One of the things my wife and I both pride ourselves on is coming up with inexpensive and creative solutions for common problems. We like using white vinegar as a fabric softener – it’s inexpensive and accomplishes the same goal. We like eating leftovers. My wife just spent two weeks hand-sewing stuffed animals that she made for our children out of a pile of old sweaters she got for pennies from a used clothing store.
We’ve come to enjoy these things. We both take a lot of pleasure out of frugal projects and frugal choices in our life.
The joy doesn’t come directly from saving money, though that’s nice. Instead, our joy comes from the fact that we’re not wasting resources. We’re finding uses for things that would otherwise go unused or might get thrown away. We’re also discovering creative new uses for common things, like our use of white vinegar as a fabric softener.
The thing is, if our priorities were different, we could easily afford different solutions. We could buy the best laundry detergent and it wouldn’t break us. We could eat gourmet meals every night and our budget could handle it. We could just buy our kids new stuffed animals instead of making them.
Four years ago, I would have viewed the cheaper route as being the “deprived” route. I firmly believed that the more expensive option was the better option and, if you had the money for it, that’s the way you should always go. If you’re earning plenty of money, then you should be spending that money, right?
In a way, I almost looked down upon people who were frugal, particularly people who were actively choosing frugality over simply buying the best. I felt pride in my possessions and experiences – and I authentically looked at people who chose different paths as needlessly depriving themselves.
What changed? I found that, as I tried different tactics in my life, I was very happy when I could make something work well, especially when I didn’t expect it. I was honestly surprised when I discovered how well white vinegar worked as a fabric softener – and I wanted to share that discovery. My wife thoroughly enjoyed the process of making homemade stuffed animals – and she used the leftover material to make pot holders.
Eventually, I reached a point where I no longer felt like I needed to spend lots of money to find the best things in life for me. I found quite a bit more happiness in finding ways to do things that weren’t wasteful, in terms of money, time, or other resources.
Whenever I see someone look at frugal tactics and conclude that the person must be living a deprived life, I understand where they are coming from, because I was there not all that long ago.
What I’ve learned in the interim, though, is that a sense of being deprived – provided, of course, that your basic needs are met – is just a negative state of mind. All it does is convince you to spend more to make the feeling go away – and, at the same time, overlook opportunities in life that can help you get into better financial shape.
Frugality isn’t choosing to be deprived – it’s just a different way of looking at things.