Anyone who has been in graduate school or seminary or just starting a new job with family in tow knows that the budget is tight…. with little to no wiggle room. We are constantly keeping track of every penny. I can’t sleep at night if I know our checkbook is not balanced perfectly. I am obsessive about getting the balance in my register to match what the bank says. I want to know what is in the account at all times. I have to know. I have to keep track because we have to be so careful with what we spend.
I have struggled with our finances being what they are while we’ve been in school because, though I have never been a big spender, I have always been able to make purchases when I want. I have always been able to grab a pair of shoes from the clearance rack or stock up in the dollar section or peruse the clearance bins at the craft supply store. I like to bargain shop. I like to find deals and boast about them. But… when you don’t have the disposable income to even bargain shop with, then even those deals are excessive and unnecessary.
A couple of months ago, I came across a coupon code for a free Photo Album from Walgreens. I was excited because we had recently had our family portraits done when I won a free photo session from a friend’s budding photography business. I thought the book would be a great way to display the pictures. I planned on completing the book and having it shipped to Walgreens in order to avoid shipping costs. I worked on the book for two hours, but when I went to check out, I found out that the ship to store was not an option with this coupon. I would have to pay $7.99 to have it shipped. I was SO disappointed because I had just finished paying bills and wiped out the bank account. It was only eight dollars, but it was eight dollars we just didn’t have. I had to walk away. I had to give up the “free” book.
In a previous post, I shared that I found some fabric in the clearance bin at Joann. I bought enough to make both of my girls dresses for Easter. I was so proud of my find and excited to make the dresses. I felt so domestic and accomplished. My husband was impressed and proud of the dresses as well… but he gently pointed out that the girls already had perfectly good dresses and the money that I spent on the supplies was money that could have been used elsewhere. At first I was mad at him for bringing that to light. But the reality is… he was right. We’ve been blessed time and time again with hand me downs and the girls both had beautiful dresses that would have been nice to wear. The fabric and supplies that I bought, even though they were on clearance, were not necessities.
I sold those other dresses on ebay and got the money back… but that’s not the point. The point is.. being frugal is not easy. Being frugal often means just saying no to those great deals. Being frugal might mean not spending the money on ink and paper to print out coupons.It might mean just going without.
We live in a culture of excess and abundance. What I deem a necessity is likely seen as a luxury in other parts of the world. My children have more clothes than they know what to do with. They don’t even wear half of them. I don’t need clorox wipes and swiffer pads… even if they are on sale. I can make my own vinegar all purpose cleaner at home and knit up some reusable swiffer pads from all the extra yarn I have hanging around. I like that I can make my kids clothes, but they don’t need that from me right now. So many people see being frugal as being a great bargain shopper. But for me… it has to be just being content with what we have and either making do with what we have or going without.