The Frugal Catholic: “What IS Frugality Anyway?” by M.W.King M.Ed.–Jan 2019

Last year, I turned 70, had my spine fused, and moved into a new multi-generational home. But the year’s biggest jolt was learning that some folks have never heard of the word “FRUGAL.” Yes, as I was walking the Platt River Trail in CO, I ran into two such adults. One lady in her sixties said, “Can you explain that term? I’ve never heard of it.” Another younger woman said, “Frugality? Is that some kind of disease?” So for my many readers in 2019, it is time to go back to the basics with some help from my frugal friends.

FRUGALITY DEFINED

As a writer, I LOVE words. So I looked up the term. The dictionary defines frugality as: The quality of being frugal, or prudent in living; the lack of wastefulness; careful with money, penny wise, or thrifty.


Georgia P., my neighbor in Washington, who is wonderfully frugal, described it thus: “To me frugality means living within your current means, not your imagined future means or what you believe you deserve. Borrow very carefully!  Delay luxuries in order to save. Choose high quality in small amounts over large amounts of cheap, poor quality. Control the ‘latte factor’ [Dave Ramsey]. Buy bulk–don’t pay retail. Do it yourself if you have the skills and are able. Ignore what the media says we should look like, how we should dress, especially what’s in fashion today. Stick with classic, not trendy. In the kitchen, stick with ingredients, not prepared food. Again, higher quality at lower cost.”

Margaret R., a friend of fifty-eight years from West Virginia, stated: “For me, frugality means spending our money and resources wisely with careful consideration of the needs of the past, present, and future. Even though I am financially sound, I have kept the habits of bargain hunting, cutting out unnecessary items, always paying credit card expenses in full each month, avoiding always needing to get the latest style, using the library, and fixing things myself rather than buying new.” Margaret added, “I have observed frugality in my parents, neighbors, and friends, and its appearance can be found in a wide range of age groups. Sometimes frugality appears to be stingy and other times generous. I learned most of what I know from my own experience on a limited budget as a single parent raising two daughters and working full time. Frugality allowed me to send them to college.”

And The Frugal Catholic’s best definition of FRUGALITY is: “SAVE IT HERE: STASH IT THERE.”

WHAT IS NOT FRUGAL?

Well, of course, this “save it here: stash it there” mentality is profitable for those who like to hoard ketchup packages that come with fast food meals, but what about taking the whole ketchup bottle off the restaurant table or grabbing fist fulls of raw sugar packs at Starbucks? Doesn’t that translate into “frugality”? No actually that is termed “stealing.” That is not “frugality,” for as Leslie states, “Frugality should never be confused with stinginess or lack of generosity. Leslie reminded me of a neighbor who experienced NON-Frugal. Stan and Susan (name changed) refinanced their house to a fixed rate mortgage–smart move– but also increased the mortgage to have cash for the kitchen extension–bad move. They over paid for the remodel because Stan, who worked with contracts all the time, had a “GOOD FEELING” about a contractor and failed to do any price comparisons. So Stan and Susan overpaid for the remodel by about $100,000 because the “good feeling contractor” he chose was wasn’t reputable. In addition, Stan revealed to another neighbor that he (unknown to Susan) had enough money in stock options to pay cash for the overpriced remodel but chose not only to NOT pay in cash but hid this fact from Susan. Susan stated, “Had I been informed I would have pushed very hard to use available funds rather than borrow. We could have had the house paid off more than once by now, and we would be looking at at least double the cash out.” Non-frugal was in failing to give complete information and decision making to his partner Susan and keeping that information to himself.

Thou Shall Not Steal

WHAT ABOUT GIVING?

So often when one thinks about penny pinching to grow rich, the last thought is about giving one’s money away. Yet the two of them flow together. Margaret states: “I believe tithing helps set the state for frugality. Giving the tithe first, set me free to be frugal. Being frugal and tithing both involve setting priorities and require self discipline. Being able to set spending limits required with frugality, allows tithing to be a doable option. Yes, they (frugality and tithing) are related but not intertwined. Tithing is centered on giving where frugality is focused inward toward self.” Leslie also added: “I don’t tithe per se; but in my paid working life I gave a great deal of professional time without pay, and have spent a huge part of my adult life caring for my parents, sometimes at high personal cost in money and time. I have opened my home to numerous friends and family members in need, and have rescued many animals in need. Being frugal in some areas allows for the generosity in others.”

FINAL FRUGAL THOUGHTS

One of the more interesting articles I studied was about rich frugal billionaires. https://www.businessinsider.com/worlds-richest-and-most-frugal-billionaires-2016-1#warren-buffett-chairman-and-ceo-of-berkshire- Warren Buffet ($60.7 billion) stated, “My life couldn’t be happier. In fact, it’d be worse if I had six or eight houses. So I have everything I need to have, and I don’t need any more because it doesn’t make a difference after a point.” Charlie Ergen ($14.5 billion and Dish Network Chairman) packs his lunch of a sandwich and Gatorade before work every day and used to share hotel rooms with colleagues, until recently. He attributes his frugal habits to his mother who grew up during the depression. And Carlos Slim Helu’ (the richest man in Mexico) stated “What you have to do is make it [money] grow, reinvest to make it bigger, or diversify into other areas. Maintain austerity in prosperous times (in times when the cow is fat with milk).”

Finally the Bible doesn’t address frugality, but it certainly addresses “the love of money.” It says in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” Yes frugality is an internal decision to stretch what you have; whereas, loving money is like making an idol to worship. And as Margaret wisely noted, frugality must come from within and from within is it achieved. Whether you think you can be frugal or you know you can’t–both are right. The decision is up to you, but frugality will change your life forever. It is a wonderfully radical decision.

Frugality can radically change your finances and life.


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