A Royal Road To Frugal Living

Many excellent articles have been written offering useful, innovative tips on ways to save money. We’d like to take a different approach. Let’s look at what we call the “philosophy of frugal living.”

Don’t confuse “frugal” with “stingy”. What’s the difference? If you’re being frugal, you make use of the coupon in your Entertainment Book when dining out If you’re being stingy, you use the coupon as an excuse to under-tip the waiter. Being frugal is finding ways to save money where everyone benefits. Being stingy saves money at the expense of someone else.

Don’t make a budget and attempt to live on it! Instead, observe your spending habits over the course of a month and notice where your money goes and how the process feels to you. Are you spending a lot of money on something that you actually couldn’t care less about? Maybe you reflexively shop for a new outfit every Saturday. If you really love clothes, that might be exactly right for you. However, if what you really love is live theatre, your money would probably be better spent on show tickets and maybe even acting classes.

The point here is to pay attention to yourself and honor your own priorities rather than spending your money the way “everybody else” does. Some friends recently decided to spend a year traveling around the world. Needless to say, their travel expenses for that year were out of sight. However, they had no expenses for clothing (no job – hence no work wardrobe), Christmas presents or cards (an e-mail from Fiji to family and friends was as far as they went), or entertainment (finding themselves in a different country every few weeks proved to be plenty of entertainment).

Don’t buy what you can barter. As a young mother, I belonged to a baby-sitting coop. Members accrued “credits” by babysitting for other members. They could then spend their credits when they needed childcare. It was a terrific money-saving arrangement. More than that, though, it built a strong community with lasting ties between the families. Let yourself think creatively. If you love to decorate, cook, do photography, repair computers or do “handyman” jobs; you undoubtedly have neighbors who could use your services. See what they might like to offer you in return. You’ll be saving money and building friendships while doing what you enjoy.

Remember – generosity conquers fear. Often we focus on saving money because we’re afraid. We’re ruled by a model of scarcity rather than abundance. When you act with generosity, however, you master your fearfulness. Give a quarter to the homeless person, offer to help your neighbor move, bake that cake your husband loves that takes all day to make, smile at the grocery clerk (really, she’s going as fast as she can). Not only will you feel richer, you’ll find that it actually is true “cast your bread upon the waters and it will come back to you ten-fold.”

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