Learning To Live Frugally And Simply

Admittingly, for a majority of my life I've wanted (longed for) a lifestyle I couldn't afford.  I dreamt of a life where I could make (many) spontaneous purchases without having to check my bank account first.  And no matter how hard I worked, I just couldn't achieve that goal.  In fact, quite the opposite.  The harder I worked, the more I felt I needed to "treat" myself and the more pressure I felt to own brand new, trendy things.  I even, at one point, had an ongoing list of items I wanted to buy as I could afford them.  Not helpful, necessary items - mostly home d├ęcor and clothing, jewelry, etc. (none of which I actually needed or had room for).

And then, what should have been insignificant but were major to me, issues would happen.  They became major because I was living paycheck to paycheck.  My car needed work to the tune of $800, I needed a root canal that was going to cost me a few hundred dollars out-of-pocket, and the oven stopped working.  So although just over a thousand dollars is nothing to sneeze about, had I been living with a frugal mindset, this would have been a small speed bump.  Instead, it was a devastating road block.  I couldn't wait for the next couple of paychecks to scrape together the money.  Nope.  I needed it now.  It resulted in a lot of stress as I tried to figure out how in the world I was going to get everything paid for (and which credit cards had enough room to pay for which item).

The feelings of shame, embarrassment and downright frustration came flooding to the forefront.  I knew I wasn't good with money, after all, I was handling it the way I had seen my parents handle it.  And although they made a lot more than we did at the time, they too had constant financial stress.  I knew something needed to change, but I didn't think I had the strength to change my path.

This didn't happen once.  This was a vicious cycle I found myself in from the age of 18 until my mid thirties.  It continued to happen until I began to realize that not only did I have the strength to change my path but I had a responsibility to my future self.

I wish I could say that once that lightbulb went off things were perfect.  Ahhh…..wouldn't that be lovely?  But you don't live your entire life one way, the same way you've watched your parents live, and then change everything overnight without any slip-ups.  Nope, it's not that easy.

Frugal Living Take One
What I realized that I needed to do first was to make a list of goals.  Where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, how I wanted my life to look.  I needed something real to work toward.  I hated working for other people, I am just not a corporate, top-down, kinda girl.  That being said, I worked a corporate job, did my job dutifully and to the best of my ability, but in the back of my mind I couldn't wait to get out.  So, that became one of my goals.  Working for myself.  Owning a small homestead, creating our own business, growing much of what we eat, and living a more simple, intentional life was the start of my list.

And I found the list was a great idea!  It helped me focus and pass on purchases that I previously would have made without any thought to the contrary.  I followed Dave Ramsey's "will this purchase help my future self?" thought process.

And then I slipped up.  Stress was high at work, we began eating take-out regularly (I mean, who has the energy to cook after a stressful day at work? I reasoned....), and I made a quick stop at Target for 2 items where I made the mistake of walking through the entire store rather than leaving after I selected the 2 items.  Shopping can be like a high of sorts.  You feel anxious, you find an item that you "need" to update your home or your wardrobe, and you suddenly feel good.  And I did -- until I got home.

"I can't do this" I told myself.  I threw my pity party (for the next few hours) before I got over myself and decided I would do better tomorrow.

I continued to make a decision to stop trying to demonstrate my value through things that I own.  I began consciously ignoring the constant advertising of what I "needed" in my life.  I learned that if I wanted to stop being judged by what I had or didn't have, I too needed to stop judging.  I began to find the real me.

Frugal Living Take Two
I just kept jumping back on the horse.  I was determined to get to the new version of my dream life and I was embracing what truly made me happy.  There were days (and weeks) that I honestly questioned whether or not it was possible, but I had to keep believing.  And then the universe decided it was time to really test me.  I hadn't yet figured out what I was going to do for self-employment so I continued working for an employer that I struggled with.  The last straw was broke when I found out she was speaking poorly about me to outside vendors to make herself look better and together my husband and I decided I needed to leave.  I did not have anything lined up.  We didn't have much saved.  We were out of debt (thankfully) but had just recently paid off everything except our mortgage.  And my husband's job was not fully stable, he was only working full-time about half of the year.

I gave a 2 month notice and was allowed to work out 2 weeks.  And then reality hit.  And I got scared.  Initially I began looking for a new job.  Then I realized this was my opportunity to begin self-employment.  I started our soap & skincare company, but because there is so much overhead involved, I was forced to grow it very slowly.  We just didn't have the income to throw into the business.  I was also forced to live extremely frugally.  I didn't realize that I needed this test but I did.

A long story short, I did end up returning to work while we continued building our business and was able to leave outside employment for good two years ago.  The only reason we are both able to work for ourselves in a very small business is because we live frugally and have simplified our lives (wants/needs).  Could we get more frugal?  Absolutely.  Could we simplify more?  That's a big YES.

It all comes down to contentment.  I've chosen to look at the world through the lens of what I do have, not of what I don't have because the reality is, there will always be something I don't have.  Things that I constantly need or want if I were to continue on that path.

related posts: 12 Ways That I've Simplified My Life
                       23 Frugal Tips To Try This Year
                       What Simplifying My Life Has Taught Me

What Does Frugal Living Have To Do With Simple Pleasures?
Frugality encourages us to fully appreciate simple pleasures.  For instance, I used to purchase a latte from Starbucks twice a day (I know, it was ridiculous!).  It was something I just did.  I didn't necessarily appreciate the latte, I expected it.  Once I decided to break that habit and began making my own coffee at home, the few times I did purchase a latte out I truly appreciated every aspect about it - the delicious syrup, not having to make it myself, and the perfectly steamed soy milk.  And it's continued to stay as that - a rare treat.

Living frugally means we don't need bigger and better treats to continue seeking happiness.  Instead, we find it.  And it's almost always in the most simplest of things and often, in things that are already in our lives.

living simply and frugally has given me time to fully appreciate the change of seasons

Frugal Lessons Learned
Frugality gives you options.  Whatever you want to do - work for yourself, retire, travel, work part-time,  - frugality helps make that happen.  You're no longer spending your way out of a life you'd like to live.

Living frugally allows you to be prepared for the inevitable crisis.  Car needs major repair?  No problem.  Refrigerator needs to be replaced, NOW.  Okay doke!  Lost your job?  You're financially ok for a few months while you search for a new one.

Simplifying your needs and wants allows you space (and time) to appreciate the things you have in a whole new way.  It also allows you space and time to appreciate the people around you in a whole new way.  It allows for contentment.

Frugality and simplifying your life means you aren't tied to a rigid budget.  Because you no longer spend lavishly, counting pennies just isn't necessary.

Frugality makes you happier (although it's hard to see that initially).  When I chose to stop shopping, I found that I became less stressed.  I was spending less money on things, and less time finding those things, which meant I was no longer always on the hunt for something I "needed" to make my home or myself appear more acceptable, or to temporarily fill a void.  This has made me happier.  It has also alleviated the stress of being surrounded by things I didn't need or (later) regretted purchasing.

At the end of the day do new, trendy things really mean that much?  If it all ended tomorrow, do you honestly think that's what you would regret?  Not owning a brand new vehicle, nicer furniture, or a larger home?

All this being said, I completely understand that there are people who are frugal out of necessity and I'm not trying to be insensitive to that.  In those instances, they may not be able to handle the curveballs mentioned above quite so easily.  I'm grateful that it's a choice for me and am speaking specifically to voluntary simplicity and frugality.

Do you live voluntarily frugal and/or simply?  What have been some of your struggles?  What do you love about the way you live?


daisy g said...

That black and white shot is stunning! You need to frame that one. ;0D

I am so happy for y'all. You set goals and continue to meet them. I relate to your mindset. Things just aren't important, it's the quality of the experiences we have that really matter. I'm proud to be frugal, knowing that every day I am showing God how much I appreciate what I've been given.

Thank you for sharing your journey. I really love your posts like this.
Enjoy your day!

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Thank you so much Daisy. The quality of experiences indeed! I love what you said about being proud to be frugal!!
p.s. That photo was taken as we were driving through the Spa State Park 2 years ago. I didn't think it would turn out because it was taken through the glass but I was surprised when it did! :)

Cockeyed Jo said...

Funny, I've always wanted the simplicity lifestyle without the hustle and bustle of city life. I've never been one for keeping up with the Jones even though I was heavy into the corporate life and six figure incomes for 15 years. But the six figure income allowed me to get what I wanted. Now, I live the homesteading life. Simple, frugal, organic, and holistically, self sufficient as possible.

Kathy said...

Another great post. I got into simple living after I visited my in-laws interstate and saw their wonderful veggie garden in summer. Every evening we would go downstairs and pick food for the evening salad for dinner. It felt really great to see that fresh home grown food. At the same time I read an article in a magazine and the writer was a woman living an hour from Brisbane, Australia [Rhonda Hetzel from Down to Earth Blog] and she wrote about simple living. We got chickens and I had two small 1 mt square veggie plots and grew lettuce, tomatoes, chinese cabbage and lots of herbs. To this day those 2 big tomato bushes of cherry tomatoes was my biggest success. I used to take brown paper bags filled with little cherry to my daughters kindy teachers every few days and they said they were the best tasting tomatoes they have ever eaten. I was in a very difficult marriage and that little veggie garden used to make me so happy. I loved seeing my 4 year old walk outside and pick lettuce leaves to go on her ham, carrot lettuce sandwich for kindy. My son wasn't into salad so he didn't have any but it was such a feel good and made me happy. We have lived in a different house for 8 years now and still have chickens and 3 veggie plots which make me happy. It's funny how once you realize that buying things to make you feel good in a difficult situation doesn't bring you that much happiness. Like being in a stressful job or marriage...Only one of my friends is the same mindset of simple living like me and she is the one that did the sourdough bread making workshop with me. She lives on 6 acres 10 mins from my suburban house. Having like minded people to share your journey is always lovely.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

J.L - that's great that you were able to work in corporate, keep focused on what you really wanted and eventually achieve it! Thank you so much for sharing.

Kathy - thank you. I love your story about the veggie plot (and I too love Rhonda Hetzel). I'm happy for you that you've found a close friend who has a similar mindset and that you can do things together. That sourdough workshop looked amazing!