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I almost skipped this month's topic. Not because I don't think it is important, I do. Not because the current economic situation does not impact us, it does. More because I am accused often of not being frugal and I didn't want to seem hypocritical. However, those who accuse my family of not being frugal are looking at externals and don't really know the meaning of the word. They see the car German drives (it's a company car), or the neighborhood we live in (for ridicuously affordable rent), or the vacations we take (addressed below) and they assume that we must be living extravagantly or pridefully. That is not the case. Frugality is not living on nothing, it is living as a good steward. Dictionary.com defines frugal as:
1. economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful: a frugal manager.
2. entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty: a frugal meal.
Economical in use. Not wasteful. In other words, doing the most with what you have. In praying about this post, God has once again reminded me that He determines if it is extravagant, prideful, or as His steward. I'm going to let Him be the judge. (For what it is worth, I believe that we can fall into pride of not spending as easily as we can fall into pride of showing off what we spend. I pray that across the Marriage Monday posts this week, we are reminded that we are sharing what God has taught us about frugal living and not falling into the temptation of pridefulness.)
My top 10 Tips:
1. Tithe. Honestly this could be all ten of my tips. It belongs to God. Don't scrimp in giving it back to Him. The Old Testament defines a tithe as 10% of everything. The New Testament challenges us to be cheerful givers. I believe that the tithe will look different for every family, but if we honestly seek God's will of how to use our money, resources and time He will lead us to give, usually more than we ever dreamed possible.
2. Discuss all major purchases as a couple. You will have to define what a "major" purchase is for you. Discussing purchases before making them allows you to be in synch of what your needs are, plan for how and when to pay for it and saves a lot of headaches later if one partner does not see the need for the purchase.
3. Research, research, research any major expenditure. Find the best price out there. Read the reviews and make sure it will meet your needs. And then enjoy it. This goes for appliances, electronics, cars, and (for us at least) vacations. We travel a lot. We have the blessing of living in Europe with its five weeks of paid vacation time and want to see as much of the world while we are here as possible. Every week I'm on the look out for cheap airfares. Often I can find roundtrip tickets for 1 penny plus taxes. That means the four of us can fly roundtrip for around 60 pounds. We can't eat out at some of the nice restaraunts around here for that! But it is not a bargain if the hotels and food are going to break the budget. Know what you are buying and make decisions based on if it is really the best use of your money at the moment.
4. Once you decide what you want, save for it! We try not to carry a credit card balance. We have an upper limit of what we are willing to carry as a balance and we don't go over it. Instead we wait and save for what we want. Delayed gratification means you appreciate it so much more when you are able to get it.
5. If it is something that should last more than 3 years, buy the best you can afford. It does sometimes pay to spend more. Our computers, though nearing obsolete now, have lasted years because we bought cutting edge at the time of purchase. We also bought expandable--easier to add memory than replace the entire system. Think about how long something needs to serve you and spend accordingly.
6. As much as possible, use fewer pre-packaged and prepared foods. Convenience is lovely, but the savings I see from making my own baked goods, or fresh versus tinned vegetables is amazing when I really compare cost to cost. Plus it tastes better as well.
7. Plan your shopping days so that you can get everything in one trip. This may be one of my favorites because I am becoming more of a homebody, but I really hate having to leave the house 3-4 days a week for a "quick errand." By planning the trips together I save money on fuel, but I am also a better steward of my time.
8. Take advantage of all those schemes to earn points. My grocery store and our petrol station participate in a scheme that you get points for each purchase that can be used for other types of purchases. One of the places the points can be redeemed is Blockbuster. Free movies for buying groceries or getting gas. Yay! Another grocery store will send a coupon every month as a percentage of the points accrued shopping with them. But you have to remember to use the coupon! Sometimes it means a savings of 10% off my grocery bill. It matters. My drug store accrues points to buy their products. I never pay for toothpaste, shampoo etc because of the points accrued buying diapers up until this year. Many credit cards accrue points for purchases. These are great advantages, but it is a waste of energy to carry the cards if you aren't going to actually use the benefit at some point.
9. Reuse and recycle as much as you are able. Every little bit is being a good steward. If you have curbside recycling, take advantage of it. Keep a reusable grocery bag in your car (or better in your handbag) and you are never caught without one. Small steps help our environment.
10. Most importantly, pray about how God wants you to use your resources. This, obviously, ties back to number one. But it also goes beyond that. Praying for wisdom in purchases helps you recognize is this a want or a need? If it is a want, does it detract from your walk with God? Is it a blessing that He is giving to you? If it is a blessing, give Him the glory and accept it!
I find that the more I seek to be a good steward of what God has given me, the more content I am. As contentment settles in me, I find that I want or "need" less. And it becomes a rewarding cycle.
For other posts on frugality, please vist Marriage Monday at www.chrysaliscom.blogspot.com. Be blessed this week!