Is Frugality Really Worth It?

Recently, someone emailed in and asked if I died tomorrow would I regret the frugal choices I’ve made?

It was an excellent question and one that gave my husband and I pause — and produced a great discussion for us as a couple. Both of our answers were a resounding “No. We would absolutely not regret the frugal choices we’ve made.”

While we’ve made plenty of mistakes individually and as a family, we have zero regrets that we’ve chosen to live beneath our means, make sacrifices, delay purchases until we can pay cash for them, and live on a strict written budget.

To some people, not getting what you want right away or doing without might seem like a miserable existence. But truthfully, we’ve found it to be just the opposite: we live very fulfilled lives and we wake up excited about each day.

However, we both believe that the reason we feel fulfilled and passionate about life — even though we’ve made counter-cultural choices that some would balk at — is because frugality is a means to an end for us. If we were just frugal for being frugal’s sake, we’d likely quickly burn out or give up.

It’s not about saving money so we can continuously upgrade our lifestyle and always be buying bigger and better things. We want to live beneath our means so that we are able to give generously to others.

There’s a world of need around us. The more we steward our money well, the more abundance we will have to meet those needs. The more we save, the more we have to give.

Your efforts and my efforts might seem like a drop in the bucket when compared with all of the need that’s out there. But collectively, we can make a huge impact.

Let’s live simply so that others can simply live. Because truly, there is nothing more fulfilling than living a life with outstretched arms.

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reposted from the archives

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Say Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge: Day 5 (Clear Out the Clutter)

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Welcome to the 7-Day Say Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge. Each day this week, I’ll be blogging through the 7-Day Challenge. If you’ve not signed up yet, enter your name and email in the orange sign-up box at the top of the page here and you’ll get the daily emails and challenge in your inbox.

Clear Out the Clutter

As you probably already know, I’m not really into clutter. In fact, I’m positive that some people would come to my house and think it’s entirely too empty! But we love the uncluttered look. Here are four reasons we don’t have a lot of clutter:

1. It simplifies things because I have less to clean up. The less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to take care of.

2. It makes things easier to find. When you don’t have as much stuff, it’s easier to put things away.

3. It provides breathing room. I love wide open spaces — they allow my soul to breathe and make life feel calmer.

4. It saves money. The less you buy, the more you usually save. Plus, the less you have, the less you have to pay to maintain.

Here are some things that help me stay on top of clutter:

Ongoing Garage Sale Boxes

We have a designated spot in our home for garage sale boxes. In our current home, this is in the garage. As I find things we no longer need or use, I start filling up a box. When one box is full, I fill up another. And so on.

Instead of moving an item around from one room to the next when we aren’t using it anymore, I pitch it in the garage sale boxes and it’s out of our way. This method makes preparing for a garage sale quite simple since I already have a huge head start on collecting stuff to sell.

Thinking of having a garage sale? Check out my 10 tips for having a successful garage sale.

Clear Out the Clutter

Annual Clutter Elimination

Once or twice a year, I go through my home from top to bottom and am ruthless about eliminating clutter. Every nook and cranny is cleaned out and every item is evaluated.

By doing this on a regular basis, no area of our home ever becomes unmanageable. Rooms or closets might be messy or unkempt at times, but they never get so overwhelming that I can’t deal with them.

The No-Pile Rule

Except for my husband’s dresser and our laundry basket, we try to strictly adhere to a no-pile rule. I’ve found that a small pile quickly grows–without any effort. So if you don’t start a pile in the first place, you can avoid a lot of disorganization.

{Confession time: I have a few small piles in my closet right now… I’m tackling those as part of today’s project. :)}

In the Door, In Its Place

Instead of piles of paper around from place to place until you have time to deal with them, take care of them immediately. When the mail or other papers come into our home, I go through it right then and there and throw out everything that we don’t have to keep.

Bills go on my husband’s dresser, magazines go in the magazine basket, coupons go in my coupon box, and junk mail goes in the trash. Within just a few minutes, the mail is completely dealt with!

Avoid Clutter-Collecting Furniture

I’ve found my utilitarian nature helps avoid heaps of clutter. How? Because we don’t have a lot of furniture that tends to be clutter hot-spots for others. I’ve found that when there’s no place to collect piles, you are much less apt to make them.

Clear Out the Clutter

For more ideas and suggestions, check out these links:

Today’s Challenge

If you feel overwhelmed with clutter, don’t panic. Pick one space in your home to declutter as soon as you can today. This can be a drawer, cupboard, closet, medicine cabinet, your nightstand, or if you’re feeling overly ambitious, the pantry or refrigerator.

Ruthlessly clear out any and all clutter and unnecessary items you find. Consider passing on extra food and household items to friends or donating these to someone in need. Start with this one small space and I promise you will feel a sense of accomplishment right away.

Today’s Project

1. Read Day 5 of the 7-Day Say Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge (type in your name and email address in the orange box at the top of the page here if you haven’t signed up yet).

2. Leave a comment telling us what area of your home you are planning to tackle today for at least 15 minutes and clear out the unnecessary clutter. Remember, keep it simple and don’t bite off more than you can chew!

My project: I’m planning to tackle our bedroom closet. It seems to be the space in our home that can always use a little TLC and it has a few piles of mine in it that need to be dealt with. :)

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Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

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This recipe for Homemade Lavender Bath Salts has been on my list of do-it-yourself ideas I want to try for a few months. After making them yesterday, I can’t believe I waited this long to try it.

Homemade Lavender Bath Salts
This recipe is SO easy and fun to make and you could try using different essential oils and food coloring colors to change things up.

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How We Lowered Our Christmas Budget, Reduced our Clutter, and Created More Family Time!

Christmas gift

Reader testimonial from Tami

We are a family of 4 —  me, my husband, and 2 kids (ages 13 and 7.5).

Recently, our income dropped significantly… and because of this, we made a few changes to how we do Christmas gifts. These simple changes helped eliminate the stress on our budget, reduce the amount of clutter in my kid’s rooms, and increase our time together as a family!

I created a “box of fun” for each child.

It took me all of 2013 to put these boxes together because I stretched the budget a little every month in order to buy all the gift cards, but it was so much fun and the kids loved it! This box has something fun for every month of the year in 2014:

  • January = $20 gift card for movies (for one child) — enough for 2 visits
  • February = $20 gift card for movies (for the other child) — enough for 2 visits
  • March = two $50 gift cards for a year-round sports park membership that offers snow tubing, go-karts, miniature golf, etc. I used income tax refund money to pay for this — which is why I was able to spend $100 this month.
  • April = $25 gift card for Barnes & Noble
  • May = $25-gift card for Barnes & Noble.
  • June = $20 gift card for a pedicure (for the girl)
  • July = $20 gift card for iTunes (for the boy)
  • August = $25 gift card for a pizza/arcade place
  • September = $25 gift card for a pizza/arcade place
  • October = $25 gift card for Sky Zone (trampoline place) — enough for 2 visits
  • November  = $25 gift card for Sky Zone — enough for 2 visits
  • December = I bought “Santa gifts” (3 each)

This amounted to enough gift cards to give us 8 or 9 family activities throughout the year with the stipulation is that they can only use 1 gift in a month.

We realized that by doing this, we would still need to pay for my husband and me to do the activities, however, when buying some of these gift cards for the kids, we also earned free gift cards for ourselves. In addition, when our family asked my husband and I what we wanted for Christmas, we requested gift cards to some of the same places — so that will help with the budget as well!

I also made up a coupon book for my kids and put that in the box, too.

For example, they both love baking and cooking with mom, so I made a few coupons for cooking a meal with me. They are able to pick a recipe, make a shopping list for that meal, and then help cook it.

Another one was for date night/day with mom and one with dad. We figure this is when they could use their movie gift cards. :)

Another one was for game night, movie, and popcorn at home, a family activity of their choice (such as going on a bike ride), etc. All simple things that they love to do and are essentially free for us.

We told them they could use 1 to 2 of these coupons per month.

In the end, we have the perfect reason to have our “family time” and most of it is already paid for, so we cannot use the excuse that there is no money in the budget.

I plan on doing the same thing in 2014, and have already adjusted our budget to cover the cost of buying a gift card once a month.

The best part about this was the fact that my kids seemed to love the “box of fun” and it was the first thing they mentioned whenever someone asked them what they got for Christmas. It really made me feel like I made the right choice by deciding not to give them just “stuff” for Christmas.

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Savor the Here & Now

Gratitude Will Change Your Life
It was the day after Christmas. Each of our children had gotten some wonderful new presents — all things that they had long wanted and hoped for.

But after the initial excitement wore off, one of my children was very dissatisfied. Even though this child had received so many wonderful presents, they weren’t happy.

Why? Because this child was frustrated that they didn’t get that one thing that one of their siblings got.

This child whined and spent much of the day upset. They had a number of amazing new things to play with… but it wasn’t enough. They couldn’t have that one thing, so instead of happily enjoying their Christmas presents, they pouted.

As we had some great talks with this child about gratefulness and contentment, I felt inwardly irked that this child could be so discontent. But then I realized how often I’m the same way.

Oh, maybe I don’t cry over the fact that I don’t have a gadget or accessory like a friend does, but I’ve certainly wasted a lot of time comparing myself to others or wishing I was in different place in life instead of just savoring the present.

It’s so easy to think that if we lost that weight, achieved that goal, paid off that debt, could afford that dress, got our kids potty-trained, had a house cleaner, got that raise, found a new job… then we would be happy.

But what if what you’re hoping for never happens? Does that mean you spend the rest of your life discontent?Gratitude is a beautiful thing!

It’s wonderful to dream and plan for the future. It’s good to set goals and work hard toward them. But don’t let that keep you from savoring the here and now.

Today is the only day you are guaranteed. Don’t waste it wishing you could be somewhere or someone else. Soak up the beauty right in front of you and be grateful for the blessings you are already surrounded with.

Even if you never make it to where you want to go, contentment in the here and now will make the journey a sweet and rich experience. For truly, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

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