Thursday, March 24, 2011

Embracing Frugality

When we decided that I would stay home with Reese full-time, one of the things I had to do immediately was learn what it means to be frugal. Matt is a high school teacher and my job provided 50% of our income. The day I turned in my resignation letter we took a huge leap of faith. We were determined to make our lifestyle fit within Matt's take home salary and not accumulate extra debt. We've been without my full-time since August, and we have not taken out any loans, carried any credit card balance, or touched our savings account. Now, I realize that it's only been 7 months and we haven't faced any major catastrophes, but we haven't been without any financial surprises either. One of the many things that made the difference for us was embracing a frugal lifestyle.

I have learned so much about living with less over the past 7 months. I still have a long way to go, but at the very least, frugality has gone from a word that brought me feelings of embarrassment to one that brings me feelings of accomplishment. I used to think that being frugal meant being cheap, but I was so wrong! Some of the people I know who live the most full and abundant lives are also those who are the most frugal with their spending. Here are some of the differences I've learned about being cheap vs. being frugal. Cheap people are stingy; frugal people are generous. Cheap people will sacrifice quality or safety to save money; frugal people find creative ways to get safe, high quality items for less. Cheap people stiff their friends on the tab and make frivolous complaints to avoid paying full price; frugal people make sure costs are split fairly and take advantage of sales and coupons to avoid paying full price. Cheap people only want to spend money on themselves; frugal people donate to charitable causes and prefer to spend money on others. The biggest difference is that frugal people spend less on tangible that fill their closets and more on intangible things that fill their lives.

How amazing is it to think that your life can be so full without a high price tag? Fortunately, anyone can embrace a frugal lifestyle - the difficult part is taking the steps to get there. Here are some of the things we have had to start doing to help us be more frugal in our spending: (1) fully understand the difference between needs and wants, (2) get in touch with our values, both individually and as a family, (3) re-define some common words and cultural concepts, (4) surround ourselves with people who support and encourage us, and (5) pray for strength and guidance throughout the process.

I hope that as our financial state evolves, we will continue with the frugal habits we're developing. I hope that we remember to think of others before ourselves and that we stay committed to being good stewards of God's blessings. Most of all, I hope that we never forget all that we gained by embracing frugality.

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