Challenge vs Deprivation

 Posted by on August 28, 2010  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Aug 282010

Yesterday, I sent out over $8000 in bills. More than $5000 went to the hospital, to finally pay off our bills from DJ’s birth, and my husband’s knee surgery. Almost $1500 was for property taxes, and the rest was for our two credit cards, our utility bill, and our LP contract for the winter season.

We’re now completely, 100% debt-free again, and that’s a terrific feeling, but parting with that much money all at once is a challenge, especially since we have two other large bills – health insurance premiums and tax estimates – due next month. Money will be tight for a few months, but honestly…I’m OK with that.

I know this sounds odd. You’re thinking, “What? This chick is trying to tell me that she likes not having much money?” No, no…please don’t misunderstand me. What I’m trying to say is that I welcome opportunities to be extra thrifty, because it recharges my frugal batteries. I enjoy the challenge.

When my husband was in tech school, studying to be an auto mechanic, he very carefully planned his finances, and lived on a very tight budget, because he wanted to get through school without borrowing money. He brought his lunch every day, and he wanted to buy a thermos so he could bring milk, but it was actually cheaper in the short run for him to buy cartons of milk off the canteen truck. After careful research, he determined that it would save him more money in the long run if he bought a thermos and filled it with milk himself.

When he and I began to sell all of our stuff – the first step on our path to debt freedom – my husband confessed to me that he was a happier person when he had to budget for a thermos, than when he lived in his huge, brand-new house, with more “toys” than he could possibly play with. Sure, he didn’t have much money, but his life was simpler because he was free from the chains of debt.

It wasn’t easy for us to part with thousands of dollars to pay off our medical debt. In fact, it was a really tough decision, and we debated about whether we should do it, or continue to make payments every month for almost three more years. We decided that in the long run, our life would be simpler and happier if we just eradicated that debt and moved on. This means careful spending and decision-making, and sacrificing restaurant meals, vacations, and other luxuries, but when we look at the big picture, it’s worth it to us.

I think that fear of doing without keeps many people from embracing frugality. Naturally, no one wants to feel deprived, but I’ve learned that if we just apply a little creativity and ingenuity, my family can have a rich and wonderful life, without spending much money. For example, my husband regretted consigning the girls’ train table, because the following spring I became pregnant with DJ. He feels that every boy should have a train set, but of course we didn’t want to pay full price for a new one. Fortunately, he came across this Step 2 Deluxe Action Train Table at a garage sale. It was complete with all pieces, and a cover that changes the table into a writing surface.

It retails for $76.58 on Amazon, but after intense bargaining and negotiations, my husband snagged it for only $8.00. Our old train table was left behind by a rental tenant, and was never claimed after we notified him, so it cost nothing. Our consignment store sold it for $60, and we received 40% ($24). So even after purchasing a new train table, we still made a profit of $16 – and our kids got a great new toy that they love.

There are countless ways to do more with less, and I welcome experiences that really challenge my frugal brain to dig deeper, learn more, try harder. So…the next time you can’t afford a luxury, I ask you to think about this. Do you feel deprived? Or are you up to the frugal challenge?

I bet you are.



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