In my experience, there are three kinds of frugals. The first type is the person who consistently practices their frugal lifestyle from month to month, from year to year. While there may be the occasional splurged (planned for or not) they are successful because they are consistent. The second kind of frugality tends to be used by those who have a "feast or famine" lifestyle. The third type is the "newly" frugal. These folks become frugal out of necessity-what will happen if their circumstances change, we don't know.
Some would say that practicing a frugal lifestyle all the time is depressing. I would suggest that being consistently frugal can make your life free and more joyful. Rather than deprivation, it brings long term security and happiness. This has been brought home to me full force in the past week.
Without going into huge detail, recently my life hit a huge bump-a disaster if you will. This bump reminded me of two things. It did remind me that if I had not allowed depression and guild to get to me I would have a cash cushion now. That thought was secondary to the knowledge that I am very well positioned on another level- because I am frugal over the long term.
Briefly, my most recent social security check as been attached by one of those large agencies in the sky, for an as yet unknown reason. Fear not, I have contacted the agency, my congressperson, and a myriad of other people. Meanwhile, I am left with almost no cash until the first of the month. I face Christmas, a trip to Denver, and life as we know it-all on just a little cash. While one can do little other than reschedule or extend regular bills, one can do quite a bit about every thing else. I will manage to eat, drink, be merry, and gift on what is available. I will not need to go to a food pantry, get a loan, access investments (if I had any) or fall on the ground and scream "oh, woe is me!".
The above is true because I life a long term frugal lifestyle. Over time I've developed frugal skills, from sewing to bread making to gardening to extreme shopping. I've gotten where I am by using those skills on a regular day to day basis. While some of these skills and habits can be learned quickly, the end results take awhile. Even without this emergency, I feed two adults on much less than most people I know. Over the years, I've managed to stock a freezer, fridge and pantry with loss leader foods. This is not something one can do in the short term, at least not well. Because of my previous efforts, we are able not just to eat, but to eat well during this crisis. Except for produce and milk products, we'll manage to eat out of what is on hand for over two weeks. We've baked, made food gifts, and eaten healthy wholesome meals. I've even been able to have my nightly glass of wine.
On the holiday front, I've obviously had to change my $500 holiday to my less than one hundred dollar holiday (much less). This has also not been a crisis. I used my skills to make some gifts (everyone has giftable skills, everyone). I made jarred gourmet ice cream sauces, place mats and napkins. I made army and Dallas Cowboy coaster sets and scrapbook pages from on hand. Even I do not do a homemade Christmas only. Because I shop sale items year around, I have giftable items purchased at less than fifty percent. Many of these items were purchased with someone in mind. These gifts were put to use. I had a collection of gift cards that I have earned thru rewards or other ways throughout the year-these were gifted as well. The end result? Nice gifts that I know will be used and/or loved. Money spent? Not a penny.
Tonight I am watching mindless drivel TV, post dinner time. Top Chef, the X Factor, Top Gear and football. I'm relaxed with my hot chocolate, my computer, and later a library book. I am only able to go into this full relaxation mode because of all the other things I do frugally and otherwise, through the year. Deprivation? I don't think so.
One final thought. Some of you may suggest this is what that emergency fund is for. On one level I agree-savings are a priority for me. On the other hand, I probably would not have accessed it for the reasons listed above. For a bill that could not be rescheduled? Probably. For everything else, creativity and planning can preclude the need (or the temptation to use) said emergency fund.
Oh, and before you ask? I'm not mad, I'm furious.If I it wasn't too painful to sit on the ground, I'd be occupying my local government building. More furious after visiting said government building than before I got there. I've lived through military and department of defense red tape. These folks, don't know, don't care, and it's not their problem. That however, is a discussion for another day.