Thursday, May 19, 2011

Frugality and Excuses. Any Justifiable?

Readers of my blog will know that I'm very "into" frugality, to put it lightly. They also know that I try to spread the word about the benefits of frugality and how to incorporate it into your life with tips and ideas via my blog, my magazine column, my contribution to forums, and my personal interactions in real life.
They've also probably heard about my talking about people's resistance to change, their refusal to try many frugal ideas, and the various excuses I've heard why people aren't willing to do frugal things.
You may have assumed that I think all excuses why not to be frugal are nonsense and that none are justifiable, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
I thought I'd share some common excuses about why someone can't/won't be frugal, and what I think about those excuses, and if I think they ever have any merit.
Excuses Why I Can't Be Frugal
"I have too much on my plate right now to think about making any sort of changes to my life right now, and I am too emotionally exhausted to incorporate any new ideas."
This reason, in my opinion, is the single most justified reason why someone shouldn't be more frugal. People, including myself, have our limits, and emotional limitations are nothing to scoff at. If someone is going through a lot, and even living life without any extra changes is strenuous enough, I can fully understand why someone may be too harried or emotionally spent to be able to step outside their comfort zone in their meals, their spending habits, etc.
I think mental health is very important, and if someone needs to continue what they're doing because of their emotional limitations, I would have nothing but support for them.
In case you were wondering what things I would totally understand emotionally taxing someone to the extent that they cannot make extra changes in their lives, it would include, but not be limited to: people with special needs children, especially those who spend so much of their free time and mental energy trying to get help for their children, people with sick family members, whether kids, spouses, parents, siblings, or themselves, people going through a rough time in their marriage, pregnant or post partum women, people with chronic depression or likewise, etc...

My one note on this excuse, justifiable as it may be, is that whatever someone is going through emotionally, being in financial trouble on top of that all can make it even more difficult, so if its at all possible to stretch yourself a little bit further than you are already are to keep yourself out of financial peril, I'd suggest doing that, but each situation really needs to be judged on its own, and only you can know how spent you really are.

"I have no time to be frugal. I am too busy with everything I need to do to start doing time consuming frugal activities."

Its no secret that many money saving tasks take a lot of time. I won't try to fool anyone into thinking that a frugal lifestyle takes no extra time. It usually does require extra time spent, but that is a trade off- time is money, and if you want to save money, it'll take some time.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day. Once time is gone, it can no longer come back, and if you're short on time, there's a limit to how many things you can do in the available time that you have.
If you're very busy because you have so many things going on in your life (a full time working mother comes to mind for example), you may not have the time to devote to frugal endeavors, and that, in my mind, is completely and 100% understandable. I will never try to convince someone that they have more time available to do frugal things; if someone claims that they don't have any extra time, I back off 100%. If you really are too busy, then you have no time for most of what I recommend.

A few things, though, that I'd like to mention to people that are too busy for frugal measures.
1) Some frugal things save you time, so if you're able to save time and save money simultaneously, you can hit two birds with one stone. Things like bulk buying and grocery shopping as infrequently as possible are two of my best frugal strategies and end up saving me tens of hours each month at least. People who have no extra time can do all their shopping in one go and not need to spend more time on more shopping trips than necessary.
2) Some frugal things don't take any extra time, even if they don't particularly save time either. The most notable of these is just to not spend. Simple, but it works. Instead of buying something, just don't, if you don't need it. Easier said than done for an impulse spender, but staying out of stores can help.
3) Some frugal things take some advance preparation, but don't take any extra time in practicality. Things like putting food in a crock pot in the morning (or even at night before bed, and turning on the crock pot in the morning) so you can have food cooking all day and available to eat at night... can take a few extra minutes preparation, but going to pick up takeout food can also take time... Crockpot cooking instead of takeout can definitely save a lot of money. Soaking beans takes a day or two advance preparation, but the preparation takes less than a minute, it just needs to sit for 24-48 hours. This way beans can be used instead of meat, and it doesn't take all the extra time to cook.
Additionally, if taking one Sunday of the month and batch cooking a bunch of food to put in the freezer is at all possible, it can free up time for supper preparations every night, again minimizing the lure of expensive takeout.

Just one thing to think about- do you really have no extra time, or do you have some time but chose to use it for other things? If you chose to allocate your little time to things you find more important (like spending time with your spouse and kids), that is very reasonable. If you're using your extra time for down time, that is also understandable, but ask yourself- do you really need as much down time as you are taking, or are you spending more time than you need on down time when you actually can use that time for money saving things? There's no judgement here on my part, because everyone needs a different amount of time to recharge, and only you can know, but its something worth thinking about even so.
"I don't have the physical energy to frugal things."
 Totally understandable. Only you know your physical limitations. Nothing I say about that will change anything.

"I have health issues that stop me from doing certain/most frugal things."
Health first! Don't do things that'll be damaging for your health with the intent of saving money. Health is paramount!
"My husband isn't interested in being frugal and gets mad at me if I try to be frugal."
Marriage first. All the way. Divorce is expensive, not to mention problematic in many ways. Its not worth ruining your marriage over something like a stubborn insistence on doing things your way, even if its something laudable like frugality.
Two things though- try to find out what issues specifically your spouse has with frugality and see if there are any frugal measures you can take that your spouse doesn't mind.
Also, keep in mind that many divorces happen because of money problems, including financial stress. By not being frugal when you absolutely need to, you might be causing marriage problems down the line.

"I'm not interested in change. I like how my life is."
Totally understandable. People need to enjoy their life, and what works for one person might not work for someone else.  You have to make the decision that works for yourself and your family.
Just keep in mind that if there are any money stresses, continuing living your life as you are may make the money stresses stay the same or even exacerbate them, so decide what is more important to you- keeping things status quo, including money stresses, or trying to alleviate monetary stress. Your call!

People have excuses why they can't be frugal. I bet you thought I wouldn't understand at all, but if you fall into any of the above categories, I will keep my mouth shut.
Because your life, your choice. You need to make the decision that works for your family.
An excuse might sound like a bad word to use to describe most of these situations. I'd actually remove the word excuse, and replace it with the word reason- these are all justifiable reasons why not to be frugal.
For the record, I've had quite a number of the above reasons applying to my life at some point or another and curbed my frugality because of it. I definitely understand!

What is the biggest thing that stops you from being frugal? Do any of the above apply to you? Which ones?
Are there any times you've heard people say why they can't be frugal and it rubbed you the wrong way? What was the reason given, and why did it rub you the wrong way?

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