Why Frugality?

Why Frugality?

Frugality often is given a bad rap in current "American" culture. We are bombarded with advertisements that tell us that we have deficiencies, and that this product or service will ease or fix these deficiencies, or that they will tantalize and entertain us. Where, in this endless cycle of consumption, is there room for frugality?

So I will tell a story. I grew up in a middle American family. We had what we needed and some frills. We were taught not to waste. The parents of my parents were children of the Depression, and those values passed to my parents and to me. As a teen I ran across a book that was a partial compilation of the monthly newsletter entitled The Tightwad Gazette. I read it cover to cover, and then when I found the opportunity to purchase a book that was a complete compilation of all issues of The Tightwad Gazette, I purchased my own copy and devoured it again. What a delight! Tips and tricks for reducing costs and living comfortably on less income. Recipes for common purchased foodstuffs that were easy to make, and cost less when made from scratch. I was hooked. This was how I was going to live my life.

Soon I began college away from home, and I had the opportunity to put my learning to practice. I was attending a week of Freshman Orientation. Some of our meals were provided, and for the rest I lived in an on-campus apartment with a kitchen. I grabbed extra rolls from the dinner table, discovering they made a great breakfast the next morning. Don't waste. Keep your costs down. I was, after all, shouldering the responsibility for my food and shelter for the first time in my life, and I was determined to be successful in the endeavor.

Fast forward to 2012. I had been married nearly 10 years, three kids, had a house, a cat, a dog, fish in a 10 gallon tank, and several hens. My frugality had been tempered by years living with a man who valued his creature comforts and brought in a median income. And then his alcoholism got the better of him, and cost him his job, plunging his family into poverty. I breathed new life into my skills of frugality, this time more familiar with the world around me. Now I knew that the Tupperware of my youth, being made from plastic, might not be my first choice for storing food. I recognized that just because that age-defying moisturizer made many promises, that hidden dangers might also lurk in its ingredient list.

As poverty bit deeper and deeper over the next few years I realized that although I did not enjoy the sting of poverty, I enjoyed frugality as I migrated from shopping at Target to the Goodwill store. I have come to understand that "more" and "brand new" do not equate with "better." Less stuff means less to manage. Frugal means that the money I do have is available to be spent in ways that really matter to me. And on a wider scale, frugal is a way for us to scale down modern life so that it can fit comfortably on a finite planet.