A Frugal Lifestyle: Personal Style

One of the things I have learned about being frugal is know yourself and know your family.

What are your natural inclinations?

What are your bad habits?

What is your personality?

What is your spouse’s personality?

Your children’s?

If you attempt to do frugal things that go completely against your family’s nature you are going to be frustrated over and over.

Some of those habits can be changed (like going out to eat constantly or buying new clothes all the time) but it is easier to replace a habit with something that fits your personality than with something that is against your nature.

A long time ago I attempted to make a garden so we could grow our own veggies. I went all out. I spent lots of money on fertilizer and seeds thinking that using good materials to begin with would guarantee success. What I didn’t take into account was that I was mom with three children under 5 with all sorts of special food needs, that I hated weeding, that I tend to forget to take care of things that don’t tell me their needs, that our house was built on clay and fill, that I hated outdoor work, and that my middle child LOVED to play with unripe tomatoes. The few plants that survived did not survive my 3 year old.

This year we did it again but in a way that suited our family. We made a raised garden from old window shutters. We used free top soil that my dad gave us. I bought a few seeds and we planted them in one foot squares. We are using water from cooking and from heating the shower and covering them with old shower doors when it is too cold. We only spent a little bit of money on it and only put a little work into it. The kids each have responsibility for their own gardens which means that I am not constantly having to deal with it–or killing the plants.

Another failed project was when I tried doing the strict budget, price list, and coupons thing. It worked as long as I was into the project but as soon as I got busy elsewhere or sick it fell apart. I spent HOURS preparing for shopping, wasted plenty of time and effort to save a few dollars on things we didn’t even use, and managed to stress myself out because no matter how hard I tried I could not make the budget work. I just couldn’t. And when I got pregnant and the horrible 4 months of constant throwing up it all went down the drain.

L-R: Front: bulk carob chips, cheese, fruit, potatoes.  Middle.: Bulk peanut butter (2 months worth) and Almonds, soy milk, eggs, salad, peanuts, Bragg\'s, onions, oil.  Back: 25lb bag oatmeal (6 months worth), 25lb bag of flour (one month\'s worth), frozen veggies.

Nowadays I am more laid back. My husband and I make decisions about the big things together. We pay bills together so we both know what is going on. We leave a nice cushion in the bank of at least $400 just in case we spend more than we expect and we have a rough estimate of how much groceries and medicines will cost. I only shop when we get the paycheck and we do without until the next. I stay at home as much as possible and avoid quick trips out. We do our main shopping once a month and a small perishables trip on the off-paycheck. This works out well because I like to do projects in spurts. I hate having to do things on a daily basis and not having to deal with receipts and budgets works well for me. Knowing myself and our family saves us a lot of money since we know where our weaknesses are and have figured out how to avoid those pitfalls.

Bread dough folded over a slice of cheese and baked.

Even baking from scratch is done in a way that suits our family. I used to do it on a daily basis. That got tedious and I would end up just buying convenience foods when I got busy. Now I do my baking in spurts like my great grandmother did. Usually I make a whole slew of things once a week and we eat those for the rest of the week. It works well and means that not only does the kitchen stay cleaner but also we save money on gas for our stove and it keeps convenience foods in the house so that when I am busy we still have ready-made foods.

Knowing my family has changed my perception of how things should be and how to be frugal. It is easier to replace a bad habit with something that suits your nature than to replace it with something that is completely against it. Better to buy convenience foods in bulk than to go out to eat every day. Better to stock up on bulk products if you hate using coupons. It is better to keep a cushion in the bank if you are no good at budgets. It is better to replace shopping for new clothes all the time with shopping on sales days at the thrift shop. Instead of trying to replace non-frugal habits with what other people say you should do you should replace them with things that save money but which will work for your family.

More Frugal Friday posts can be found here.