money bills
economics, frugal living, life choices

It Pays to be Frugal

The first time I heard someone call me frugal, I thought it was an insult. I thought I was being cheap and persnickety. I think there is a difference between worrying about the cost of something and keeping careful watch what you spend and what you keep.

The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines frugal as: careful in the management of money or resources.

What “does” it pay to be frugal?

I have saved on gas mileage, food costs, high end clothing, household cleaners, home services, hair salons, sewing repairs,tax services,lawyers, doctors, laundry, plants, paper, home decor, patio furniture, books, music lessons, travel expenses, advertising, child care, health care and gyms.

I think everyone can appreciate those kinds of savings. Did I leave anything out? Certainly.
There are so many ways to spend a dollar that I haven’t even thought of. I don’t have a pet, so can’t help you there except to say it is cheaper to be a dog-walker, pet- sitter or foster a pet. I rarely go to the theater, opera or concerts but love listening to an orchestra. I just don’t want to drive to the big city and have to deal with parking and crowds.

Is frugality a character trait or can it be taught?

I have been frugal all my life. I can’t help it, but my parents started this obsession in me. Being frugal is actually a good quality to have, unless you are married to a rich man that wants you to help him spend his money. I once turned off a guy I had a date with (once) because I could not believe the cost of a snack he bought from a vending machine. How embarassing…..”money is meant to be spent” he snarled back at me snidely (and didn’t share, I might add). That relationship was never going to see a future.

My parents weren’t rich but they weren’t poor either. They worked hard for a good living to provide what the seven of us needed. Our clothes were always clean and our stomachs always full and our beds warm. I guess I watched them be frugal. Did I learn it from them or was it always a part of me? Had I been raised in a different household, would waste matter so much to me?

Dad worked very hard. Even when he wasn’t at his 8-5 job, he was working in his garden, the yard, building something, doing artwork on the side or helping a neighbor or a sibling. Sunday mornings though, he always went to early mass before he got on the golf greens for 9 holes. He couldn’t be late for lunch, which we called dinner. It would be beef roast with vegetables and mashed potatoes. All fresh vegetables and sliced tomatoes from our garden.

Dad loved his bowling too on Wednesday nights. He was secretary so it brought in enough to cover his dues. I don’t recall mom belonging to any clubs but there was almost daily women over for coffee. Sometimes women came to help with canning, or one would come to cut our hair. Most of the time it was just gossip and gab and we children were always sent off to play if we weren’t in school.

He painted signs for a small meat market down the street from us for extra cash. He worked a full-time job at an advertising agency and his siblings harassed him for staying in our small town. He had such good talent he could have made double his wages moving to the big city in Saint Paul or Minneapolis, Minnesota. He wanted to stay close to his parents and didn’t like the big city life and all the traffic.

Mom and dad both found ways to make a good living for us kids. Dad had a huge garden, mom did the canning, picking and cooking. They shared with neighbors who didn’t have so much or exchanged produce for jars of jelly or berries we didn’t grow.

Second hand is just as good as new.

We had hand-me-down furniture and even a large piece of carpet. I wore hand-me-down clothes from my sister, we rented band instruments for the highschool band dad wanted us to join. What the neighbors didn’t want, we got to have. Dressers, chairs, tables, bikes, even some old school desks so we could play school that we used for years.

To this day I like clothes that have been well made but broken in. I shop thrift stores for high end clothes, yard sales and consignment shops. I never liked buying something off a rack that had ten or more of the same in different sizes. I liked being unique even if it may be something from last season.

I found our new patio set from a neighborhood site online for sale. I made new slings for the chairs and it is as good as new. Our dining room table was found the same way, and my piano. Our sofa end tables were sitting at the side of the road in excellent shape and very sturdy.

You have to be a bit humble, very resourceful and determined. I do get some backlash from my husband at times, but have come to ignore his groaning and teasing. I know what is best for our home more than he does sometime.

Are you teachable? Do you know where to find the resources you need?

Mom was the most resourceful person I know. If you needed something she could help you find it. I didn’t know what to do after highschool but knew that college was out of the question for any of us in our family.

College cost a bundle and vocational school was free when I was ready to enroll. There was no contest. Even though I wanted to be an elementary teacher all my life, and at one time, a nun, I had to select a different path. Not knowing how to do that, Mom said, ” Go talk to the counselor at school. They will help you figure it out.

I did figure out what I wanted, with the help of mom’s good advice. The classes in school I excelled in and what I loved to do was key to matching me with a job career path I would enjoy. My job decision was never about how much I could make in a year. It was always about job satisfaction and the people I might be able to help along the way.

Since my first job I found resources to help me start a licensed daycare, apply for jobs, learn how to set up my own website, open a shop to sell my custom sewing online, file my own taxes, sew my own roman shades, slipcovers and home decor, repair my own computer troubles, find affordable and delicious produce, buy airline tickets, cut and color my own hair, shop for clothes designed just for my style.

What do you have to do with it?

You can save more and therefore have a life more abundant, if you are willing to put a little effort into research. Start somewhere. If you will take a risk on doing something new, go for it. If you don’t mind taking a chance on a job you may think you don’t qualify for, believe in yourself. If you can see yourself in a better place in your life, what are you waiting for?

Waste is holding you back and setting you behind. Carelessness is making you miss the target. Lavishness is fooling you into believing something that is not really satisfying.

Stop wasting food. Can you make a homemade soup with the leftovers for a marvelous meal another day? Freeze that spaghetti sauce you made too much of. Make bread with those over ripe bananas. Reuse, repurpose containers, clothing, paper, produce. I use the blank side of junk mail to print things just for my records or unimportant papers.

Don’t be so careless and turn off the lights, the water when you brush your teeth, unplug the toaster, hair dryer or iron. Don’t wash towels every day but instead once a week. Hang them to dry in between showers or baths. Close doors and windows tightly when the air conditioner is running.

Do you really need another bathing suit or skirt when the one in your closet is good enough. Change it up with a different set of earrings or coverup or sandals. I have said to myself while standing in front of my closet….”I have nothing to wear!”, yet made up my mind and said, “I can find something cute enough to wear!” I did that, went to the party, and was so happy I didn’t spend the money on a new outfit. I had just as much fun. No one is looking at you but you, anyway! Get over yourself.

It pays to be frugal. It is hard and takes discipline to delay gratification. But we all know how many Christmases we learned at least, the longer you wait for a thing, the more exciting it is when you get it!

How to save money is always a good place to start and this post I link offers some good ideas for you. It pays to be frugal.

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