Things keep breaking at our house. Maybe you know the feeling.
First the automatic door lock. Then the dryer.
The old me would have just replaced these things, no questions asked. (And we did end up replacing the door lock, but not before calling customer service to see if we could purchase the parts to fix it ourself…to no avail…boo, Kwickset.)
The old me wouldn’t have even tried to fix things. The old me didn’t even know how to call customer service and ask for information on parts and warrantees.
But the frugal me fixes things rather than instantly replacing.
The frugal me questions every purchase, asking if I can live without it or put it off.
The frugal me isn’t afraid to try new things and learn new skills.
Our generation has the privilege of free how-to Youtube videos and online message boards of other people fixing the same exact things. We should take advantage of this DIY goldmine!
Especially when there is danger or electricity involved, I think it’s good to be on the safe side. Let’s be real, here. (Insert disclaimer.)
But the “safe side” doesn’t always mean hiring a professional. The “safe side” could be asking a friend who is a professional, listening carefully, and doing the work yourself.
The “safe side” could be doing your research (definitely unplugging things and flipping breaker switches) and learning from the mistakes of others who found themselves in your shoes.
Sometimes things aren’t as complicated in real life as they are in our minds. For me, any kind of car repair is amplified exponentially by my self-prescribed lack of practical car knowledge. When, in reality, a car is a pretty simple machine and there aren’t that many parts to it.
And house repairs often aren’t as scary as they sound. In my own experience, most home repairs are actually kind of “crafty” and I’m more well-suited for them than I ever gave myself credit for. (If you can make a mosaic and take basic measurements, you can lay tile, right?)
We just don’t give ourselves permission to be good at things outside of our chosen “fields.” But I’m a believer that we’re all a bit more competent than that.
I recently read the book Meet the Frugalwoods by Elizabeth Willard Thames – the woman behind the immensely entertaining and useful finance blog Frugalwoods.com.
Let me tell you, this book was just one quotable moment after another, told in refreshing memoir-style so it reads like a novel as well as being full of finance wisdom.
The book, combined with my recent DIY experiences, got me thinking about the non-financial benefits of frugality.
How frugality goes above and beyond simply saving money, and actually changes us at our core. And not just us, but the world around us too.
Inspired by the book, here’s a little glimpse into the world of Luxurious Frugality:
Benefits of Frugality
(That Have Nothing To Do With Money)
Whilst recently fixing our dryer, Josh and I self-diagnosed it with the help of Youtube and a borrowed current meter (thanks, Dad!) We both used our skills and worked together to solve the problem. Me, with my smallish hands and light-holding skills, and Josh, with his optimism and his practical-thinking mind.
We kept thanking each other and asking each other for things. At the end of the day, we diagnosed the problem, found the part, found an even cheaper seller for the same part, ordered it and put everything back together upon the part’s arrival.
It may not sound like that big of a deal, but we definitely bonded in the experience, and felt like we beat the system by rescuing our dryer for $25 rather than calling an expert or scrapping it. It felt like we were getting away with something when the thing actually started working again!
Collaborating on repairing our kitchen cabinets was the first of many projects that allowed me to see [Nate’s] skills shine and brought a new level of respect to our relationship. We’d compliment each other on a job well done, we’d help each other on complex elements of a project, and I noticed that we started saying “please” and “thank you” to each other in the course of our daily routine. I began to notice all the work that Nate put into our household and he did the same for me.
We’re forced to think outside the box when we’ve made a conscious decision to not spend money. Our culture tells us that money fixes everything, but the reality is that creativity and ingenuity also fix most problems. We simply don’t give them the chance to shine.
Paying money is the laziest, least creative way to solve a problem or reach a desired end…. There’s no innovation in slapping down a credit card.
A frugal life is a creative life and one that’s devoid of clutter, both physical and mental, and absent any boredom.
It’s called “the IKEA effect” and it’s proven that we get more satisfaction out of things we do ourselves verses jobs we outsource. We don’t see the imperfections; we see a hurdle we overcame. We don’t see the thing itself; we see the work we put into it – the blood, sweat and tears traded for the end result.
It’s proven that people experience greater satisfaction with projects they do themselves, even if the result is subpar than with projects they pay other people to do.
Solving our own problems with our own money is the “American way.” But who says it has to stay that way? Humans are social creatures and we thrive through interaction and interdependence. You instantly connect and feel closer to someone that has paid you a favor, and when and if you’re able to return the favor, the relationship ebbs and flows.
Every time I wear an outfit that a friend swapped me, I feel a connection to that person. In my mind, I thank them for it. I’m glad we’re able to give and gain from one another in such a tangible way. In a way it represents the invisible push and pull of the non-tangibles in our relationship.
Maybe I’m being a little too poetic, but the point is this: individualism is overrated. Consumerism thrives on the idea that you must buy your way out of your own problems. And that everything must be NEW. It doesn’t.
I think that borrowing, swapping, and bartering shouldn’t go out of style. Let’s bring it back in vogue.
5. New Skillz
You gain confidence with each frugal victory. And that will make you more likely to take a brave stab at the next one.
If I can wire a light fixture, I can probably also caulk my tub. If I can install a dishwasher, it makes installing a toilet less intimidating.
Let me tell you, frugal DIYs are addicting and empowering. And those skills and that courage will stay with you. It’s not something you lose after the fact.
When you do something yourself, you permanently reduce your dependency on outside sources and permanently increase your own aptitudes.
Money isn’t the answer to life’s questions. (Hint: neither is frugality!) I believe contentment, on the other hand, is pretty high up there.
If we can learn to be content with ourselves, our home, our family, our wardrobe, then we’re a lot happier than even the richest of the rich. Money doesn’t equal contentment. You can be a multi-millionaire and still feel that you don’t measure up to the billionaires next door.
We need a new system of measurement.
Frugality enables us to see the consumer carousel as a fraud.
Frugality reminds us that thankfulness is more fulfilling than greed and that resourcefulness is epically rewarding.
Thames says that if she and Nate won the lottery tomorrow, they wouldn’t change hardly anything in their lives. I feel the same way. We’d give more, and probably go on more dates, but after a certain point where your basic needs are met, more money doesn’t equal more happiness.
Being rich isn’t the end goal. If it is, you need to rethink your priorities or you’ll find yourself in for severe disappointment.
Frugality is green. Almost every frugal decision is also a good for the environment decision. It’s a win / win.
When we replace rather than repair, all those working parts are being trashed on account of one, single non-working part. It’s worthwhile to at least explore the idea of repairing.
Society tells us that my computer is junk and my phone is outdated. Commercials tell me that I deserve a new washer and dryer, with top-of-the-line settings and high-tech sensors.
But I say no thanks. I realize that I am not my phone or my computer or my washer and dryer. I will use these things until there is no life left in them, and then when it’s time to replace them I will scour the used market.
It’s simply wasteful to think that all things must be purchased NEW, and that they must be trashed the first time they show a small sign of wear or tear. Imagine all the things that end up in landfills simply because the owners were tired of them or thought it was time for an “upgrade.”
The final benefit I’d like to talk about today is perspective. It’s so easy to lose perspective on our lives when we’re in “survival mode.” It’s impossible to take a step back when we’re rushed and barely taking a moment to eat, think, sleep, or breathe. It’s easy to take even the good things for granted when we’re moving forward at a breakneck pace.
Frugality beckons us to work less on the meaningless jobs and give more to things that really matter to us.
Frugality reminds us that life is short and that we probably don’t want to spend it all sitting behind a desk in a windowless cubical.
Frugality shows us that a slower, simpler way is possible. That spending less on ourselves is more fulfilling. That giving is more meaningful than taking.
Living frugally as a default means that we absolutely enjoy and savor it when we do go out for a nice meal at a restaurant.
It means that we take less for granted and truly appreciate every little luxury sprinkled throughout our simple lives. The fresh air on our face. The sunrise. The aroma of a nice glass of wine.
We feel more. We live richer. We experience gratitude.
We live in a culture where people are lured into buying things they don’t need to fill houses that are too large, and then feel compelled to move to ever-larger houses and work ever-longer hours in order to support a life that they’re barely living…
I’m quite certain that no one on their deathbed has wished they worked longer hours or owned a newer car or bought more clothing. I like to imagine myself as an old woman reflecting back on a life well-spent. Then I make sure I’m creating that life and populating those future memories.
What do you think are some of the biggest benefits of frugality? How it allows you to be more generous with your time and your funds? The great feeling you get after finding a creative solution to a problem?
Photography by Annie Spratt
As is usually the case, this is right on. I can attest to the fact that thru’ doing repairs, one gains confidence to do the next project. When I stop and think of all that I have learned how to do, as well as repair, thru’ the years, I am amazed and thankful to God for putting me in a place where I had to learn them. It is handy and frugal, but I can also help other people who may not have that knowledge or skill to fix it themselves. Then they learn that they can do it too. A very old neighbor told me one time that ” When and old person dies, it’s like a library has burned down.” because all of their stored knowledge dies with them. I’m a firm believer in “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”.
Those are great thoughts!! You’re right, each new skill is also a chance to help others. That’s pretty motivating 😊