Today’s post is the first in an occasional series called ‘Concepts in Frugality’.
I’m not an expert on frugality, for a myriad of reasons. My family can’t survive on one income, we don’t save enough money, we have too much debt, and it’s well documented that I have a hard time resisting Ikea’s magic lure. I fully admit that I could be more frugal in many ways, and I’m trying to improve every day.
But there are many ways in which I am frugal, exemplified by the things I do and what I believe in. For the past few months I’ve been thinking about these choices, and why I make them, and I’ve found that they fall into several categories of frugal thinking… guiding principles if you will.
I’ll be writing about these concepts of frugality every so often because I believe that, when learning to live a frugal life, it is just as important to think about the why as the how. In other words, lists of frugal tips are fine and good, but all your frugal efforts are ultimately doomed to failure if you don’t truly shift your way of thinking.
Concept in Frugality: Know what you want and be willing to wait for it
It used to be that if you wanted to buy something, you saved up for it and paid cash. Or you waited until your paycheck or you got a bonus. You might have even put it on layaway (do stores even offer layaway anymore?).
Now things are different. Western cultures are built on the principle of spend, spend, spend, France less so than the United States, but catching up fast. And I think that it’s hard to be immune to this urge. See the pretty, shiny thing! Want the pretty, shiny thing! Buy the pretty shiny thing!
I have it as bad as the next person, but I am slowly beginning to try and retrain myself. I still want stuff- lots of stuff- but I’m putting off buying it. Until when? Well, that depends. Sometimes it’s until I find a really good deal on the product, usually used. Or I might wait until I can pay for it in cash. I imagine how I will use what I am buying, and what it will look like with what I already have.
Often, it turns out that I don’t really want it any more, or I forget about the item entirely. But in any of these situations, if I wait to buy and don’t just open my wallet automatically, I feel confident in my choices. I have noticed that I feel bad about spending money when I buy on impulse, or without imagining how this new purchase will fit into my life.
A few examples from my life: I had been lusting after a certain couch from Ikea for a few months, with curved arms and big, squishy pillows. The only problem was that it cost a lot of money, much more than I could afford, many hundreds of euros in fact. So I quietly lusted, dreamed of how nice it would look in my living room; I would even go to visit it. Until one day when I stumbled across it on Ebay, for â‚¬43, for sale by somebody living the next town over. I’ve furnished much of my living room like this: the couch, two armchairs, a rug, all bought for a fraction of their original price.
Just before I started school, we bought a laptop. I knew that I would need one for my work, and I had been looking into different models for a few months. We found a good deal and then? We paid cash. It’s a good feeling to pay cash for a big purchase, I discovered.
As I have been transitioning from teacher to stay-at-home-mom to student, and next professional marketing consultant, my wardrobe has been having a hard time keeping pace. I know that I need nice work pants and tops, and I took advantage of the semi-annual sales that are on in France right now to find some good deals. I didn’t even look at other types of clothing, and consequently I feel good about what I bought: I kept within my budget and I bought things I truly need.
What are you willing to wait for? How do you feel about spending money on impulse? When was the last time you paid cash?