Friday, August 8, 2008

Frugal Principles: Do without

It's time for another Frugal Friday, and the last in my prolonged series on how to save with frugal principles. In the most famous adage of frugal principles, Use it up, use less, make do, and do without, "do without" is definitely the hardest for most people - although, of course, it is the most frugal of all the frugal principles. I think the reason for this is very simple: while the other three steps all have to do with creativity, with finding more efficient ways to still get everything that you want, doing without implies deprivation. You don't get to have what you want. You have to give up the things that you want:

Give up cable.
Give up lattes.
Give up going out.

And this is of course very hard for a lot of people. They'd rather a list of 100 ways to "make do" or to get more for their money, then a single suggestion that they do without something they want - even if that one suggestion would save them more money than the rest combined. None of us want to feel deprived, to feel like we can't have what we want. So one of two things happens: we either ignore the doing without part of the equation completely, or we go whole hog - and generally burn out.

The key as always seems to be to find a happy medium, to reframe the question. What are the things in my life that I'd just as soon do without? What do I own or regularly pay for that brings me no joy? What can I cut out without hurting, or while even making myself happier in the end?

But I know, the frugal among you will say "Well, there's nothing. There's nothing more. My life is already pared down and I need to cut back more." So you need to reframe the question again: How can I turn the space in my life into more joy? Can I do without cable if I let myself rent a movie once in a while? Can I do without going out to dinner if I have friends over for coffee more often? What is it that brings you joy about the latte? The caffeine, the foam, or the trip to the coffee shop/break from work? How can you replace whatever you like about it with something else?

So, what are you willing to do without?


Heather @ SGF said...

I had lived without cable for years but when I moved in with my husband, he had to have his TV fix. It took me a couple years of convincing, but he finally decided it was getting too expensive. It was hard at first but after about a month, he discovered the sound of silence and now he hates to be at someone's house when the tv is on. Too much noise :)

About 9 months ago, I gave up eating out during the week. I was only eating by myself anyway, I just didn't want to cook. When I started cooking with local veggies and realized how much better the food tasted, I gave up eating out during the week when I was alone. Now I only eat out twice a week (lunches) with my husband. It makes the time much more special.

We also quit making boxed anything. Now, when we take a cake or pastry to someone's house, it's not just something we picked up or made with special thanks to Betty Crocker. It's from scratch. This inevitably brings up conversations about how I made it, can they have the recipe, simple/frugal living etc. It becomes a conversation piece in itself.

Moneymonk said...

Give up cable.
Give up lattes.
Give up going out.


Those little things makes life enjoyable.

I say earn more than you spend, that way you will have your little wants.

Cutting expenses is like going on a diet. If you stop eating fats, sugar and don't see results, you may wind up back eating sugar and fast food

However if you find a happy medium - perhaps snacking on a half of bags of chips and eating smaller portions of sugar and fat. You may not give up as easily

Same with debt and spending, when you budget give yourself 5% of your income to have fun.

Everything need a balance

Meg (from The Wardrobe Channel) said...

I'm a never say never kind of gal. Tell me not to eat the chocolate and it'll be gone ; )

However, there are a lot of things that I've 'given up' -- but not really by trying. Instead, I've just found a lot of new, more frugal treats. I think that's the trick (at least for me).

The way I see it, if I want to save more I can A. enjoy cheaper treats B. enjoy the same treats less often, or even C. enjoy even better though maybe more expensive treats even less often.

I'd probably go crazy if I couldn't "go out" and my husband and I spent a lot of money "going out" when going out meant dinner and a movie. Nowadays, we still go out, but now "going out" might be going to a farmers market, or catching a free concert, or hanging out at the library, or going stargazing, or visiting a local (but cheap) attraction, or even just walking around the neighborhood.

We don't even think about it anymore as being frugal. Those are just fun things to do and our relationship has never been better. And when there is something we really want to do that isn't as cheap, we enjoy it even more not just because it's a rarer occasion now, but also because we don't have to feel guilty about spending the money now that our finances are doing much better.

I wouldn't mind giving up cable, considering all the great things there are to watch online or from the library. But.... my husband and our roommate enjoy it so we've kept the basic package. My husband even built are own DVR. So, we've called it a fair compromise.

And as for those lattes... yummy, but I've never made them anything close to a habit. I really enjoy my husband's sweet tea, though.

From Bottle to Box said...

I would love to give up the cable, but my husband won't have it. I do love the DVR. I only DVR what I really want to watch and that's it. I also love that my kids prefer the Discovery Channel over the Cartoon Network, but I would still like to get rid of all the TVs. I guess I'll have to find other ways to save??? Any suggestions?

story girl said...

Money monk - Hey, if cable and lattes are what makes your life enjoyable, I absolutely do NOT want you to give them up. That's kind of what I was getting at, that when you attack things from a place of deprivation, you will fail. It's more an issue of paring down, of figure out what you really won't miss.

Then again, there's the other question, one which I ask myself often: if cable and lattes are what bring joy to my life, doesn't that say something sad about my life?

Crafty Girl said...

I would like to say Thank you for your blog... I have been reading some of your posts and I find them helpful.

I would like to know what you would recommend someone who has an addiction to "shopping" to do? Someone who knows what she's suppose to do, but just can't seem to get there?!

I have read every book ~ I have even joined D.A. and it just doesn't seem to be working for me... CONTROL...

Again, Thank you...


Meg said...

Craft Girl,

I'm not a psychologist, but what has helped me break bad habits is replacing them with good habits that fulfill the same needs.

I really love shopping and while it's not quite an addiction for me, I definitely did more of it than I should have for a few years. I realize now, though, that what I was really craving though was 1. being out of the house, 2. seeing lots of neat things (the "ooh, shiny! syndrome"), and 3. bringing home stuff like a good hunter-gatherer. I replaced shopping with two principal things.

1. I go to the library if I want to get out. There's plenty of cool stuff there that I can bring home. I can't believe I used to go to the book store before when I was bored when this great resource was even closer.

2. And this will sound a bit weird to some... but I've gotten really big into identifying local plants, especially edible ones. I've started a garden with my transplants and I still love going out for walks with a guide and seeing what I can find. There's always something new and different to discover and maybe try. Sometimes I'll 'shop' around, looking for a specific plant on my wish list. And I love reading up on plants like I love looking up product reviews.

Another thing you might try is working on uncluttering your home. I've never been a huge pack rat, but when I started decluttering I found that the more space I created and the better it felt, the less likely I was to bring just anything into the house. I've gotten really picky about what I take home because I don't want to spoil the minimalist look of the rooms with another knick knack (not that it's spartan by any means).

Anyhow, those are my ideas. Best of luck! Change is hard, but it's a lot easier if you make small, gradual changes where you replace old habits with new ones.

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