Guest Post by Kari Patterson from Kari Patterson.com. This is her final post in a 3-part series.
Welcome back! Last week, we talked about the key to making frugality last: Live Simply. By simplifying and streamlining we can gain more than we drain and leave a legacy of gracious giving, not irritable exhaustion.
Here are a few practical ways to make it happen:
:: Watch the clock.
The real trap of deal-hunting can be the toll it takes on our time. Anyone else ever get caught up in online coupon clipping and then realize we forfeited two hours to save two dollars? Not worth it. To keep things simple, set aside a small amount of time each day or week when you will devote yourself to hunting deals. Don’t compromise. Briefly drop by this website each day and do all you can within your allotted time. And when you’re done, you’re done. Let it go.
Remember also that energy is the most valuable resource. We’ve got to think not only of time and money, but of energy as well. Remember to spend wisely in all areas of life.
:: Shorten your list.
Reducing the number of items you buy each month will greatly reduce the amount you spend as well. Example? Toss out the boxes of cereal. All of them. Buy oatmeal instead. One item. Huge savings.
Look at each item on your list and ask, “Can I do without it?” I can’t explain it, but the savings will be staggering. The amount of coupons you’ll need to clip and the amount of time you’ll spend in the store will be reduced as well. In short: more time, more money, and more energy. Chop that list in half.
:: Limit Choices.
We live in America. We love options, choices, preferences. I was in a restaurant recently and I swear the menu was as thick as a phonebook. Ever notice that we’re happy with what we have until we’re given the choice for something else? Everyone was happy driving cars without A/C until we had the option for A/C. We were happy with A/C until we had the option of an auto-thermostat. We were happy with that until we had the option of dual-sided climate control. We were happy with that until we could get heated seats.
Not throwing stones here. I love my thermostat, but it is true that we must daily battle the temptation to believe that choices will satisfy. We think that having two different types of black knee-high boots or having five options for breakfast or three flavors of coffee creamer will really make the difference in our day.
But it doesn’t. When we reduce our options we actually increase our contentment.
Don’t think we’re addicted to choices? Try this fun experiment. We did it this past fall with our church and it was eye-opening. Eat only beans, rice, flatbread, and water for three days. This is the diet of about half our world. Those are the options. Warning: you will probably be miserable. I was. But it showed me how much I rely on my smorgasbord of daily options and take them so much for granted. After coming off that 3-day diet, we had a new appreciation for our choices and it was far easier to limit them. Fewer options radically simplifies our lives.
:: Re-consider “convenience.”
As you’re probably aware, healthy food is not what costs us most, convenience food is. And I understand that for some of us, it’s worth it. But for those of us who can make the time and who are serious about doing this frugality thing, convenience is what’s got to go. No matter how cheap those granola bars are, it’s probably cheaper to make oatmeal bars from scratch.
Good produce can always be found for under $1/pound, but we have to do the hard work of peeling the carrots ourselves. Breakfast cereal, even on sale with a coupon, will always cost more than oatmeal. Our family of four goes through eight pounds of oats a month, which costs approximately $4. That’s the cost of breakfast. For a month. It does mean boiling a pot of water each morning, but hey, we have stoves! That’s convenient in itself. While old-fashioned oats are not a “convenience” food they certainly promote a simple morning routine. And simplicity is key.
Last thought on this: When we do fill our lives with “convenience” items, we often wind up cramming more and more into our already overloaded schedules. This does not promote simplicity. Sometimes when we’re forced to slow down, even just long enough to make simple roast chicken or bake some artisan bread, we find the margin that our lives so desperately need. White space for our souls. Sometimes convenience can take far more than it gives. Sometimes slow is simplest of all.
Leave a comment! We’d love to hear the ways that you have made frugality simple. What has helped you achieve staying power in this long haul of coupon-clipping and bargain-hunting? Share your successes and failures so the rest of us can learn!
Kari Patterson is a pastor’s wife, ministry mommy, writer, runner, blogger, reader and frugal living enthusiast. She enjoys green tea, line-dried laundry and Alexander McCall Smith novels. Her musings can be found at KariPatterson.com.
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