20 July 2013

Is this All Just About Frugality?


When we started out on this journey it was all about frugality, with a little survival thrown in. Over time though, it has morphed into something else entirely. Yes, frugality is still a big part of our Cheapskates lifestyle, but it's not the main part.

I have come across and even met people who are so focussed on frugality that they have lost the joy in living. They are so focussed on saving money that they miss out on the things they would truly enjoy just to save a dollar.  In their quest to save money they have become mean, and not just with their money, but with their sense of charity, their humour, their compassion, sympathy and empathy. They have forgotten why they chose to live a frugal life and live in loneliness and despair, scared to enjoy the fruits of their frugal ways.

That's not what we're about. Yes, we deliberately look to save money. That's just commonsense. Why pay more than you have to for something? But we don't sit in the cold because it's not cold enough to turn the heater on (when is it by the way? I always say not before Mother's Day but that's just a guide). We don't strain our eyes by only having one 40 watt light bulb burning, and we don't risk stubbing a toe because we only have one light on at a time. And we most definitely don't starve ourselves or run the risk of rickets because we only eat mince and rice.

Yes, I make my own washing powder (and if you haven't tried it may I suggest you do?). That's just commonsense. For around $10 and 5 minutes I can have enough of the best washing powder I've ever tried to last for a year. Why would I pay six or more times that price for a washing powder that makes my daughter itch unbearably and that causes us all to sneeze when we put clean clothes on?

And I cook from scratch. I actually like it these days. Pre-Cheapskates I didn't enjoy cooking at all. These days I take pride in serving delicious meals to my family, knowing they are budget-friendly, as well as nutritious. When I look at the shelves and see the jars of jams, apricots, tomatoes and sauces sitting there I feel a little satisfaction, knowing that the fruits of my labours (literally) will feed my family in through the coming winter.

So often the perception is that if you live life the Cheapskates way you don't buy anything new.  You don't eat out or go to the movies, you don't have holidays, all your clothes are secondhand and your home is sparsely furnished with rubbish. 

We don't eat out every week, but we do eat out on special occasions. And we always enjoy the meal. I think it's because it is special, something different to our normal meals.  There is the saying that what you don't cook yourself always tastes better, I think that's because it's a treat, something out of the ordinary.  When we eat out we can afford to go somewhere fantastic because we don't do it regularly, we haven't used all our money on run-of-the-mill meals. We've saved for one truly special meal. And you know what? Most of the time it costs under $50 for the two of us, often with a voucher, sometimes without.

Living frugally isn't about going without. It's about having the things you want, without the commonly associated debt. It's about seeing the difference between saving for a purpose and just saving. It's about understanding what is important to you and what is not.

I see no point in saving the shards of soap, just to boil them down and re-mould them into another cake when I'd much rather have a nice bar of my favourite shea butter soap and really enjoy my shower and my itch-free skin. I do see the point in keeping them to grate into my laundry powder - they're being used up and saving me money.

So, yes, it is about frugality. Frugality is important, without it we wouldn't be able to live the way we do. But it's not the most important part of our lives. We watch our pennies and look for ways to trim expenses because we like the end result - a debt free, cashed up life, where we laugh with joy every day.

What I'm trying to say is that living the Cheapskates way isn't just about saving money. It's about changing your priorities so that you can live life debt free, cashed up and laughing too.

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