When I started this blog, I thought “yes! We aren’t big spenders! We can jump in and discuss how frugal we really are.” Ironically, after over a year of blogging, I’ve realized that being frugal isn’t the answer.
Frugality is all about cutting costs, but sometimes that’s not the best financial action plan. We still maintain some level of frugality, but it has shifted from counting costs to living mindfully.
Under the traditional definition of frugality* we’ve failed in several ways:
- I don’t coupon – I used to limit my couponing to hard goods only and only at Target. I did occasionally get shampoo for free, which did get me pretty pumped. Now I spend my time doing other things. I don’t read the coupon blogs anymore because I don’t go to the stores as often anymore. As for shampoo, Mr. T and I are nearly done using our hotel shampoo collection at which point, we’ll travel again or just buy a cheap bottle of Suave.
- I spend money on food – During my attempted frugality, I cut out restaurants and expensive ingredients. I limited us to the cheaper produce and I kept meals simple. While most of our meals remain simple, I have no problem buying the incredible ingredients. This past 6 weeks, I’ve been making myself a yogurt parfait with fresh peaches for lunch every single day. A box of peaches at Costco is nearly $14 and we used to ration ourselves. Now, if it’s peach season, I’m buying at least a box a week! I mean, spoiling myself with fresh fruit seems like a much better choice than so many other things I could be splurging on! Also, this past weekend, Mr. T and I made homemade, fancy Ravioli. It was fun to make, the kids got involved, and while it was definitely more expensive than buying basic Ravioli, it was a fun and delicious family activity.
- I’ve raised my travel budget – You heard me. I’m all “I’m not spending my money so I can retire early” and then I go and RAISE my travel budget. Yup. Precisely. After Mr. T and I took a big trip this summer, I came home and started making crazy plans. We specifically determined that travel to see siblings was one of our priorities. So, we took a look at the calendar and planned two more trips! We also made tentative future international travel plans with the kiddos. This is where we enjoy spending money. Where money can directly purchase happiness, it seems like a good place to spend. As with our big trip, we’ll conservatively travel hack to cut down on costs, but we are okay with seeing increases in this category.
- I’ve lost my purchase guilt – I used to buy stuff, but then I’d go through this elaborate mind game where I had to justify why I bought it, etc. After simplifying our home and our finances, I know what fits in that picture and I know what doesn’t. I have a better sense of my happiness to money ratio. If something scores high on that, I buy it. On the whole, this ends up being way less than the amount of stuff I used to buy (which really wasn’t that much to begin with!), but I don’t feel guilty about it. I just buy it.
- I still buy toys for kids – I know, ultimately experiences are better and growing up with the experience-based Christmas, we were taught early-on that the time together is more important than the present. But while I’m more conscious about which toys I purchase, it’s still fun to buy the perfect toy for my own kids or my nieces and nephews. And I always stipulate that there’s no fault in passing it on as soon as the kid outgrows it. Childhood is short. It’s fun to experience each stage while it’s there. Pretty soon your 8-year old will be donating all her Minnie Mouse shirts and declaring: “I just don’t like Minnie anymore.”
- I don’t make stuff – Back in the frugal days, I tried all the DIY Pinterest cleaner, soap, etc. Some of it was better than others, but it was a hassle. I’m perfectly happy with the cost and performance of store-bought stuff.
I’m sure that’s not a complete list of all the ways we’ve failed in frugality since writing about money. But it’s an interesting trend. Instead of worrying all the time about cutting costs, I actually spend less time thinking about money at all. Instead, I live my life and assess what makes me happy and what doesn’t.
Has our total spending gone up? Nope. In fact, it’s gone (slightly) down! It turns out when you just focus on true happiness and living your life, you have no time for frugality!
* Google says: “Sparing or economical when it comes to money or food.”