Friday, May 30, 2014
Frugal Friday..........Frugality: It isn't a poor person thing, its a smart person thing!
A few weeks ago I was standing in line at the library waiting to check out the stack of books and movies my daughter and I had selected. Standing in front of us was a woman and her son, they had an impressively large stack of items that the son was struggling to hold. Fed up with the armload the woman's son sat the books on the table beside the line and began arranging the books to better fit his arms. A few books I have read in the past came tumbling off the tower of books and landed in the check out aisle and I immediately recognized them. The books were about frugal living and saving money. I stepped closer and bent down to give them a helping hand when I heard the mother scold her son in a loud whisper, "hurry up and hide those books, we don't want people thinking we are poor!" The boy who looked to be about my own daughters age, anxiously glanced around him while fumbling to hide the frugal living books under the piles of other items they were checking out. I was immediately filled with pity and sadness for this mother and son who were now sporting bright red faces and trying to plaster fake smiles on their faces. Unfortunately what I had witnessed just then really illustrates our current societies attitude regarding frugality.
Not too many generations ago frugality was looked upon as a worthy virtue, it had no barring on whether or not someone was "rich" or "poor" but rather was a show of character and brains. Most everyone was frugal in one way or another, it was a way of life that demonstrated good stewardship, appreciation and a good head on your shoulders. A man, no matter if they were considered rich or poor, was considered a fool and of weak moral fiber if they did not practice frugality.
Nowadays our society has made the word "frugal" an ugly word and has attached shame it. My only guess to why we have taken such a drastic turn from our roots in this matter, is that the recent generations of Americans have become more materialistic and consumption driven than any generation in our past. We have fallen into the "bigger is better" mentality and are obsessed with what other's think of us. We place our value of ourselves and of each other on material items and how things appear on the outside. This type of thinking as driven the notion that only the poor and less worthy are frugal. The real truth however is quiet the opposite.
Some families that are poor in finances may have to be more frugal out of necessity, this is true, but not all folks who are low on funds practice frugality. In fact, many people who consider themselves "poor", actually would not be as much so if they were a bit more frugal. Sadly societies definition of what is poor is strongly mis construed. Even if you have very little money, you can be rich in more ways than even the top financially wealthy people in our country. Money is only a small part of it and even so, American families who live at the poverty line or below have more money that most of the worlds population.
Many families who are not struggling with finances choose to be frugal as well. These families might not have to be frugal just so they can put food in their bellies but they make the choice because to them it is a matter of character and because it is the smart thing to do. I read a study a few years ago about millionaires that really made me think. The study showed that most super wealthy people are extremely frugal. These people drive older vehicles, live in homes that are nowhere near luxurious and appear to their neighbors as average low to middle class folks. They are wealthy because they are frugal, they are wealthy because they are smart with their money and resources. Oh sure there are lots of wealthy people who love to show off their money, big houses, fancy cars, lots of shiny things, you know the type. This type of person usually has poor relationships, is internally unhappy, over stressed and of low character. I want none of those things and I am sure many others would agree.
My husband and I confuse many people I am sure, especially those who know enough about us to know how much my husbands salary is. We are very frugal yet my husband earns a wonderful living. People often assume we are stingy and cheap if they know his salary or if they don't they assume we are poor because of our frugal ways. Truth is we are neither. We choose to live in a way that is a reflection of our beliefs and what we consider to be of good character. It is important to us to be good stewards with what we have been blessed with, to do anything less would be wrong in our eyes. Does this mean we are rolling in the dough while we spend very little? Not at all. While we do have a very decent income we also have some not so decent medical bills that we have to pay every month. Also we like the idea that the more we save means we can give more. If more people were frugal then more could be given to others so that we may all survive. We have higher goals for our money than to spend it all on material things and to some this seems silly. Stewardship, wisdom, character and security are far more important to us than having shiny things to dangle in front of others. We live in a very average modest home. According to the banks assessment of our income we could qualify to live in a home twice if not three times the value of our current home. But why struggle to pay a bigger mortgage and be stressed out when a more affordable option is just as good and frees up more money and resources for other goals. We have lived in much larger and fancier homes and truth is they didn't make us more happy just more stressed. As a stay at home mom I can tell you I have much better things I could be doing with my time than cleaning 5th bathrooms spread out across 3 different floors! Never again!
I am not trying to say that there are not those who truly struggle on a daily basis and for whom frugality is the only way to survive. I am also not saying that we are better than others for choosing to be wise with our money when it may not be a necessity for our family. (Trust me, we have made plenty of unwise choices in our marriage but we have learned from all of them and if anything they have taught us the value of living frugally.) What I am saying is that being frugal is a good idea and way of life for everyone. The poor and the rich can be frugal or not, thriftiness isn't really a good way to judge someones financial wealth but it can be a good way to judge someones priorities and moral fiber. I know plenty of people that earn very little yet appear wealthy because they eat out constantly, live in a fancy home and have expensive vehicles and toys. These same people struggle with making it from pay check to pay check, are up to debt to their eyeballs and are unhappy and over stressed trying to have it all and live above their means. A frugal person that earns more money is far wiser than a poor person that has lots of "stuff" because they are frivolous with their money, yet on the outside the more financially wealthy frugal man appears to be the poor one. Its all about perception of reality and finding those lost priorities that our parents and grandparents had right generations ago. Being frugal is nothing to be ashamed about but rather should be celebrated. In truth, frugality has very little to do with how much money you have in your bank account, it has everything to do with how much character you have in your heart.