May 26, 2009

Why are you frugal, or semi-frugal, or resourceful?

After I wrote yesterday's post "What do you splurge on?" it occurred to me that maybe I should have started with the question "Why are you frugal?" Because there's no point in being frugal for the sake of being frugal. There needs to be a reason, which ranges from sheer necessity (for example, you live on a fixed income or you're trying to support a family on minimum wage or you've been laid off from your job) to all manner of lifestyle goals and ideals.

One of my readers suggested that if I was uncomfortable with the term "frugal," perhaps I should substitute "resourceful." I like that. It brings to mind a sensible person, cheerfully making do with their circumstances. Creating a gourmet meal out of forgotten pantry items, making a cozy home in the wilderness, sewing stylish clothing out of burlap bags. Sort of a cross between Marmie from Little Women and MacGyver (ingenious uses for everyday items).

So WHY am I resourceful? There are many reasons, but they mostly revolve around wanting to create a lifestyle that meshes with my values and goals. The values have to do with non-consumerism and protecting the environment and trying not to use more than my fair share of the earth's resources. The goals involve wanting to work less, while at the same time doing work I enjoy and having control over my own schedule.

It all comes down to priorities. Mine have just never been to have a big house, an expensive car, lots of jewelry, or STUFF. They've always had more of an experiential element, and include doing work and activities I love, having time for my husband and friends, and not being tied down to a schedule. Also, living on less lets me feel more in control and less panicked if my husband or I get less work or if the economy takes a turn for the worse. Having money for an emergency and not living on credit means that we're not so dependent on jobs or the economy.

If I gave the impression yesterday that I was frugal just so I could spend money on travel, boots, and spas, that's not the case. I do splurge on some things, but they're not the overall point of a frugal or resourceful lifestyle. Joining The Compact was an extension of the way I was already living rather than a radical experiment, and I've realized that even more because nearly five months later, I've had hardly any challenges or temptations to wrestle with.

I'm not trying to recruit members for The Compact, but I guess in a way I AM trying to relate how simple it is to live on less. Maybe give a little hope to people who are doing it by necessity. How it can actually be creative, invigorating, and yes... fun! Because believe me, if you saw our lifestyle, I don't think anyone would call it deprived. Except for maybe someone like Donald Trump, who I would consider the exact opposite of me. It's hard to believe we're the same species, really. The only thing I can think of that we have in common is a thick head of hair. But then again, his is probably fake.

Why are you frugal, or semi-frugal, or resourceful? Or do you prefer another label entirely? Please tell us your thoughts in the Comments section.


WilderMiss said...

Not trying to say that I'm the most frugal person out there, but I define frugal as living nicely below your means and I do that.

For me it's just a natural way of life. I love saving. It gives me an absolute thrill. Even as a kid whenever I recieved money as a gift I'd make my mom take me to the bank so that I could deposit it in my account. I was saving for an Alfa Romeo (I think I was about 5). Luckily my tastes became more practical before I actually bought a car!

For me having money in the bank is freedom. It's absolutely possible that I could lose my job and be out of work for a few months due to the economy but I don't worry about it too much becaue I know I'll be ok. In fact, if that were the case I'd probably take off to New Zealand for a month. Having savings gives me a little more control over my own life.

Just like you said, it's all about priorities. I spluge on plenty of things (outdoor gear comes to mind), but I can afford it due to other choices (such as an inexpensive appartment and a roommate) so I know I'm still acting responsibly. Would I like to have a lovely appartment in a fancy highrise? Sure. But I'd rather have my financial wiggleroom/time free from work/etc etc.

Meg said...

I've always liked bargains & have been resourceful, but unfortunately I'm paying for a few years where my husband and I definitely lived above our means. It also didn't help that he was having a hard time finding work, but we definitely didn't let that stop us from spending.

But while much of our initial motivation was paying down debt, we now pride ourselves on our frugality, green habits, simple (or at least simpler) living, uncluttered-ness, etc. We've come a long way and while we're not 100-item minimalists or off-the-grid, we feel like we're more and more part of the solution instead of the problem. And it's nice to have more time -- and money, too -- for what's really important to us.

Karen said...

My main motivation is freedom. By being more sensible with money, my husband was able to give up a job he disliked and retrain in woodland management. Everyone was surprised we could give up his salary but we haven't really felt constrained. I want to make more cut-backs so I also have the freedom to make career changes (when I work out what I want to do!).

Longer term we want to get out of the city and buy land. That means some serious saving needs to be done.

Jinger said...

Being resourceful allows me to work only part time after 25+ years of teaching. We have what we need and sometimes what we life is rich in experiences, family, friends and creativity. Living large on Little is my mantra!

tillytoo9 said...

Just found you, wanted to wish you luck, and let you know I'll be following along.

And, LOVE, the boots. Have similar habit.

simplyvarga said...

I've always been interested in simplicity and how frugality can be a component of a simple life. I am also very much interested in being a good steward of the resources in my life, whether they be money, time, "stuff" i already possess or natural resources i share with all living things. I've been more and less frugal at various points in my life, usually dependent on our financial circumstances. As with so many others in these difficult times, my income has been reduced and future income is not something I can count on. It is necessary to be extremely frugal to afford our obligation and finance the extras that are meaningful to us. That said, I relish the challenge and am excited about the opportunity I have to teach my children about money and stewardship. Working together has really brought our family closer.

Marylyn said...

I really have had no choice.

Anonymous said...

In "your money or your life" they talk about determining whether you really get the value for the "life energy" (work required to earn a dollar). It sounds like you have done that calculation, and you spend money only on things that are of a high value to you. So I think you are on the right track.

PS I love those boots!!!

Angela said...

Thanks for all your comments. I love hearing everyone's perspective.

Wildermiss- I wonder how long it would take a 5-year-old to save for an Alfa Romeo. I was 5 when I started saving to buy a horse.

Meg- I like that- feeling more like part of the solution instead of part of the problem. And having more time and money for the things that are important to you. Congratulations!

Karen- Good luck with the career changes. Thanks for coming by!

Jinger- Living large on little sounds good to me.

simplyvarga- Thanks for your comment. That's a great way to approach life and its challenges- with relish.

Marylyn- Of course many people don't, and I have been in that group most of my life because of income. I attribute my good fortune of a generous income that gives me the flexibility to work less to joining a union. My income tripled overnight. I still believe in unions.

anonymous- Your Money or Your Life is at the top of my reading list. I've heard so much about it and it sounds right up my alley. Thanks!

Tillytoo9- Thanks for the encouragement and I do hope you come back and join in the conversation again!

Anonymous said...

In the past I had not choice, I want to be able to do so again.

I want to use money for things that increase my quality of life. Right now that means things that buy me time: someone to mow & weed, someone to clean my house every fortnight (I do a interim clean of the kitchen), the financial freedom to eat out and buy Trader Joe's frozen dinners.

I don't like waste.

I don't want to be a pampered whiner. Sometimes circumstances impose discipline upon me, sometimes I have the luxury of imposing it upon myself.

tammy said...

I was raised in a family that did not have enough. I saw and heard and felt a lot of tension and stress over money. Not spending was a primary goal in our household when I was a child.
As an adult, I still feel that same panic when I realize there may not be "enough". Therefore, I am frugal by nature and by necessity. I'm in the arts and mostly freelance. Some months are great and some are not, making it necessary to be cautious and budget and practice frugality.
Mostly it's a cheerful practice! I realized money is what we exchange life energy for (Your Money or Your Life) and frankly, my life energy is not worth a $900 purse or $200 blouse!

Non Consumer Girl said...

I'm not a big fan of the term "frugal".

I like to think of it from the other angle of using my resources in the best way I can.

This means not being wasteful, being creative in how I live my life and not being directed to what I should purchase by advertising executives.

I like to have the freedom to choose and consciously make the decisions about what I purchase.

Betsy Talbot said...

I have not always been frugal. In fact, I've been both sides of the before/after "don't do this, kids" poster.

We became frugal out of necessity, to pay off debt. But once we did that, we just kept being frugal. And then we started a business. And still lived frugally. And now we're saving up for a trip around the world...and still living frugally.

I wouldn't go back to the lifestyle we had before. I had more stuff, but I certainly didn't have more freedom or even a tenth of the security I have now.