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The Reality of Frugality
Let’s be real. Being frugal, living below your means and saying “NO” can be tough….really tough.
On the frugality scale with 1 being scorched earth, clipping every coupon you can get your hands on etc. etc. and 10 being living like a king buying everything your heart desires whether you can afford it or not, I would say that our family comes in somewhere around a 3.
We live well below our means and buy nothing on credit. If we can’t pay for it in full other than our house then we don’t buy it. Our children are well taken care of and have all the necessities in life that they need plus some. My wife drives a 10-year-old car. It runs perfectly fine and fills our need for transportation. We don’t buy our groceries at these trendy grocery stores that our friends frequent nor do we purchase extravagant name brand clothing.
As my kids are getting older I am starting to see the effects of peer pressure not only with my kids but also with me and my wife that I haven’t experienced since I was in grade school.
Our kids go to a school in a neighborhood that is very well off. Some are even extremely well off. We live on the “other side of the tracks” you might say, where the housing and taxes are significantly cheaper.
My kids get to witness first hand some of their friends who are given practically everything they want. They more than likely never hear the word “no” at home. I will say that as of now most of the kids that my kids are friends with are pretty well grounded and I haven’t witnessed anything that is extremely egregious up to this point.
Not only my children but my wife and I also notice that we feel just a little bit different when we are hanging around some of these people. As those of you that have kids know, you tend to socialize with the parents of the kids that your children befriend. It’s just natural. So we end up getting invited to house parties at very nice homes and it can sometimes be quite the affair.
Related: Why You Need New Friends
I have nothing bad to say about any of these people whatsoever. Most all of these people that we have spent time with are extremely nice people and have never directly said anything to us about our lifestyle choices. I enjoy spending time with a lot of them. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little apprehensive about inviting them over to my humble abode or inviting one of the guys to play a round of golf at a city course. Gasp!!! A city course! (I know, how terrible).
The Reality of Housing
We drive through that neighborhood regularly to visit friends or go to school functions. We see these big beautiful homes on large lots with big mature trees, and for a moment we are captivated by it and want to live there. Our friends live there. Our children’s friends live there. It would be so convenient and fun. But we know that there is a large price to pay for that convenience.
It doesn’t make it any easier.
This particular part of it is probably much more difficult for my wife than me. Remember, I grew up very middle class and was a hog farmer for a few years after graduating college. I grew up in a fairly frugal household and the shiny things in life maybe don’t appeal as much to me just because of my bringing up. My wife, however went to this same school and had a similar experience as my children are having now.
Here’s the thing. We could afford to live in that same neighborhood. It wouldn’t be the nicest house in the neighborhood but it would certainly be bigger than the current house we live in.
But we have made the decision not to.
We purposefully made the decision to live elsewhere. I think a lot of people miss this point in life. They simply wander through life with no goals, no direction and then someday they drive by a big beautiful house that they can’t afford and say, “What the heck, let’s buy this house. We work hard. We deserve it.”
It’s this type of thinking that gets a lot of people in trouble financially not just with houses but with credit cards and auto loans.
Some day my children will fully understand this decision but right now they are too young and so far it makes little difference to them.
When we are retired before we are even 45 and all of our friends are still working to pay off the mortgages on their huge homes that’s when we will know that we made a wise decision. But that is many years from now! How do we stay focused and not get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses in the meantime?
Here are a few tips that we have learned along the way.
It’s all about Perspective
It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own little worlds. It happens to all of us. We get so busy going through the routine of life and we don’t see the bigger picture.
Just the simple fact that I live in America grants me an extraordinarily blessed life in and of itself. It is imperative that we keep our lives in perspective. Yes, there are many goals in life that I want to reach. There are places that I want to go and things that I want to do and I can sometimes stress about how I am going to achieve all of these things in my lifetime.
I have found a few things in my life that I can do that give me perspective. Perspective in regards to what I want my life to be about and what I want to achieve. Also, perspective in regards to how incredibly blessed I am in my present situation.
- Take a ride on an airplane
It almost never fails. Often, when I get on an airplane and I look out the window (I love the window seat) I realize just how small I am and how big this world is. There is so much opportunity out there. There are so many things out there that I have never done or have never seen. For whatever reason it always gives me a new perspective on my life when I look out at the world from 30,000 feet. Does it really matter if my house is 2,000 square foot or 5,000 square foot? No, it doesn’t.
- Go to a desolate quiet place
I love being outdoors and exploring nature. In my work I sometimes get to go to places that are way off the map. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. Some places that I travel to I could very easily stand in the middle of a field and there is not a person in the world that I can see or hear. I enjoy doing this to get away from the noise of life. When we boil it all down what is really most important in life?
I have a roof over my head, food on my table and a family that loves me. It’s really hard to say that I NEED much more than that. I get wrapped up in the craziness of life and sometimes it is nice to get away from it all just for a while and remember what is most important.
- Do some volunteer or missions work
Going to another country or helping those less fortunate has always been a big eye opener for me. Seeing someone who is in a desperate situation, possibly wondering where their next meal will come from always convicts me. How selfish and self-centered am I? I worry about things like 401k’s, retirement, all the work I have to get done and the little amount of time that I have to do it. Some people have no idea where they will sleep tonight or if they will get to eat today. Be thankful for what you do have.
- Watch HGTV House Hunters International
I say this one in jest but specifically when it comes to comparing the size of houses this one always blows my mind. The price of some houses in Europe and other countries is unreal when compared to what you can get here in the States for the same price! I’ve seen some tiny kitchens on that show that makes our little corner kitchen look like a full-on chef’s kitchen! Or if you are like me and live somewhere in the Midwest, compare what you could buy in New York or L.A. for the same price as your present home. Yikes!
What’s most important
In the age of social media sometimes it can be tough to watch your friends building new houses, buying new cars and going on what seems like endless vacations. It’s difficult to be content. In order to stay focused you must have defined goals and keep your dreams constantly in front of you. Whether you are just trying to pay off your student loans or working towards early retirement you have to remember what is most important to you and be passionate about what you are trying to achieve. It is so easy to get off track and constantly be changing direction in life. This will get you nowhere fast.
So what about you? How do you keep life in perspective?
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