Thursday, January 17, 2008

More Frugal Thoughts

Continued from this post.

OK...some more thoughts on dealing with frugality burnout.

1. This is something that has worked for me: keep a notebook page or some other sort of journal of small blessings, especially of the financial/found stuff/little answered prayers kind. Then you can go back over it when you're feeling discouraged, and remember when you had that hunk of leftover whatever in the fridge and a recipe for using it up dropped in your lap; or the time you were out of milk and the neighbour sent you home with some because she bought the wrong kind (and she didn't even know you were out of milk); or the time you made a great frugal meal and EVERYBODY liked it. Or the times you have taken your taxes to the accountant and he tells you right out how amazed he is at how you guys manage so well (because he sees a whole lot more people who make a whole lot more money and are in a whole lot more mess). (Score bonus points if he asks YOU for frugal tips).

All of the above (except for the bonus points) are things that have happened to us.

And then you can keep a list of Big Blessings as well, just to keep things in perspective.

2. Hand in hand with #1: Think of things that you made from scraps or found frugally that are every bit as nice as something you could have bought if you'd had more cash to blow. It's related to what Amy Dacyczyn calls the "wow factor." Somebody mentioned having this crazy urge to go out and spend a whole lot of money on a very expensive restaurant meal, just because they've said "no" to it for so long. OK, it's a fun idea. Bring on the lobster thermidor. But when you think about it, is the "wow factor" you get from that meal (or something similar) enough times bigger and better that it justifies the cost?

I'm thinking here of Meredith's adorable play areas for her little girl (here, scroll down for photo, and here). Simple and classy. Would a $129.99 version look better or provide more play value? Doubtful.
I'm thinking of the Christmas presents we made for each other this year (and if you read here much, you know that not every Christmas is a handcrafty one for us). Things hit the mark here this year because they were well thought out--even the joke things like this little thrift shop version of Mr. Fixit. [photo] I know The Apprentice likes to read in bed, so I made her a neckroll pillow (made from yardsaled yarn and long-leftover stuffing). Ponytails knows Mr. Fixit likes a hot drink in the morning, so she made Daddy's Morning Drink Kit.

And I'm thinking of our somewhat-improvised Christmas dinner.

And you know what...I'm thinking of some of Mr. Fixit's working-full-time, well-paid female co-workers, who admit every year that they find Christmas more of a bother than anything else, because they're so stressed and rushed trying to get everything done, wrapped, cooked and sent. Would I trade places with them FOR THE BETTER INCOME? Not a one. Now get this straight before you misread that: I appreciate and thank every female person who has waitressed for us, cashiered for us, delivered our mail, and otherwise helped us this past holiday season, not to mention those who were "only" volunteering their time. (I don't go so far as to thank the telemarketers, though.) I am not dissing any mom with kids who has to work, loves to work, or who has seriously thought this through and knows that what she's doing is right even if she's not crazy about her job. Nobody needs to be dumped on because she has chosen to work outside the home, any more than we need to be dumped on because we have managed/chosen not to.

I am simply saying: at this point, if you offered me a good job with the result that we "didn't have to be frugal anymore," I'd probably turn it down. I'd rather be frugal, and occasionally pout over somebody else's shoe closet, than lose what we have gained by knowing our own limits and working within them.

And that's all. (Except for the photo, and I promise it's worth coming back for.)


Sebastian said...

I like what you said about the wow factor. I've found that I just can't tell the difference between really expensive wine and pretty good wine. There must be an exponential curve here. You pay a lot for ever smaller increases in quality.

Anonymous said...

Mama Squirrel,
You have some wonderful thoughts, thank you for sharing them.

I simply thank God for my single mobile home, getting-real-old car, comfy faded clothes, etc.. We're almost out of debt due to lots of sacrificial living (no vacations, most extra money put onto debt, etc). But I would not have it any other way. There's a great peace & contentment in my heart for my blessings.

It's thankfulness that has gotten me through all the many roughspots, and there's been a lot of them. And it's not that I'm wanting to boast, but this is how I truly feel.

Anonymous said...

Do you by chance have any more great frugal sharings like this one?

Sebastian said...

I think I may owe an apology or at least an explaination for my earlier comment. I'm afraid that it may have come across as somehow mocking your post. That wasn't my intention at all. Your post made a lot of sense to me. While we are incredibly blessed materially, I've found that it is easy to look around at my bounty and feel only dissatisfaction. It is much healthier for me to cultivate a spirt of contentedness. If what I have is working, is good enough, then there is no need to covet what might be marginally better (but is usually only newer and costlier).

Mama Squirrel said...

Sebastian: no, I didn't take it that way at all. In fact, I thought it made sense. I will admit, in the same vein--to some peoples' horror--that my music-ears aren't finely tuned enough to get too prissy over which orchestra, which conductor I'm listening to (and how much I paid for the CD). For someone who hears every shade and notices every change in tempo, it would probably be a mistake to buy dollar-store CDs; for me it works fine.

Of course, the frugal alternative (if you have higher tastes!) is to check out thrift shops and estate/yard sales for older LP collections; we've gotten some beautiful boxed sets and older classical recordings of great musicians.

But I suppose that wouldn't work for wine!