Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Ready Frugalista

“All over the web, people are talking about how to save money,” I said to my husband last night. “It looks like being frugal is starting to become cool.”

“You are going to enjoy this recession way too much,” he said.

No, I’m not going to enjoy it. I never like to see people face fear, uncertainty and deprivation. But I do think that learning to live within one’s means would be a positive thing for our culture and for our children.

I recall when I was living overseas and I’d come back to America. I’d sit in traffic in a little car completely surrounded by SUVs. I’d drive by box stores. The atmosphere felt to me large, suffocating, selfish (via the waste of gas and resources and the fact that the people in SUVs were putting the lives of people in small cars at risk so that their lives would be safer). In the past few years, with the rise of eco-consciousness, I’ve felt and seen the shift and it makes me more comfortable and happy to be here. Small cars are cool now, as is reusing items, even cloth diapers. I feel more accepted for who I am.

Cutting coupons might not quite be cool, but I think it’s getting there. I’ll actually be interested to see how the pressure to save money interests with the values-based spending (local, organic, etc.).

When I was in the dating world, I tried to hide my frugal tendencies. I thought it was dorky. My husband now says it’s actually pretty attractive. “No guy really wants a woman to want to spend all the money,” he said. I didn’t hide it too well though, since I showed up with a coupon giving us a discount on a horse and carriage ride in the Amish community we visited.

If anything, I’ve become less frugal since I met Mark. He didn’t have much to spend his income on, so he urged me to do what made me happy. He said I deserved to be treated. I learned to enjoy that feeling of a splurge, of feeling that I was worth it, that it was OK to spend money on myself. I no longer denied myself if I really wanted something. He convinced me to stop my monthly tracking of expenditures, to go with the flow.

That was all fine when we had two incomes. But I’m currently earning an average of $118 per month. So we need to be more conscious of our spending. This month we are tracking everything we spend and we’ll analyze it from there.

I welcome this opportunity because I think it will help us to return to a spending pattern based on our values. Before I met Mark, I identified health, education, charity and travel (because of the learning that takes place during travel) as my priorities for spending. I kept every other category to the minimum. I still have similar values. Only now I also value proximity to either work or the center of a community and quality food. I think Mark values a bit of comfort. So we’ll have to sit down and discuss our values and how that will impact our spending. I hope that River will see these values in action as he grows up and will embrace a spending pattern based on what our family deems important rather than peer or commercial pressures.

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