Unknown to me until two days ago, there is actually a frugality movement in the United States. It was more popular in the eighties and nineties—now it has become so squelched by a techno-consumerist generation that laughs at coupons.
My interest is piqued. I’m not a spendthrift by any standard, but I also don’t pay much attention whether a can of soup costs $1.99 or $2.25. A frugal person would say that’s about $50 wasted on that weekly can of soup each year. I also have weaknesses for certain products—like strollers, parenting books, and In-N-Out cheeseburgers. So I do have something to gain from the penny-wise.
These frugal individuals are successful, middle-class, mostly female homemakers, who rebel against rampant consumerism and harrowing, long-hour jobs by skimping on everyday expenses and resisting the hypnotic chant to “buy…buy…buy.” They shop at garage sales, collect hundreds of coupons, grow their own vegetables, and ask themselves three times before they buy anything, “can I possibly do without this?” Their husbands retire early and can spend more time at home, leading to a fuller family environment.
Some take it to far--making regular trips to dumpsters and recycling their own trash. But a balanced approach teaches children growing up, through lifestyle, that money is not to buy anything you want. Even if you have an allowance and save money, it’s not your ticket to happiness. Look for that somewhere else.
I checked out a few books from the library, The Simple Life and Don’t Waste Money, Spend It! I liked the idea that money is made for spending—but only on things that are worthwhile. Think in terms of education, hobbies, family camping trips, furniture that will last 20 years or more, instead of frilly accessories, curtains, the latest electronics, a deep-fryer, packaged foods, and books that you could just as easily borrow from the library.
Imagine everything you buy as a piece of your life (or your husband’s) that you are exchanging for a product. Someone spent a week slaving away in an office just to buy you that new DVD player. Was that moment of their life well spent? Make sure it was.
I’m going to try to implement some of these strategies, for the benefit of my kids as well as for my own personal development. Clipping coupons suddenly seems worthwhile if you think that the money you save, say $2.00 a week, will be donated to charity. That’s an extra $130 a year. Who would have imagined clipping coupons could count as sadaqa?