Frugality is so ingrained into our lifestyle that it would be difficult for us NOT to be frugal… but I’m a great believer in practicing sensible frugality… and that doesn’t mean deprivation, being miserly or feeling cheap. What sensible frugality does mean is getting the most value for the money spent. By practicing sensible frugality and saving money on necessary purchases… and perhaps eliminating unnecessary purchases… we actually end up with more money and more options of how to spend (or save) that money.
One of the first things most people discover when they try to live a frugal lifestyle is that extreme frugality is almost impossible to live with long term. It’s a lot like dieting. You can cut back on what you eat in a sensible way that you can live with happily for the rest of your life, or you can go on an unhealthy starvation diet that will make you miserable and is impossible to maintain. Some people try to save money by cutting so much out of their life that they end up feeling very deprived… the reason, I think, why some people get so burned out… they try too hard and deny themselves too much… almost guaranteeing that they will end up feeling impoverished and very dissatisfied with their new lifestyle.
There are a couple of ways to tackle frugality. The first way is to find a less expensive way to buy or do the same things… sales, buying in bulk, doing it yourself, making do with what you already have, etc. The second way is to purge unnecessary expenditures. If it’s at all possible, try not to do anything that makes you feel deprived, poor, or cheap… those are hard feelings to live with. And whatever choices you make, start slowly and add only a few different or new habits at a time.
Many people see the grocery budget as the first place to cut expenses. And while there ARE many good ways to save money on groceries, it’s not a good idea to try to save money by reducing the quality or nutritional value of the food you feed your family. Watering down or eliminating milk, limiting vegetables and fruits, and relying on too many preservative laden processed foods because they are less expensive are not GOOD long term choices. A better idea is to look for savings that will have no impact on your family’s health. And sometimes the best choice isn’t the least expensive. For example, it isn’t true anymore that cooking from scratch always costs less, but the benefit of knowing what’s in the food you are feeding your family is certainly worth any extra expenditures… and that is what sensible frugality is. You save where it makes sense, and spend where it makes sense… instead of always looking for the cheapest option.
This same philosophy works in areas other than the food budget, and again, there is no one right way to be frugal. What is frugal for one person may seem cheap to another, and one person’s extravagance may be another person’s necessity. It’s up to you to shape the sensible frugality principle to your family, your lifestyle, and your wants and needs.