Friday, April 11, 2008

Am I frugal?

Mrs. Darling at Dishpan Dribble has raised the question of “What does frugal look like to you?” This is a topic I have pondered about a lot. I honestly don't know if we are frugal. I do a lot of things that might be considered "frugal" and blow it elsewhere. (Overall, we don't "blow" it much.) I shop carefully and rarely. It's easier for me not to buy if I don't see what’s available! :-) My husband is often required to go to business lunches, but we are lucky if we eat out once a month. The last movie my husband and I saw was Phantom of the Opera when it first opened. My children have been inside a movie theater maybe twice. We check out videos and DVDs from the library frequently but don’t rent or buy movies. We try very hard to avoid using credit cards. Unfortunately we learned firsthand how difficult it can be to pay those off. We use tax refunds for the extras that we aren’t prepared to handle and to pay off old debts. We used some this year for storing more wheat and other food in our year’s supply. Because we are careful (and because we have been tremendously blessed), we are able to enroll our children in “extras” like gymnastics, swimming, and taekwondo.

Several years ago, I felt particularly guilty for not working to help pay off our debts when I ran across an article that showed how much money a second income earner has to make in order to bring home $200 a month. At the time, it was about $50,000. They figured in wardrobe, gas, day care, more frequent restaurant expenses, etc. as part of the cost of working. I quickly figured up some of the costs that I saved us by not working (including one vehicle at the time and baking my own bread), and I tallied up well over $200 in savings. Actually I totaled $200 just by baking my own bread---it’s the quality and varieties of bread from a top-notch bakery! I have compared!

I remember someone (quite wealthy) teaching at a financial seminar that we are where we choose to be. He explained that he and his wife had been broke, and they had become wealthy. Both were due to their decisions. (He was presenting this quite humbly as he credited the Lord for the opportunities they had, but he pointed out that he had some of the same opportunities earlier and had not chosen to take them.) As my husband and I mulled over that, we realized he was absolutely right. At the time, we were struggling and my husband was not making very much money at all. That may have been the year we qualified for a tax refund even though we paid no taxes. (I hated receiving that check!!! In my opinion, the government had no right to demoralize us in that way! We were surviving and taking care of our family with no governmental aid.) We chose to listen. We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we are in no danger of receiving another undeserved tax refund.

I look at people that I am acquainted with through church and feel so badly for them. I see the person begging at the local drugstore and help. We do what we can. We contribute financially to trusted organizations and donate clothing and goods to Goodwill. I always remember how grateful I was for the person that donated Buzz Lightyear and Woody so I could buy them for a couple of dollars. There was no way I could have bought them new at the time! Yet I know that the bit of help I can provide for another is nothing next to what they can do for themselves if they change their decisions. Some of them do things with money that I wouldn't because I don't think I can afford it---but maybe it's more correct to say I won't afford it. But we aren’t in the position to feel self-righteous because we have not attained our goals either. (I don't think we'll have that right even when we do.) So maybe it is just a process of learning. Or maybe it’s a process of being grateful for all the blessings we have been given and the help that has been ours. That’s something I’m trying to be better at too.


Mrs. Darling said...

Enjoyed your thoughts on this. And its so true that if you have two incomes you have to make a huge amount of money to come out ahead of staying home!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I love that line: "I won't afford it."