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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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  • Kim says:

    I agree, Crystal. Living frugally makes our prize something besides money. It allows our hearts to focus on something higher? Plus, if someone is a follower of Jesus then they are guaranteed eternal reward! When money is our prize then life is a rat race of wanting more and more. When money is not our goal then we can live for others and even more importantly, Jesus! Thanks for your encouragement in area, Crystal.

  • Debbie says:

    Very well said, Crystal!

  • Paula Bettis says:

    I think frugality runs in my veins. My parents went through the depression and new what hard times were. In spite of their frugal ways, I had a wonderful childhood. I see frugality as a vehicle for ingenuity and creativity. I adopted some spend thrift ways as a newly married woman and now that hard times have returned, I miss a few things. However, I know I can live without and have a blessed life!

    • Charity says:

      Love your comment! Saying that your parents “knew what hard times were” kinda makes me think… Most of us go on about “hard times” or “doing without” but are just talking about not having a brand new car or brand name clothes or not being able to eat out. I think most people here in the USA really have no idea what it’s really like to face “hard times”.

      • Paula Bettis says:

        You are so right about many people not understanding “hard times”. In my case it was having the safety net of a family business being taken away and having to raise four children with my husband being disabled. However, I was sent to Honduras with Heifer International in 2006. I learned what poverty was truly about. The one consistent factor in the people I met was they were happy. They were close to their families. They didn’t have a lot in the “things” department but they had each other. I think the trip was meant to prepare me for returning to my life of frugality. In spite of that, I am still wealthy compared to the beautiful Honduran families I met, materially. Many would wish they had the sense of community and love these people had.

  • Maegen says:

    I think sometimes people think frugal living means never spending money.

    We took a family trip to Disneyland last year, and while Disneyland isn’t frugal, we paid for it with cash by living frugally the rest of the year, and yes, we shopped for deals on airfare and hotel.
    The memories were definitely worth it!

    For me, frugal living isn’t about depriving ourselves; it’s about setting priorities so that we can spend (and live) with intention. Thank you for connecting frugality with generosity-something I definitely wish more folks did.

    Lovely post!

    • Shannon says:

      I totally agree!

    • Ac says:

      Thanks for sharing. We feel that being frugal and prudent allows us to invest in things that are important to us whether that is increased giving, memory making family vacations or a playset for the backyard.

  • Brooke says:

    Beautifully said!

  • Lena says:

    LOVE!!! In total agreement!! And I would add: think of the effect this type of parenting has on your children as well. As we teach them to work hard, to delay gratification, to earn and to give and to serve!!– in a culture that says “we deserve”, and “we want it NOW”. I am so encouraged by my children’s choices at such a young age- my children are 5, 3, and 3- and their understanding of these concepts. Because not only are we SAYING, but we are LIVING those choices!! Great post!! Love it!! <3

  • Karoline says:

    This was just what I needed to read tonight. My church is in the middle of our VBS week, and a child called me tonight to ask for a ride to a VBS function. While normally this would be a no-brainer, this week it seemed like asking the impossible. I won’t bore you with my to do list; but it is quite long this week.

    Your post reminded me that because my husband and I live well under our means, I can stay home. I don’t have to work. I can be generous with my time. Therefore, someone is around to care for the ill, the lonely, the poor, and children whose parents do have to work in the summer.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Jen says:

    Great post! This is so absolutely true. Being frugal to be able to GIVE has made us feel so blessed. We have received from others in difficult times and it inspired us to do the same for others when we were able to. The funny thing is that when you give to others, that joy stays with you so much longer than the joy of having more “stuff”. Thanks for all your encouragement in this area!

  • LeaDawn says:

    Thanks for the reminder! Great post.

  • Great response! I think some people define being frugal with being greedy or deprived. Which I think is a wrong definition. For our family its about choices and priorities. Every time we say “yes” to spending money one one thing we say “no” to spending money on something else.

  • Shelly says:

    Great answer. I know with our family living frugally has meant we have been able to help others through hard times recently. Sometimes the thing I give is knowledge about how to save, other times it is items from my stockpile or freezer and still other times it is money. Without living frugally I might have lost these opportunities to serve others.

  • This is an excellent post, Crystal.

    I love that there is more to your lifestyle than being frugal for being frugal’s sake.

    You are such a great example.

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for this inspiring post. Im humbled by it and look forward to some more like it because messages like these remind me to take it easy when i see a new shiney object. Life is so much more than the things we accumulate but sometimes thats so easy to forget.

    Youre a blessing Crystal. Keep up the good work.

  • Patty says:

    This is off-topic…but crystal (and others) at what age did you begin pre-k studies for your little one? I’m just wondering if there should be more to life for my 19 month old then play all day :). He doesn’t seem to mind but it seems like he’s bored sometimes.

    • tiffany says:

      At their age read lots and lots of books. That’s better than anything else because it will develop their pre-reading skills and vocabulary. Lots of trips to the library, storytime, and time cuddled on the couch reading….and letting them play and explore (especially outside)

    • Wendy says:

      I agree with Tiffany. My advice is not to push kids too early. This is coming from a homeschooling mom who has middle & high schoolers. It may take a child 3 weeks to learn something at 2 that they could learn in 5 minutes if you’d just wait a few years. Just read, read, read to him and let him explore & play.

      • Patty says:

        Thanks Wendy. I will continue to let him explore and play. It’s amazing to watch my little scientist explore the world.

    • Crystal says:

      You could start incorporating learning into life — counting carrots at lunch, counting cups of flour that you put in the brownies, drawing circles in the dirt or in pudding or sand or shaving cream.

      I also encourage lots and lots of reading together — even if just for a few minutes at a time.

      I’ve been amazed at how much children pick up from exploring and learning from life and lots of great read-alouds!

      • Patty says:

        Thanks crystal. Every moment is a teaching/learning opportunity isn’t it? I’m so thankful to be a mom to a very curious boy.

    • amy says:

      Play…play…play…all the way to 4? It can be puzzles, coloring, painting, cleaning, cooking, exploring outside, making gifts/crafts for others, stacking and knocking over things, building forts, going to museums and nature preserves and parks. These are all “learning” opportunities, but there should be no pressure at this age. Lots of exposure with an emphasis on learning through exploration and fun. Hope this helps.

      • Patty says:

        Thanks Amy. I have to remember that I need to let him just be a kid.

        • Amy says:

          Let your child figure out how to play and not just show them how to use everything. Make up stories together about what one of the toys is doing and have your child fill in the blanks for part of it, a color or shape or something. Explain the world around them. You can have letters and talk about sounds, but just with fun and playing. Show them items that have the same first sound as their name. An example, ball has the same sound as Brandon. Bbb, ball, bbb, Brandon. You don’t necessarily expect your child to correctly identify that sound right away, but at some point they will surprise you with some item that has a b sound. Can’t agree more with reading, even if they don’t want to sit next to you. You can read while they are wandering around. You may draw them over to show something on a picture, but let them roam if they want.

    • Christy says:

      Most teaching at this age occurs through playing. Talk to him about what colors and shapes his toys are. Put him in a high chair and let him use crayons. Talk to him a lot about everything . Take him to a playground where he can practice gross motor skills.

      • Patty says:

        Thanks christy. I will continue to talk to him about everything. Sometimes I forget in the busyness of errands, cleaning, and cooking, I remember how much I would cherish spending time with my parents (they worked a lot).

    • Mary says:

      Play is how children learn. At 19 months, your little one is doing exactly what he or she should be doing!!! Learning through play. Children will walk, talk, read, and write when they are ready. I personally did not learn to read until 6-7 years of age. My mother stayed home with her children and taught us our letters, how to write them and how to write our name but I was prepared for school. I did not go to kindergarden either. I now have more advance degrees than you can count. My own daughter learn to read at 3 and could write her name and letters (learned at early childhood program and taught herself). She is a normal teenager now but not a “genius”. I played and played with her as a little one including physical activities and creative activities that stirred her imagination. I did nothing special except maybe read-read to her whenever I could. I only sent her to an early childhood program because I worked full time. I would have preferred that I could of stayed at home and let her play.

      Let your little one be a baby, toddler, and worry about pre-K stuff when he or she is 5 0r 6 old. Let your little one play and play and play and play and play and play with your little one too. And read, read, read to your little one.

      • Patty says:

        Thanks Mary for sharing your experiences and insight. I’m a first time mom who worries enough for two families.

    • Michelle says:

      If he sometimes seems bored it might be he just needs to feel “needed”. We all want our kids to feel wanted but sometimes we fail to give them the confidence that comes from being needed. They want to contribute to the family too even at this young age. It is important not to push in things like academics but they really should be by our side no matter what we are doing (unless their is danger invovled of course). If you are setting the table hand him the napkins or spoons to spread around. They won’t land where they are supposed to but he will begin to get the idea. If the table is being cleared, let him carry something. If you are sorting laundry, hand him the clothing item and point to the pile it goes in. Whatever you are doing find a small part of the task (even if you have to make one up) to give to him so that he knows you need his help. This will slow you down a lot but you will be thanking yourself in just a few years because he will become a confident little helper. I was hurridly fixing dinner one night and the dishwasher full of clean dishes was open. My very hungry 17 month old daughter came in the kitchen saying “ungry, ungry” and told her I was working on it. A few minutes later I turned around and she had begun to set the table using the dishes in the dishwasher. I was astounded. She was actually doing it right! Now, my home doesn’t usually run quite that well but I was amazed at how much she had already learned by just “helping” me and her older brothers with little every day tasks.

  • celeste says:

    This is a great questions and my husband and I regret not living this life before. I used to live, for the most part, debt free. I had that emergency credit card that I did use for emergencies but found it difficult to pay off. My husband thought that the only way to afford anything nice was to have credit.

    One job loss and a lot murphy….we almost didn’t make it as a couple. One of us didn’t make it out alive.

    Then, we started couponing and through couponing, we met Dave Ramsey. I found this site (very awesome Crystal) and it gives me the motivation and also helps me save money.

    My husband and I still have our slip ups where we spend too much, but at least there’s no credit cards to make those slip ups worse.

    We’ve got a long way to go but we are looking forward to being debt free and we really enjoy living frugally. We still get to do a lot of the things we did before…we just do them differently.

  • This is beautiful! Just what I needed this morning.

    Thank you.

  • Absolutely not. We live frugally because we want to pay off our debts quickly, and if only one of us passed that leaves a much smaller burden on the surviving spouse. Also, because being frugal allows us to spend a little extra money on the things that are important to us.

  • I love this Crystal ~ thank you so much for sharing.

  • Meghan says:

    For me, the question of “If I died tomorrow, would I be happy with how I lived my life” has been on my mind a lot as I recently watched a friend die very unexpectedly and in just 6 weeks from a horrible disease. His life quickly ended without any chance to do anything differently, anything he had always wanted to do but hadn’t had the time/chance, etc. I don’t question exactly how I’m spending my money, but I do reflect a lot on if I’m living the life I want to…..if I’m spending my time, money, and attention on the things that matter most to me and make me the most happy.

    In my opinion, frugality should be a means to an end……choices you make so you can do certain other things. Just saving, saving, saving does nothing if you don’t then DO something with the money you save… can’t take money with you when you die, but we can enjoy this one life and live it to its full potential, whatever that may be for each of us.

    • Diane says:

      Meghan, your philosophy reminds me of friends of ours. Their only child was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 2. He died two years ago at age 9. They will never be able to have any more children. They are giving people and have done so much in the name of brain tumor research, even starting a foundation in their child’s name to keep his memory alive. A few weeks ago, they decided to cash in their 401k’s and just enjoy life, build a pool, etc….. Their philosophy is “I may die tomorrow so why not enjoy life.” That was what their son did in his short life. He enjoyed each day & lived to the fullest.

  • Jennifer says:

    You’ve managed to explain frugality as a means to an end so succinctly – thank you.

    I recently received a rather large sum of money from my grandparents estate (following the death of my grandfather). My sisters and I, as well as my cousins, all received the same amount of money. My mother, being the only living child, received even more. I view this money as a legacy of my grandfather’s incredible hard work and sacrifice, not something I’m entitled to or even deserve. As such, my husband and I together (we share all money) have decided to keep the large sum intact and prudently invest it – using the income (in the form of dividends and or capital gains) to both tithe, use as personal money and fulfill other financial goals. In the end, the original inherited sum will remain intact and be passed to our kids some day.

    Fast forward to a conversation I had with my mother yesterday – we are coming back to the US (we live in Australia) for Christmas and plan to spend our time in CA. We would normally travel to the Midwest to visit family, but have decided after spending over $11,000 on tickets to the US, we are not spending the additional money this time to travel internally, and we’re focusing on our own nuclear family holiday – if people want to come visit us, they are welcome. She expressed to me that she didn’t want to hear me complain about money (I wasn’t) as as far as she was concerned, we’d all been given money recently and we should really be setting a chunk aside for “fun” things, like travel. I tried to explain to her that that’s now how we view it – that we budget for our “fun” things and don’t do them until we have the money to pay for it – inheritance or not. I could tell it was falling on deaf ears, so changed the subject.

    Its not easy to live “unconventionally”, but we know we’re doing the right thing and find joy in being able to honor the blessings that have been bestowed upon us.

    • Michelle says:

      I love the idea of leaving the original amount in tact to pass on. That is such a thoughtful and intentional idea. Isn’t it funny how when you don’t do what someones else thinks you should they accuse you of being the one that is complaining? I know how that goes. Like you said, you just have change the subject (and roll your eyes when they can’t see you, hehe) =)

  • Heather Speer says:

    It’s nice to hear someone who is INTENTIONALLY living frugally for a purpose. It’s one of the reasons that I love your blog. I hear people complaining about living frugally, but most of them are doing it in order to at some point have more, do more, etc. At the end of the day it’s refreshing to find that our fulfillment doesn’t come from things & money, but from what we do for others to the end that we can glorify God.

  • MaryEllen says:

    Amen! I have often wondered what kind of impact the church could have if everyone in it were not laden with debt or feeling like their money is stretched too thin when it really doesn’t have to be. If everyone lived frugally for the purpose of saving as much as possible to be able to give as much as possible, we could affect this world a whole lot more than we are. We as a family have determined that even if no one else is doing it, we will! God will use our “loaves and fishes”, and I hope others will be encouraged by our example to offer theirs too!

  • Beautifully put (as always!)

    Like you said, being frugal doesn’t mean “never spending money.” It means choosing to spend our money for the things and causes that are truly important rather than frittering it away here and there.

  • Doretta says:

    Bless your heart! That is the way I believe Jesus wants each of His followers to live…sacrificing our own personal desires and comforts to share with those who have less than we do. It’s definitely not a popular way of life but the rewards will be beyond our wildest imagination.

  • Laura says:

    Good answer…andI think it’s important to be balanced and generous with our children as well. It doesn’t seem right to live so frugally while the children are at home (so you can pay off the mortgage, whatever) and then live quite nicely later on when they are moved out and cannot enjoy it with you.

    • Catherine says:

      Yes, and I also wonder if maybe I should spend more money on my children now so they will have better health in the long run. By that I mean buying organic food, more produce, and the more expensive natural cleaners and beauty products. But if I did all these things there wouldn’t be much left to give away or save. It’s hard to know where to draw the line.

      • Andrea says:

        It doesn’t have to be all or nothing! Baking soda and vinegar aren’t more expensive than most traditional cleaners. You could try spending $3 more per week on fresh produce. Also, eating less meat so you can afford better quality.

  • Cassi says:

    I agree 100%! Since starting a budget, our happiness and quality of life has skyrocketed! We communicate better and have a better relationship because we aren’t stressed about money. The trips and activities that we partake in are better, more meaningful because we don’t have to worry about how we will pay for it later-it is already paid for! I think living life this way has really made me appreciate the small things in life more-who could go wrong with that? 🙂

  • You’re always inspiring Crystal and your dedication to His mission is encouraging.

    I’d never regret living frugally and being responsible with my finances either. However, one of my great struggles is finding the line between spending some of the excess we have (and having some fun/increased lifestyle) while giving abundantly.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with enjoying some things in life, but I do think there is a fine line between excessive and still being a great steward.

  • Amen! Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been getting a little off track and this gave me the pep talk I needed. Thanks 🙂

  • April says:

    Well said! As a full-time missionary who depends on others praying for and giving generously to us, I can tell you that your giving is worth it! Every person the Lord allows us to touch is credited to those who made it possible through their giving and that investment will lead to eternal blessings that go beyond anything you could buy or do here on this earth!

  • Karin says:

    Well said! To me, being intentionally frugal is all about stewardship – which is a word we don’t often hear nowadays. It’s also about not being wasteful, but being responsible, willing to share with those in need and teaching our children and grands to make wise choices in all things, also financially.

  • Pat says:

    I wonder this as well sometimes. I’m going to be materialistic for a minute. We’ve got all debts paid off and a six month emergency fund. (we give too). My husband has always wanted an old corvette. If he died tomorrow I would probably kick myself for not spending 2 months of that emergency fund to give him that vet. Though we can’t seem to fit it into our regular savings plan. Like putting away money every month for the corvette seems wrong – and not too mention – incredibly materialistic.

    • Suzanne says:

      If that is truly his 1 “want” and a dream of his, create a line for it in your budget (obviously, only if you can afford to which it sounds like you can). When you have the cash (outside of your emergency fund) – buy a vet key chain, put a bow on it and tell him to go shopping for a key to go on that baby!!!! You’ve done the work, time to reap a reward!

    • I don’t necessarily think this is materialistic. If this is something he truly wants and you will use it (not just have it sit in the garage because you’re worried it will get ruined or something) make it a line item and get that baby.

      We have two friends who own corvettes. Neither are what I would consider materialistic. For one, the old corvette is a hobby and something that he uses for community functions – parades or fundraisers, etc. (he or his wife always drive). For the other, it was something that they’ve always wanted so they just bought a 2002 corvette. It’s their “regular’ car – they drive it everywhere – and it always brings a smile to thier faces. Both are very involved in giving, both through the church and the community, live in modest homes and live frugally otherwise so they can have this “luxury” that they have always wanted.

      Isn’t that what frugal living is all about?

    • Michelle says:

      We all have those special “things” we want. It is not materialistic to buy things, even if they are not necessary, as long as you can afford them. It is materialistic to let things (and getting more of them) control our lives. I was just thinking about this and realized that giving is important especially giving to those within our own family. Sometimes we can get so focused on giving to others we overlook the ones we are responsible for the most. Just think of all the great family time that could be spent enjoying that car together and how blessed your husband would feel that you care about the little important things that are important to him. Also a great opportunity to teach your kids that things can be enjoyed without being worshiped. It reminds me of a post Crystal once did about paying full price for a box of bandaids just so that she could bless her daughter. Bandaids or Corvettes it the thought that counts. We use things and love people but that doesn’t mean we can’t use things to bless people, especialy the people that are the closest to us. =)

  • I like that you mention delaying purchases. Frugality doesn’t mean that you can never have something. For example, I found a great pair of boots three months ago while shopping with my cousin. She tried to convince me to buy them, but they were $50. Today I bought the same boots for $7. Delayed gratification is so much more gratifying!

    And yes, giving is important too. I’ve never felt guilty about spending money on someone else.

    • Suzanne says:

      I have found the same to be true – generally speaking, if I wait, I can find a deal on what I want. Also, not impulse shopping has saved me from buying a lot of stuff that I really didn’t want or need in the end!

  • Sarah says:

    I think this answer depends on the person you are being frugal with. First husband portrayed that we were being frugal for a prize however, we had managed to save only by myself and the kids doing with out for 21.5 years we ended up with $800K in the bank , he walked off with it all and the 25 year old secretary , I got left with 180K in bills he had run up (for items he wanted) and I had the kids to finish raising plus zero income.
    So, it all depends on who you decide to be frugal with.
    Know exactly what you are getting in for. If you spouse is doing like another friend of mine portraying frugal but slipping lots of cash to his kid they are a blended family her kids do without and he slips his kid a ton of cash. So know what the entire budget is.

  • Jessie says:

    Thank you so much for reminding me of this! I’ve been getting so discouraged recently when I see all of our friends buying houses, going on trips, and buying themselves expensive things (even though they are all in a lot of debt!) I need to constantly remind myself that the reason we live frugally and do not want to get into more debt is because we want to be able to give genorously to others even though we are living on a very small income right now! Thank you for your Christian example and your encouragment! You are such an inspiration to me!

  • As always so greatly put!! Everyones comments are wonderful. Thank you all for inspiring me. This is the life we live everyday the choices we make, most people don’t understand. I was raised by two wonderful parents that lived through the Depression and what they achieved in life, still inspires me to do better. I was taught sooo much by them. Thanks to all who posted comments again!!!

  • Gretchen says:

    That was beautifully stated. For myself, it also has the second benefit of being able to live, not stressfree ( I have 5 kids lol), but with much less stress than people who are constantly worried about money. We buy with cash everything except things that require a cc, like airline tickets or a hotel (and those get paid off as soon as we receive the bill). We have savings, no mortgage and are well stocked in the home thanks to couponing and being frugal. I don’t feel we are “lacking” anything. We just simply do things in a different timeline and are more conscience about what we are buying, why we are buying it, and therefore make smarter choices. It’s such a calm and relaxing way to live and enables me to spend more time with the kids and volunteering instead of constantly hitting the malls, going out to dinners and running around with no real direction.

  • BethB says:

    I agree with this completely. We recently overhauled our budget so I could quit part of my job in order to simplify our life. From the get go we knew it was worth it but what surprised me was how much freedom I feel even though we’re living on less. During the initial stages I went through a shift in how I thought about myself in terms of social class and what “things” I wanted to have and it was incredibly eye opening. There’s been a huge change in how I shop and how I think about shopping, especially for clothes. We’re not as frugal as we probably could be but every area of our budget has been set intentionally to reflect how we want to live. Every day I’m grateful for that freedom.

  • maggie says:

    Love this!

  • Laundry Lady says:

    I’ve always found questions like this difficult. We do live more frugally than I would perhaps choose if my husband made more money. When you have the resources, there is nothing wrong with enjoying life, if those choices are made honestly and intentionally. No amount of enjoyment of today is worth going into debt for, but as result we probably won’t take a vacation for many more years. Sometimes you have to make a judgement call because none of us are promised tomorrow, and yeah I would regret some of things I haven’t had the chance to do. But the problem with “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die.” is that tomorrow you don’t die and will be faced with the consequences of your choices. I think it is a constant balancing act of deferring gratification, yet enjoying the blessing we have now and in all things gratitude.

    • BethB says:

      I recently heard a pod cast (What Really Matters, it’s fabulous!) with a happiness expert who put a new spin on the whole “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you may die” thing.

      There’s an exercise where you imagine what you would do if you had only six months to live. While many of us might have things like “Climb Mt Everest” on our list (Ok, not me but you know what I mean!) the reality is our true priorties are things like driving car pool more often or having dinner with your family. So instead of a bucket list of exotic experiences we need to look more at the day to day things that are much easier, and more important, to prioritize in the long and short term.

      That’s really why I quit one of my jobs. The overall cost to our family compared to the little money and personal satisfaction I was receiving was simply not worth it. My husband and I have spent a lot of time discussing what kind of life we want for our family and that job was no longer compatible with our values.

  • This was a really inspiring post. I love how you use this blog as a platform to consistently encourage giving & thinking of others. Too often that message is missed in our world. Frugality is a means to an end for us, too.

  • Jessica says:

    This is so very well said. Debt had its place in my life so I could achieve a high level of education and earn my Masters degree. It also allowed us to become homeowners. But we aggressively paid off that debt because it felt like such a heavy weight on our shoulders. We became debt free almost 2 years ago thanks to choosing to live below our means. We lived on my DH’s salary no matter how small and used mine to pay off student loans, pay off our mortgage in 6.5 years, put $30k into necessary home repairs, pay cash for a new to us car, build an emergency fund and pay for childcare. After we had been debt free for a full year, I quit my job to be a SAHM. I earned 60% of our family’s income so it wasn’t easy to walk away from a comfortable salary but it also wasn’t a drastic change because we were used to living on 40%. I’ve been a SAHM since last September with no regrets. That’s what living frugally allowed me to do. It “bought” me time with my babies, which is priceless. I’d rather have time with my children than a designer bag, an i-anything, a fancy trip, name brand clothes, a McMansion or a Cadillac any day.

  • Cathy says:

    Thanks for this. It was just the reminder I needed. We have always lived frugally, but right now it is out of necessity. When others around you seem to be doing well despite new car payments and debt, I sometimes get frustrated when we struggle. However, I know we are on the path God placed us on. I know that God is our provider and we have to be good stewards of His money.

  • joanna says:

    one of my very favorite quotes, “live simply, so that others may simply live.” thanks for your well-said post & most of all, your example & tips in the area of finances!

  • deborah says:

    This post blessed me! We have always lived fairly frugally and have always felt that giving-no matter how much or how little-is important! I will admit though, that I have times that I feel like I’m working more towards having something nicer than I am on thinking about giving more.

    It is also hard at times to see our peers taking vacations and having things that we don’t feel we can afford. Why is “stuff” so important anyway?! 🙂 We are blessed to be a family that enjoys being together and we have also been blessed with a lot of “stuff”, even though there seems to always be something that “would be nice to have.”

    It is refreshing to read something like this post. Your blog is an encouragement in many ways.


  • Suzanne says:

    My husband and I like to say that we ARE spending our money – we spend it on “peace of mind.” By paying off our debts/mortgage and not creating any new debt we are able to have the peace of mind that we did not have growing up. We both grew up with single moms who constantly worried about money. I grew up poor – virtually never had a phone, new clothes, school supplies, etc. We barely had a roof over our heads sometimes and frequently had the electricity cut off. For me, frugal living means never returning to that lifestyle and NEVER allowing my children to live that way. That said, all things are a balance and we certainly give in to the “wants” from time to time. We also give in to the kids ocassionally – again, I don’t want them to feel like I did growing up – never having anything new and always worried.

    • Andrea says:

      I think that’s an important point, Suzanne…not wanting the kids to feel like you did growing up. A quest to bless others (either with your time or your money) should not impact your children negatively. I know people that volunteer extensively, but rarely spend time with their own children.

  • Valerie Henry says:

    Well said. Amen. God bless you!

  • amybee says:

    Thank you for this encouraging article. I appreciate these “digging a little deeper” posts, as opposed to those that are barely more than links to articles you’ve already written. We longtime readers appreciate something new to chew on.

  • Jennifer W. says:

    You said a mouthful!!!! I could not live with myself if I had extra money just lying around and didn’t give it to those in need. God helps me so I need and want to help others……….

  • Kim says:

    Thanks for this very incouraging post Crystal! I could definitely use it today! We have chosen to live frugaly so that I can stay home with our 2 girls. When our friends are going away on vacations for the summer and purchasing new cars it is difficult to swallow. However, we do not want our girls to grow up like I did. ( I remember my mom “floating” checks to the power company just so we could have lights, but I also remember her buying stuff. ) I just think, if she would have taken the time to do things more frugally then maybe she could retire now instead of paying for it! At the age of 60 she works full time with no end in sight to retire because of her “buy, buy, buy” mentaliy. We want to emphasis the importance of family and faith to our girls and if that means living frugally and not getting the new pool or new car then so be it! We want to teach them to be good stewards of the money that God has given us to use while we are here. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Amie says:

      I understand. My in-laws are wealthy and like to live large… cars, huge homes, vacations, etc. Yesterday as my husband was describing their new house – and that one of the kids’ room was as big as our entire upstairs, just for a moment I thought, “are we missing anything?” And quickly my answer was no. Thankfully, frugal blogs, like this one, help me keep my values in perspective even when the people around me live differently.

  • Lynn says:

    We always consider our frugality as part of living a balanced lifestyle. We don’t have debt, keep our e/r fund, charitable giving, etc so that we can continue to have balanced choices in our household – not to just become “money hoarders” (although my husband sometimes has to remind me of this!!). We enjoy traveling and providing some experiences for our children and that is one, among many, reason we continue to live the way we do. I think sometimes from the outside people think we are extravagant in some of the things we do with our kids but it is in fact the exact opposite. We live frugally and keep our finances in order so we can “intentionally” have some plans for fun experiences to provide our family. That is part of the balance for us – other people don’t know that we sometimes plan more than a year out for those experiences! It certainly takes more discipline and when other people talk to us about it we tell them is not about deprivation and never being able to do or have anything but rather it is about getting your finances in order and then planning for the extras (which does sometimes mean not being able to have everything right when you want it!)

  • Rachel says:

    That was a great question- with an absolutely wonderful response. 🙂

    • Yes! Awesome response, Crystal! I loved the, “live simply so others can simply live.” We are so blessed here in the U.S., even the frugal among us! Frugal living for the grace of giving. 🙂

  • Heidi says:

    Amen to that Crystal! I now have a wonderful friend in Uganda all because my husband and I were financially able to help out when she needed a surgery. Her thank you note still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
    Yes it is worth it. Every bit of it.

  • oilandgarlic says:

    Love this post. I often hear people talking about regrets in terms of spending the money to travel, rather than saving or being frugal. While I love traveling and did a fair amount when younger, I am happy that my husband and I did not go into debt for this passion. Oftentimes people would say ‘well if you were hit by a bus tomorrow, wouldn’t you regret not going to X & Y?” That is true but most people don’t get hit by a bus and most people live a long time. And I still think it’s possible to travel or other things you love within a budget!

    I know no one has a crystal ball, but in my case, due to family medical/health issues later in life, having that extra money really saved our household sanity!

    Finally, I have learned not to equate true happiness with material things. It’s not that I don’t sometimes crave shining new things but I know that I don’t want to be a slave to spending/wages/ consumerism.

    • Alyssa says:

      Ive always wanted to go to Hawaii but we can’t afford it. My husband said, “Just imagine how much better Hawaii will be in the new heavens and the new earth!” haha so I don’t think I will regret being a wise steward of our money when I die.

  • katrina says:

    Happy Dance today! Living frugal pays off. My husband and i just paid off our five year car loan in only 26 monthes! We have lived a strict cash only lifestyle for 5 years and this was our first debt in 10 years. Being in debt made us both uneasy, but a dependable new to us car was very necessary( we also have an older used car). Prayers to those who are struggling, this can be done

  • I asked says:

    Thank you so much for answering Crystal. I had thought that perhaps you found it offensive. By no means did I want to take away from your work. I just felt discouraged with how little I was rewarding myself and our family. I wanted to make sure that it was truly worth it at some point. While we don’t have a lot of debt (small car loan and MTG), graduating college feels like forever away (only 1 1/2 years to go). I can taste the things that I want, but I resist. Sometimes it gets so hard. But, eventually it passes, and I’m okay.

    My husband just lost his job, but luckily he found another immediately. It just pays significantly less. I feel like I’m constantly struggling to cut back more and more and eventually, there’s not going to be anything else I can do. We make it, and we’re okay. But jealousy sometimes gets the best of me and I want things I shouldn’t. My time will come, I just need to work on patience.

    • Crystal says:

      I appreciated the question — thanks so much for asking. It made me think a lot about the choices we’ve made and whether they were/are worth it. Its harder when you’re where you are now, but don’t give up. Standing still is better than moving backward. You’re doing a great job; don’t lose hope!

      And don’t forget to enjoy small (budgeted!) splurges on occasion. Life is meant to be savored so find little things to savor and enjoy in order to keep going and not get burnt out!

      {Hugs to you!}

    • kj says:

      I just want to encourage you with my story. I quit work to be a stay at home mom 10 years ago. We bought a small home and for most of those 10 years we drove the same van (which got rustier and rustier) and a OLD beat up truck. (My husband does have a company car.)
      We did all of that out of necessity.

      A few years ago, we decided to get our finances in order. No more credit cards, etc. We kept our little house even though our family was growing and we kept our van even though the rust was growing. 🙂 We pinched every penny. The result?

      We tricked people. We didn’t mean too, but I guess by our lifestyle, everyone thought that we couldn’t afford more. And for a while we couldn’t. But after a while, we could. We got a new van and we are very close to purchasing a nice home. We couldn’t have done that without hard work and doing without for a while. The end result was so worth it.

      Another bonus–because of the frugal-ness for a while, we can now afford to not be frugal when needed. We are moving and I just had a baby. I don’t have time to cook, let alone find my dishes to cook on. We can eat out a little more, buy a few paper plates, etc… We have a little extra cash to spend because we are so careful. Be patient, it is worth it!!

      • Lana says:

        Thank you for being so encouraging! I, too, have quit work to be home with my children. I have two degrees and once made a nice salary. Now that my children are getting older, I’ve had people ask me why I don’t return to work and there have been some opportunities for me to do so. However, one of the many things I’ve learned in this frugal lifestyle is that there isn’t anything money can buy that is better than the choice I’ve made for my family and while job opportunities will come and go the current “position” I hold only comes around once in a lifetime!

        • Jen says:

          I’m right there with you, Lana, only my children are still young (18 months and 4 1/2). I have 2 degrees, and when I quit working at 6 months pregnant with my first, we gave up half our household income. It’s been worth it. Little ones are hard work though, and I do think it would be easier to go to a job than stay home and raise 2 boys. 🙂 We truly believe it’s best for them to be home with mama though. I know the little years will be gone before I know it.

          • Angie says:

            I stay home with my 5 and 2 year-old but have experimented with different work arrangements. I was a full-time work out of the home mom until my oldest was 18 mos. Then I did a combination part-time work in and out of the home. That worked well until number 2 came along. At which point, the cost of part-time (20 hrs/week) daycare for two kids cut into my earnings to the point that it didn’t make much sense financially for me to do all of that juggling for take home pay that amounted to what our family could “earn” by cutting spending, using online rewards programs and selling a few things.

            My point in sharing all of this is to say that raising kids is hard work whether employed or not. I agree it is easier to go to a job WITHOUT raising any children than to raise children with or without the job.

  • Jess says:

    I absolutely think frugality is worth it. When I think about living life to the fullest (due to recent tragic events I feel like I keep hearing friends going through), it is not about vacations, material goods, etc that I value. It is the simple things, like reading a book with my kids or spending time w/ my husband that I treasure most. A Disney or European vacation is not more important to me than the “moments” of our everyday lives. I think it is hard to keep this in perspective, especially when people are constantly posting pics on fb and showing off things. I do want to take the kids to Disney at some point (mine are still fairly young), but will not stress that I am denying them an essential part of childhood.

    • AJ says:

      I figure that we can’t go to Disney for several years yet because for that amount of money, they had better remember it 🙂

    • Jen says:

      I have 2 young sons (18 months and 4 1/2 years), and just the thought of Disney stresses me out right now. 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      For what it’s worth, I went to Disney for the first time as a celebration of my graduation from high school! It was paid for with cash, from working fast food for over a year prior to that. And I can tell you Disney was just as special at 18 as it would have been at 8! 🙂 We may have skipped the tea cups, but I still won’t forget! I realize we couldn’t have afforded it when I was growing up, but I’m just happy I got to go!

    • Bobbiann says:

      Ha! I’m 37 and haven’t been to Disney yet. But we’re taking our kids, aged 11 and 14, for the first time this Christmas. We had to start saving several months ago, though, and it will be paid for before the trip.

  • Erica says:

    I love this post. My husband and I have just paid off $25k in debt and still have about $15k to go but it feels wonderful to know we are headed in the right direction. I too have wondered if my children would look back at their young years and be sad about not going on trip after trip. I see many of my friends on FB each weekend at a different location living the “high” life. And then in a few months they will complain about money shortages. It is at those times that I realize that saving my money and only using cash will teach my children better ideals so when they are adults they will not have to pay off old debt because they didn’t know any better. That is my ultimate goal!

  • I love this response. I feel exactly the same way!

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m hoping to have a new job soon that will make us a little more comfortable and it’s always good to have a reminder of why we should continue to be frugal instead of giving in to selfishness!

  • Ruth says:

    This was such a good article and really got me thinking about what I couldn’t be doing right now to help others out, if we weren’t frugal these last years. I honestly would be sad. The thrill of being able to help family members and have 2 Compassion children far outweigh any material extravagance I would buy or trip I would take. Both of those things have no lasting satisfaction like giving financially to others (stress free and without reservation). It took me a long time of doing it backwards to figure it out.

  • Adam says:

    Although its been said by many, its worth reiterating what a fantastic post this is! In many ways this post is the cousin to the post on how debt can ruin your life:
    They show that frugality is an ethical good that gives you a sense of meaning.

  • kim says:

    I absolutely love this post!!

  • We weren’t asked this question but had an a-ha! moment a few months ago regarding what we were saving for. Yes, we are working on our emergency fund and feel it’s critical for our financial stability. But at the same time we also dream of a home with a basement (we live in tornado country). One day I realized that we only have 9 summers left with our 9 y/o at home and we don’t have vacations in our budget at this point. Our priorities changed after that realization. We want those experiences with our daughters. We want them to have those memories. Does that mean DisneyWorld every year? No. But National Parks and public beaches are probably in our future. So now I have an added purpose to our frugal lifestyle – to create those memories that will last a lifetime!

  • Mallory says:

    I like this, it’s encouraging that one of the reasons you live below your means is so you can give more to others. A lot of the time I look around my house and think of the things I wish I had or could change to make it better, but it’s encouraging to hear about the way you can save to give to others. It reminds me of Dave Ramsey.

  • Becky N says:

    To me, being frugal is about intention. My husband and I are frugal in some ways so that we can spend money on things that we feel are important. We live in a tiny trailer and have a small grocery budget, but we spend $60 per week on babysitting for our three daughters to keep our marriage strong.

  • Kamila Straker says:


  • Mona says:

    Like many others, I have thought about how tough times can be sometimes. But we live frugally out of necessity. DH was laid off 3 years ago, went back to school and has been at his current job only 1 yr, at a much lower rate. We went through our savings (but had it) and we did accrue some debt, but I worked part-time during it all and homeschooled our kids. Getting back out of debt is stressful as we try to catch up, but I see the end in sight and I know it is better for our family. Our kids have learned a lot about budgeting and giving. We never gave up feeding the homeless, giving to church, or helping when we could. We never gave up doing “something” even if was free instead of staying home all the time. We are blessed by our circumstances, by the knowledge of hope and togetherness we’ve achieved.

  • lana says:

    Thank you so much~ I’ve thought of this question before. My mom died when I was ten, so I have focused much of my life on thinking it may end at any moment.

    I have decided that being a Godly steward has more rewards than instant gratification of purchasing things that are not priorities.

    I’ve found having an open hand is freeing, emotionally and financially. It also creates a dependency on God, who generously supplies all my needs.

  • celia says:

    I agree with this 100%. Being frugal helps us live the way we want to live and give the way we want to give.

  • Katie says:

    I agree. Being frugal is totally worth it. Because we live beneath our means I am able to be a stay at home mom, and that is more rewarding than “stuff.” But we choose to live tight in some areas, we’re able to enjoy things in other areas. We go on weekend getaways almost every weekend. And we do a lot of family day trips as well. People think we have more money than we do, but we just choose to spend wisely on the things that are important to us. I know too many people who live way above their means and are unhappy. Material things will never make you satisfied, you’ll always want more. The memories we make with our family are priceless!

  • I have been a frugal person most of my life.. with a brief break when I got a huge raise at work and lost my frugal ways but I have always lived within my means. I worked a job that I didn’t love for many years knowing that I wanted to stay home when I had a kid so we saved every penny. I had my son and was so frugal that I couldn’t bear to quit my job. I actually was working full time and being a full time stay at home mom for 18 months. I finally got up the guts to quit my job and stay home full time when I worked out a budget on how we could live within our my husband’s salary and realized that I could do it. It has been a change in (our pre-baby) lifestyle with no eating out, no movies, and no extras and continuing with no cable, low phone plan and more. We enjoy our life now so much more and our family is closer than ever!! I am super glad that we have our savings to fall back on but living within our means that I can continue to stay home with my little angel 🙂

  • Kay Leras says:

    I love saving money! The other day I bought two family packs of chicken legs for 29¢ a lb., pizza rolls for 29¢ a box, and bagged salad for 29¢. I walked out with a lot of food for just over $4.00! I was thrilled with my purchases.

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