I’m trying to figure out what constitutes “frugal thinking” and I’m hoping you’ll join me in this endeavor. There are many areas in which I can improve my frugal thinking. Sometimes I get a miserly approach to frugal living which, although the pennies stay in my pocket longer, doesn’t always yield the best results in the long run.
The simplest place to start examining our frugal thinking is, of course, in the kitchen. For instance, if the only thing stopping you from making your own smoothies at home is a good blender, that may be a wise investment to make, especially if you’re still going to your favorite smoothie place and paying top dollar for them.
Appliances of all sorts can be examples of investing in frugal thinking, but they can also be wasteful. The food dehydrator, juicing machine, toaster oven, waffle maker, or deep fryer that never sees the light of day on your kitchen counter is certainly money wasted. Before you make those types of purchases ask yourself if you are already cooking these foods and need a better way to cook them. If the answer is no, that you just thought you’d start cooking differently, you’re probably wasting your money.
Frugal thinking isn’t always easy. Sometimes you’ll feel like an accountant trying to figure out the return on investment for each of your purchases. Of course, some purchases require deeper thought than others.
As an example, buying a car may not feel frugal at first but if it has better fuel efficiency than your old car, it could qualify as a frugal purchase. If, however, you borrow money at high interest rates to pay for the new car, then the frugal thinking gets a little foggy. The fuel savings would have to outweigh the cost of the interest paid. Yes, you will need to figure out the return on investment in this case. I did say it wasn’t going to be easy.
A frugal purchase will normally save you money in the long run. Let’s go back to a simple example – food. Consider something as easy as buying dried beans versus canned beans. You don’t have to do a lot of figuring to know that dried beans are a better investment. However, if you have bags of beans in your pantry that have been there for a year or more, if you keep throwing them out, and you keep reaching for the canned beans, then you need to reevaluate your frugal thinking.
In other words, know thyself. It’s not a frugal crime to buy canned beans if, by doing so, you avoid calling for pizza delivery when you’re in a rush for dinner. If your lifestyle is such that opening a can of beans and throwing together some quesadillas for dinner is what saves you from a hectic night doomed to carry-out, then dried beans, no matter how frugal, aren’t going to work for you. If, however, you plan your meals routinely with plenty of time to soak and cook dried beans, then they are a frugal choice for you. I can’t stress this point enough – know yourself and the limits you live with every day. Your lifestyle matters.
Look at your own purchases and see if your pocketbook would be better served with different choices. If you’re spending money wastefully or hoarding money at the expense of a wise purchase, you need to re-examine what frugal means to you.
Frugal living should reap rewards, not leave you feeling deprived constantly. A little bit of sacrifice is good for the soul, but to do without our favorite things in life all the time just leaves us sad. Your frugal living should result in something fun, a reward. Relax and choose your frugal battles. Your frugal choices may not be the same as someone else’s, but you’ll know what works for you because you’ll start to relax and have a little fun.
p.s. Have you made choices that you thought would be frugal that backfired on you? I guess everyone has. I’d love to hear about how you’ve overcome your battles choosing a good frugal lifestyle fit for you and your family.