Friday, 23 March 2012

Frugal Fridays: Why I Choose A (Relatively) Frugal Lifestyle

I’m planning to discuss frugality with you on Fridays. I love alliteration! But more to the point, living within my means is very important to me. It's part of having everything - because you can't have everything when you can't pay your bills.

I know a lot of people hear me say that I believe in being frugal and think I’m saying that I’m a cheapskate. Being frugal is not the same thing as being cheap. Frugality means living without waste. Being frugal means spending wisely. Sometimes this does mean spending less than you previously have, but what it mostly means (to me) is spending in ways that are meaningful to you, and managing your money so it's just one part of your wonderful life instead of the issue that dominates it.

I choose a frugal attitude for a few reasons I find compelling:

I believe in leading a sustainable lifestyle.
Take a moment to think about how many packages of paper towels you buy in a year: they’re all in landfill right now. Doesn’t that worry you? For me, spending wisely and considering whole-of-life costs for my purchases is frequently aligned with making sustainable choices. When I look at whole-of-life costs for my purchases, it’s incredible how often the option that costs less over its lifetime is also by far more sustainable. When you waste less of your financial resources and waste less of the world’s finite physical resources, you deserve a gold star.

I don’t want to be a sucker.
We all know at least one person who is constantly complaining about being broke – or who manages their financial situation so poorly that you use them as an anecdote. That’s not going to be me. And if that’s you, it’s time to stop being a sucker. Do you WANT to be the sucker who’s trying to figure out how to pay your overdue bills because it’s ‘too hard’ to budget and manage your money wisely? I don’t. I'm not the girl who spends her entire pay on a single outfit (or a single night of partying!) and then has to live on packet noodles for a fortnight. Because that girl - and I apologise in advance if that's you - she's an idiot.

It’s liberating to ‘break up’ with consumerism.
When your self-worth is tied up in having the latest, best, shiniest whatever-it-is, you’re trapped. You’re only as cool as your new gadget or your designer outfit. You feel the pressure to keep up with the purchases of everyone around you. Unless you have unlimited money, you simply can’t keep up with the latest trends and fads – so why not set yourself free from that prison? When I broke up with consumerism, it was a light bulb moment for me. Loving what you already have gives you freedom. Feeling content with your life is a wonderful feeling.

I have big plans.
My life right now is awesome. I have a stable, well-paid job, I’m studying at a post-graduate level, and I live with my Perfect Boyfriend in his cool little apartment. That’s a great life! But you know what? I have so many plans for what I want to do with the next fifty years. I want to buy a house and turn it into my dream home. I want kids. I want to read every book on the surface of the planet, learn how to decorate cakes professionally, crochet toys, go on adventures, build a garden from scratch, own a big slobbery dog, and generally have a lot of fun. I love my life now, but I also love the life I know I'm going to have. So why would I steal from my own future self by getting into unnecessary debt or spending every cent I earn instead of saving? I’ll need that money later on. Which brings me to my next point…
Money brings opportunities.
If it’s three days until payday and you only have $5, your opportunities are limited. But if you budget and save, you have money at hand when opportunities arise. Say you buy your lunch at work every day, which in Perth means spending $50 a week. If you had that $50 in your bank account, when your friend called you to see if you wanted to go see a movie, you could have said yes. That’s a choice you didn’t have before. If you let that $50 build up into $300 over a period of six weeks, you could have bought that new suit you’d been coveting that suddenly got slashed to half price instead of watching someone buy the last one in your size, because uh oh, you don’t have the cash and your cards are maxed out. If you save that $50 for a whole year, you have an emergency fund of $2600 so that when your car breaks down, you aren’t choosing between walking six kilometres to work every day and asking your dodgy uncle for a mob loan to pay for your repairs. Money allows you to take advantage of opportunities. Being broke is a synonym for having no options.

Money isn’t everything.
When you start spending wisely and meaningfully, it forces you to make conscious choices about what matters most to you. It puts money in its place. You’ll focus on what you really want in life – not on what you want to buy. When spending money and then subsequently running out of money is your modus operandi, you're too busy stressing out about your financial situation to enjoy life. And there are a lot of things in this world to enjoy, many of which cost nothing at all.

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