"Frugality doesn't necessarily mean giving things up. It means trading in things you don't value for things you do."
This quote has not only allowed me to feel more satisfied with my station in life, but also helps me catch myself when I start judging someone else's decisions of how they spend their money, what clothes they wear, what car they drive, what house they live in, or what vacations they take. The beauty of America is that you have the option of choosing what is important to you and your family and then allocating your resources accordingly.
Changing your self-talk from "I don't get to do this or that" to "I choose to do this instead of that" shifts your emotions from powerless to powerful. You have the power to choose how you spend your time, money, energy, emotions. You are not a victim of income, circumstance, or other people's influences when you decide for yourself how to allocate whatever you do have to what is important to you.
If you want to see how your spending/values compare to the Average American, here is how the Average American consumer spends their paycheck.
I spend less than average on:
- Professional grooming: I never get my hair professionally colored, highlighted, or permed. I get it cut, on average, 2-3 times/year at a salon that charges less than $12.
- Expensive or vast arrays of makeup: I have 1 lotion, 1 foundation, 1 bronzer, 3 eyeshadow compacts, 1 mascara, 1 eyeliner, and 1 tube of lipstick and don't buy new ones unless the others are gone as in I cannot scrape one more wearing out of them.
- Cars: I drive a 10-year-old car I've owned for 7 years with over 160,000 miles that is worth less that $1000 and am saving up for a minivan (not a stylish SUV). I never plan to have a car payment the rest of my life.
- Professional concerts, CDs, or itunes: I attend local concerts, show choir competitions, and prefer audio books or talk radio to music anyway.
- Home Decor: I rarely buy non-functional things for my house and most I do have were either carefully selected gifts or garage sale finds.
- Fast Food: It is reserved for when we are traveling or meeting friends or family, but I never just pick it up to have for supper.
- Jewelry: You will rarely see me wearing more jewelry than my wedding ring, and the things I do have are either 10 years old or were given to me to wear in a wedding.
- Pampering: I have never had a pedicure, manicure, or massage that did not use a gift certificate.
- Seasonal Decorations: For Christmas, I only decorate the living room and the sum total of any other "seasonal" items are a "Give Thanks" tile, group of fall berries, and 2 pumpkins that are currently sitting on my mantel.
- DVDs: I never buy and rarely rent. I barely have time to watch the ones I get from the library.
- Trendy clothes: Much of my wardrobe is 5-10 years old and I usually don't buy something if I think it will be out of style in the next 3.
- Fancy phones: My free Razor (or whichever AT&T Samsung thing I pick out to replace it) serves me just fine.
- Housing: My house is no bigger than what we need and we live in a very low cost community. Small house= less to clean! And we have avoided making expensive upgrades that will not give us a good return whenever we have to sell.
I probably spend more than average on:
- Food: I bake a lot and try to eat at home/pack my lunch, so my grocery budget is probably larger than average. There are also things I just can't compromise on, like bakery buns, name-brand peanut butter, and fresh deli meat.
- Good running shoes: Once a year, I get the new version of the same "footbridge" Nikes. They cost much more than $30 tennies I could pick up anywhere, but my tendonitis and flat feet appreciate the extra attention.
- Vacations: I value time away and although we haven't traveled as much since becoming parents, I still like to get away and see new things.
- High speed internet: my nerves cannot handle slow connections
- Kitchen Accessories: I have a large collection of Pampered Chef items, real Tupperware, and various small appliances. I enjoy cooking/baking/decorating and consider it a hobby (but a hobby you can eat!)
- Retirement: I'm positive I'm above average since 40% of working Americans are saving NOTHING for retirement. I am personally trying not to count on any of the remaining shambles of Social Security that might be left for my generation and desperately trying to put in more now to take advantage of compound interest
- Gas: I commute over 300 miles/week and usually make at least 1 other 60+ mile trip on the weekend.
So, there's my "frugal living philosophy" in a nutshell.
No, this is me in a nutshell. "Help, I'm in a nutshell! Get me out of this shell!" ~lame Austin Powers reference