This week a friend was forced to stay with us for a few days when her air conditioner broke down. When it’s 110 degrees outside, you have to stay somewhere and she has no family nearby and she couldn’t afford a hotel. While she was here, I had some frugal business to attend to. We went grocery shopping with my coupon stash and my meal plan, I had some canning to do from my garden, I had to clip new coupons and toss the old ones, and I had to shop for some deals on other items. This in addition to all the other frugal things I do on a daily basis such as being careful with electricity and water usage, watering plants from my rain barrel, combining errands to save on gas, not eating out but cooking at home, and reusing as much as I can before tossing it in the trash.
This stuff is all just part of my regular life and routine. I hardly think about it any more. Give me a chance to save a buck and I’ll take it. Well, after observing me for a couple of days, my friend finally said, “Good grief. I knew you were money conscious, but I had no idea.
What is the point of any of this? You guys make good money, don’t you? Why do you do all of this?”
At first I just laughed and shrugged and told her that we don’t believe in waste. Which is certainly true. I hate to waste money and I hate to waste material objects. Both combine for a frugal lifestyle. However, it goes much deeper than that. While we make enough to be comfortable, we don’t make enough to be reckless and have everything we want without sacrifices. In order to do all the things we want on the money we make, we have to live frugally, which means being careful with our money and not wasting it on things that don’t matter.
I explained to her that I live frugally so that I can put money aside for my future. I don’t trust that Social Security will be there for me and I won’t be getting a pension. How I live in my old age will be all on me. I want to be comfortable, thus I’m frugal today.
She hemmed and hawed at that and suggested that I am sacrificing my present to have a good future.
“Sure, but what happens when you’re eighty and you have a lot of money, but nothing good to look back on?”
So I whipped out the photo albums. England, Europe, Caribbean cruises, Disney World, Washington D.C., Alaska, and others are all represented. Not to mention the experiences that weren’t necessarily part of vacations, like sky diving, bungee jumping, parties and get-togethers, parasailing, concerts, and a whole host of other once in a lifetime experiences.
“Does it look like I’m not having fun? Does it look like I’m not getting to do the things I want to do today?” I asked her.
“Well, no,” she admitted.
Then I explained that being frugal gives us a lot of flexibility. When a limited opportunity arises to do something fun, we can usually jump on it because we have the money saved. Similarly, when we have to do things on the spur of the moment that aren’t fun, like funerals or visiting dying friends or relatives, we can do that, too, without sweating it. Living frugally every day means that when things come up (fun or otherwise) that require spending, we can handle it without fuss.
She still didn’t seemed convinced that my frugal activities were worth it. She didn’t believe that living frugally opens you up to a whole host of opportunities and experiences that you can’t have if you spend recklessly on meals out every day, constantly upgrading cell phones, and buying a new car every two years on payments (all of which this friend does).
So finally (having had it with trying to explain nicely) I told her that the main point of all of this is so that we don’t end up in the position in which she found herself at my house. (I phrased it a bit nicer than this, but not much because she clearly doesn’t get it.) If our AC went out two things would happen to me that did not happen to my friend. First, I would go to a hotel for a few days until repairs could be made. We can afford it. It would just be like a little mini-vacation. I wouldn’t have to beg to stay at a friend’s house because I’m too broke to go to a hotel. Second, the repair or replacement of the AC would be paid for in cash and that would be the end of the problem. We’d forget it and move on. My friend had to put a brand new $4,500 air conditioner and installation on her credit card. Her interest rate is probably north of 20%. She will be paying for this problem for a long, long time. That, right there, is the whole point of my frugal lifestyle.