The Discipline of Frugality

Years ago, I read a book that stuck with me called The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. This is one of those books that had a major impact on my life. In a nutshell, the book talks about how we should not be afraid of or despise discipline. Rather, we should embrace it -- celebrate it even -- because contrary to our beliefs that we are stifling or restricting ourselves, discipline brings boundaries and self-control. And that's a good thing.

While not one of Foster's disciplines, I believe that frugality is a discipline that we desperately need today -- more than ever. This financial recession we're in is brutal.  However, I believe that one of the unforseen blessings is the recognition of our society's wastefulness. I think most of us are aware of the need to recycle and conserve water and gasoline. Most of us do this because it's fairly easy to do and, let's face it, financially beneficial for us.

However, we (and I mean me) have gotten really used to needing something, putting it on a shopping list, and then buying it wherever is convenient, without much thought to cost or savings. At best, we might have shopped at WinCo, Walmart or Costco because we know that we will "save money there."

However in light of these tough financial times, many of us are looking for ways to save money. I'm one of those people. And, that's good, but I'm talking about downright bargains - namely coupons.

I must admit a personal perception of coupon clippers: miserly, be-spectacled people hunched over the newspaper with scissors at the ready, who also was the person you didn't want to be behind in line at the grocery store. As for me and coupons, there have been one or two times I might have ripped a coupon or two out of a magazine or the newspaper, but it never really was something I did consistently.

Something changed a few months ago. I became one of those be-spectacled coupon clippers (I actually do wear corrective lenses). And, what's more, I couldn't be happier about it. If you ever are lucky enough to be behind me at Target, prepare to witness my coupon-money-saving-happy-dance.

I started out by checking every day and reading up on the best deals. Then somehow, I stumbled upon and I was off and running. The woman that runs the site shares amazing deals on household products, grocery items and more. I saw that by clicking a few links, printing and clipping a few coupons and rebate forms and spending some time organizing them, and monitoring store fliers, I could save a significant amount of money.

So over a period of time, I began to clip, organize, check in at For the Mommas, and shop with a purpose. I have an entire system now. I rarely buy anything unless it's on sale, I have a coupon, or I can get some sort of cashback or reward (gift card, air miles, etc.). If I can get all three, all the better. (For more of my philosophy and some other tips to help you save money, click here.)

I spend about 30-60 minutes a week on my "saver system." but it's time well-invested in my opinion. And to show you an example of that, here's what I got at Target today and the price breakdown.

(And for you who have been following my posts, I am typing this wearing my "new" smaller-sized $2.50 jeans that I got from Salvation Army on Saturday that were half-price!)

-- The Princess and the Frog Blu-Ray combo pack:  Sale price was $26.99 for a Blu-Ray disc, DVD & Digital Download. I used $10 off (Disney coupon) and a $3 off any Disney DVD (Target coupon). Final price: $13.99. (Sidenote the DVD only version comes out to be $5!) 

-- 2 Suave Conditioners: on sale for $1 each. Used $1 off two bottles coupon. Final price: $.50 per bottle

-- 2 boxes of Band-Aids: on sale for $1.82 each. Used two $1 off coupons. Final price: $.82 each

-- 4 boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats: on sale for 4 boxes for $10. Used two $1.50 off two boxes coupons, for a cost of $7 for 4 boxes. Received $5 gift card for buying 4 cereals. Final cost: $.50 per box.

-- Air filter: on sale for $10 (nothing special, just needed one and was waiting for them to go on sale -- which they do about every 4-8 weeks.)

-- Two Sara Lee lunch meats: on sale for $2.99 each. Used $1 off two coupon. Final cost: $1.50 per lunch meat

-- Zout: on sale for $2.99 ( again, nothing special but needed it and it was on sale again finally)

-- Green beans: on sale for $.75 a can (not a fabulous price, but necessary).

In addition to the above savings, I will be submitting for the $5 rebate for buying the DVD and Band-Aids. So, less that $5 rebate, the total cost for my items is: $36.59.

To put it in perspective, the original price of DVD alone was $26.99.

(Sidenote:  A friend commented that the above seems like a lot of work. I might have overexplained in my excitement over my shopping trip -- the real bargains are the DVD & cereal.  However, it's not hard at all. A little bit of clicking, printing and cutting..maybe mailing a rebate or two...really very simple. I promise!)

So I'm feeling pretty frugal right now. And believe me, I'm nowhere near some of these mommas who routinely pay a few dollars for several bags of groceries -- or even better, they actually get money back from the store. I'm not that good, but I find that I don't need/want a lot of items that they're getting super cheap. And that's key. You can get so sucked into hunting for and scoring bargains, that you end up spending money you don't have on things you don't need.

However, with a little bit of effort and time, you can save yourself and your family some serious money. This is something to practice in the lean times, but also in the prosperous times -- maybe even more so. How we handle our money and how and on what we choose to spend it is always important. It's actually a pretty old concept called stewardship. After all, we are only caretakers of our finances. We may feel like we've worked hard to earn a salary. And why techically it may be true, I don't think that means we can do whatever we want with it.

There is a dire need in our society for frugality. Disciplining ourselves to look for the best deal isn't miserly or a sign of the impoverished. I think it's actually a sign of people who truly care for future generations (think college funds, raising kids who aren't wasteful or entitled) and for their neighbor. You may have been thinking, "why does she need 4 boxes of cereal?" And although I have a largish family who does eat a lot of cereal and paying the same price for four boxes as I would for one makes good fiscal sense, here's the answer:

my friends need it

my neighbors could really use it

and, maybe, you could as well?

And if that's true, it's my obligation, and my absolute privilege to give out of my abundance. Instead of only one box of cereal, I have four!! Imagine what I can do with the excess.

In fact if our frugality creates an abundance that allows us to share and give with those who are lacking, imagine what all of us could do together. No one would have to go to bed hungry. Families wouldn't lose their incomes and worry about their children not getting proper nutrition. We could go to bed at night secure in the knowledge that we've done all we can do to help.

And that's definitely something worth celebrating!

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