Photo courtesy of Thinking Tree
Last week I mentioned our project to cut the cost of watching television for one year. That project recently came to an end, and after some internal discussion as a family we decided to sign back up for the expanded cable service (not digital, not high-definition, no movies – just the regular cable lineup). The decision was an easy one for our family, but a controversial one amongst readers.
Long-time reader, Robert, called me out:
Jason, I have been following your posts for a few months now and as an outsider looking in, it kind of seems like you may be on a financial diet vice a financial lifestyle change.”
My gut reaction was to be a little defensive, but then I realized in a way, Robert was right.
A Diet or A Lifestyle Change
When people start and fail a new “diet” plan they are often told to make a lifestyle change, rather than embark on a fad diet. It’s good advice, because diets come and go, but lifestyle changes stick. In some ways I have been on a spending diet, because early on in our financial turnaround it was required to free up some cash to use towards debt reduction, and to build our savings.
Now that we have a little breathing room, we are relaxing that spending “diet” some to allow back in a few “quality of life” expenses that we missed. For instance, cable was something we missed for the entertainment value it brought. The monthly cable bill is cheaper than a night out at the movies for a family four.
This phase is commonly referred to as “maintenance” in the dieting world. It’s the phase where you reintroduce carbs or fats or whatever it is that you restricted during your weight-loss phase, and it is by far the most dangerous time. If you let too much back in you start putting weight back on, and if you allow too many new expenses to rack up you’ll suddenly find yourself right back in debt and living paycheck to paycheck.
A Frugal Lifestyle Not Without Luxuries
One of the things I’ve tried to stress here at Frugal Dad is the idea that you can live frugal and still enjoy life. You don’t have to live a spartan existence, or be completely miserable, to lead a frugal lifestyle. In fact, most frugal people I know are quite happy. Having nice things and being frugal don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I have a few nice things I am proud of, but I make sacrifices in other areas to balance things out. I try to avoid waste, but I don’t mind spending money to get a good value.
What Robert was right about was that my dedication to minding expenses was beginning to weaken. It was a wakeup call I needed, and I appreciate his willingness to tell me. Oddly enough, when things are going well, financially, we tend to let down our guard. When things are going bad we make penching pennies our top priority. I like to think I’m usually somewhere in the middle, but I occasionally need reminders like this to make me lean more towards the side of penny-penching.