The way I see it...
It’s cool to be frugal
Iam on a mission to make being frugal cool, or to make it more socially acceptable to be open about wanting to save money.
I’d like to be able to speak out loud about the need to make choices instead of trying to “have it all,” or look like I do. My name is Kristina. And I’m frugal. There, I said it. And to be honest, I am not embarrassed about my frugal ways, but sometimes feel like I’m in the minority. Am I alone, I wonder? Are there others like me who thrill at the game of saving money, who peruse the circulars and go to four or five stores (in one area of town) to buy only what’s on sale? Do others allocate funds, too, and stop spending once the money’s run out?
Of course, I realize that we need to spend money to live in this world. I’m not a martyr walking around in a burlap sac, but I also don’t want to feel like someone’s patsy because every marketing agency would have me believe I’m only beautiful if I buy the $90 jar of face cream, or sexy if I drive the right car. That I only love my husband if I spent at least $126.03 on him for Valentine’s Day. That was the amount noted for women in a recent Los Angeles Times article which cited a survey done by the National Retail Federation. According to them, the average man spent $168.74 on clothing, jewelry and other gifts last week for Valentine’s Day.
Yikes! I guess the boxes of Lindt chocolates I gave my husband and each of our kids fell far short of the mark. Or did it? If my goal was to let them know I love them and was thinking of them, I think it worked...?
They certainly didn’t seem any worse off for having received the treats instead of, say, jewels, clothing, cars, expensive electronics or cold hard cash, the true way to say I Love You, in our consumer obsessed world.
Keeping up with kids
And nothing exerts financial peer pressure on a budget than raising kids. Parents are constantly challenged to pay, pay, pay, so kids don’t feel deprived and suffer low self esteem as a result, or so we’re lead to believe. The pressure comes from advertising, from trying to keep up with what other people buy their kids, and from the number of activities our kids’ peers are enrolled in (what ever happened to free play?) It also comes from schools in the form of lunch programs, book order forms, class trips, inschool guests parents are expected to pay for, and more. Every day, kids come home with forms seeking everything from a couple of loonies for a bake sale, to hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for trips to swimming pools, ski resorts, Europe and beyond. It can be exhausting, not to mention difficult to explain to a child if you can’t afford it all. I once went to a Governing Board meeting at an elementary school to ask if they place a limit on the potential amount asked of each child in a given school year. I was met with blank stares from everyone at the table, but was later told by an insider that if each family said yes to everything the kids were asked to buy, it would total more than $1,500 a year per student in extra fees.
A local financial advisor told me families often take out lines of credit just to pay such extras rather than risk having their child be the only one to miss out.
I’m not against field trips or bake sales, but I do think schools should cap the amount they ask of families, and like the rest of us, choose wisely when passing costs on.
And if we’re all a little more vocal about being frugal, it will be a great lesson to kids that life is about choices, and that you can’t, in fact, afford to have it all.
A recent debate on a Facebook site dedicated to people who live in VaudreuilDorion and love it, had people weighing in on what many members saw as a lack of affordable fitness club options in the area. Most felt the clubs were too expensive for the average working family. Many said they’d join a gym with spouses or teenage children if one with reasonable family rates could be found. And while there was quite a lot of support for the idea, others also weighed in criticizing the budget conscience writers for being too frugal. One person noted that businesses must cover their overhead and try to make a profit in the process.
The takeaway for me was that frugality is in the eye of the beholder. But as I said at the outset, I want us to come to a place where it’s okay to say no. To say: “I can’t afford that,” without feeling like a second class citizen. There’s no shame in being frugal, and there can be some pretty satisfying rewards when the bills don’t come in at the end of each month.