Saving a buck can be a wonderful experience, especially if it helps you refocus your time and energy towards other life goals. It doesn’t always turn out that way, though, and believe me, I know. I’ve done it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. So today I will share some of my favorite dos and don’ts, with (GULP!) examples.
Bad: You let frugalness get in the way of your generosity to others.
Folks, that’s not being frugal, that’s being a tightwad. And trust me, I’ve been there. With the best of intentions, I once bought a nursery rhyme anthology from the bargain section of a store for my nephew’s first birthday. It had really pretty illustrations and seemed nice enough, but when my sister and I started reading it, there was a poem that mentioned a man who was hanged!?! Now, I have to blame the editor at least in part for that one, but it still taught me that sometimes you get what you pay for. Next time, I’m investing a little more for Goodnight Moon or the Velveteen Rabbit; it’ll save my nephew the emotional trauma in the long run.
Good: You find other, more meaningful ways to give back to others.
Working in Human Services inevitably means making some financial sacrifices but I don’t want to let those sacrifices get in the way of supporting my friends and family. I often find other ways to give back to those I love, such as volunteering, babysitting for free, making DIY gifts, and writing thoughtful letters. Personally, I find that these ways of giving back, which often take more time, allow me to have a deeper connection with the person who is receiving the gift, and is therefore more rewarding to both of us.
Bad: You miss out on things you really want or need in life because of pinching pennies.
Last fall was a very stressful time in my life. I needed to take time and money to take care of myself but I wasn’t used to spending beyond my means or dipping a toe into my savings, so it was very hard for me. I eventually realized that in order to recuperate and transition to a new chapter in my life, I had to invest in myself. Even though it felt like pulling teeth, spending a little of my savings to get myself out of a stressful situation was what ultimately allowed me to heal and grow.
Good: You use your money as a tool to get what you really want or need in life.
I firmly believe that money is a tool to get what you want in life. Personally, I want mine primarily to go towards helping others, personal stability, daily happiness, home comforts, and family and friends. Once I visualized where I wanted the money to go, it was a lot easier not to be tempted by other things and also to remember to invest in what I wanted. While it’s sometimes hard to not buy things like expensive clothes or pricey meals when my friends are buying them, I have to remember my own life goals, and that I will ultimately be happier if I resist unless I really want those things personally.
Bad: You judge others for the way they spend their money.
Not helpful to you, not helpful to them. We all have different choices in life. In my early twenties, I sometimes found myself judging my peers for spending a lot of money on partying, especially when they would complain about not having enough money for other things. It left me with a sour feeling, and I’m sure they could feel that, too. I also realized that it wasn’t fair of me to judge because I get migraines from alcohol, and if it weren’t for that, I may have partied more, too. We all are on our own paths to happiness and just because my road looks different than someone else’s doesn’t mean that my road is better.
Good: You respect both your own and others’ financial choices.
When it comes to the little things, my boyfriend and I make different (albeit comparable) financial choices. Where he likes to spend more on computer stuff, gadgets, and games, I like to spend more on home decor, craft supplies, and books. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that with different personalities comes different “stuff” and that’s okay. Truthfully, if we brought exactly the same aspects to the table, it would be a pretty boring relationship. Plus, I just love the confused look on his face when I pull out my weaving loom or my pottery collection.