Friday, December 3, 2010

New Meaning of Frugal

A Guest Post by Danie D.

My name is Danie D, and I'm a lot like you. I consider myself to be smart, not arrogant. I'm frugal, not cheap. I buy in bulk to save the most, but I recognize the absolute savings of not buying anything at all. I started what you might call a frugality quest a little more than two years ago. It paid off in a low cost and plentiful bounty. But I got (steady) money and I got lazy. Now circumstances warrant I reclaim my "recessionisms," and I'm realizing it's a lot more difficult that I anticipated. But it's also a nice challenge. And who's not up for a good challenge?

First, the things you need to know to understand my situation. I got a new, higher paying job in 2008. My partner and I moved from Las Vegas to San Francisco with hope in our hearts and not much else. He didn't have a job (we, at the time, did not recognize the severity of the recession) and we made a lot of expensive mistakes ($195/month to park in a garage instead of an annual street parking permit for $78). I bought what I thought we needed, regardless of what was on sale. I charged everything for at least two months, probably more.  We moved into a safer, larger, more expensive apartment. The mister had two temp jobs that came and went. Credit card bills came and 0% interest expired.

We committed to change out of necessity. And it was exciting. We found interesting, free things to do. I clipped coupons and boasted my savings. We could pay the bills, eat AND go to a movie. We were doing it. Eventually the mister got a job. We didn't really need to be as frugal. We could eat out. We could travel. We got drunk on financial freedom. We talked about tightening up, but never found the right time to cut back. And then we broke up. "We," became me. Two incomes dropped to one. And I decided not to find a cheaper apartment. It was a risky move, but I had my reasons. So there I was, alone in a half empty apartment, realizing he owned almost all the pots. It seemed like a good time to get back into old habits. But while that was the goal, that's not what's been happening.

My definition of "frugal" has changed. I used to consider frugality as getting as much as possible for a little as possible, and keeping it handy "just in case." In my post break-up examination of the world, I'm asking "in case of what?" Worst case scenario, I lose my job. Cabinets full of food won't help me pay my rent. Boxes of noodles won't pack me up and ship me home to my parents. I am asking myself what I really needed. And the answer is not six boxes of macaroni and cheese for the price of one. The answer is "less." I need less. Frugality (the 2010 interpretation) is having and maintaining that which you need, not buying what you might need in a specific situation.

So I'm purging and I'm using. Broken things are being tossed. Wrapping paper is getting recycled. Plastic storage bins, donated. Items I don't like, sold. Clothes I don't wear and games I don't play, donated. I'm using all the lotions I've received as gifts, and all the toothpaste and floss my dentists have given me. I'm compiling all the notepads I've bought, used, but never filled. Frugality is (again, at this moment) finding I already have what I need. Just because deodorant is on sale, I don't have to buy it. I should remember the four I still have at home.The same goes for toothpaste, soup, rice, and the other things I've accumulated "just in case."

Instead of trying to get more, I'm focusing on doing the same with less. I do think I'll end up saving money but more than that, I'm creating a challenge and rising to meet it. And that's free fun.

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