A commenter on “For a SHIRT?!,” Abby’s recent post about the cost of clothing, nailed it in the last sentence of her comment:
“Frugality isn’t always about not spending money – it’s about spending it wisely.”
Bravo, SherryH. You nailed it, SherryH.*
Mind your money (or it minds you)
Call it frugality, call it intentional living, call it smart spending, call it whatever you like – it’s basically just being smart with your money. For the past 10 years I’ve been writing about personal finance, with an emphasis on being mindful with money. Make the right choices for your life, and your cash, and you will sleep a lot better.
Buying whatever you want, whenever you want it – even if you can’t afford it – is still possible for many because of the availability of credit. According to a study from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 16 percent roll over $2,500 or more in credit card debt every month.
The trouble with a steady spending habit is that it sets the enjoyment bar pretty high. Meals out, frequent shopping trips, satellite TV and radio, better-quality vehicles and fabulous entertainment start to become needs rather than wants. Life’s little extras and perks are no longer treats – they’re the bare minimum of acceptable.
Making conscious decisions
Hesitating over a purchase is mindful, not miserly, because credit card debt can torpedo your budget – and maybe your life, if you wind up declaring bankruptcy.
Here’s the beauty part: When you do decide to spend, it’s great. I explain why in the soon-to-be-published** Your Playbook For Tough Times, Vol. 2: Needs AND Wants Edition:
“Saying ‘no’ or ‘not today’ doesn’t just improve the bottom line. It also enhances the occasions when you do say yes. A really nice meal out or tickets to the opera or the monster truck rally feel super-special precisely because you don’t get them all the time.
“I love steak, probably because I rarely eat it – but when I do, wow, is it ever great. Would I enjoy it as much if I ate it twice a week? Probably not.
“Again: I’m not saying you should never buy anything. Frugality does not translate as ‘a life of joyless self-denial.’ What it does mean is making conscious decisions about what’s right for you and your money.”
Being responsible in the present
The operative word is “choice.” Choosing to spend less means freedom, which may sound counterintuitive. But reined-in spending is not the same as hoarding every penny in case something terrible happens. What you’re actually doing is directing your dollars so that something wonderful will happen: a vacation, a home of your own, an early retirement.
Don’t have any goals? Start dreaming. Once you’ve decided what you want, focus your funds on what matters most, rather than drifting through life without a clear plan. Fact is, most of us won’t win the Powerball or have a wealthy aunt remember us in her will. Our goals will be met by the dollars and cents that we set aside.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how the relatively small things you give up today – daily lunches, weekly mani-pedis, seats at courtside instead of up in the middle section – will make a big difference decades down the road. But you are responsible for that future, which means being responsible in the present.
Forget what others say and focus on your own goals. You worked to earn that money and each dollar should be working for you. Hard.
*SherryH is a writer herself. Check out her blog, Blind Not Invisible.
*The book will be available on Amazon and Kindle, but the most frugal way to get it is as a PDF from my website. Once it’s published I’ll be sweetening the pot: Everyone on my mailing list will get a discount code that makes the e-book just $5. Interested? Send your name to SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com. I promise never to sell your info, and I also promise not to spam you.