The Frugal Challenge Day 1: Redefining Frugality

Last night I realized that the first day of the 23 Day Frugal Challenge was going to be difficult. Not only did I have plans to meet a friend for coffee this morning, we have family in town this weekend. Having family in town usually means we end up eating out as some point or another.

What a way to start my frugal challenge. Immediately my internal dialogue went to work justifying my plans for today. It's okay to buy a cup of coffee because it's something I do so rarely (seriously, this only happens a few times a year) and I like plain drip coffee so it wouldn't cost much. It's not like I wanted a $5 latte or anything. I started trying to figure out the logistics of bringing a picnic dinner to share with my family before we meet up with the relatives tonight...

Thank goodness the challenge task today was to redefine frugality.

Frugality isn't just about not spending money. It's not about getting a pair of jeans on sale or clipping coupons (I admit this part was a bit of a revelation for me today...one of those things I already knew but needed to hear again at just that particular moment).

Simply put, frugality is about being happy with what you already have and not being wasteful. It's also about sharing with others, living simply, and finding balance (I really love the definition given today by Frugally Sustainable).

For me that also means letting go of all the guilt I attach to spending money. Buying more stuff certainly doesn't make me happy but it shouldn't make me feel miserable either. Part of being happy with what I have is not feeling guilty about our circumstances. We're by no means rolling in money but we don't have to worry about paying rent. We have friends who are really struggling right now and a huge part of me feels guilty about that. I want to be happy with what I have and share with others as much as I can. I need to recognize the steps we already take be be frugal.

Just to be clear, I'm not arguing that frugality offsets periodic spending sprees. I simply need to get over the idea that being frugal is being cheap. Being frugal doesn't necessarily mean not spending any money at all. Being frugal doesn't mean we turn down having a dinner out with relatives because we could eat at home and save money. If we're thoughtful about our purchases and we're making those purchases for a good reason, I need to be okay with that.

I'm grateful that we have the luxury of being able to live within our income and have all our basic needs met. I'm grateful that we can occasionally afford a dinner out with family or friends.

I shouldn't feel guilty for buying a cup of coffee when I could have made one at home. It's not just a cup of coffee, it's spending time with a friend--a friend who actually bought my coffee and shared her sandwich with me this morning after I was went to the wrong coffee shop and was 30 minutes late. 

Next time I'll be able to return the favor and I won't feel the least bit guilty about buying her coffee and sharing breakfast. 

Still, I think my definition of frugality and how I internalize it is going to continue to evolve throughout this challenge. I'm sitting here, obsessing about what I've written, about whether it makes sense, about whether I'm just trying to make myself feel less guilty about going to dinner tonight, about whether I've really defined frugality for myself or adopted the Frugally Sustainable's definition, about the inevitable grammatical errors I've missed. But I'm going to stop. I'm going to post this now, just like it is and go about my day accompanied by my unceasing internal dialogue questioning my frugality.  

How was your first day contemplating frugality?

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