Frugal for life

Frugality is usually borne of necessity, and that means that many people in this tough economy are getting to know its meaning very well. Once they’ve experienced all the frugal life brings them — will they go back to the life they led?

As a married university student, thriftiness was vital if I wanted to avoid years of student loan debt. Fortunately (in an economic sense), being married almost eliminated the need for any social life — money saved! And that whole “struggling student” thing worked in my favour as well. Most of my friends were in the same boat. I remember staff at the university coffee shop being very understanding when we would ask for hot water for the tea bags we brought in ourselves. Although some of my attempts at cost cutting were well received, I still cringe when I remember the night I cooked up chicken livers that even the cat wouldn’t eat. Even slathered in no-name ketchup. I’m not sure if I’m still cringing at the taste — or the waste.

That’s how your mind works when you’re in the frugal zone.

Later, as a single mom, frugality was the way to achieve the family’s goals. In charge of the family finances, I learned all kinds of things they don’t teach you in school about budgeting, strategic shopping, and saving. I applied lessons my parents learned living through the Great Depression: How to stretch meals, the importance of saving before spending, fiscal restraint, and using credit wisely.

Thanks to what I learned l managed to create simple recipes that wowed (I like to think) family and friends (although to this day our home remains chicken liver-free); sent both kids off to college, and was able to help them participate in school exchanges and trips.

Doing work I love, but in a low-paying, uncertain industry, has also made me want to stretch every dime. We’re all faced with choices and sometimes the path you choose will involve much scrimping down the road. Something to weigh seriously, kids!

You’d think that it would be easy to be frugal when you have to be, but tough when you’re not forced into it, but once you’ve lived the frugal life, being wasteful is very hard to do. While I don’t wish the “having to” on anyone, being frugal is a lesson that I hope others will learn and benefit from.

An ailing economy and planet have made my frugal ways quite trendy. Simplicity in home decor can mean minimal posessions give maximum punch. Not putting up Christmas lights sends the message that I care about the earth — not that I’m scrimping on my electric bill. Same thing with my turned-down thermostat, my limited water use, my clothesline, my taking the bus, my trips to thrift shops.. the list goes on.

My frugal side is more than happy to do its part.

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