Monday, May 10, 2010

An attitude shift about money

Bil and I have always lived on less than most of our friends and family. When we first got married, he was still in school and we lived on my teaching salary. During that time, we managed to finish paying off my student loan and save a sizable down payment for a house. I am
not a money expert, by any means, but I am used to pinching pennies.

And you know what? I don't really mind that much. Saving money and cutting costs has actually become fun for me, in a way. Don't get me wrong, I have days where I wish I could just buy whatever I fancied, but those days are coming far less often the longer we live the frugal life. What I have realized is that the goals we have set for our family are so much more important than that cute pair of shoes or the dinner out.

I once read a financial column in which the author advised readers not to say things like, "We can't afford such and such." Instead, we should say, "I choose not to spend my money on that." I love this shift in wording because it reflects my values. I could afford to eat out more regularly, but I choose not to, so that I can afford to put some money in the savings account. I have the money to buy books, but I choose to avail myself of all the many services provided by my public library, so I can pay down my mortgage. Though this may seem mere semantics, I think how we say things reflects how we are thinking and feeling. So, if I sound like a victim, I probably feel like one. Conversely, if I sound like I am in charge of my decisions and my finances, it galvanizes me and makes me feel less resentful or deprived.

And you know? I just don't need all that crap. It won't make me happy, especially when the bills come. I am the kind of person who stays awake at night if we don't have 6 months of money tucked away in an account somewhere in case of an emergency. That peace of mind can never be replaced by cute clothes, a fun vacation or some meals in a fast food joint.

Along with peace of mind, I like knowing that my wise decisions impact more than just my credit cards and bank statements.

No, they often also affect the environment and my health.

This may seem something of a stretch, but bear with me. When we buy things, they almost always come in some kind of packaging. This is especially true of processed or prepared food. While I don't think it is reasonable or even possible to completely avoid packaging on food, for example, think of what would happen, if we all cut back a bit.

Instead of buying a cake mix, make it from scratch. You'll avoid both a box and a plastic bag, not to mention a bunch of chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. Also, it's a lot cheaper (typically) to bake from scratch. And really? Whipping up a homemade cake takes probably only minutes more than using a mix. Seriously. Oh, and it tastes so much better, especially the frosting.

When I make my chicken broth from scratch it is seriously cheap, (you already have the carcass. All you have to add is water) it's got a lot less sodium and there are no cans or cartons to throw away. Win-win-win.

I really enjoy knowing that when I hang up my laundry, I not only save money on the energy bill, but I save energy. I am leaving a smaller carbon footprint. When I ride my bike or walk places with the kids, there are no emissions and I get some exercise.

You get the picture.

I know this may come off as super preachy, which I do not mean at all. I don't mean to imply I am some perfectly frugal environmentalist. There are tons of ways I should probably cut back and be better to the environment, but can't seem to squeeze in. And there are other areas in which I consciously choose not to be frugal (chocolate comes to mind. We don't skimp on our chocolate in this house). And I am not saying that you should do the things I am doing. I don't even really mean any of this to be advice on how to save money.

Instead, I want to point out that pinching pennies doesn't have to be about not getting what you want. Instead, it can be about making sound decisions, ones that greatly impact your finances, your health and the environment in beneficial ways. Because I really think the best way to start saving money is to change your attitude. To me, it's about being a wise steward over what we have been entrusted with. And money is just one small piece of that. We need to guard not just our financial resources, but our health and our world.

And doesn't that make the sacrifices feel more worth it?


For more posts about the Almighty dollar, visit the Spin Cycle at Sprite's Keeper.


rm said...

You didn't come accross as preachy to me at all. You came accross happy, balanced and wise.

I really liked this post.

rainbowmummy (aka Miss Debt)

Ginny Marie said...

I love your philosophy of saying "I choose not to spend money on..." It sounds so much better than "I can't afford it!" We always seem to have less money than my husband's sister and her husband. Or are they just choosing to spend their money differently? It's hard to say.

Fortunately, my husband and I have the same ideas about spending money, so we don't argue about finances. It's reassuring to have a nest egg!

Susan said...

I find myself picking up something I want and I mental think of five other things I can spend the money on. A $20 shirt is a gallon of milk, eggs..... "What is more important?" I ask myself. Or what value does that shirt have in my everyday life.
I agree how much money we can waste and I have my downfalls that I need to work on.
Great post

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Here here! I love the idea of it being a mindshift, a choice on what you do. That's very true. And the packaging thing? Absolutely true!

Mrsbear said...

I like the idea of changing my perspective, makes for a happier home I think when you stop feeling like a victim to your circumstances and start recognizing that everything is a conscious choice. Great post. Not preachy at all.

Kelly said...

I was raised in a home where saving money wasn't really a priority, but getting a fun toy (whether for the kid or the parents) or having that dinner out was. Now because they never planned, my parents are in a horrible financial position. My mom is disabled and my dad has been out of work off and on for the past 10 years. They have no savings and rely on help from family and the church to get by. I can't help but think that if they had been more frugal and planned when times were better, they would have had more of a cushion to fall back on now. The thing that blows my mind is - they still don't get it. I try to have conversations with them about spending and it just goes over their heads. Their attitude seems to be, "OK, we have a little money now so we better hurry up and spend it before we don't have any money anymore."

Contrast that with Jason's family. They raised 4 kids on his dad's very meager salary. It was important to their mom that all the kids have music lessons, but other than that, there were really no expenditures except on necessities. Jason and especially his younger brother are extremely frugal. Jason and I cheer when we get a good deal on something and if we want something (a trip, a piece of camping equipment) Jason studies it out for weeks, finds us the best deal and usually finds some sort of coupon to go along with it.

This is a long-winded way of saying that the way you are living and being smart about money is setting such a good example for your kids. In my early 20s I got into some credit card debt, mainly because I was living my life as my parents taught me. Then I realized I needed to change my ways and I did. It's too bad my parents couldn't have figured it out.

Mama Badger said...

I like the way you think about it. And making things from scratch is an adventure, not a chore, when you want to do it!

Sprite's Keeper said...

I completely agree that one should change their view from "I can't afford" to "I choose not to", that definitely makes it less negative while you're trying to do right admist a whole world of "must haves". Great Spin! You're linked!

Ellie Belen said...

It's good to know that there are so many people out there that think the same way. It means that common sense and good judgement is not as scarce as some would think. Great Spin

Jen said...

Not preachy in the slightest, I am that way too. I keep a firm grip on what we have, which means it gets used wisely and we get more value for it:) Jen.

Dawn said...

Not preachy in the slightest and I love how shifting the words makes it more positive and empowering. You make some very strong points about the link between forgoing convenient (and more energy-eating) things and 'from scratch'/off the grid.

Evenspor said...

Great post. I need to work on this. I was raised in a frugal home, but my husband was not, and he is a bad influence on me. (I lay all the blame on him, right?)

Sarah said...

You certainly are living a balanced life as well as a disciplined one. I admire that greatly. I could take a lesson or two or 10 from you!

Great post Patty!

Tricia said...

What language is this post written in, because I don't understand any of it! Hanging clothes to dry, baking from scratch - all phrases that I am completely unfamiliar with! :)

But really, I do agree with you and wish that I were better at this. I am not the most frugal person, and Jeremy is worse than I am. He practically laughs me out of a restaurant if I try to use a coupon!

I do agree with viewing choices on how to spend money as exactly that, choices. I get really annoyed when people tell me that they can't afford something essential when they have nice big screen tv's, video game systems, big houses, etc. Or when people judge me for choosing to spend my money on a vacation or something new. It's all about choices and everyone is going to have different priorities, and that's okay! I love that you have found ways to be frugal that you feel good about. You are a rock star!

CaJoh said...

I keep forgetting that it all starts with a change in attitude. I know that I need to save and have several strategies to do so, but now that I can be armed with an attitude to back up my decisions I can be a more conscious consumer.

Thank you for your inspirational words of wisdom,

a Tonggu Momma said...

I read that same column! And we also say "we choose to not spend money on such-and-such." It takes the power away from the money and places it back where it belongs - with us!

The amount of money one has doesn't need to dictate simple living... simple living is wonderful in it's own right - it's much better for the environment and it's so much more peace-filled.

Loved this post - you didn't sound preachy at all! (Or maybe that's just cuz I agree with you. Heh.)

only a movie said...

I am so with you on the packaging. I can't handle the packaging - even though I try to recycle everything, the packaging is ridiculous.

I also clean with my own home-made versions of things. No packaging, no chemicals. Cheap.

I try to hang my laundry out in the summer (when I'm not working), but have yet to get back into my routine. I think I'll go hang my sheets out right now.

See what you've done? Great post.