the contrary: It frees you up to enjoy every dollar to the utmost.
More from MSN Money:
right now i am forced to be frugal a bit more than i like. In a few monthes my car will be paid off and I will stay frugal because i have realized that some of what i thought i needed i just don't. I plan on saving the money i was using for the car payment to buy a house next yr. and not get nervious if i don't work enough hrs one week because we were slow.
Why is msn trying to convince us that being poor is a good thing? there is peace of mind knowing that you can eat the next day or have enough to retire on so you can enjoy a little time without worry of running out of money or having to work until you die.
Why is being rich or wanting to be rich such a bad thing?
Being rich or in my case wanting to be rich is NOT a bad thing.
I totally agree, that being frugal is not depriving oneself but saving money when there is a need to buy the necessities you have money to spend for. Being frugal is spending wisely, keeps you out of trouble and headache pay for the things you realized later that you do not really need and not that important.
Be frugal and save for the future.
I too used to keep up in the world of Audio/Visual, theater systems and the such. And now, while I can afford it, it doesn't appeal to me anymore... I never did embrace the latest cell phone thing - only keeping up a late model prepaid phone and service... Google, Intel, Apple, Sony and so many others are enjoying the weakness of today's society, and the fashion world is also doing the same !
Seek help, or let time mellow you to sensibility, just as it has for me... :)
I guess I have him to thank for the "blessing" of learning to live a more frugal lifestyle. I think the net result is that I am much more careful with money (I brown bag my lunches 3-4 days per week) but also a lot more generous and prone to help others.
Family members experiencing more month than money can count on me to send them packages to help them out. I am currently supplying toiletries to a local church's women's project and also volunteer time every week sorting and hanging clothing for distribution free of charge.
Recently a friend lost her grocery money so I let her "shop" in my refrigerator and freezer.
I guess I've learned that there are a lot more important things in life than shopping/acquiring in general. And, I'm poised for a financially secure retirement due to my ability to live within my means.
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WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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