I came across this article with money-saving tips while browsing Small Town Living. I must say reading it made me feel like a veteran soldier reading advice for new recruits, and I even laughed out loud a couple of times! I mean... stop buying fast food (don't remember what it tastes like)? Sell your lawn mower (in Israel, with our draughts, I think it's close to indecent to keep a lawn at all)? Stop going out to the movies (a movie for us is like a trip abroad for some people)?.. But otherwise, of course, it's good and sensible advice.
I will admit that I've had a bit of a pat-ourselves-on-the-back attitude when it came to saving money. I mean, my husband and I were always so sensible; we chose a modest wedding so we had plenty of money left over from presents to pay for it, our honeymoon was spent in an apartment that was lent to us by my brother-in-law, we opted for a house we could buy in cash, we never traveled abroad, we don't eat out, we stockpile, we are experts in finding good deals, doing it ourselves, and doing without.
My husband is in charge of grocery shopping, due to the fact he's the one who takes the car (I don't drive). I think if I grocery shopped, we'd have an even healthier food array in the pantry, completely free of snacks and soft drinks my husband buys mainly for unexpected guests. But even so, I know we're doing well, even though it's always possible, of course, to be even more creative and cut back.
However, lately I was forced to face an unpleasant truth: my attitude became arrogant. I gradually shifted to thinking that what's keeping us afloat, financially, is solely our good choices, and not the provision of G-d. I grew in stubborn forgetfulness of all the little (and not so little) miracles of His provision for us, such as when we were given a perfectly good free stroller for our first baby, or when we discovered a whole storage shed full of little girls' clothing. I began to feel all too pleased with how sensible we are, how frugal, how wise and rational.
There is a young couple we know closely, whose financial situation is not very stable. Some of the choices they are making struck us as very unfit for their situation, for example, buying a new car and going abroad twice a year, splurging on gadgets such as new laptops, etc. We'd actually feel pretty smug, thinking about this couple, and telling each other "we'd never allow ourselves to overspend like this!"
Then, not long ago, we lost a considerable sum of money in quite a foolish, senseless way. An unexpected blow at a time of financial strain. How bitterly I regretted this loss! How much better it would be to have done something, anything with this money, I told myself - even spend it on a lovely trip that would create beautiful memories! And oh, how brutally did I come back in contact with the reality of Who is in charge.
Am I saying, now, that we should all indulge our every whim? That we should overspend in the hope G-d will provide? That we should never have any savings put aside because we might lose them anyway? No, of course not! We should be led by common sense in our financial choices. But it's crucial to remember that, although we are required to be prudent and responsible with our resources (financial and otherwise), ultimately the outcome does not depend on us. We can make all the right choices, and yet fail. We can make wrong choices, and out of them, something beautiful miraculously springs up. All part of a higher plan to make us acutely aware Who is our one and only source of real solace, comfort, and security. Not our faulty sense. Not our frail human abilities. Only Him.
In Judaism, there is a term of "blessing in one's money". This is how some families, miraculously it seems, manage to raise ten children with a ridiculously small monthly allowance; this is how others never seem to make their ends meet, no matter how much they earn. Money earned on the Shabbat day, we believe, does not carry a blessing, on the contrary, it will lead to financial ruin, even if math says just the opposite.
Do your best. Do what is good and sensible for your family. And all the while, keep your eyes on G-d, our kind and gentle shepherd, who wants us to remember it is Him we ought to turn to for all our needs. This is my first, and most important, frugal tip for beginners.