Frugality: Facing Facts

thrifty frugal vintage kitchen tools cupsMany financial gurus and geniuses  will tell you that it’s okay to like stuff, that they aren’t going to tell you that you can’t have stuff or that you have to skip going out to eat altogether or to totally eliminate some other occasional treat in order to make it financially, and they are certainly not going to tell you that you need to give up most of the convenience foods in your diet, because who lives like that?

The reason they say this is NOT because you are entitled to those things, you deserve them.  And it’s certainly not because it won’t make a big difference to your budget if you can do without them. They tell you these things because they are in business and they know the majority of their market isn’t interested in hearing that and won’t pay for that advice.  They are right.  Most people won’t want to do without these little extras and they will not pay to be told they should give up convenience foods.

But I am not selling my financial advice.  I am giving it away for free, and I am here to tell you that there is a long, long list of things our culture has taught us to feel like we deserve because our culture is a liar.   Those things, in fact,  are not an entitlement.  You really do not ‘deserve’ them.  It really will make a huge difference in your budget if you can brace yourself and skip them.

I would suggest that you consider that for more of the history of the world, disposable income of any level was largely the provenance of the very wealthy, and splurging was buying raisins for an extra treat, and in some cases, eating more than once in a day (in other cases, eating.).  I’m not saying you have to go that far, but it does help to get a sense of perspective with more depth and breadth than last month in America.

A couple years ago the kids gave me the book What the World Eats This is a project done by the same team who did the book Material World.  In Material World (you can see some photographs here), they traveled the world and took photographs of an average family in various countries with the family’s possessions.

In What The World Eats, the photographer and journalist  went to 24 countries and photographed 30 families with one week’s worth of groceries, most of the families the same families who were in their first book.You can look at a short story about it with some of the photographs here.  You can see other photographs from the project here.   They include data about how much the food costs, how some of the food is prepared, recipes, and a list of the food.

The family from the refugee camp in Chad get 16 ounces of dried meat each week for their family of 6.  Their fruit and vegetable consumption in a week includes five small limes, 4.6 pounds of legumes, one pound of Red onions, 1/2 pound of garlic, a few ounces of okra, five ounces of dried tomatoes and chilies, each.  There are some other items- plenty of millet, for example, but not really all that much more.

Now, I am not one of those people who believes that we owe it to the rest of the world to feel guilty because we eat well, and may people do not.  I am grateful for the blessings we have, and I am sorry for the blessings that others do not share, and we do have our favorite charities and various acts of service we do to try to help others.  But feeling guilty because I was born here instead of in Chad is an unproductive waste of time.  My point is not that we should all give up meat and  live on a dollar a day to show our solidarity and appease our guilt for not having been born in dire poverty.

What we do need, however, is a sense of perspective.

I would also suggest that it is not deprivation, suffering, or starvation to use meat as a seasoning for a season rather than as the main part of the meal if you need to save money by doing that, or at least, it does not need to be.  It is not deprivation to have old fashioned oats for breakfast instead of pop tarts, to have an egg omelette using leftover vegetables for filling instead of store bought cereals (one of the biggest rip offs known to the western world) or to have a bowl of home-made granola instead some frozen breakfast pastry you pop into your toaster.

If you need to save some money, it’s just reality. It doesn’t mean it has to be that way forever. But it might have to be that way now, for the moment.  Make the best of it as well as you can.

Proverbs 15:17
Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.

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  1. Posted May 9, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    I’ve linked.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink


  2. Elizabeth
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    “culture is a liar” Best line ever! 🙂 Great post by the way.

  3. Amy
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Another reason they don’t tell you not to buy stuff is because they need advertisers. They aren’t going to be on the radio, TV, or in magazines if they have a platform of telling people not to buy things. I used to work at a magazine, and we couldn’t tell people a cheap way to do things with stuff they already had around the house if there was a product we could suggest they buy. We’d write the article telling them they just had to have the product, and then we’d contact all the companies who sold that product and offer them the chance to advertise in the issue that would have the article. We charged them extra if their ad appeared on one of the pages next to the article.

  4. Mama Squirrel
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    LOL…I have just did some homeschool conference workshops about homeschooling on a shoestring, and afterwards when I was walking around the vendor hall, the vendors saw my “speaker” name tag and would ask me what I was speaking on. I told them “frugal homeschooling, and I’m sorry!”. (They usually laughed.)

  5. Mama Squirrel
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Not “have did,” just did. I couldn’t fix that!

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted May 10, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I fixed it for you.

  6. Mama Squirrel
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    My punctuation laziness: just “did.”. Did a couple of years ago. Sorry, DHM.

  7. Posted May 11, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I am so thankful to my mum for raising me on a diet of lentils, brown bread and other whole foods. I watched her cook from scratch every night. My dad has always worked for charities and earned very little, so I think it was from necessity rather than to be healthy, but it gave me such a great start, which hopefully I’ll be able to pass on to my children.

  8. Posted May 11, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Good things to think about, for sure. However ; ) it’s hard to be as frugal as all that, especially when you are a mother of several young children, including a newborn, for example, have lived in this world all your life, and are trained in it’s ways, grew up with a single working mom etc. Time is a resource. My uber godly friend encouraged me to make my own chicken broth one time. It was good, but it was so much more expensive and time consuming than buying a carton at the store. We’re at a point where packaged food often costs less than basic ingredients too… I know it sounds dumb. Plus husbands have things they will and won’t go along with. Hubby wants boxed cereal. He just does. I’m just saying, even though I appreciate where you’re coming from.

  9. Posted May 12, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree with you, and I’ve always felt this way.

    After talking with my mom about one of my kids, and how she often displays a spirit of discontent, she told me she believes that some kids are just “born this way”. I’m trying to reason with her, read scriptures together about gratitude and contentment, have her keep gratitude journals, etc… and we have the book Material World and look at it often.

    Do you have any other suggestions to help a child who seems a bit on the “spoiled Princess” side?

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted May 12, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      I do think personality plays a part. One thing we did with one of ours with those tendencies was, for a time, every time she made that sort of complaint or grumble, we asked her to stop and say 3-5 things she was happy about. I won’t say she loved it, nor was it a complete cure, but I think it made a bit of a difference.

      • Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:09 am | Permalink

        Thanks! I have been doing that rather randomly, but I like the idea of doing it every time she begins complaining or asking for things she doesn’t need.

        • Headmistress, zookeeper
          Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

          Does she have a way to earn some money herself? When mine asked for stuff she didn’t need, I always suggested she save up for it herself. She usually said no, that was too hard, or too expensive, so then I could point out that she was awfully free with *my* money but tighterfisted about hers, and if it wasn’t worth it to her to work for that item, why did she think it was okay for Daddy and me to work for it?

          • Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

            Yes! In fact, I paid her to do some long-overdue spring cleaning chores yesterday. She wants a new desk for her room (and she has a lovely table that serves as a desk already), so I told her I would be happy to pitch in 50% if she found one on Craigslist. She impressed me with how she went to work. She has told me that she doesn’t want to “be this way”, but she doesn’t know how to change it. I think she’s learning the tools (gratitude, etc) to change, it will just take time. 🙂

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