A commercial slip cover tailored by me to fit a small love seat, old pillows with handmade covers from scrap fabric create a relaxed, cozy, look. Elective frugality is both stylish, comfortable, and easy on the pocketbook. It can also fun and creative!
The Cottage is now in escrow. While I still own the Cottage for a few more weeks, my home is now elsewhere.
I've learned many valuable life lessons living at the Cottage. Elective frugality is one that I take with me into my new life and for the rest of my life.
Regardless of one's income the concept of Elective Frugality isn't about being cheap or denying life's pleasures, or resenting those who have abundant wealth. It is about learning to differentiate between needs and desires and bringing all one's "wants" into manageable reality. It is about responsible management of assets.
The basics of Elective Frugality are about getting out of debt and staying out. Being debt-free allows one to live well within his or her economic means and have the cash for needs and reasonable wants.
Most economies in tech-industrial cultures are based on creating insatiable, never-ending consumption of goods by getting "consumers" to confuse needs with wants and getting then to be willing to pay unreasonably high, ongoing interest rates for items that marketers want us to see as necessities regardless of need or practicality. Credit card debt makes those that hold our debt very wealthy.
Billions are spent on advertising campaigns and the psychology of getting us to want (and buy) what someone has to sell whether we need or even really want their products.
Greed, sex, getting-yours-while-supplies-last, keeping up with others (the "Jones's", whoever they may be), and preying upon common insecurities are just a few of the gimmicks used by marketers.
Advertisers propagandize and tempt us with their products in every magazine, TV show, billboard, radio show, Internet...even "telemarketing" us in our own homes. Eventually, we start believing all their hype and find ourselves in credit card debt so we can have all those wonderful, "needful" things. We are told that others will look down upon us if we aren't wearing the latest in fad labels.
Longer work hours and less self- and family-time is the sacrifice we may have to make so we can pay big interest fees for way too much needless stuff.
Each of us must truly decide for ourselves what is needful and desirable. It won't be the same for everyone.
We need shelter....affordable shelter is best. Food, good healthy food, is essential. If food items can be gotten cheaper with manufacturers' coupons they're probably not good for your body.
Utilities - gas, electric, water.
Clothing - warm clothes for winter, cool items for summer. Once these things are taken care of we need...just a little bit more to add color and delight to life. Too much more goodies and we begin the inexorable plummet into debt.
We really don't need more belongings than will fit in the closets, cupboards, basements and garages of our homes...things that we never use anymore but somehow cannot part with.
Paying for storage outside the home, month by month, for an overflow of stuff is money wasted. It's also a waste of stuff sitting idly by when there are others who could use it.
Who makes money on all those nifty storage systems - boxes, bins, off-property storage units - to house an over-abundance of stuff? Who loses money?
I don't like being labelled a "consumer" by the marketing powers who are consuming the life's work and energy of the working population. Just who are the consumers of the population's life energy, work, and hard-earned money?
Stepping out of the rat race into the concept of Elective Frugality will save families, relationships, money, energy, resources, and sanity.
1. Decide to become debt-free. It may take years but is a process that is worth it. Pay down your highest-interest credit card first by making whatever extra payments you can. Pay off the next and so on. Stop buying things on credit.
2. Rent what is affordable. Buy a home you can easily afford the mortgage on. Make extra payments so you're not paying twice in interest what the purchase price of the home actually is.
3. Start saving for a rainy day, a reasonable vacation, and affordable luxuries.
4. Decide what your moral, ethical, and monetary values truly are...not what advertisers tell you they should be. Whom are we enriching here? Them or ourselves.
5. Decide what you need as opposed to what you think you want.
6. Eat real, whole food. If it's manufactured it's enriching someone else while depleting your body. Shop the outer aisles of the market...fruits, veggies, dairy, meats, whole grains. Grow your own if you have garden space. Shop farmers markets. Join the "slow food" movement. Cook. Eat out as an occasional treat.
7. Purchase clothing on sale, at season's end, check out consignment and thrift shops. Make your own. If you lack sewing skills, learn how. Create your own style! Re-visit the concept of hand-me-downs that are in good condition.
8. Learn the arts of bartering and swapping. Recycle. Re-use. Re-purpose. Be creative and think outside the "consumer box".
9. Get real. Be real. Be your own authentic self not what marketers tell you to be, buy, or value.
10. Allow yourself a little luxury from time to time. Being cheap and stingy is small, mean, and depleting. Being Frugal is freeing. You'll have more money freed up for truly important things, such as free time and economic freedom. Elective Frugality is truly about being FREE.
11. Have nothing in your home that is neither useful or beautiful.
12. Don't buy every "cooker" that is marketed for yourself or as a gift to someone else. Pizza cookers, bread makers, counter top "skinny" grillers and hot chocolate makers, etc. simply take up space.
A stove, oven, frying pan, a small and large-size sauce pot, tea kettle or coffee pot, a paring knife, serrated bread knife, a large chopping knife, sharpeners, spatula, blender, maybe a microwave, and food processor are really all that is needed to cook up great meals. Cookbooks are nice, but any recipe can be found on the Internet.
Following are a few examples of how I implement Elective Frugality.
I love scented, expensive soaps. I'm frugal in other areas so I occasionally treat myself to a luxury bar or three for my bath.
Where I'm staying now I don't have the room or right conditions for a vegetable garden. I do have a pot of fresh herbs growing in a sunny spot to add savor to dishes and to make tasty herbal teas. Just growing something green or a few flowers feeds the senses in authentic, enjoyable ways.
Instead of growing my own fruit and veggies I now go to the grocery store and a couple times a month I visit the local farmers market. Once or twice a month I go out to dinner or enjoy home delivery. Remember...frugal doesn't mean cheapness or denial.
Can't grow it yourself? Farmers' markets offer fresh and an often organic variety of herbs, fruits, veggies, live plants, flowers, bread, eggs, entertainment, and more.
I have one credit card. I use it to order on line, as needed. However, I never carry a balance from month to month. Instead I pay off any and all charges at month's end. I never pay interest to anyone. Ever.
I live easily within my means and have no debt. I have time to sit, read, go for a walk. Nor do I belong to an expensive gym or have a trainer. I lift hand weight, walk, hike, a small amount of gardening, and do yoga. There's lots of free ways to get exercise. Got a dog? You have a built in walking companion.
When escrow closes from the sale of the Cottage - except for closing costs and realtor fees, the money is all mine as I payed off the mortgage years ago.
My car is an older model that is payed for and kept in good running condition. I keep it clean and waxed so it looks good and I feel good driving it. I have money in the bank.
Nor have I given up technology. I have a laptop computer, printer-scanner, Kindle, CD player, cellphone - all the technology I need to do everything I need or want to do. I just don't upgrade at every hiccup and burp of the techno-market.
I don't pay exorbitant fees for cable or satellite TV which means I'm not stuck in ridiculous, binding contracts from these providers. In fact, I don't watch TV and recently sold mine because I was no longer using it.
Technologically speaking, TV's are obsolete. For me, so is watching a lineup of way too many commercials and paying high cable and satellite fees!
I've discovered that I can watch most shows that I like - Nat Geo, PBS, Discovery, HGTV, Animal Planet, cooking shows, and more on the Internet for free. I also subscribe to Netflix streaming and DVD's for less than $20 a month and see movies, TV shows, and documentaries, and watch it all on the computer. Best of all? Few or no commercials!
Have you ever counted the number of commercials crammed into most TV shows?
With my laptop I can watch shows anywhere without a TV taking up space. I can watch from my sofa, my bed, my bath even outside under a tree or on a porch. And my laptop can go with me to Internet cafe's, hotels, and even the Starbucks inside the local Target store!
There are many ways to get entertainment for less or for free. Community libraries and bookmobiles lend books, magazines, and DVD's for free. You can download Kindle and Nook books free from many sites...Amazon, Bookbub, and many, many more. Just look up free e-books on-line.
Books, DVD's, even Internet access! All for free and bookmobiles come to most rural and small, urban communities.
Thrift stores are great places to buy recent best sellers that other people have dumped. Ebay and Amazon sell used books for a fraction of the price of buying new. Look for free shipping deals, too.
Elective frugality has led me into being somewhat of a minimalist. I didn't intend to become so and I'll probably never be hardcore in my minimalism. By having only what I need, and some truly beautiful items that I enjoy, I spend less time cleaning and dusting and caring for needless stuff. I can also spend my money on quality instead of quantity.
The lessons that have come out of Elective Frugality have been life changing. They've led to a realization and discernment of what is needful and important, and which allows me to decide for myself what is beautiful, useful, and ultimately needful.
I need less. I want less. I have more money for important, quality items and a few luxuries.
Another by-product of Elective Frugality is the opportunity to be creative in dress and decor using less money. Instead I've developed a satisfying sense of style that is my own and I've had so much fun doing it.
What is your interpretation of Elective Frugality?
How will you choose to express it?
You can do this and you can do it any way you want to!