Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rethinking frugal myths (Repost)

Originally posted May, 2009

This is the first of the favorite Recession and Pantry posts from the past.  I believe it had the greatest response of any such post so it is well worth repeating.

I was brought up in a culture where if one practiced frugality they were thought odd or miserly. Especially if they had a good income. There were a few exceptions as we know from books like The Millionaire Next Door (where some people became wealthy due to frugal living instead of spending everything they made)...frugal without becoming miserly.

Last week I used a Panera gift card to pay part of the cost of a coffee and bagel (one of those days I was waiting for my son). I gave the manager at the cash register my gift card to use first and then paid the balance... knowing there was just under $1.00 left on the card.

It sparked a conversation about the use of gift cards. She said stores love to sell them because many people don't see them as real money and often lose them or forget about them. Most people don't use all the credit available (which is why my use of the last dollar was unusual).

I remembered at Christmas time, reading that gift cards were not welcome by many teenagers (those we know enjoy them, though). I love, love, love gift cards so it was hard to understand why someone wouldn't.

After reading a little more, I realized many of these young people had never "wanted" for anything in their life. They could not comprehend what a gift card meant to one who had little to spend on luxuries (or stocking up). It would be no different than handing the teenager $10.00 when they already had $500 in their billfold.

It has me thinking... perhaps a recession isn't a bad thing for all of us (as one who has been living in a Recession for a long time now). It helps us rethink the making, spending, and saving of money. So, being a pondering type of person... I thought of a few statements about frugal living which I've been told and found to be myths.

Some of them are...

Small expenditures don't count... On the contrary, I think most people tend to be careful about big purchases (cars, furniture, etc.) and get in trouble with the small purchases adding up. I've been (trying) to teach this to Christopher, telling him to think about how much he is spending on each small item multiplied by say... 52 weeks. Once I started doing that, I realized being frugal meant being honest with myself about the dollars spent "here and there".

Money can't buy happiness... Well, that is quite true. What money can buy is convenience. The myth is that... doing that which is convenient and easy automatically brings more happiness than that which was brought about by hard work. A simple and frugal lifestyle is not always easy or convenient, it is full of hard work... but it can bring about happiness from a job well done... not to mention peace of mind when we don't have to finance a convenient lifestyle.

Frugal people don't shop... I've found that not to be true at all. Just the opposite, frugal people are good shoppers. They find enjoyment in searching out the best places to shop at the right times, knowing where to get the best deals, when to shop (for instance, the end of season sales), etc. They are masters at living "off the financial grid".

Frugal people never spend money... No, frugal people know how and when to spend money. Misers don't spend money at all if they can help it. Not spending money can get you into as much trouble as spending too much (more about that in tomorrow's ponderings).

Frugal people are hoarders... There is a huge difference between hoarding and stocking up. Frugal people save money by stocking up when items are at their cheapest prices, especially items they know they will be using like food and household goods for the pantry, craft items, clothing they will need, household and automobile maintenance products, school supplies, etc. Misers hoard, frugal people let their money work for them in a timely fashion.

Frugal people are stingy... Once again, misers are those who hold everything tight to their person. The people I've known who are the greatest givers are those who have known what it is like to be in need. Frugality gives those with little the option to be able to give and those with "more than enough" the freedom to share.

Frugal people never have any fun... On the contrary, some of the most creative and fun filled people I've met are also frugal with their expenditures. Some are forced to be creative by lack of money and end up growing in their creativity (and fun). Others have money because they are very careful with their spending and they know when to spend for pleasure (without putting their family into debt).

Children of frugal people have often learned from one or both parents how to have fun with little or no money to spend. They are often quite creative and resourceful. Children of misers grow up needy and often with hostility toward the miser.

You can't be frugal and have beautiful things... Well, anyone who has read this blog and those by many of my blog friends know that is not true. Quite the contrary, frugality in general (and forced frugality by circumstances in particular) causes one to think through their purchases in such a way that their homes tend to have more beauty and less things... more simplicity and less clutter.


Vee said...

Thank you for reposting. Would you believe that I just found a $25 gift card stuck to the right side of my stove near the floor? It was covered by all the baking sheets that I keep between the stove and the cupboard. Needless to say, I was ever so thankful to find it. No, I had no idea that I had lost it and have no idea how it was there. Crazy stuff happens here at my house that's all I can say!

I love how specific you are when tackling a writing project. Am sure that I've said it before, but specificity does make all the difference.

Stay cool...

freetobeme - Anita said...

I wish you a very happy birthday! I hope you have a great day!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

I am glad to read this again. We have so much to ponder. You're right when you say that some young'uns haven't ever felt need...and yet there are some who know only need.

We have to share more.

Sending love,

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

Anonymous said...

A wise teacher I once worked with had her high school class write up lists of Needs/Wants as part of a lesson on Budgeting.It was quite an eye opener for the kids.
Some of them discovered that they didn't "need" designer clothes but they might need to budget for a winter coat.

Brenda Leyland said...

I LOVE gift cards! And I enjoyed your thoughtful repost!

Enjoy......mmmm..... happy birthday. So where did you decide to go now?

Connie said...

Very good post.

Manuela@TPOH said...

Thanks for reposting this - I enjoyed reading it again.

I have a jar on my desk where I put all our GC. We have a rewards program on our debit card and on our Amex that I try to utilize. I usually cash out for those "extras" that make life a bit more enjoyable (mostly books and food) but also Home Depot since it seems we have to go there every week anyway!