I have serious objections to much of the frugal advice that is being offered these days, especially the focus on quick-fix extreme measures. Extreme frugality is like a crash diet… it’s unhealthy and almost impossible to live with long-term… AND it will set up feelings of deprivation that will almost certainly end in a bout of spending. The money that hurt so much to save gets spent impulsively when you can’t stand feeling deprived any longer… and suddenly you’re back to square one. This yo-yo cycle of deprivation/splurging, deprivation/splurging is not LIVING frugally… it’s PLAYING at frugality… and it’s not a good way to live.
Since many of you have asked me to share more about our own financial situation, I will start by saying that although we have been completely debt-free for many years, our financial freedom did not happen overnight. When our children were young I was a stay-at-home mother and we lived on only one income. Since then my husband and I have always been self-employed and worked together… first working at the brick-and-mortar business we started ourselves, and then working from home selling a product line we developed. I also do free-lance writing. We started our married life with student loan debt and no savings… no family financial help and no legacies… and we had our share of lean times and financial setbacks. Achieving financial security was not easy, but I promise you that it CAN be done.
To the world I imagine our life looks pretty much like anyone else’s. We have a newish car, a nice house, quality furniture, modern appliances, and “things.” However, there are differences that aren’t visible… the house is mortgage-free… we paid cash for the car and the furniture and appliances. We have money saved for future eventualities and we have an emergency fund for anything unexpected that might happen now. We are able to live the life we want to live, do the work we want to do, and spend where we want to spend because we have achieved financial security. Moderation and long-term sensible frugality… while we continued to live a very “normal” life… were the tools that gave us this freedom.
Frugality isn’t some scary unknown that will separate you from a normal existence or deprive you from having good things in your life… and it isn’t achieved by the bouts of “going into poverty mode” that so many people equate with frugality. This yo-yo playing at frugality is not a sustainable long-term solution. A more moderate and consistent frugality is.
I can’t tell you how to be frugal, because my style of frugality will not be the same as yours. However, I CAN tell you some basic principles of frugality that will work for everyone. It’s mostly just common sense…
~ always living within your means
~ limiting waste, and
~ using your resources wisely for YOUR priorities
It really is that simple.
I think the most difficult part of real frugality might even be the initial realization that for most people there is no shortcut to achieving a debt-free life. Unless your income is unusually high, your expenses are unusually low, and you have just been throwing your money away… it is a given that it will take time to pay off debts, build up savings, and prioritize your values. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stay on track, financial security WILL follow.
I’ll share some of the things we personally do (and don’t do) to save money in a future post.