Friday, March 4, 2011

Brown Thoughts on Frugality

When I was trying to figure out a way to describe one of my desired "labels" in blogger, the only word I could think of was "frugality". This word is so popular today, but I wanted to make sure I picked the right word. I started to do some searching on the web today and this post is a result of it.

In an article I was reading, the author was commenting on their dislike for the term frugality, arguing that we should avoid the word and use "money-smart". I guess I could, but it just isn't really what I was looking for. "Money-smart" focuses on the money issue and not the whole package. My favorite definition of "frugal" is from the Collins English Dictionary: "practicing economy; living without waste; thrifty". So, we are trying to practice economy and live without waste because it is right; we are charged to be responsible stewards of the money we have and everything else under our control. Therefor, we try to be thrifty! Because of our many reasons for being frugal, I put "natural" in front of it since money is definitely already implied.

When I was reading the article "The Case against Frugality" this quote got me:
"However, with apologies to those who do frugal well, I've never cared for the term.  For me, it's always conjured up images of dumpster diving, refusing to tip any more than 15 percent, and dogmatically avoiding coffee shops as if spending a couple of bucks on a good cup of coffee is immoral. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but not by much."
It made me realize how broad the spectrum of frugality was. Those images are sad. He acknowledged that some people do frugal well (and I do like his article, check it out), but let me just comment on these images:
  • "Dumpster Diving" gives the image of jumping into a big green bin and scrounging, all the while getting banana peals stuck to your hair. Thankfully, we are not in such a position that we have to do that. We will go to the dump and look in their shed of free stuff, but that hardly qualifies as dumpster diving. We got our night stand from the dump!
  • Coffee out? Oh, I would have no problem with the occasional coffee shop visit with a friend!
  • The tipping is where I realized the big issue I had with this description and the big difference between our lifestyle and this extreme frugal person's lifestyle. When we go out to eat (which is not as often as it use to be) we make sure we can tip well. This is not bragging, but it helps make my next point and my conclusion.
The person he describes could accurately be called stingy, which is the opposite of what my husband and I strive to do. If we are frugal because we are practicing economy, living without waste and therefor being thrifty, that doesn't mean we shouldn't still be generous with what we do have! Joel and I took some time at the end of 2010 to evaluate our lifestyle. We knew we didn't have as much  money anymore and couldn't always treat friends to a dinner out, pay for a movie ticket, or purchase equipment for the church. What we could definitely do is offer what we had: our time, our gifts, our possessions, our home and whatever food was in it. This is our "new year's resolution" I guess. We want to be responsible and generous with what we have been blessed with.

 The home that we love to share:

Our driveway is on the left.

We live in the basement/1st floor of this house. Right through those glass doors.

So, when I say frugal, it means "practicing economy; living without waste; thrifty".  And the caution that my study produced is: Generosity and frugality don't have to be opposites, but in order for a generous lifestyle to coexist with a frugal one, our frugality cannot go to the extreme of being stingy.

Well, thanks for reading what turned into my morning bible study. It was helpful for me to do this search/study and straighten things out in my head. We are two months into the year and it was good to be reminded of our "resolution" again (we never called it that, we just evaluated our lifestyle and decided where we wanted to improve).

More info can be found here:
The Case Against Frugality - I really did like this info. It's just that when we talk about frugality, it doesn't just mean money in our minds, so "money-smart" doesn't explain all the reasons behind our economic and no-waste lifestyle. He does advocate for giving generously! He wrote "Money & Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples." I really liked this quote "Know how to get great stuff at great prices, all the while realizing that the cheapest option may not actually be the most cost-effective option." Joel buys almost all of our bigger stuff online so that we can get great deals on the better quality things.
Are you a good steward of God's money? - a challenge to evaluate spending habits.
Be a Generous Person... Give Generously! - lots of scripture. Here are some notes on giving and generosity (monetarily and otherwise):
  • Don't be stingy, it does you no good: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20).
  • Know that everything belongs to the Lord and be humble: But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand (1 Chronicles 29:14).
  • Give what you can and it is acceptable: For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have (2 Corinthians 8:12).
  • Give cheerfully: Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
  • Help others in needs: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-6).
  • It is refreshing to help others: A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

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