Seven Ways it Pays to Be Frugal on Your Homestead (Even if You are in a City, the Suburbs, or the Country)
This article is about seven ways it pays to be frugal on your homestead (besides just saving money), whether you are in a city, the suburbs, or living off-grid in the country. Frugal living has a bit of a bad rap, but there are some positive things about living well within your means, no matter how much or little you make.
$15!!! I gasped inwardly, but my dismay was clearly evident on my face. There was NO way I could come up with that amount of money for each of my three boys for a school function as a young single mom back in the day.
I barely got $100 a month for each of my boys in child support, and the teaching job I had at that time yielded me about $20,000 a year—-barely enough to afford our little apartment, utilities, my car payment, gas, and groceries in the large city where we lived.
We were so poor back then that my sons were easily approved for the free lunch system at the school where I taught (back when it was REALLY hard to get into). Hard times happen to many of us here and there in our lives. When you HAVE to live frugally, you figure things out….fast.
And there was a time when $15 (let alone the $45 I needed) was astronomically out of my reach.
I actually cried that day, knowing my sons would be missing out….and I was a teacher in the school. So surreal.
Many folks think of "frugal living" as being a terribly punishing and constrictive way to live. And for me in those days, in those times, at least when certain events would come up…it certainly felt constrictive and punishing.
But what a great learning experience.
The word, "frugality," even carries negative connotations in this modern day and age, though we are so far removed from the Great Depression of the 1930's when the average person had to get VERY creative with ways to stretch a dollar.
My life as a single low-income mother doesn’t hold a candle to what the survivors of the Great Depression dealt with! If you’d like some tips from these hardy folks, click that link for a great article.
Some people believe living frugally means you have to deny yourself: no cable T.V. No eating out. No more clothes shopping! It may feel like you are making compromises---like you have to buy the "cheap" thing instead of the more expensive one you would rather have.
But you know what? Although these are true facts, there are LOTS of great things about living frugally, that make a minimal lifestyle something to actually aspire to. In fact, some people who HAVE to live frugally find they might even like it a little bit.
I can’t say I ever came to enjoy living frugally when I absolutely HAD to, but I am grateful I learned how. I was GREAT at figuring out ways to live well on pretty much nothing.
Like, a five dollar bill was a LOT of money for me at that time. We never went to movie theaters during that period of my life…but we did have pizza movie night with rented DVD’s.
Shopping at the Thrift store was something I did often. And guess what? My kids didn't suffer, nor did I. We found our happiness in inexpensive and joyful ways: spending time together and playing.
Let's be realistic and honest, though.
Frugal living IS uncomfortable at first. It does take some getting used to, and that's a fact. It may take a bit of time to realize the payoffs, but trust, me: you'll see them and feel them.
Once you get used to living frugally and you actually start enjoying your new way of life, you'll probably never even go back to your materialistic ways. That's what happened with Mr. V. and me!
Here are seven ways I have personally learned why it pays to live a frugal lifestyle on your own homestead, no matter if you are living in the city, the suburbs, or the country. Here are my own personal insights, having been super poor, moderately rich, and very middle class over all the decades of my life lived so far:
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Seven Ways it Pays to Be Frugal on Your Homestead
1) You Learn to Value Your Things
When you can spend money on whatever you want at any time, the value of those items drops incredibly. How do I know this? Experiences. Lots of them.
I've experienced different financial situations throughout my decades of living that range from being broke all the time, to being strongly middle class, to being quite wealthy, and now back to (lower) middle class. These days, I’m back to being on the low end of the wealth scale, since Mr. V. and I live on fixed incomes—-retirement pensions, and we are thankful we have them.
And I can tell you: When you are purposely watching what you spend your money on, you learn to value the things you choose to buy SO much more.
Here's an example:
Back when I was a "city" girl and married to a wealthy man, I LOVED Brighton purses. And because I could, I bought at least two a year. Now, some might say these aren't that expensive (depending on your financial situation), but for my own personal price point, both then and now, they are VERY costly.
Did I need two a year? NO! But I was able to buy them, so I did. And you know what? They were pretty meaningless to me. They were just purses. They really held no value at all.
Then, I went through some pretty serious life-changing trauma about 15 years ago, which I will not go into right now, but suffice to say, my whole life was turned upside down. I was financially bereft in my early forties, divorced, no job, no home, and bankrupt.
It was during the period of the 2008/09 recession period, and there were NO jobs! It was a scary time, friends. Needless to say, Brighton purses were absolutely NO longer even a consideration.
Fast forward to now. Mr. V. and I both had some financial rebuilding to do when we first met. We learned to watch our finances, and there were things we just couldn't afford to do. Some were even important things. But we did without so that we could have the life we have now.
But here is something that happened to me last year that made me realize just how much more I value the things I have. I mean, I knew this....but I didn't really KNOW it until I had this recent experience.
Remember those Brighton purses I used to be able to buy?
Well, I hadn't purchased one in YEARS! Last Christmas, Mr. V. asked one of my good friends what he could get me as a gift I would like (he had already purchased chicks, goats, horses, and more for me on our little homestead in the past, and I guess he was looking for something different ;-), and my friend told him to get me a Brighton purse.
When I opened that present, I was FLOORED. I cried! I LOVE that purse for SO many reasons. Mr. V. got it for me, number one. Number two, it's perfect. And number three: It's a BRIGHTON!
It’s special because of the effort and the creativity Mr. V. put into getting it for me. That man does NOT step into girly places. And yet he did…for that Brighton purse for me.
Honestly, these days I don't care one whit if it's a Brighton or not, but now I VALUE that purse SO much more than I ever did any of my others. And it's because I can't just go out and get one whenever I want, besides the fact that it was such a thoughtful gift from a man I love dearly.
This attitude of valuing your things far more has, for us, extended into everything on our homestead. We have a wonderful sense of the work and time it took us to build and create, for one thing.
And there are the things we do buy: like cast iron pots and pans, items of quality that will last forever. Because we can't (and don't) go out and buy things willy nilly any more, what we do have is valued and treated with respect.
I guess you could say that the stuff we have now is meaningful and useful. And if it doesn't have meaning or usefulness, well, we declutter and let it go. At any rate, living frugally teaches you to know what you need, love and to care for those things, and not mind the rest.
That's a great feeling!
(You might also be interested in this article: How to Shop Like a Minimalist.)
2) You Will Have More Free Time
Yes! This is true!
If you don't have fancy vehicles to maintain, you spend less time (and money) maintaining them. If you don't need to take expensive clothes to the cleaners, then you spend less time running errands. When you're not off running to the store for something you think you need, then you are spending more time with your family.
Having less stuff and buying less stuff means having more time to actually have experiences. You can meditate (free)! You can exercise (almost free, depending on what you're doing)! You can take walks in nature! You can play board games with your kids! You have more time to do things that really matter and that are good for you.
Trust me when I say (again, from experience) that the more stuff you have, the more that stuff sucks your time and energy. When I had to move into a tiny house during my trauma years, I had to get rid of pretty much everything except what I absolutely needed....and I found free time instead!
Extra time is priceless.
If you are spending all your time on stuff, buying things, taking care of those things, putting those things away, or even just looking at those things...you are probably not spending your time as meaningfully as you could. Just saying.
3) You'll Develop a Sense of Pride and Empowerment
Mr. V. and I have made some good inroads in our frugal journey these past years. Actually, Mr. V. has always been pretty frugal. I have had to learn skills of frugality more than he has. But that's ok! Because learning frugal living skills gives you a sense of pride and empowerment in yourself!
Here's how being frugal has made me feel totally awesome and proud of myself: I have become a DIYer!!! Even though I have friends who roll their eyes at that and say things like, "Oh. I'm just NOT into the DIY thing," here is what I have experienced:
I can DO things. I KNOW things, like traditional skills. If the world came to an end...well, I could actually be ok in quite a few different ways. I'm not helpless any more!!
Here are some of the ways I've learned to 1) save money and 2) empower myself:
Cook from scratch: We now eat REAL food and our health has improved incredibly!
Make personal care products: I KNOW what's in the stuff we put on and in our bodies! I save money, and the things I make are SO much better! Here's my favorite deodorant recipe, along with information about the toxins in commercial deodorant.
Preserve foods: Not only do we preserve foods in more modern ways like freezing, dehydrating, and canning, but we do some hard-core traditional food preservation by fermenting our foods! It's healthy and tasty. And guess what? Fermentation has recently become an expensive health trend that we do ourselves for literally pennies.
Grow our own: Learning to garden (better) has given us the opportunity to increase the amounts of foods we grow ourselves: healthy, organic food doesn't cost nearly as much as going to the store. Find out how to amend your soil so you can grow anything!
Raise our own: We eat our own eggs (mostly organic and definitely free range), meat we raise ourselves as much as possible, or hunt for it. There is some true power in knowing you don't need to eat the mistreated, chemical ridden, and unhealthy meats found in the grocery stores any more.
Make our own medicines: I LOVE that we don't have to use Rx or OTC medications because with few exceptions I can make whatever we need from plants I forage, grow, or know how to purchase if need be. Now THAT alone is true empowerment. Here's a recipe for natural decongestant that's easy to make to get you started!
Here is a series you may enjoy: Get Started Using Herbs: The Basics You Need
There's lots more too! Those are just a few examples of how we do it ourselves. Mr. V. builds everything himself, also. I just want to say that we feel capable! We ARE capable! Not only are we "able" in this modern world, but we are creative in all of these endeavors. It's fun! And we are so much healthier for it, in many ways.
From having to be frugal, to learning skills, to now choosing to be frugal because it is just BETTER for our home and health is an incredibly empowering way to live your life.
You might be interested in reading these empowering articles:
4) You'll Learn You Actually Have More Options Than Before
For many years, I worked in a highly stressful job. When I first started my career, back in the late 80's and early 90's, I loved it! For decades I knew I was making a difference and even though the stress took a toll on me, it was a great career choice for a working mom.
But then, the political winds changed, laws changed, the bureaucracy changed, and my job became horrific over a period of a decade. I hated it. It drained the joy out of me. I still loved important aspects of my chosen career (like the kids), but I was no longer empowered to make certain decisions I philosophically believed in because of the increasing pressure from government and the big business bureaucracy that overtook our organization.
What used to be a creative, loving, joyful, expressive career was now filled with data collection and dehumanization. I was depressed.
Fast forward just four years....Mr. V. and I had been practicing living frugally for quite some time at this point, and he saw how depressed and stressed I was. It was really taking a toll on me.
I had initially started my blog for fun and had been blogging for about nine months at that point, and we had realized that this could actually be a way to make income! Just a few months into my blogging, he talked me into retiring five years early from my stressful career.
I left a ton of money on the table by making this move because of penalties for both age and years in the system, but I am SO much happier now. Being frugal and learning to live the kind of lifestyle we were living gave me some important choices about my life that I would not have had if we were still living a very materialistic lifestyle.
Instead of being one of these older people, stuck in a career they dislike, having the energy and life sucked right out of them every single day after day after day because they are at the mercy of "the Man," I was actually able to start building a new career.
I would NOT have been able to make this different, healthy choice if Mr. V. and I weren't in the habit of living frugally.
Frugal living gives you choices and options!
(If you are interested in starting your own blog and writing, take a look at How to Start a Blog. Feel free to email me, and I can help you out that way too! Or ask in the comments!)
5) You'll Learn the Skill of Self-Discipline
Having real self-discipline is having some serious strength, friends. To do the things you know you need to do even when you don't want to do them requires some stamina of will. To NOT do certain things that you like that are harmful to you also requires self-discipline. It's like exercise. You know it's good for you, but it can be really hard to get started.
When Mr. V. and I decided to go extremely "frugal," we taught ourselves self-discipline. It takes self-discipline to not spend on credit just because we want something. It takes self-discipline to wait for something until we have the money to buy it. (Exceptions we've made are our vehicles and farm equipment and farm needs.)
We don't have cable. We don't rent movies, or ever go to theaters. We don't buy very many clothes, especially clothes that aren't useful out here in the mountains. We don't ever do the entertainment scene in Las Vegas (or now Lewiston) because, well, we really don't like going to cities, but it also costs WAY more than we are willing to spend.
We do not buy coffee from coffee shops any more. We do not go into large malls. We just. Don't. Go. Mr. V. and I have realized that we cannot go shopping in Hobby Lobby or Home Depot together, either. We are bad for each other that way! lol So, we go alone, with a specific list, and save money.
And you know what? Neither Mr. V. or me feels like we are missing out! We do not feel deprived.
Was it uncomfortable at first? Yes. It was. Especially kicking the movie and coffee habit. But self-discipline is a muscle you work out, and we now have other things we do that we enjoy even more!
Because of our frugal ways and developed self-discipline, we get to step outside our cute off-grid mountain home and see STARS at night! Guess what? You can't see stars in Las Vegas---they are completely covered up in all the electric lights.
EDIT: We are now in Idaho, on 26 acres of pasture and pine….and we see even more stars!
We have time to READ! We can learn new things because we are not involved in what is "hot" right now. It's really nice. That self-discipline we learned? It's given us SO much in return for the perceived deprivation of the moment.
(You might be interested in this article on How to Make Your Own Healthy Spicy Hot Cocoa Mix.)
6) You'll Realize that Financial Freedom is NOT a Myth
We are not financially free yet. Not by a long shot. Early in our marriage, as we were both in the process of rebuilding our lives from mistakes we both made prior to meeting each other, we actually made some additional mistakes together.
Like purchasing two big Dodge trucks because we need 4WD where we live. Even though we did buy used, we still have steep payments on them. We lived and learned…again.
BUT!! At this point, after choosing and building frugal living habits for the past few years, we can look into the future and see a bright light at the end of the frugal living tunnel! Our vision is to one day live a truly self-sustaining life (as much as possible) with no debt. That's our goal.
So, even though we're not there yet, we know if we keep doing what we are doing and making frugal choices, we WILL get there one day. And I'm sharing that all with you---
(Here's an article you might enjoy: 50 Ways to Save Money Now, If Your Money is Tight.)
7) You'll Live a Healthier Life
I've alluded to this in earlier sections, but this is a huge and vital way it pays to be frugal! In this day and age of chemicals, toxins, hormone disruptors in plastics and foods, and the perceived need to buy products and processed foods you have no control over, being able to say with certitude that we are living far more healthy than before, on fewer dollars is a REALLY big deal.
When we started cooking from scratch and making our own personal care and cleaning products, our health naturally improved! When you grow your own food in your own little garden (even if your garden is in pots, like mine used to be back when we lived in the city), you just become healthier!
When you stop putting all that extra sugar, salt, and chemical garbage in your body from eating at fast food places (or any restaurant for that matter) or packaged processed foods, you become healthier! When you are busy working in the yard instead of sitting in front of a big screen, you become healthier.
Our blood pressures have decreased, weight has stabilized, cholesterol is lower, skin is clearer (and less wrinkled, believe it or not--for me), and our hair and nails are shiny and strong.
Good health happens in many ways, when you choose to live frugally, in the right ways.
(This article may also interest you: 10 Foods You Think are Healthy But That are Really Killing You!)
Final Thoughts on How Frugality Pays Off
Having been rich, having been poverty-level poor, and having been somewhere in the middle at different times in my life, I have learned quite a lot about money and the head games we play with ourselves.
And, really, friends, it's all about head games.
Do you seriously "need" that thing? Just because your friend has one? Or Kim Kardashian has one? LOL!! Really?! NO. You don't.
Can you live without stupid entertainment that rots your brain and gives you a nice, broad arse? Yes. You can.
It's all a matter of perspective, educating yourself, and then making choices differently.
Speaking for myself, I will never be going back to my old materialistic ways because it's just not worth it. I have gained SO much more by living a frugal lifestyle. My life has so much more "real" quality now.
I absolutely LOVE all the reasons above about why it pays to be frugal. For us, this journey has turned out to be so worthwhile!
And...it's simply all about how you choose to think about it and the things you decide to do.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Are you in money saving mode? Or, perhaps you like to make your own things for health reasons alone? Share in the comments!
Hugs, Health, & Self-Reliance,
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