Friends and family have called me a tightwad or a cheapskate. I prefer to be called "frugal"! About 12 years ago, my husband and I came to the bright conclusion that we had too much debt (after only 3 years of marriage!) We also realized, given our current debt to income ratio, we would NEVER be out of debt. So, we got a consolidation loan to cure our problem. Our cure didn't work because, as a lot of people do, we continued to accrue debt. It was growing quickly! Our second problem was that I desperately wanted to quit work and stay at home with our baby daughter.
By this point we were coming to the realization that we needed to do some things drastically different! So, we cut up all of our credit cards and tried to pay down our debts as much as we could (we started using Mary Hunt's Rapid Debt Repayment Plan). I was learning that paying down debt is like dieting: It's great to lose weight but if you don't CONTINUE your new healthy eating and exercising, the weight will come right back on (and usually twice as much!) It was at this time that I realized getting out of debt and STAYING debt free was more than a budget on paper but it was a heart issue; learning about contentment, thankfulness and frugality.
We were able to get completely debt free in about 3 years (with only my husband's income). We lived on A LOT less and learned to love it! During those 3 years, I read all of Mary Hunt's books, "The Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyczyn, and "Living On Less and Liking It More" by Maxine Hancock. When someone has had a negative behavior, they can't just stop it and continue living like they had before. It helps to have something new, a new positive habit to replace the bad. That, my friends, is exactly what becoming frugal did for me!
At first, it was a game (How much money can I save with coupons this week). However, it quickly became a lifestyle. Since we have become debt free, we have built our own home in the country with acreage. We raise pigs, our own chickens, and we have our own orchard and garden. I've always loved to garden but recently I read "Growing Your Own Groceries" by Kimberley Eddy. This book was very encouraging and informative on how to grow and can enough food for your family for a year. We have 4 children, so saving on groceries is a constant challenge for me. Leaving the grocery store, knowing I've only spent $75, gives me a greater high than I ever received from charging stuff at the mall!
One major tip I have about being frugal is: Give away a portion of all that you make. When you give, it always comes back as a blessing! Don't confuse being frugal with being stingy or selfish. Instead, being frugal frees up money so you can give more away. Once you become a frugal minded person, there is no turning back. I know some people may roll their eyes, thinking one can go too far in being a tightwad. I agree with Maxine Hancock in "Living on Less and Liking it More", she says: "We sit in our living rooms and look into the unseeing eye of our TV sets and see not just individuals but entire cities and nations going bankrupt. And at the same time, we look into the empty eyes of swollen-bellied children of famine who are somehow, impossibly, still alive. And we know that somewhere, in some way, we are all personally responsible."
But just sitting around with vague guilt feelings haunting us is hardly a sufficient response. We need to seriously reevaluate our whole set of life goals and to ask ourselves, "Where are we now? And where are we going?" We must put to ourselves the question worded by World Vision director, W. Stanley Mooneyham, "Is my life style supporting a famine somewhere in the world today? If we are, indeed, people not content to sit back and wait in helplessness for the breakers of present and future shock to overwhelm us, we need to become actively involved in adjusting our goals, expanding our ethic, and moderating our life-style to meet the needs of this changing age."
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent 7 years at a Soviet prison camp; the world would be a better place if we would follow his advice. He says, "What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want I'll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory- property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves, decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life - don't be afraid of misfortune and do not yearn after happiness. Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart - and prize above all else in the world those who love you and wish you well."
I love my frugal life!
By Christy Brashers
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Christy, you have soooo got your head on straight! And we enjoy Mary Hunt, too. She gives good advice. My hitch with giving is that all these giant charities, Christian and secular, have directors who pull down salaries of $200,000 or $300,000 per year. I don't like my money going there. I want it to help the starving people. How do you find out where to give wisely? Anyway, thanks for a great read!
God Bless you, Christy, you've done many good things for your family and community. We are still working on paying up our debts, so we don't have much money to put into charities (though whatever spare change I have I give to local people in need or Ronald McDonald House.) I do help out where I can, though, whether it is a neighbor in need or cookies for the firefighters.
thanks for your thoughtful & thought-provoking article. It was a refreshing change to read of your reason for continuing to be frugal. It's amazing just how little we really need to be happy. One day we can have not a care in the world when it comes to finances ... then we can lose it all overnight ... & with the right attitude, our lives can actually be more blessed than it had been previously, because we have learnt to know what it truly is to be happy, as opposed to always chasing the next 'goodie' ... Well done Christie ... & thank you.
Wendy for Oz.
One of the charities we support is http://www.DonorsChoose.org , which was highlighted on Oprah a few years ago. We're big believers in public education and they help with school programs in specific low-income locations in the US. You can choose which project(s) you'd like to fund and of course how much you could give toward that project. After the school receives your gift, the teacher and students send letters and pictures of what your money bought and how they are using it. It's a neat charity because of the feedback of exactly how the money was spent (not big bucks for administration). It doesn't feed the hungry, but feeds the mind. There are a lot of people who need a hand up, not a handout.
Answer for coreenhart as to where to find those charities that donate your gift to the mission, not to overhead and administrative costs: Look for a religious charity or mission project such as the United Methodists have in Volunteers in Mission (VIM) or their UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief). Both of these entities use 100% of everything given towards direct relief of a disaster or given mission. Overhead and administrative salaries for these entities are borne through apportionments paid by each Methodist church in the state or Conference. In other words, donated monies goes to the project while salaries and overhead are paid from totally different funds. UMCOR was on the ground and up and running within days of Katrina. They are always one of the very first there, and one of the last to leave. Hopefully, your church will have a similar program.
Hands up to you Christy.....
You have done great!
Awesome story and so true and well written.
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