Whether you are a homeschooling family, or not, living frugally is often a necessity these days. Actually, it has been a necessity for most family situations for decades, but families were in denial about what they could truly afford and what they could not. Let’s not be in denial about our financial situation; let’s look at our incomes objectively, plan for our bills rationally, and set money aside for emergencies and retirement.
And maybe you should live in a box? Read on:
I admit it. I suppose that when it comes to living frugally and making financial decisions, I live in a box. A box? What do I mean by that? Let me explain, because this is my number one best tip to saving money for my family. I don’t ever remember my parents sitting me down and saying, "Here are the 100 things you need to know so you can live frugally and survive in any financial situation you might find yourself in." However, I did pick up enough from my parents and my family’s own tough financial situations (not from their poor choices, mind you) over the years, that I learned to "live in a box."
Let’s pretend for a moment that you live in a very small, 900-square foot, cracker box of a house. Imagine this box of a house is in a neighborhood or an environment that you would not choose for yourself. For some of you, this might be in a low-income, ghetto-style neighborhood in a large city. For others, this box might be in the middle of a forest, with no neighbors or Macy’s around for many miles, or out in the desert, or in an industrial area of town, or a part of a large apartment complex. Get the picture? Imagine yourself living somewhere where none of your friends and relatives live, where you would normally not choose for yourself to live. They don’t see where you go shopping; they aren’t able to see the financial decisions you make. They don’t even see the car you drive, the styles of clothing you wear, or what you put on the table for your family to eat each night.
Okay, being a bit more realistic here, no one who is of extreme importance to you, besides the members of your household, are seeing you. Yes, you are not completely isolated, but let’s just pretend that those who see you around town just plain and simply do not know you at all, nor do they pay attention to you.
Now that the scene is set, how would you change the day-to-day decisions you make as you are out around town, doing your grocery shopping, getting necessary clothing, planning vacations, etc.?
If no one noticed you, would you be willing to make a list of clothing items you and your family members truly needed – that were true necessities – and take your list with you to second-hand stores first, before scouting around the KMarts, WalMarts, and lower-budget clothing stores in your community?
If no one noticed you, would you consider placing only house-brand groceries into your shopping cart? Would you be willing to only have the eight items in your cart that are necessities as you check out at the grocery store, instead of a cart piled with food items that you really can’t afford?
If no one noticed you, would you be willing to hand the grocery clerk your coupons? Pay for your groceries with cash instead of your credit card? Use a calculator as you walk around the grocery store to make sure you stay "on budget?"
If no one noticed you, or had the possibility of saying or thinking anything negative about you, would you be able to plan a child’s birthday party as a simple sleepover or an afternoon at the park, or goofing around in your own backyard?
If no one noticed, would you invite friends and relatives over regularly, preparing simple and less costly foods to serve? Or having the meal be "potluck" style, where both you and your guests contribute to the meal eaten together in your home? Would you be willing to eat out once a month, or less, in order to meet your financial goals?
If no one noticed, would you consider driving your vehicle for years and years, even if you had car repairs…even if people would recognize what "era" your car came from?
(This is a photo of a 1992 Chevrolet Corsica that we drove until mid-2008.)
If no one noticed, would you plan camping trips and simple, less expensive day trips as an alternative to lengthy, expensive family vacations? Would you be willing to spend your wedding anniversary at an inexpensive restaurant, instead of flying to Hawaii this year?
I could continue with this line of thinking, as you could imagine, but I think you are probably understanding where I’m coming from.
All of the frugal living tips in the world are wonderful, but they won’t help any person who isn’t willing to change their mindset of how they are observed by others. If the primary reason I don’t change the way I make financial decisions is because I’m terrified of what "Suzie Somebody" is going to think or say about me to someone else, then the likelihood of me beginning to live more frugally, and reaching my financial goals, is slim.
I remember as a child, having guests come to visit. They were younger than me, and they were absolutely HORRIFIED that our family was going to go inside of the local, low-budget store and do some shopping. In fact, our dear guests stayed out in the car because they refused to be seen inside of this national chain store, even though their home was in another state! Those were the days when we only had two larger department stores in our town, and neither one would our guests step a foot into. They were only in upper elementary school at the time. I was shocked! Now, I’ll be truthful. I’d rather shop in a more upscale store, too, but when budgets are limited, I go where the prices are going to fit my purse, not my dreams.
And speaking of purses, please don’t give me a $250 purse for Christmas. I think my $10 purse from Something-Mart is just fine and dandy, and if I lose it or it breaks, there’s not much guilt there about going out to buy a new or barely-used purse!
If you want to live a more frugal lifestyle,try "living in a box." Close off your mind to the possibilities that you will be the hot topic of gossip amongst your friends if you are accidentally seen in a second-hand store, or if you are emailing your Christmas letters this year instead of sending them through the postal mail. Don’t think of what others would say. They aren’t paying your bills, are they? Well, then don’t give them the time of day when it comes to making your own frugal financial decisions. Decide how much money you need to save in the next few months, or how much you want to pay off your debts in the near future.
This is your new box, your new mindset.
What your friends don’t know won’t hurt them! And what if they do find out? Well, they need to learn to stay inside their financial box as well, and remember that we all are either working toward our financial goals for ourselves, or we’re walking away from our goals. Your new goals, your new mindset, your new box, is just different from theirs. And it’s okay to be different. Be diligent, and keep your eyes closed to what others will think of your reasonable, sound financial decisions. It will pay off!
© Copyright 2008 by Julieanne Miller. All Rights Reserved.You are welcome to link to this article, but not to repost its contents without permission from the author.
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