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.