The following post may read as sort of an admission. In a way, it is. A couple weeks ago we took a short family vacation, and for once, I had some time to slow down and do some thinking. Naturally, I thought a lot about my past, specifically where we have come from, financially. After all, it was just a couple years ago that we were skipping vacations to get out of debt.
I acknowledged to myself during one early morning sunrise viewing that even though I had persevered through those tough couple years, in many ways, I am the same person, with many of the same tendencies (good and bad) as I was in my spendthrift days.
The aforementioned brilliant sunrise that inspired my reflective mood, and ultimately, this post
Sure, I had successfully managed to suppress that side of my personality, but it was still there, waiting to rise up like a dormant virus looking for a weakened immune system.
After getting out of debt, my immediate mission was clear – building emergency savings. However, over time I’ve given into more frivolous spending than I care to admit. We have not accumulated new debt, but the opportunity cost of higher spending has been a slower savings rate the first half of this year than I would like.
Living Frugal is a Way of Life, Not a Short-term Diet Plan
All this brought me to a realization – I need more frugal outlets, more ways to spend my time that don’t cost a lot of money (or in fact, save money). On the surface, I enjoy frugal activities as much as the next person. The problem is, I don’t make them a regular part of my daily routine.
- I’ll get on a reading “kick,” check out a small pile of books from the library, and never finish them.
- I’ll build a coupon binder and start collecting the weekly coupon booklets, but never use them.
- I planted a square foot garden this year, but have neglected it.
It’s not that I necessarily dislike doing any of these frugal activities (well, I do admit, I don’t enjoy organizing the coupons – there, I said it!), it’s just that I can’t seem to find a groove and engage in these types of things day in and day out.
Instead, I often resort to watching mindless television, or browsing Amazon.com for “deals” on things I don’t really need, or wanting just to grab lunch out rather than brown-bagging it.
It’s almost as if I have two personalities – frugal and anti-frugal. Remember the old cartoons with the angel on one side and the devil on the other, tempting someone to do something wrong? That’s me. Only the devil is holding a credit card instead of a pitchfork!
So, I’ve decided that some people are just born frugal, while others have to acquire a taste for it. Much like some people are “born leaders,” but others develop leadership skills over the years.
Our upbringing, and a variety of external factors mold us into who we are today. I’ve had great role models, but they spanned the frugal scale. It seems I inherited much of the good, and some of the bad.
New Beginnings: Finding Contentment in Frugal Hobbies
Certain frugal activities just seem to come easy to certain people. Quite often, the common thread running through these naturally-frugal folks is contentment – they are just plain happy with what they have.
That isn’t to say the less frugal are necessarily ungrateful, but we often struggle to find balance between being content with what we have while giving into the temptations for newer shiny toys.
I plan to start adding in new frugal activities that I find enjoyable, and making them part of my routine. For instance, I need to get back to walking 10,000 steps a day, for the many health benefits, and because I generally like being outside. Other than a good pair of shoes, I need no fancy equipment to walk.
I’d like to start reading again, but maybe I’ll try a new genre and avoid the heavy, non-fiction material I’ve tried to work through in the past. Anyone read a good book lately?
My coupon strategy has to adapt, too. I’ll still look through the paper for coupons, and will use them when available for something I already planned to buy, but I won’t plan our entire meals around only items for which I have a coupon. That often requires us to eat things we don’t particularly like, or aren’t the healthiest choice.
Now, I have to run – time to clean up that garden!