Thursday, December 22, 2011

Frugal tips for beginners

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.


Analytical Adam said...

I still would like to know what your husband for a living. Also how he treats other men in the workplace who also need to work to be able to survive and also to hopefully get married. My own situation has been that I struggle financially and sadly most so called religious men are more interested in helping women in the workplace and do nothing to help another man which to be honest with you I resent it. The men because they are married are arrogant and think they are God's gift to womankind. Maybe you have answered it in the past I didn't look at the comments at the time and I apologize.

That is the issue. If you husband is not treating other men right in the workplace that at some point may be something that God does have to punish. At this point since you have two young girls God doesn't feel it is the right time to do it.

I am not saying he does. Just sadly my experience a lot of religious men do it because they know the politics of the workplace and that being nice to another man doesn't make their more secure even though God sees your actions. Helping women can sometimes help since politically the workplace is more concerned with woman and they can very easily make a complaint that is purely based on not getting special treatment. It is great if a husband and wife can work in their own business because sometimes men like having a woman in the workplace to be of help to them.

But anyway. Have a good day.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Adam, if you really wish to know, my husband is a software engineer. I shall not, of course, supply details of his work, as I know he wouldn't want me to.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

Bethany said...

This post made me wonder: Do you always plan to live as frugally as you do now? Is it an income thing? If the family income were to increase would you view it as more money in savings or as an opportunity to do things you couldn't before? Do you hope to travel abroad someday? What about a new car?

Kate said...

Thank you once again Anna for your honest insight and the lessons you've learned. :) What a great reminder, I am SO tempted to be very arrogant and haughty about my financial situation as well and I know I just cannot continue like that.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Bethany, of course it would be nice to be able to afford, comfortably and without stretching our budget too thin, some of the above. Afford in matters of time as well as money, of course! My husband's schedule has always been very demanding, and when it comes to traveling, for instance, finding time together as a family is more challenging than finding the money (traveling can be relatively inexpensive if planned well).

That said, our priority is to keep out of debt, in a good enough home, with proper medical care, food, etc, and to be content with what we have. I also think it's a matter of perspective. My husband was one of 5 children (now outstandingly wonderful adults with their own lovely families) in a little 2.5-room apartment; we live in a house with 3 bedrooms, a large living space and an office, for just the 4 of us. So compared to how my husband grew up this is pure luxury.

As for new cars, I never understood the craze. What I wish for is a good sturdy car that doesn't need many repairs (and it's true that repairs on old cars gobble up so much money), and that is reliable and safe.

Lady Anne said...

Adam, I hate to say it, but it's no surprise you're not married. Your name should not be Analytical Adam, but Arrogant Adam. Anna has the patience of a saint where you are concerned.

That being said, I have to agree with you, Mrs. T, on some of the hints in those "How to Save Money" books. My parents grew up during the Depression, and then lived through WWII; first you couldn't afford anything, and then you couldn't get it if you had the money. I used to get SO annoyed at my mom's penny-pinching ways; her approach was "Tell me what you need, and I'll tell you haw to do without it." But her training served me well when my late husband left me bankrupt. Even now, the Lord of the Manor and I live well, tithe faithfully, and eat lots of soup made from leftover bits of this and that. I buy almost all of my clothing at thrift shops, and so forth. And maybe, someday, I'll make that trip to Australia I've always dreamed of. (Talk about dreaming big!)

Anonymous said...

Just what I needed to hear ..once again this 53 year old is taught or reminded of something by you years younger ...I had been feeling puffed up about our wise choices and my husband had even said a "watch what you are saying" a few different times lately.!!!I am thankful . Karen