An amazing thing happened to my family and I while traveling the byways of credit and financial hell; we learned how to be frugal! Granted, while I was making a solid 6 figures a year, frugal to our family meant deciding to go to the Outback Steakhouse instead of Morton’s Steakhouse, or buying some new clothing items at Marshall’s or TJ Max instead of Macy’s or Saks.
If frugal is defined as sparing or economical with regard to resources such as money or food, truly I was neither sparing nor economical! When your new economic reality becomes living day to day, frugality becomes a ‘lifestyle’. In fact, Economists have created a new term for this condition as millions have been forced into living this very way; Forced Frugality.
When Life Gives You Lemons….
As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And that’s exactly what we did. I learned the true meaning of frugality is being smart with the resources you do have! One of the early blogs I read as I tried to wrap my mind around our new “lifestyle” was Katy Wolk-Stanley’s “The Non-Consumer Advocate” blog. As she says in her About Katy section, “I am here to help people learn to live on less” and I needed all the learning I could get!
What immediately struck me about Katy’s blog was her tagline; “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. This was not my first exposure to this mantra since I had read it in an article printed in the Chicago Tribune and written by Gregory Karp on June 26, 2011 titled, Spending Smart: Living Frugally, being happy the Amish Way. However, the way it now resonated with me… was new! There was a deep emotional and physical connection to those words because my family and I were now living them!
True Abundance In Simplicity
Lorilee Craker, author of the book “Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving” said that culturally, the Amish are so different from us because they are always hunkered down. It’s not, ‘Live it up’ and then, ‘Oh my gosh, we have no money’. Well, I can tell you that we were never ‘living it up’ nor did we just wake up one day and say, “Oh my gosh, we have no money!” But…we were definitely not hunkering down either!
What we did was spend money unwisely like tomorrow was guaranteed, being less than intelligent with our money making decisions, until I woke up and said, “Oh my gosh, we are heading toward financial ruin”! This blog is all about sharing my story and experiences of surviving credit and financial hell and you can read more about that journey throughout my other posts. The only thing that mattered once caught in that financial storm, was circling the wagons and surviving. Especially with two young children aboard that wagon!
Learning How to Be Happy the Amish Way
Craker went on to say in Gregory Karp’s article that many Amish enjoy their frugality and many seem to benefit from an inner peace that other Americans will never find as they attempt to keep up with the Joneses. “They’re not stressed out like we are. They’re not wondering, ‘How am I going to make my car payment”, she said. “They’re secure. They sleep peacefully because they know there’s money in the bank.”
Have you ever had a moment where suddenly everything becomes clear to you, the clouds move on, and you find some direction and inspiration? That’s what happened to me as I was forced into being frugal! As I said in my very first post; it is what it is…but will become what you make it! Excuse my French, but I no longer give a crap about the Joneses and what they have or think! My only concern became my family, having inner peace, and sleeping well at night! Maybe you know what I’m talking about
Frugality Is the New Cool
Yeah, OK, so I was forced into frugality. But I have accepted it like nothing I have ever accepted before in my life! Do you know why? Well again, if frugality is defined as sparing or economical with regard to resources such as money or food, doesn’t that mean learning how to better manage those resources and fine-tuning your personal values along the way; finding out what’s important to you? You better believe it does, which lends itself directly to step #1 of my 3 Steps You Must Take To Recover From Credit And Financial Hell post: change your mindset! And that’s exactly what I did!
I realized that being frugal wasn’t a label or a title someone gives you for being cheap. That’s a false perception of what the word really means! Hell, after letting everyone know my personal story of success and fortune, collapse and reinvention, there are probably a lot of our closest friends who now look at our lifestyle and feel sorry for us, like we’re suffering or something. And if they do; so what! I have found being frugal means learning good money and resource management and it’s a lifestyle we have fully embraced as a family! You need to remember and be conscious of the useful life of every single thing you have at your disposal; food, supplies, money, clothing – everything!
Craker said the mantra described the Amish’s reluctance to replace anything before it’s fully used and when it seems kaput, they look for ways to fix it or re-purpose it. Before, I was in the habit of simply throwing things away. Something broke – throw it away. Something not as shiny and new as it once was – throw it away. Fact is, we live in a “throw it away” society and I was gladly participating in it…but not anymore!
Welcome To The Village Of Frugality
One of the best parts of being frugal is the lesson we are teaching our children by creating a culture of frugality in our little village. Our children not only know they have to make do with what they have, but more importantly, they know and understand why! It’s also more than just a “live-within-your-means mind-set”; it’s an “embrace frugality” moment where they understand we are trying to make our lives better.
Frugality forced us to allocate our resources on goods and services that would provide us with the best value because having lived through credit and financial hell, we weren’t sure when the next time would come for us to purchase anything new again. This was a really scary time in our lives but it made me personally understand that new doesn’t mean ‘better’, that old or used doesn’t mean ‘not useful‘, and that being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap! To the contrary; being frugal is the smartest thing we have ever done…even if we were forced into it!
Have you been forced into being frugal? What lessons can you share about being frugal and how has it made your life better? Please lend your voice to this important conversation