Frugal Living: Win the Race by Not Competing

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Taking the definition of frugality from the dictionary is as simple as it is direct: "simple, plain, and costing little." An exercise in frugality in and of itself, as it lends itself to a “small” lifestyle that is all-encompassing in personal and social acts.

A family member of mine had started on this journey long before the frugal and minimalist lifestyles came into vogue. I just thought he was being a tightwad at the time, but his aggressive savings habits started when he was a teenager, and he would not budge himself off that rock. Over the years, a person could see the correlation between aggressive savings and his continual frugal lifestyle. He was more concerned with saving than spending, so he naturally embraced frugality even before people labeled him as such.

I always thought of myself as somewhat frugal, so I find it funny to think about what we could learn from hindsight now. Even though money burned a hole in my pocket, I justified all my spending by reminding myself that everything I bought was stuff I truly needed. Just how much stuff does a person possibly need? After some time, I asked a question I could hardly answer: was that a need or simply a want? Well, that family member could have told you that before I could.

People are coming to realize that getting in debt by buying more so they can get higher credit limits so they can buy more and more is a race they will never win. Credit businesses may be one of the biggest cogs in the American financial wheel, but there has to be a better way to keep us in a good life without those methods that prop up the economy. Every unbiased economist will tell you this road cannot go on forever as it drives people around the bend and promotes consumerism. They are getting frustrated with the endless cycle that makes other people rich, and they are looking for a better way to live.

Enter frugality, where you can live a quality life while keeping it simple. It is a lifestyle choice that can happen as a matter of course or as something you plan out. No matter which road you take, the destination is still a "small" life. Needless to say, this is not a derogatory label. It is actually quite the opposite! Just live the definition: live more as you do less. How hard can that be, right? The lifestyle sure does not come without its set of complications, as people who want this change have to come to terms with the consequences of leading a frugal life.

As with any lifestyle change, concessions need to be made. First and foremost, you are going to have to handle your finances in a remarkably different way. If you have an expenditure sheet, and you should have an expenditure sheet, the dollar amount next to the uncategorized category needs to decrease drastically, if not completely vanish with that category itself. Every coin you spend has a purpose, and that purpose has to be a necessity. As the saying goes, "Every dollar has a name." Frugality comes cheap and cannot be bought.

Once the habit of not buying much becomes second nature, you will find yourself in a better place both financially and mentally. One step at a time, you may start finding other ways of saving money, living well, and being content. For example, you may decide to choose the vegan lifestyle, which lends itself greatly to the frugal lifestyle. As meat costs have been going up and will continue to do so, you may think that meals with different meats are not a necessity. Everything involved with this, from an esthetic viewpoint at least, is barebones yet nice.

Your social life also needs to be sorted out. You have to be okay with the fact that you may not be able to fit in with your old credit-heavy friends anymore. Don't worry because there are plenty of people on the other side of the fence you can associate with. As with any major lifestyle change, your choice of friends will go a long way in determining whether you succeed at it or not.

We have seen plenty of changes taking place financially and socially. The real work, though, is what takes place personally. You have to want this bad enough to make all those changes for your own benefit. You will come up with a kind of an internal resolution, and that may take some time to hone, so you have to be ready for that as well. If this is starting to take a more dramatic turn than what is warranted, let's just say that simplicity can be complicated to get. It all depends, really, on how long and deep you were in the game.

Look at it this way: for as long as you are in debt/get more game, change it up so your children can spend just as much time living a simpler lifestyle. Turn the tables for their sake. With the help of the internet and social networking, it is easier than ever to find like-minded people to socialize with and compare notes. They say there is strength in numbers, and that is also true in leading a frugal lifestyle.

The family member in question is doing well for himself with a wife and children. The habits he got into when he was young continued through the years. He now has his own business, a nice house in a nice part of the state, and happier than a dollar in a penny jar by all accounts. It does pay off, and it goes to show that the best things in life do not have to come with a hefty price tag.

He was slow and steady, but he did not win the rat race. You can’t win at something you don’t compete in. He won by having a stable home and economic life born out of living a frugal lifestyle. He took the road less traveled and ended up at the finish line earlier than most of his peers (possibly with a sweet smile on his face too).

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