Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How we do "frugal"

I like to think of being frugal, in the simplest of senses, as trying our best to live “well” (by our own standards) within our financial means. I also realize that some of the actions we see as being “frugal” can be seen as a luxury or just way of life by others. If you have time – there is an interesting read here about differing definitions of frugality. 

These days I pride myself on being frugal. I am elated when I find a good deal on Kijiji, find something on sale, or better yet - for free – just ask my husband. I love the challenge of reigning in the budget and getting more out of less. During my wedding planning days I had a wee bit of an obsession with budget-friendly weddings.  

I came into frugality in university with a meager - yet generous since provided by the “bank of mom” - $1000 a month budget which after rent, car insurance, and debt payments left me with $300 for groceries, spending, and gas. I realize this is a large monthly budget for some but it does take a degree of creativity to “live well” with the luxury of a vehicle, shopping locally for approx. 30% of my needs, and finding extra money for outings (bars, cafes, movies) and non-essentials (extra clothing, gifts). Of course, there was no room in this budget for an emergency fund which meant that in the event of an unforeseen expenditure i.e. car repair, I had to make a plea to the “bank of mom” for a loan and arrange for a repayment plan – further cutting into my $300 allotment for non-fixed expenses.

To me, frugality is not about seeking the lowest price. It is about quality over quantity, making trade offs, spending a little more time researching options, and sometimes compromising. For instance, I may actually spend more on a good quality item so that I don’t have to replace lesser quality ones several times. I will also pay more for organic/natural foods but skip out on pricy convenience items. I generally go by the motto of buy used first. When this is not possible, I buy items on sale and only items that I would ordinarily buy i.e. just because I see a nice sweater at the thrift sore or on sale doesn’t mean I buy it unless I am actually in the market for a new sweater. I also only buy things I absolutely love.

Our financial circumstances these days are far from the lean budget of my university days and for that I am grateful. However, despite having the luxury of a higher income, we still have significant expenses that come with the lifestyle we have chosen for our family (home/car ownership, consumer preferences such as organic or local, etc.). Therefore, we are constantly faced with making choices and trade-offs. Our recent upgrade to a larger home in a suburban more family-oriented neighbourhood last summer meant that when my decade old car finally kicked the can awhile back, we opted for another used vehicle (unfortunately DH’s vehicle needs for work coupled with an inefficient transit system means we cannot be a car-less or even a one car family L as much as I dream about it).  We now both drive ’04 models. 

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