Have We Lost the Meaning of Frugality?

My grandparents were married during the Great Depression.  Their first few years together were spent in severe economic hardship, and the financial lessons they learned during that lean time never left them.

They always had one car.

My grandma wore the same dresses throughout my entire lifetime.  I think when she died, the dresses she still had were 25 to 30 years old.

They rarely went out to eat, opting instead to cook and eat simple meals at home.

My grandparents did without much of the time, and they were very frugal with their money.

They sold their house when they retired and lived in a 5th wheel trailer parked on the side of our lot, less than 20 steps from our house.  All of their possessions fit in that space, and their home was not cluttered.

Has the Meaning of Frugality Changed?

Now, the definition of frugal seems to be different.  People try hard to avoid doing without.

Now, the motto seems to be, “Why do without?”  Live like the Jones’ without spending money like the Jones’.

Whereas my grandparents carefully bought the groceries they needed, today’s frugal zealots clip coupons and create grocery storage spaces out of their garages.  They have rows and rows of processed food that they got for pennies on the dollar thanks to couponing.

Many mom bloggers are making their fortune sharing all the hottest deals available.  Kids’ winter jackets for $8!  Hurry, buy women’s turtlenecks for $4 today only!  Get your child the Barbie princess house for the low price of $48!

Hurry!  Hurry!  Buy the bargain.

Do You Really Need That Bargain?

So many consumers are on the hunt for a good deal that they never stop to ask themselves if they really need the item that is on sale.

What if your child doesn’t need the Barbie princess house?  What if your child has so many toys, she whines about picking them up and doesn’t take care of the ones she has?  Is that Barbie princess house still a good deal?

What if you never even thought about buying that item until you saw it on sale and didn’t want to miss out on the savings?

We’re Overwhelmed with Stuff

Look back at pictures of people’s homes from 60 or 70 years ago.  Their homes were not cluttered.  They were much more like the minimalists’ homes of today.

Now, we take advantage of so many “deals” that our homes are overflowing.  Here in Arizona where there are no basements, and therefore no built in storage, most people can’t park in their garages because they’re stuffed with possessions.

We don’t need all of this stuff.

Snagging a great deal on something we don’t need isn’t a deal.

It’s a waste of money.

Keep More Money in Your Pocket This Holiday Season

We’re entering into the busiest shopping season of the year.  There will be good deals, plenty of them.  You’ll likely be tempted to buy as many gifts for yourself as you will for others.  After all, the prices are so good.

But ask yourself one simple question–Do I need it?  If you don’t, it’s not a deal.

Do you think the definition of frugality has changed?  Do you or someone you know struggle with buying more than you need because something is on sale?

 

 

Do You Compare Your Finances to Others?

I belong to several Facebook groups, and recently, a woman in one group asked the seemingly innocent question, “What do you pay for cell phones and car insurance?”  She added, “We pay $180 a month for our cell phones and $345 a month for our car insurance.”

Say what?

When you read that number, you automatically think one of two things–“Wow, she’s paying a fortune for cell phones and car insurance!” (that was my initial thought), or, you think, “Sounds about right.”

Comparing FinancesA few of you may even think she’s getting a good deal.

My husband and I each carry a cheap cell phone from Tracfone that is for emergencies or occasionally checking in with one another.  We don’t spend any more than $10 to $20 a month on them.  Our car insurance is about $55 per month.  (We only have one vehicle.)

After reading how much this woman spent, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  But why?  I really don’t know her situation.  Her cell phone plan might include cell phones for the whole family.  Her car insurance is likely for multiple cars.  Maybe she has teenage drivers, or maybe she or her spouse has gotten a ticket recently.

Besides, I have no idea how much money she makes.  These bills might not be that extravagant in relationship to her income.

There’s really no point comparing my situation to hers.  To do so would invite complacency toward my own budget at best, and a loosening of the purse strings at worst because, hey, other people are spending a lot more than me.

The Only Time You Should Compare Your Spending to Others

Generally, I try not to compare my spending or budget to others.  Circumstances vary widely, and knowing another person’s exact financial situation is difficult.  Too often, especially online, we get a snapshot of someone’s finances and think we see the whole picture when we don’t.

We make assumptions of our own financial situations based on others.

Ultimately, we need to strive to do the best we can do with our own budgets.  To beat ourselves by spending less and/or saving more than we did the month before or the year before.

The only time it makes sense to look at someone else’s finances and spending is when they are doing considerably better than you, and you want to learn from and emulate them.  For instance, I knew my husband and I were spending too much for groceries.  One blogger I read has grown a large garden and planted fruit trees so that she can feed her family of 9 for less than $300 per month.  (Yes, you read that right.)

I know I won’t  ever have a grocery budget of $300 per month, but reading her techniques and strategies has encouraged me to cut my grocery budget and try to spend less.  It’s even inspired me to try out once a month shopping to reduce costs.

Ultimately, we shouldn’t compare our finances to others, but if we’re going to, we should only compare to those we wish to emulate.

Do you look at other people’s spending to make you feel better about your own or to motivate you to improve your finances?

Grocery Shopping Once a Month – Can You Do It?

My husband and I recently bought a house, and we’d like to plump up our emergency fund just in case we have a large house expense.  (Because, of course, when you have little savings, expensive things start to break.  It’s the law of nature, right?)

To inspire myself, I reread America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money by Steve and Annette Economides.  One strategy of theirs that I latched onto is once a month shopping.  The Economides shop once a month for their family of seven and right after shopping day, they make 15 to 17 freezer meals to help them on nights when they’re too busy to cook.

Alright, I already regularly cook freezer meals, so how hard could it be to shop once a month for my family of five?

As it turns out, very tough, at least the first month.

Grocery Shopping once a monthBreaking Bad Habits

I have a bad habit of making a big shopping trip on the weekend and then running to the store for this or that several times a week.

Do you do this, too?  From all of the harried shoppers I see at the store at 5 p.m., I’m guessing I’m not alone.

The problem is that each time I run to the store, I buy more items than I initially went to the store to buy.  The Economides recommend once a month shopping to avoid this kind of impulse buying that blows up the grocery budget.

Making the Big Shopping Trip

This month, eager to change my bad shopping habit, I scouted the deals and made my big, once a month shopping trip.  I spent two days afterward cooking up meals to put in the freezer.  I was set, or so I thought.

Turns out, limiting the impulse to stop by the store is more difficult than I thought.

There are a number of reasons why we’re struggling:

  • My husband likes fresh fruit and veggies.  Our family wiped these out after a week, so back I went to the store to pick up some more.
  • I’m an impulse eater.  If something sounds good to me, I want to make the recipe and have it for dinner.  I don’t want to wait until my next monthly shopping trip to get the ingredients to make it.  (The whim would have passed by then, which is the point, I guess.)
  • Eating up odds and ends at the end of the month is not fun.  Sure, trying to make meals out of what food is left is fun, but the last few days, most of it doesn’t taste good.

Taking Baby Steps Moving Forward

While it would be easy to give up on the idea of once a month shopping, I haven’t yet because I know it can be a big money saver.  Instead, I’m going to back up and move to twice a month shopping.  This will allow me time to plan out our meals for two weeks, making sure we have all the ingredients we need.  Many fruits and veggies stay good for nearly two weeks, so my husband will have the fresh fruits and veggies that he wants.

I don’t know if I’ll ever fully implement once a month shopping, but if I am successful with twice a month shopping, I will still significantly reduce my impulse shopping trips and improve my grocery budget.

How often do you grocery shop?  Are you a multiple trip, impulse buyer like I am (was?), or are you a grocery store ninja?