The way I see it...

It’s co­ol to be fru­gal

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

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.

Fa­ce­book de­bate

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.

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