Frugality? It’s All in Your Mind

by Katy on August 19, 2013 · 36 comments

You and I both know frugality is as much about mindset as it is about the math. Frugality is mostly about your attitude. Being satisfied with less expensive options, enjoying free and almost free entertainment and keeping as far away from The Joneses as humanly possible.

I think about how I spent yesterday, and I find a number of perfect examples:

  • I walked to the library, where I both returned a tote bag full of books and picked up a book I’d put on hold.
  • I then walked to my credit union to deposit a stack of checks I’d earned through cleaning my mother’s guest cottages and blogging income.
  • I walked to Zupans (local high-end grocery store) to buy nice sausages, as I had a buy-one-pound-get-one-pound-free coupon.
  • I then stopped off at Fred Meyer, (Kroger) where I picked up a humble head of lettuce, on sale buns and a gallon of milk that had been marked half-off. (The expiration date was still eight days away, so I was happy to snag this bargain.) I used my own bag, which saved me a nickel.
  • Dinner was barbecued sausages on rolls and a big green salad. The meal included sauerkraut that we’ve been chipping away at for a year or so. The Costco-sized jar was leftover from a soccer picnic, and no one else wanted it. (There had also been an enormous jar of relish, but I Freecycle’d it.)
  • After dinner my son and I watched a couple episodes of Netflix TV shows, and enjoyed each other’s company.

My day was based on being satisfied with less.

  • I was happy to get exercise from walking instead of visiting a gym.
  • I was happy to plan a meal around a great coupon. (And those sausages from Zupans? They were fan-flipping-tastic!)
  • I was willing to put a few minutes into washing and chopping a head of lettuce instead of buying a more expensive and highly packaged bag of lettuce.
  • I was not tempted to buy impulse items at the grocery store.
  • I was completely satisfied to spend an evening at home with my son instead of a  more expensive alternative.
  • I was happy to get my new stuff fix from a library instead of a store.
  • I was depositing small checks that added up to a significant amount. A direct result of a willingness to work for small-ish amounts of money. (I may be an experienced labor and delivery nurse, but I am not too high and mighty to earn a few extra bucks cleaning my mother’s rental cottages between tenants.)

When frugality is approached from a mindset of deprivation, everyday decision are resented instead of celebrated. It’s only when the simple joys of a humble meal or a brisk walk are seen in a positive light that the benefits of frugality can truly blossom. 

Are you able to see frugality as a positive part of your life or are you still hating the limitations? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Reese August 19, 2013 at 11:35 am

If I may be so bold to ask… how much does your mom pay you to clean the cottages? How did you guys agree on that amount? I often times get nervous negotiating rates with family members, because I feel like they should be a) getting a good deal from using me, b) not negotiating because it’s family. And… I don’t always agree with either of those.

Do you mind sharing?

Also, I’d like to concentrate more on saving a LITTLE bit. I often get too wound up in the big picture savings ($10,000 looks like A LOT OF MONEY all at once. But by putting away $100 here, $5 there, even 10 cents from the street… it adds up quicker than me putting away..uh..nothing!).

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Katy August 19, 2013 at 11:43 am

Sorry, but I’m not comfortable sharing that. Mostly because I believe nepotism plays too heavily in the amount. But the amount is set by my mother.

And I too am concentrating on saving right now. Gotta send those boys to college somehow.

Katy

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Auntie Karen August 19, 2013 at 11:55 am

Here’s an added benefit to chopping your own greens. It seems (at least in headlines around here) that the most frequent salads to hit the headlines as causing illness are the pre-packaged stuff. It seems easier to trace the origin of single heads of lettuce and certainly easier to thoroughly wash and chop it yourself. Sticking to locally-grown and to greens not premixed or highly packaged seems a healthier and more economical choice in our part of the world.

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Katy August 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Plus, my plants love the water leftover from washing the lettuce.

Katy

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Lindsey August 20, 2013 at 5:24 am

Our state health department actually ran news stories telling people NOT to wash those pre-packaged mixes. Something about you expose the food to more unsanitary conditions in your kitchen than they do at the factory…

Another benefit: everytime I’ve ever bought those prepackaged mixes, it goes bad within a couple days. My head of lettuce will last a lot longer!

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Amy Dunn August 19, 2013 at 11:59 am

I completely agree, Katy, with your positive spin on living the frugal life. For folks who ask — don’t you feel deprived? — I always tell them to find a frugal friend to revel in the frugal fun. Barring that, be a regular reader of a blog such as yours…for inspiration and reinforcement. Thanks for sharing.

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Katy August 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm

No one would dare ask me that question. 😉

Thank you for the kind words.

Katy

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Linda M August 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I luuuuvvvv saving money! I am a very competitive person and choose to view the money I can save as extra income as my husband and I are retired. Everytime I save or don’t have to spend, I view it as a winning game move! It feels so good to have all the great things we can have by being frugal and buying second hand or swapping or bartering. I go smiling on my way knowing that “I won”! 🙂
Also really enjoy you sharing your everyday life and how you approach saving….great motivator and so open and honest of you! Thanks so much!

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Emily August 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm

My aunt is a consumer to the max and I think oftentimes feels sorry for me in how I live my life, falsely thinking that I am depriving myself or suffering somehow. I enjoy many of the same activities that you listed in today’s posting and it’s good to know there are people like you out there with the same worldview! I just got back from spending a night at my aunt’s coast house and she must’ve spent 15 minutes showing me all the beach-themed dish towels that she’d bought!! (all with tags still on)… I mean how many dish towels does one person need?? It was all I could do to bite my lip and hold back from making a snarky comment. It was great to read your posting today as an antidote to spending 24 hours with the ultimate consumer!! Thanks, Katy! 🙂

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dusty August 21, 2013 at 3:31 am

I have a friend who is a compulsive shopper. I’ve never seen anything like it. She has all this stuff and her house is so cluttered. I really think these folks are trying to fill some kind of void. She recently showed me a beautiful vintage sewing machine in a cabinet that she bought, not sure how much she paid for it, I didn’t ask, but it is in a corner of the dining room with tons of other stuff recently purchased on top of it. You would think it would be displayed somewhere without all the other junk on top of it. I didn’t say anything of course. I have a feeling she thinks I’m crazy for my frugal lifestyle. I would rather have a few items that I enjoy than a houseful of stuff with price tags still on them. I, like you, bite my lip.

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tan August 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I really enjoy being frugal. I think, to me, it’s like a game…and I play it no matter what my current income is. I have a hard time being extravagant with money when I can think of so many better ways to use the same amount. It’s also hard for me to accept expensive gifts…I’m working on this one as I don’t want to be ungrateful but sometimes people can’t understand that I don’t have a lot of stuff because that’s just my choice. I do always tip at least 20%. I hate the low wages restaurants legally get away with paying most wait staff. A lot of the reasons for my thrift are the huge amounts of waste coupled with increasing need I see everywhere around me. Sometimes I feel the only voice I have is to JUST SAY NO.

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Katy August 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm

“No” is very powerful.

Katy

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jackie k August 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm

This past Saturday, I decided it was time for a “me” day and did something I haven’t done in a while…I went shopping! Now before anyone has a heart attack, I’ve been a Katy fan for awhile, and hers is the only blog site I haven’t unsubscribed (and Don’t plan to). What I did was shop Katy style. I started out by visiting the library and picking up seasons 4 & 5 of Mad Men, as well as a book on downsizing. After that I visited one of my favourite thrift stores, Savers. I spent three hours just going up and down the aisles. I found the following: a set of 6 lovely drinking glasses (for water) for the price of $4.99; 3 lovely tops that looked brand new for 2.99 each; a beautiful picture book to put pictures of my daughter’s recent wedding pics for $1.99; a brand new book on yoga poses for $1.99. On top of that, I had a coupon off for 30% off entire purchase. I spent a little over $15. Next I visited a new thrift shop in my area and found a nice navy blue purse for $2. My friend told me today she’s seen the same purse in Macy’s for $40. I left the house with $40 of my mad money to blow, and returned home with a little over $20, pleasantly tired and feeling happy and fulfilled. I never buy what I won’t use. Deprived? I think not!

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megyn August 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm

We’ve had to forcibly live frugally for as long as I’ve known my husband (10 years!). This is the first time we’ve actually had some to save every month. I generally just save it, but I did splurge on a YMCA membership. For me, it will be a MUCH needed break. Included with the family membership, we can use their pool (that has a water slide), I get 3 hrs/day for daycare while on location (aka let’s soak in the hot tub and watch a moving while “running” in the cardio theater), 12 hrs/year of childcare where I can just drop off and leave, 4 hrs/month of date night care, and only have to pay for uniforms for our boys’ sports leagues. It seemed like a massive win for all, and especially me who needs a break from wild 3 + 5 year old boys!

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Trish August 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Some may see this as non frugal, but I think it is great that you are doing this. I grew up in a family with limited resources (I was the youngest of 8) but one thing we always had was a family member ship to our YMCA, which was a really great facility, with a full sized pool among other things. I have so many fond memories of going to the Y. They had family gym and swim nights on Fridays, and somehow my tired mother (she worked full time) would take us to these about once a month. Good call on how to spend your money.

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Lynn D. August 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I got my hair cut this morning using a coupon and then stopped off at a local thrift store because it was senior citizens day. We’re having house guests and I had no towels for them and the bedside lamp in the guest room was broken. For only twelve dollars I got a nice looking lamp with a nice shade and a 60 watt bulb, 2 fluffy bath towels and two hand towels that match the decor in our (only) bathroom. The clerk wrapped the lamp in a terrific canvas tote with a deep side pocket. On the way home I stopped at a garage sale and got a beautiful new tablecloth and 4 matching napkins in a terrific wicker picnic basket which will be tremendously useful for $7. These were all things on my want/need list and I didn’t get sidetracked by items not on my list (or salon products I don’t need).

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Shannon August 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I have been biking to work recently and the sense of “I’m being frugal!!” just courses through my veins the entire time. Not only am I saving by not having to join a gym, I am saving miles on my car, gas and saving time that I don’t have to spend exercising during an inconvenient time. Its also forced me to stop making coffee in the morning (because I can’t carry it on my bike) and drink the free stuff at work.

And OT Katy, but have you ever had a patient recognize you?

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Katy August 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Nope, but I have had blog readers realize they had me as a labor nurse.

Katy

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Taylor-Made Ranch August 19, 2013 at 6:04 pm

OMGoodness – YES! Attitude makes all the difference. Someone seeing deprivation will resent the frugal lifestyle, someone seeing voluntary simplicity will enjoy it as a challenge and a hobby that benefits them. Same circumstances, different attitudes, different levels of enjoyment with life.

~Taylor-Made Ranch~
Wolfe City, Texas

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Amanda August 19, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I totally agree. Being frugal gives me a feeling of simplicity and freedom.

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Lynne August 21, 2013 at 7:01 am

“A feeling of simplicity and freedom”—love this, Amanda!!

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AFS August 19, 2013 at 9:55 pm

My credit card lets me choose the shopping categories for cash back rewards. I chose Gas- (maybe my biggest single exspence each month) Gifts to Charity (I love the moto live simply so others can simply live) and I was stumped for the third category. Airplane tickets? (I flew last in 2010) Rental Car (if you don’t travel you don’t need a rental car)Department stores? (Never set foot inside Them) Restraunts? (maybe one a year), Fast food,(no again)The rest opf the categories the bank offered were just as useless to me. They don’t offer cash rewards for thrift stores. They don’t offer them for grocery stores. The two categories that I could use. Go Figure!

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Angela in Denver August 19, 2013 at 11:08 pm

I manage a busy medical clinic in Denver 4 days per week and I take my lunch to work (of course) for my 45 min break. It only takes 10-15 minutes to eat, so for the remaining 30 minutes I leave the office and check the aisles of my favorite local charity thrift store at least twice a week if I can. It is just a couple blocks from work – Yay! Much lower priced than my very favorite neighborhood Goodwill (imagine that!). I usually always find something I can gift (4 new in package Target funky martini glasses) or resell online or consign for a nice profit (Coach wallet, NWT Vera Bradley handbag, Banana Republic capris, etc) – things that I don’t care for that much but I know others will. I also find items for my teenage girls – like new Doc Martens, Converse etc. for my older daughter, and wonderful vintage books for my little antique loving bookworm. (They have learned to appreciate the 2nd hand savings and neither of them mind where their clothes come from, thank goodness!) I love my lunch half-hour habit- it gets me out of the clinic and either makes $$ or saves $$. Plus, the time limit keeps me out of trouble – I might spend too much if I had an hour! It does feel like I’ve beat the consumer game every time I go. So fun! I love to read all the other entries btw and thank you Katy for a continuously wonderful blog.

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Jennifer @ Little Blog in the Big Woods August 20, 2013 at 4:23 am

Contentment is key! Also I think you have to not be lazy. Yesterday a friend offered me two!! bushels of apples from her tree (all the apple trees are SUPER productive this year!). Will it be a lot of work to get these preserved? Yes, but worth it YES and YES! I am making applesauce, apple butter, apple pie filling and also drying some as well. And these are organically grown! So I am not only saving beaucoup bucks, but I am providing very healthy food for my family!! People who are not willing to work to do these kinds of things will not be offered such wonderful opportunities.

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marie August 20, 2013 at 4:45 am

So true, Jennifer.
We manage a rental house and while there over the weekend. I noticed the plum tree was laden with fruit. When I picked one and ate it, the tenent said, I don’t think those are any good.I told her that theirplums and very sweet.
She didnt think they should be eaten. She has 4 children and that would have been a great cost saver for fruit. I tryed to tell her she should pick them, but I ended up taking many home.
Maybe she’ll think about it and go try one

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Stacie August 20, 2013 at 8:06 am

I loved this and we have spent a full summer on our yard, meeting neighbors and eating by the side of our $20 blow up pool. We have met so many new people by staying home and hanging out…community is awesome…

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Stacie August 20, 2013 at 8:07 am

I loved this and we have spent a full summer on our yard, meeting neighbors and eating by the side of our $20 blow up pool. We have met so many new people by staying home and hanging out…community is awesome…and there was always someone bringing over snacks and blow up toys when they visited. What more could you ask for??

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Debbie R August 20, 2013 at 9:37 am

I think part of the issue is whether or not you are being frugal because you want to be or because you have to be. It’s much easier to shop around at thrift stores for a new-to-you winter coat if you know you can go out and buy one new if it gets too cold before you find one. As opposed to having to wait till one is found at a reasonable price, no matter how cold out it is. The former is done out of a desire to be thrifty and frugal. The latter is done because there are no other options. Having no other options sets one up for resentment and misery.

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Joyce August 20, 2013 at 10:01 am

I think having to live a frugal life at one time or another helps later on in life. At the time, it can be unpleasant since it’s not your choice; but once you realize all the benefits, it’s much easier to continue that lifestyle even if it’s not necessary anymore. It was for me anyway.

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eep223 August 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

It’s good to see a post like this. I always feel let down when I see something online about “money saving tips” and it’s all the stuff I do already without even thinking about it (along the lines of “bring your coffee from home instead of stopping at Starbucks! You’ll save $3.00-$5.00 dollars a day or nearly $2000 a year!” You only “save” if you are letting $2000 a year hemorrhage out of your wallet now.)

Looking at your post, this is exactly what I do. I’d rather have something nice but inexpensive or homemade as a treat and use my “extra” money for something like a Netflix subscription. And I’m happy and don’t feel like I’m missing out on something dumb like daily Starbucks! 😛

Thank you for affirming that it is a normal thing to save/ be broke.

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Katy August 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

Yes, that $3 latte analogy is the sign of a pointless and lazy frugality article.

Katy

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Sadye August 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Glad I’m not the only one out there who rolls her eyes at that and the corollary of “pack your lunch instead of buying it every single day.” Well, duh, guys.

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Sheila Smith August 23, 2013 at 6:02 am

Agreed on the eye roll with save your coffee money and pack your lunch. When I first become more careful with my money and was looking up ways to save I realized I was already doing about 90% of it and I didn’t know that I was already headed in the right direction.

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kris August 20, 2013 at 11:51 am

I learned to be frugal because I had to and now it’s just become a way of life. Seeing my savings account grow is a much better feeling than seeing more ‘stuff’ in my house or my closet. Having the money at hand when a costly repair needs to be made allows me to sleep well at night instead of up all night worrying about how I’ll pay it. I think back to my not-so-frugal days and want to kick myself for being so wasteful. I definantly feel there is a difference between being frugal and being cheap! lol

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Sheila Smith August 23, 2013 at 6:10 am

On the kicking yourself being wasteful: When my husband got laid off we realized we could live on my income. I felt like I had been flushing $$ down the toilet. I had to think of where the money went. New windows/roofs on house and garage/furnace/water heater/central AC/down payment on car/ loan to university son. It didn’t look quite as bad when I looked at it, but definitely room for improvement.

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Karen August 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm

What limitations? No matter what your circumstances, being frugal enables you to do more. Why would you want to pay more for less? Kinda reminds me of a bank commercial from a few years back. “Fees? I LIKE fees…” Resenting insufficient income is something else entirely.

I got two gallons of half price milk today. Making Monterey Jack cheese tomorrow. Or maybe Gouda. Like Kris, I wish I had changed my mindset much sooner, but there is no going back now. I will always be frugal. It’s more fun.

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