Finding Our Way Back to Frugal
What was your New Year’s Resolution? Did you break it yet?
I didn’t make any this year, but I do see the value of getting back into healthy habits after eating too many Christmas cookies, staying up late, or spending more than usual during the holidays.
In the same way, we put some of our normal frugal habits on hold surrounding the birth of our third child. There were take-out pizzas and Great Clips haircuts. I bought more convenience grocery items than usual. I bought retail clothes when I didn’t have time to sift through secondhand. We turned up the A/C (it was 95 degrees the week she was born) and used the dryer rather than hanging clothes. Our entertainment spending increased during Neil’s babybatical when he took a month off and treated the older kids to epic fun. And recently when the kids were home sick or for snow days, I enjoyed using Walmart grocery delivery–when free delivery was available, but I still tipped and spent a little more on certain items.
Do I regret any of this? No! But just as it’s easy to keep eating too much sugar well after the holidays have passed, it’s easy to forsake frugal habits forever. Thus a busy time when conveniences are necessary can slide into small-scale lifestyle inflation. And while some increased expenses are par for the course with a growing family, I’ve felt like it’s time to return to some of of our former habits.
Will we retire early by hanging clothes or making homemade yogurt? Hardly. Or budget, let alone future plans, do not rely on the small savings from these tasks. I will gladly abandon them again as needed. But to me there is something healthy and hearty about not losing sight of the types of little tasks that added up to getting out of debt, and getting the investment ball rolling.
Admittedly, I have the time to do some of these things because I’m a STAHM. If I only had a couple hours at home with my kids each day, you better believe I’d spend more on convenience. But if I have the time, and I’m not focusing on career or income right now, it makes sense to save money where I can. It’s also a great way to model throwback thrift for the kids and get them involved. I mean, how many kids know making yogurt or bread is even a possibility?
These habits won’t make us rich, but they do keep us grounded. Viewing small things like a comfy thermostat setting, ordering a pizza, and going on fun outings as luxuries helps calibrate realistic expectations in both us and our kids. When holiday over-spending and over-eating becomes the norm in the new year, it leads to problems. The same can be true of seasons of increased spending if we lose sight of a thriftier lifestyle.
We’ll continue to stay flexible, choosing convenience when that supports our greater values of relationships and following God. And we’ll keep saving big with Neil’s DIY skills, and by avoiding major expenses such as car payments or a big mortgage. I hope these small savings support our overall mindset of avoiding excess, enjoying small luxuries, and building gratitude for the abundance we’ve been blessed with.
What are some frugal habits that you practice? Have you ever
put them on hold for a season?
“These habits won’t make us rich, but they do keep us grounded.” Love that. Yeah I think it’s those little things that don’t make a huge difference in the bottom line necessarily, but just good “practices.” And yes I definitely go in and out of “frugal seasons” depending on what is going on. One season I need to get back into is recycling. It was a pain where I lived in Boise and I felt so guilty throwing some stuff away. It seems totally reasonable under your circumstance that frugality would take a minor back seat when it did.
Instead of going on an all inclusive vacation (neighbours just returned from their second this winter), will be renting a car for the weekend and doing a trip to Niagara falls. The off peak winter rates are amazing for the car ($50 for weekend ) and hotel.
Off season rates are wonderful. We loved traveling to beach destinations in late August/early September before our kids were in school. And I think planning things yourself is better than all-inclusives anyways.
I really liked this post. We definitely spent more money after I had our baby. It’s been almost a year and a half now, and we’re splurging on things like string cheese (when, at one point, I was MAKING the string cheese…with milk from our goat, that I no longer have).
While frugality can be scaled up or scaled down, it can also be made easier with one-time investments like tools. Instead of making yogurt on the stove and incubating it in mason jars like I did pre-baby, I now make it in an Instant Pot with a “yogurt” button. Also, I bought a bread machine.
Some of those things make frugality a little more appealing and doable on a long-term basis.
So funny–I remember when I “gave in” and started buying string cheese (not that I was making it from our goat though!) String cheese is now a staple food in our house because I don’t have to cook it, and the kids can get it for themselves. I have yet to take the instant pot plunge since I already have a pressure cooker, but I agree that having the right tools can be a great frugal investment. Especially for working on the house and car, where the biggest savings are.