Archive for November, 2008

Frugality with Grace

November 22, 2008
The current economic crisis seems to have the media talking about how people can live more frugally. In the US, we are probably long overdue for a review of how we live and how we spend our money. There is a downside to all this focus on hard times, though. It can lead to a paucity mentality.

When we focus on what we do not have, we tend to forget what we do have. When we focus on keeping a close watch on our money, we also tend to focus on all the things we cannot buy instead of how gracefully we can live with what we already have.

Those of us with one-person businesses might have an edge over the rest of the population. In the process of keeping our businesses afloat, many of us develop a frugal lifestyle. I certainly have learned how to live frugally.  Whether it stems from my childhood and the circumstances of my life or, as I suspect, the life I have chosen as a shaman, I have developed a mindset about life and living simply that serves me well in both flush and flat economic times.

Living frugally and with grace is not particularly difficult, but to get there does require you to be comfortable in your own skin. If you are concerned about keeping up with every trend, having every convenience, and possessing every luxury, you will struggle with frugality. Grace? Life’s trappings might pass for grace . . . for a time . . . but if it is all about the trappings, your lack of comfort in your own skin will be obvious. Why? Because if you are comfortable in your own skin, the trappings will be secondary. Instead, meeting the world head-on, in the moment, will be at the forefront.

Frugality with grace is not comprised of the same things for everyone. Different things are important to different people. What is grace for one person is not for another. I can talk about some of the things that have helped me live frugally with grace, but I will not for a minute suggest those things are necessary, sufficient, or would take you to the same place. All I can do is reveal some things that have worked for me.

That said, here are a few of those things:

·        I tend to put my money towards what is meaningful to me and not on what matters less to me. That means I don’t have cable or satellite, I don’t have an expensive cell phone plan, I don’t have a new or near-new car, and I don’t spend much money on entertainment. (I’m very good at entertaining myself.)

·        Staying healthy is important to me, so I belong to a gym. I also run. The gym costs me some money. The run only costs me the occasional pair of shoes and running tights. I know myself well enough to know that I won’t accomplish the same thing at home that I will at the gym, so the gym membership works for me. I believe it has paid for itself. I don’t have the back problems I once had.

·        And because staying healthy is important to me, I take almost all my meals at home. I prepare them myself and they don’t come out of a box. Preparing my own meals at home from great ingredients is light years ahead of almost any other way to eat from both a health and a frugality standpoint. The act of cooking (for me) is also grounding and takes me out of my head (where my work as a writer and editor keeps me much of the time).

·        I love clothes. I love having lots of options with clothes. I love good fabric. I love expressing myself with clothes. And I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores. I get my share of designer labels and current styles (though I care about my own sense of style more than what someone else says is current). Many of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues are astounded by the fact that my clothes come from thrift stores because I usually look good and well put together. Not only is this a very frugal way to attire one’s self, it is also incredibly fun. Shopping at thrift stores is like going on a treasure hunt.

·        My shoes? The occasional pair of almost-not-worn boots also comes from thrift stores, but most of my shoes come from DSW and more than half of those come from the racks at the back of the store where the shoes are deeply discounted. I could do an ad for DSW. I think they’re great. That one can have beautiful, quality footwear (important for me as a Pisces) without spending a fortune is frugality with grace.

·        I clean my own house. There was a time when I hired others to do that, but for a number of years, I have taken back that activity. I save a great deal of money in the process (sacrificing a little time for it), the manual labor is good for the body and soul, and it is another activity that keeps me grounded.

·        My husband and I also look after our own yard, for the most part. I have gotten help with felling trees, but the maintenance work is done by us. I love my flowers and herbs and have a number of small beds. They have been developed over many years, so I am fortunate to have something other than a bare patch of ground that must be planted. I save additional money by over-wintering some plants indoors. That means I don’t have to replace them every spring. I get a bit of thrill from the sight of folks walking by my house who stop to gawk at my window full of geraniums, blooming all winter, and I have the grace of living among beautiful, living things. Doing so with frugality in mind is grace with frugality.

·        I admit that I do probably spend more money on plants than many people, but I consider cost and the life of the plant in when I make purchases. For instance, I often buy perennials to plant in pots to dress up my decks, then put them in the ground in the fall. Dual benefit.

·        Yes, I spend money on books, too. I’m a writer. That means books are important to me. But I often buy current fiction at the thrift store and get the rest as deeply discounted as I can. That is, except for those I buy full price in support of my fellow writers. I also pass books on to others when I am done with them and occasionally even get a few from others, too. Frugal, luxurious, and better for the environment.

·        I have good equipment for my work (which ends up saving money, I believe,) but I do not jump at every new thing out there and I do not have equipment I don’t really need. I’m not trying to prove how hip I am with technology (which is a good thing because I am definitely not hip). I would rather demonstrate that I am good at what I do by the results my clients see.

I could go on. This is just a taste of how I manage to live frugally with grace.

But I’d like to hear from you. If you’re good at this, share some hints. If you aren’t yet good at it and have questions, bring them on.

And for those of you who want to know what the “grace” in frugality with grace means, here’s my off-the-cuff definition: grace is a sense of peacefulness, of effortless ease, of harmony.

I’d like to hear your own definition of that, too!

Copyright 2008 by Melanie Mulhall.

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