I’ve been thinking about frugality lately. I started for practical reasons, I need to make better use of my money. This was originally a short-term goal, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it should be a lifetime goal, a value.
Being frugal is not the same as being cheap, or even being thrifty. Those focus on spending as little as possible. Frugality is about the mindful use of resources. That phrase “mindful use of resources” came from my dictionary and I just love it. I’ve been rolling it around on my tongue all day. It doesn't have to be all about money, there are all kinds of resources I should be more mindful of. I can hardly claim to be the Queen of Green, but I do my best. I try to save energy, recycle, reduce and reuse whenever I can.
Mindful is, I think, the key word. Whenever I rinse out a can or resist turning up the thermostat, I am reminded about why I do those things. The simple actions of living green remind me to do so, and reinforce my commitment to do so. Furthermore, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have the option. There are people who can’t afford to heat their homes, people who can’t afford thick sweaters and hot chocolate to stave off the cold, people who don’t have homes at all. My sweaters and hot chocolate don’t seem like luxuries compared to some, but there are others who would think so.
I think gratitude is inherent to contentment. It’s all too easy to look at those who have more and feel bitter. It’s harder to be thankful for what you have, especially when that doesn’t seem like very much. But when I can manage it, I can be happy, and it makes the road easier.
There’s a transit strike in my city right now, so last weekend I walked to the mall to meet friends. It’s a 45 minute walk and it was dark, windy and snowing. It would have been easy to call a cab, or to spend the whole time wishing I had a car, but I really focused on this walk. I thought about co-worker who has a physical disability. She lives far from the office and relies on transit. She said, “Thank goodness I have friends I can get a ride from”. If she can be thankful for that, I can certainly be thankful for my strong legs. I also made myself think about my good boots and coat, my warm mittens, my mp3 player (which certainly isn’t fancy but sure made the walk more fun) and all the wonderful people I was walking to see. Honestly, by the time I got to the theatre I was in a pretty good mood. Plus, I’d saved $15 and a couple litres of gas and gotten some exercise to boot.
It’s really hard, it takes a lot of discipline, to be mindful all the time. But even after such a short time I’m already seeing the benefit. I’m finished with the diet/binge pattern of spending that I’ve been on, I’m tired of feast and famine. I want my spending to reflect what I value, and not convenience or impulse. I want to be mindful of how I use all my resources, and how lucky I am to have those resources in the first place.