Last summer, when a reporter from our local newspaper interviewed me about this blog, I was quoted as saying that despite being debt-free, my husband and I continue to practice “active frugality.” What I meant by this is that we employ all the same frugal practices, but for different reasons. Paying off our mortgage didn’t give us an excuse to spend, because we still want to give our children a good education, and prepare for retirement. Our goals have changed, but our way of life hasn’t.
I also said that many people fail to embrace frugality because it requires effort and patience. This is true, but when I think back on that interview now, I wonder if I made a mistake in saying those things, because I might have unnecessarily scared people away from the frugal lifestyle by giving them the impression that frugality is all work and no fun.
Actually, we think our thrifty lifestyle is very fun because it’s created time for us to do the things that are most important to us. Yes, we buy our clothes at garage sales, and cook from scratch, and do our own car repairs, and those things definitely save money, but I think that what we don’t do is the real essence of our frugality.
Frugal zealot, Amy Dacyczyn, once pointed out that the concept of passive frugality is very difficult to get across. Whenever she was interviewed, photographers would always want pictures of her doing frugal activities, like hanging laundry or baking bread, but they never wanted to photograph her bypassing the junk food aisle in the grocery store, or zooming past McDonalds without stopping. However, she often felt that what she chose not to do was of the most significance, and had the greatest impact on her family’s lifestyle.
We live in a consumer culture, and each of us is faced with countless decisions every day about how to spend our money. Have you ever thought about all the things you didn’t buy? All the times you said no to a purchase, whether it be a dollar store trinket that you didn’t really need, or a brand new car that you did need, but passed on because a used car would get the job done? Often, what we don’t do, or buy, or participate in can save even more than what we do (I was going to add another “do” here, but it made me laugh, and then question my emotional maturity). Here are just a few examples from our life:
1) We don’t live in chaos, because we know that disorganization wastes time and money.
2) We don’t buy a lot of convenience foods.
3) We don’t drive over the speed limit, because we don’t want to risk costly fines, and higher insurance rates (or our safety).
4) We don’t pay monthly auto and homeowner’s insurance premiums, because paying our entire premium in advance saves $120 per year in service charges.
5) We don’t pay for car washes.
6) We don’t own smart phones, because we can buy standard phones for a penny, and we don’t want to pay $30 extra each month for a data plan.
7) We don’t text, because we don’t want to pay for it (also I hate it!)
8) We don’t keep up with technology. We try to make do with what we have until it quits working.
9) We don’t insure anything we can afford to lose.
10) We don’t pay interest. Ever.
11) We don’t pay people to do things we can do ourselves.
12) We don’t pay for childcare. The kids’ grandparents occasionally babysit them, but most of the time we keep our children with us. (we do this for more than financial reasons).
13) We don’t waste food.
14) We don’t pay for personal grooming services, except for haircuts for the girls and me.
15) We don’t keep up with the Joneses.
That last one kind of says it all.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg, and now it’s your turn. Tell me in the comments about the little things you don’t do to save money. I’ll compile a big list, and post it so we can all share ideas, and recharge our frugal batteries, so to speak.