About Being Cheap…. Uh…. Frugal….

Just Thinking.

You might find this hard to believe, but I have a terrible time trying to spend money. I spend time trying to avoid spending money. One time I went shopping with my sister at Target. I had a gift card that was soon to expire and walked all over the store trying to find something that grabbed me. Poor sis was dragging behind me….. disbelieving that I really couldn’t find something to use the gift card on! I finally bought 3 mega packs of toilet paper. Yes. Toilet paper. Someone had given me a wonderful gift card and all I could come home with was toilet paper.

No one likes to shop with me, and I can’t blame them. Even a routine trip to the grocery for milk ends up with me looking at the gallon, the half gallon, the pint…. the half pint. Should I get the skim? 1/2 percent? Would that be too blue? Should I go for the 1 percent? 2 percent? The real thing? White or chocolate? Or would it be more healthful to go for rice milk or Silk? And those decisions have nothing to do with frugality!

My frugality seems to impede me from making many money decisions. Yet there are some conundrums here. I grew up in a family that rich in everything except money. The wolf always seemed to be at the door. I doubt that I even knew half of the struggle my folks had making ends meet. Yet they persevered and made it. How? They were frugal. I remember that I only had one bottle of soda a year. There just wasn’t money for luxuries like that. And when I went off on my own to college, I decided that I would buy all the soda I wanted. After almost making myself sick, I realized how much money I was wasting on something with no tangible results except an expanding waistline. My want became my won’t.

I made a lot of money mistakes, and still make some. One mistake was in not starting to seriously save earlier. Another was making some foolish purchases of things with no lasting or increasing value. Another was buying things, thinking that it equaled happiness. I spend money for immediate pleasure, and not future results. I failed to research some money moves, and that was costly.

But I did some things right, too. I finished my graduate degree and then had all school loans paid back in 5 years. I bought a car when I graduated from college and paid it off early. We bought a little starter home that was built the same year that I was! After making some improvements, we sold it for double what we paid for it. We handbuilt a home with the profits of that first home, and lived there over 30 years, making improvements every year. We sold it for about 3 times what we put into it. And that gave us a great basis for retirement. How did we do this? By being frugal….. which I learned from my parents.

The Hubs convinced me of two things concerning our money: save at least 10% and tithe 10%. So a good education (which led to a good job), and a good Hubby (which led to good fiscal habits), and a good religious background (which led me to understand the fleeting allure of materialism) and good parents (who despite their own money problems instilled a sense of frugality in me) all worked together to form my frugal self.

I have determined to not live in debt. I have experienced debt and it shakes me. I can break out in a cold sweat when I contemplate debt. I had college debt and promptly dispatched it. I have owed money on cars, and despised that debt, even when it was for 0% interest. We had debt on both the starter house and the house we built, but we paid it off in 5 years also. I don’t do credit card debt. I don’t borrow from anyone; I don’t want my relationships hindered with that expectation of money between us. I’ve lived without debt now for about 25 years, and it is such a freeing experience. I am free to give to others, free to save and invest and spend as I wish, because the money does not belong to anyone else!! Even when in debt, I always made my payments on time, even if it meant not buying food. I cannot imagine the debt destituteness (is that a word?) of someone who gets the constant calls from lenders and bill collectors because they cannot manage to make a payment. That would indeed be debt that shakes one’s lilfe!

We chose to start getting serious about saving and went beyond the 10%. By the time I retired we were actually saving well over 50% of our income. Please realize that we were teachers and lived on a teacher’s salary. But it was enough; God has always provided just what we needed. And funny thing…. God took a hold of our minds and hearts and we began to realize that we really didn’t need a lot. We became content with simpler items and a simpler lifestyle. Also please realize that by that time we had no children left at home to support. Makes a big difference!

This super-saving experience made it difficult for me to think of retiring. I enjoyed my job and I loved watching the $$$ grow. I had just enough financial shakiness left from my childhood that made it hard to visualize not adding more to account. It also makes it difficult to spend money today. I keep thinking that perhaps we should save it, or spend it on something that is more needed, or on someone who needs it more.

Last fall, we moved out of state and into an older home that was really quite nice, but needed some care, repair and updates. I kept thinking that I would just learn to live with the flaws, but the Hubs finally convinced me to loosen the pursestrings and remodel the kitchen. Now as I cook in my new kitchen, I am so glad that I listened to him. We now have an energy efficient fridge, a dishwasher that really washes, and a stove that has consistent temps. We invested in some new furniture after all these years. We put up a new shed in the backyard. We put in a new furnace. It’s been nice, but I just keep asking myself: Do I deserve this? Is it foolish spending?

This last week, we inked a contract putting in new flooring in the whole house, and remodeling the bathroom. The cabinetry is falling apart in there, the stool reluctantly flushes, and the tub is chipped and flaking. But the same old financial resistance wells up in me: Shouldn’t I be saving this money? Doesn’t someone deserve it more than me? A former student set me straight: She told me that she knew we would be shariing our home with many friends and family, and that this was not just something selfishly for me, but also would be something that others would enjoy and find comfortable, as well. I appreciated her viewpoint, and had not thought of it that way. We were not going into debt for any of this. We still would be able to meet all of our obligations.

This last week, I bought a pair of jeans…. the first I have purchased in about 40 years. There were many reasons why I had not purchased new jeans, but one was certainly financial. Should I spend this money on myself for clothes? Especially when I have perfectly good clothes hanging in the closet? The spectre of frugality stares at me at every turn. The jeans were as big a deal as the carpets and bathroom….

God has always been faithful. He has been Jehovah Jirah, my Provider. He has never let me down, never let me starve, never sent me begging. He has woven all my experiences together into a wonderful tapestry of grace. I had no idea all those years ago that my education would take me this far, that my husband would be this wonderful, that the jobs I had would be so satisfying….. Even my failures were times of learning. But somehow I am a slow and reluctant learner. The God who saw that I had a home couldn’t provide milk? I had to worry about milkl? Christ came to give me life, and to give it more abundantly. My fears over money did not lead to freedom in that life, but to chains.

No, I don’t believe that being a Christian means that I will be rich and have lots of stuff; don’t misunderstand me. That is not the promise at all. I had to learn and am still learning that life doesn’t equal money. And I had to learn that God really will provide all that I need, not all that I want.

OK. So I know this. I believe this. I have experienced this. And I’ll be transparent with you: I still struggle with spending money and worrying.

Father, strengthen me to believe You passionately and fully. Help me understand that You know my needs before I even dream of them, and that You already have a plan to care for me and provide for me. Help me be a good steward of what You give me, to be wise and use discretion. Help me seek Your will in all I do, and to do all for Your glory. Please, Father, curb my worry.

To God be the glory….

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 3:03 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Brilliant web site, I hadn’t noticed glorybug.wordpress.com earlier in my searches!
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