These myriad active methods of being frugal are how I save every day. But there is another, equally important way. It isn’t as fun to talk about, share tips or write Top 10 lists about. That’s because it isn’t an action, but an inaction.
If the old saying “Patience is a Virtue” is true, then the true frugal lifestyle is a virtuous one indeed. In the big picture, I save more by what I am not doing, then by all the things I am doing.
Sound confusing? That’s because it is harder to analyze inaction. There’s no satisfying row of canning jars, no receipt that shows how much I saved today, and no cheapskate recipe to share.
Make it Do or Do Without
Never before has technology moved so fast to upgrade and bring changes to our lives. Just about the time you get familiar with the model of phone you use, they bring out the next model. The way we work, live, play, shop, communicate and access information has changed radically in the past 20 years, and continues to transform our lives daily.
Being frugal means that you don’t jump onto to wagon with each new trend in technology. I’m not saying that you have to live in ignorance of the changes. A lot of new ideas bring efficiency and ways to save. Be aware and informed. Research and observe. But then wait.
“The waiting is the hardest part.” This line from the song “The Waiting,” by Tom Petty, goes through my mind often. Patience is not easy for me.
We live in a very fast-paced, forward thinking culture. We are bombarded with the message that we need something — the latest phone, pizza, a vacation — and need it immediately. After all, have you ever seen an advertisement encouraging you to wait for something, anything?
Waiting is not fun and exciting. Waiting feels like missing out, or getting behind, and it doesn’t give us the surge of endorphins we enjoy when we get something.
Rewards of Patience
So what do you get for waiting, for not buying or not doing? The payout of being patient can be huge, even greater and longer lasting than you get with instant satisfaction.
My home is a big fixer upper project. Every part of every room needs to be completely redone. The bank would love to lend me the funds to just get it done. Ads emailed from the home improvement stores tell me this is the time to update! The credit card company has even sent checks I can write out for a cash advance.
When we bought the home, over a year ago, we put in a 20 percent down payment so we could avoid paying mortgage insurance. Using the money for new appliances may have been more satisfying immediately, but saving this unnecessary expense every month makes more sense in the long term.
We put just enough money into a few repairs and projects to make the home livable and then stopped. It was very difficult to do this. Most of the rooms are in a weird state of transition (that’s being generous). We had to use the resources we had for things like upgrading the electric, adding heat sources, and repairing damage from the critters that had taken over while the house sat vacant two years. Once we had done enough to let us move in, we went on a home improvement spending freeze.
I am not naturally the most patient person. Living with my home in chaos the past year has definitely been trying. I long for a beautiful kitchen and bathroom. I’ve been using an old kitchen area in the basement that was covered in mildew when we bought the house, and unheated the first winter here. My bathroom, with its 1950’s pink tub and sink are impossible to get to look clean (no, it does not look glamorous and retro).
At times, I’ll admit, I felt a bit depressed. Standing in the old kitchen, toes numb, staring at the disgusting grout between green tiles on the counter, I tried to feel inspired to make delicious dinners. I wanted the pleasure of soaking sore muscles in a hot bathtub, but the one I have looks gross and I can’t bring myself to lay in it.
This week, I got to experience a huge reward for my patience. A beautiful refrigerator was delivered for our future kitchen. Not only was I able to get exactly the one I have wanted for years, but I have the satisfaction of being able to pay for it in full.
As a bonus, I was able to get a good deal on it too by waiting for just the right time to buy. This is one of the ways I use credit cards to my advantage. My Discover card had a special deal with the home improvement store for a few days, where I could earn 10 percent cash back if I shopped online. The store happened to have the refrigerator on sale for a couple days at 23 percent off. The cash back I receive from the credit card can be used to purchase gift cards at other stores I frequent. Usually, I use it for CVS gift cards, and only pay $90 for each $100 card. Then I use the 25 to 30 percent off coupons CVS mails me regularly, to save even more when I use the cards. In this way, not only am I getting a great deal on the refrigerator, but I can extend the savings even further. Paying the balance on the card right away means I won’t pay a dime extra.
I find it very rewarding to be able to really own the things I have. Last year, I paid off my car and it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I imagine taking a vacation is more relaxing when you don’t come home to a huge bill you can’t really afford. When couples get into serious debt on their weddings, it can cause needless conflict and stress during the beginning of the marriage.
Sometimes it is hard to be patient or decide to forego an immediate want for a long term goal. It helps if you and your family are on the same page with goals, and if you keep your sight on the big picture.