February 28, 2011

Cheap vs. Frugal

BS01178_1 Many people from the Knoxville Coupon Fair have emailed and asked me about how to get started saving money and couponing.  Over the course of the next few days and weeks, I’ll try to answer that question.  I encourage you to also check out the blogs from the other coupon experts who were in attendance, as many of them are writing similar posts that you might find helpful.

The first question that I encourage people to ask themselves when starting this process is, “Why do I want to save money?”  What is your motivation?  By learning more about the motivating factors, you’ll be better able to consider what barriers you might face. 

  • Example:  If I’m motivated to save money because I’ve lost a job, then I’m motivated by debt.  Some potential barriers might be that you might not have as much time to dedicate to couponing because you’ll be focused on a job hunt.  Another barrier is that debt is a negative motivator.  When we are motivated by debt an underlying feeling is usually fear.  When the negative motivator is absent, when you find a job or get an unemployment check, then the risk is that you’ll return to old spending habits.  Whenever faced with a negative motivator, try and look for a positive reframe.  “Now is a good time for me to learn how to be a better steward of the resources I have”. 

The second question to ask yourself is, “Are the members of my family on board?”  Just like trying to make a budget with only one person in a 4 person household being involved sets you up for failure, you need your family involved if you are going to succeed.  You need your entire family to buy into the process of saving money and using coupons.  First set aside a time to talk with your spouse or partner about your thoughts on saving money.  Gauge the level of commitment and talk about any potential barriers or reservations with him or her.  Then have a family meeting and talk with your entire family unit about your desire to spend money differently.  What are their reservations?  How can you work together to address them?

  • Example:  “That’s nice, Honey, but I really only like Maxwell House coffee.”  Talk about how coupons can often save you much more money on brand name products.
  • Example:  “Gee, Mom—are you trying to make me the unpopular girl at school!?  I can’t be seen with that in my lunchbox.”  Ask your family to prioritize what preferences they have for various products.  Charmin toilet paper is the only brand that my family wants to use, and I try to honor that request.  Yet,  my family isn’t brand loyal on many other products, and I’m able to shop the sales for those things.

“Change the way you look at being frugal”  After you’ve addressed those two questions, then you should look at your own perceptions about being frugal.  Being frugal isn’t the same as being cheap!    What is being frugal to me?

  • It is about being a good steward.  We could live a different lifestyle, but instead we have made choices to be debt free, live simply, and to reduce our environmental impact. 
  • Saving for emergencies rather than keeping up with the Jones Family.  Learning how to control the “I wants” is a big step in being a grown up.  I get a case of the “I wants” every so often—I want an I-Phone, I want a new deck, I want a bigger kitchen….  Then I refocus on our short and long term goals, and I realize that those things will come in time. 
  • It is about being content--Philippians 4:11-13 
    “For I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of eating well or going hungry of facing either plenty of poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.”

Stay tuned for the next entry!

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