There are many areas in my life where I practice frugality, or just do without. The funny thing is, those areas where I cut back are areas in which I don’t notice any kind of lack. In other words, I never feel like I’m missing out.
For example, we almost never eat out. This is no big deal because I like to cook and have my family gather around the kitchen table for meals. Sure, some nights it would be easier to just order take out, but I enjoy the challenge of making a meal out of what we have on hand.
Home and personal care products are more areas where I don’t spend much money. I make many of my own cleaning products and laundry detergent. For personal care items, I try to use things around the house (like olive and coconut oil) and even make my own deodorant.
Don’t get me wrong, I still purchase things I really love. Some of them I could likely do without (e.g., I don’t need dark chocolate). But I choose the things or experiences that will bring me the most joy and then I spend on those.
Sometimes I spend a lot on things I love. In fact, when I look back at the past two years, the most I’ve spent on things other than needs can be summed up into one word: travel.
I care about traveling — so does my family. We’re willing to do without certain things throughout the year in order to set money aside for traveling.
I’ve never looked back fondly at a shoe purchase, but I have always relished the memories and experiences gained from every trip I’ve ever taken. And even the seemingly horrible trips blow the memory of a new car payment out of the water.
The practice of not spending on the things you don’t really care about in order to allocate resources to the things you love is often called conscious spending.
For those of us that want to get and stay out of debt, conscious spending is one of the most important skills we can learn. The basic premise is that we can spend on the things or experiences we truly want. We just can’t spend on ALL the things or experiences we want!
If you search your heart you’ll likely find some thoughts or ideas that you feel emotional about. You’ll know you’ve found what matters to you by the rush of warmth that crashes over your chest and stomach. Pay close attention to the thoughts or ideas that create that wave of positive emotion within you, for those are the things on which you should be focusing your resources.
Be careful though, sometimes we can mistake impulsiveness with emotion and meaning. Impulsiveness is the thud in our stomach that creates a reaction before we’ve had the chance to process the long-term consequences of our actions.
We usually don’t recognize that we’ve acted impulsively until after the fact. Think of the time you went to grocery store hungry and ended up spending $40 more than you had planned. Then you got home and realized you spent all of the extra money on things like marshmallows and potato chips. In floods the guilt. Oops.
There are several areas where I find spending money consistently brings me fulfillment:
- New experiences with my family
- Self-improvement and mind expansion (books, education, seminars, etc.)
Conversely, there are several areas where I find spending brings me remorse and new bills, or items to manage and maintain:
- New cars (by taking out a loan)
- New gagets (that sometimes do the same things as other gagets I already have)
- Anything on credit
No one can tell you what’s important to you. Only you can decide what will bring you joy. Follow your heart and spend less on the things that don’t make your soul sing — for those are the exact things that will hold you back and prevent your best life from unfolding.