This frugal life I’ve been writing about on the blog is important. In fact, ever since I started writing this blog, I’ve been trying to promote the virtues of frugality. Why spend money needlessly?
I haven’t changed my mind about these things but I did have a unforeseen shift in attitude a couple of years ago.
Several years ago, my eldest daughter came home from the army and we had a wonderful 10 day vacation. We rarely got to see her in those days so when we did, we celebrated. We didn’t spend a ton of money on our vacation but we did let our hair down a little. We went camping at the beach, spent a day in San Diego, went to the movies and ate out a few times. We bought clothes for her and ourselves and other supplies too.
Even though I talk about budgeting all the time, I have to admit that I didn’t budget for that excursion. I do make a yearly allowance for recreation so we could easily afford our family vacation. But the truth is I would have done everything we did even if we hadn’t budgeted for it. This was a big shift for me and quite frankly, I took myself by surprise. I just didn’t care all that much about the money we were spending. I didn’t think about the money. Not at all. And I didn’t feel guilty afterwards either. While we were together, I was just in a constant state of gratitude for my wife and daughters and the life I have.
Now, keep in mind that I didn’t rent out Dodger Stadium or buy my kid a Faberge Egg. But we all did what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. When we were in doubt about spending or buying something, we did it. We erred on the side of spending vs saving.
And you know what? It was the right approach.
This mode of behavior is counter to my nature. I look for value in almost every decision I make. In the past, I’ve had this allergic reaction when our family spending goes outside our budget. I’ve lived for years with the fear that if they spend “unconsciously” we’ll never get back on track. This is black and white thinking and it has no basis in reality. And if you really want to freak out, let me tell you that sometimes it’s actually smart to spend even more than you earn.
I share this story with you for a few reasons. The main idea I think is that there are times to be super vigilant and there are times to be carefree. By being aware of my spending during the day-to-day (something I’m good at) I have the opportunity to enjoy the things that really matter in life without worrying about the money (something I’m working on).
So here’s my question to you; are you able to toggle between frugal and not-frugal in a healthy way? I think the test is how often you swing into the “non-frugal” mode. If it’s once in awhile, I think it’s healthy. If non-frugal is the norm, it could mean there is an opportunity to revisit your spending and make some meaningful changes. Where do you stand on this?