Frugal people lead a dull and boring life. Evenings spent clipping coupons. Saturdays spent scouring garage sales and flea markets. More likely to be seen at triple-coupon Thursday than Friday happy hour. Often settling for leftovers alone than lunch out with co-workers, driving instead of flying, hand-made over store bought, and another used car every six years as opposed to a new one every two. Yes, the frugal live a drab life of mediocrity. Or do they?
True, frugal folk do love a good garage sale and thrive on leftovers. Maybe it is an outwardly drab life to those of the happy hour crowd. Matthew 6:21 says, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." So where is your heart? What is important to you? Here is where our hearts are and how our frugality enables them.
Financial Stability - Budget, budget, budget. I meet lots of people who make plenty of money, but live month to month because they have no budget. The budget is how we find that extra money to fund the emergency fund, to pay off debt, and handle whatever comes our way. When we were getting out of debt, we squeezed that budget until it screamed. We bought generic, we made do with what we had, we lived like no-one else. And now, we have that stability, and that's tough to put a price on.
We may spend much less on food per month, but I guarantee that we eat better. While 'under-employed' and mid-way through our debt-snowball, I learned to make Crème Brûlée, empanadas, tapas.... the list goes on and on. Frugal cuisine that would have made Jeff Smith proud. This sacrifice, this intensity pays off not just now, but in the long run as well. We have college funds for the kids, and plan to pay their way. We have retirement accounts and plan to retire early. And as income permits, we'll pay the house off early. Think about that - no mortgage payment. Who's livin' large then?
Giving - This is important for everyone - Christian or not. Giving is good for your soul and makes you less selfish. Frugal folk, for the most part, are not these greedy, hording people that leach off of everyone else. They aren't. Actually, truly frugal people give as much as they get, sometimes more.
This is why the concept of freecycle.org has been so successful. There were plenty of times that we re-freecycled items after we were done with them. When you've payed nothing for it, then where is the attachment? Once it has served its purpose and outlived its usefulness, why keep it? The key is to spread this attitude to any of your possessions, and be prepared to give to those who truly are in need.
As Christians, we give to the church. Tithing is not only Biblically mandated, but also improves your spirit. Even in debt, scraping by on one income, we gave. It may not have been a full tithe, but we gave what we could. And we gave for the right reason - not because we expected anything in return, and not because God needs our money. We gave to be givers. As our favorite Priest always said, "As a church, we'll never have a money problem, only a faith problem."
Stewardship - Beyond giving, we work to be good stewards of all that has been entrusted to us.
We buy all natural and organic. We buy local. We reduce. We reuse. We recycle. We are all blessed with this planet and that is something worth putting some treasure towards. We support Environmental Defense in spirit and donations, as their ideals align with ours. Not spending our money frivolous, fleeting things allows us to truly put our treasure where our heart is.
We also give our time to worthy causes. It can be as simple as chaperoning a school field trip or as specialized as serving your community through public office or church committee. Being efficient in how our time is spent (shopping, commuting, socializing) allows us to to do this without a second thought. Through the rigors of the debt-snowball, we found time to teach Financial Peace University at our local church. The lives we touched there were many. Families payed off thousands in debt, learned to budget, save and invest, and maybe most importantly to do it together as a couple. How many marriages were saved at happy hour last week?
To wrap this up - our treasure is where our heart is, and our joy comes from there. Frugal =/= drab. Quite the contrary. We live life like none other. A cross-country conference for work can make for a pretty nice family vacation on the cheap. The feeling of seeing your actions and guidance change people's lives for the better is beyond compare. And you haven't lived until you've picked asparagus fresh from the garden, prepped it, wrapped it in all natural prosciutto and broiled it. No restaurant can touch that flavor and feeling. Now that is living extravagantly frugal.
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