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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Frugality Is A Way Of Life, Not A Temporary Quick Fix

There has been a lot of talk in the media about "frugality" since the economic downturn. However, I'm disturbed by the way that magazines and newspapers seem to be treating the idea of saving more and spending less as some sort of a quick-fix, a temporary solution to tide us over until the economy bounces back again. True frugality is a way of life, it's a set of values which influence every spending decision you make.

You're Not Going On A Fiscal Diet, Here

For any change to make a real difference in your life, it has to be a lasting change. Think of your finances the same way you do fitness. You aren't going to lose 50 pounds overnight, and you certainly can't become financially free by simply "tightening your belt" for a few months. The reason that this country is in trouble in the first place is that we overindulged when the economy was good, spending beyond our means and adopting a mindset of conspicuous consumption that is simply unsustainable over the long run. And treating frugality as a "remedy," a technique to be employed only once we've hit hard times is akin to stuffing yourself during the holidays, then going on a crash diet come New Year's Day.

Of course, you're excited about the prospect of dropping a few pounds to begin with, and you gladly starve yourself -- for the first week. But then, eating nothing except celery and tap water gets boring. You crave chocolate. You tell yourself that you  can't have it, because that will ruin your diet. And the more you deny yourself that treat, the more you want it. When you finally can't stand it anymore and give in to your cravings, you go nuts, eating a whole bag of peanut butter cups in one sitting. Then you feel guilty, weak, incapable of ever regaining control over your weight. The same thing happens with spending. You overindulge a bit, maybe buying birthday presents for your kid, maybe on a summer vacation. You are shocked at the size of your credit card bill, and decide to go on a budget. You feel really good about your decision to spend less and are happy to go without that morning Starbucks or forgo the new X-box -- for the first week. Then you really start to crave a shopping trip. Your best friend has just bought a new big-screen TV, and you're feeling cheated that you can't have one too. You work hard! Why shouldn't you enjoy the fruits of your labor? So when you do allow yourself to hit the mall, you go crazy, buying all kinds of crap that you really didn't want or need -- just so you wouldn't feel as though you were being left out of the American dream. And when the next credit card bill comes due, you feel weak, guilty, incapable of ever breaking free from the cycle of debt.

Think Freedom, Not Denial

If you think that frugal living is all about counting pennies and depriving yourself of spending "treats," you're going to have a hard time staying on a budget -- the same way that counting calories and depriving yourself of food treats makes it hard to stay on a diet. Nutritionists will tell you that the key to sustained weight loss is to adopt healthier daily habits, and the same is true with your finances. You have to change your mindset first. Instead of seeing all the things that you're no longer allowed to do, keep reminding yourself of what your life will be like when you achieve that bigger, more important goal. I personally don't miss Black Friday shopping sprees and expensive birthday gifts and ordering take-out all the time when we felt too lazy to cook -- because I've got something even better, no debt and a traveling lifestyle. I couldn't have both, so I chose the one I wanted more. If you're one of those "every-weekend-at-the-mall" shoppers, it might seem inconceivable that you would give that up -- but it's easy when you have other more fulfilling activities to keep you busy.

The other trick to living frugally is to live in moderation (radical concept though this may be in our society!) Deciding that you absolute CAN'T have or do something is focusing on negativity, and that's not what simple living is all about. I can do or have ANYTHING that I want, if I decide it's a high enough priority and am willing to give something else that is a lower priority up in return. If I want a Starbucks, I have one -- I just don't want them all that often anymore, because I have better things to do with my money. And if we want to splurge on a trip to Japan (like we did in January), we do -- but we're very frugal with our money while abroad so we don't rack up any debt in the process. Living frugally doesn't mean going without. Matt and I aren't missing out on anything that we want to do in life. In fact, we're freer to enjoy even more amazing experiences, because we aren't constantly worrying about how to pay off our credit card bill each month. Financial freedom is just that, freedom from wants and worries and spending regrets -- but only if you make it a daily habit for the rest of your life.

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posted on: 5/25/2010 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Simplify Your Life

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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