This month’s cover story about frugal living really resonates with me. I grew up in a family where thriftiness was a virtue. My dad was in the Navy, my mom was a teacher, and there were six of us kids. Dad taught us the value of saving our money and investing it in things we really wanted. I’ll never forget saving up my babysitting money as a pre-teen and buying a 10-speed bike. It was my first big purchase, and I felt very proud to ride that shiny bike I worked so many hours to buy.
Then during my college years, I spent every summer working at a campground and was able to contribute to my college tuition. I paid one-third, and happily my dad covered the rest, enabling me to graduate from college without any debt. (Thanks, Dad!) I never begrudged working those summers. It felt right to work and save and do my part to invest in my career.
After I started my first job as a teacher, I lived in a sharecropper’s cabin in rural Virginia Beach and chopped my own firewood for my sole source of heat, a woodstove. It was easy to save money then. I spent it on getting a Master’s degree and traveling. My frugal ways enabled me to travel to Europe in the summer, where I met my husband, Peter. I guess you could say that thriftiness brought us together.
I still practice thriftiness, though things cost more today so it’s harder than it used to be. Our kids especially have a hard time making enough money to pay bills, much less save. But the fact is it’s possible to live well on less even today, as the ladies in our cover story exemplify. It’s a matter of making choices, and often what it boils down to is choosing between time and money.
It’s simple math. Either we can spend way too many hours absorbed in work every day and bring home a bigger paycheck or we can choose to get along with less and have more time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I remember back when our kids were young Peter and I took turns working and parenting. We lived a modest existence, but we enjoyed spending time as a family, taking advantage of inexpensive—and often enriching—activities in our area: hiking, going to the beach, attending a festival, listening to a free concert. We weren’t wealthy, but we had everything we needed.
Fast forward a couple decades, and Peter and I are still practicing thriftiness. Instead of buying expensive clothes and furniture and art, we save our money for traveling. Of course, everyone has different priorities, but for me it’s not about accumulating material things in life. It’s about accumulating experiences.
As 2016 draws to a close and 2017 looms just over the horizon, think about your spending habits and whether they bring you happiness. If not, maybe it’s time to reflect on ways you can add more meaning to your life and depend less on money. This might mean choosing to work fewer hours and cut back on some of your expenditures. As a result, you might find yourself with more time to do the things you love. Making a conscious effort to support yourself in this way is like making an investment in your happiness. Try it. You are SO worth it.
Thanks for reading Tidewater Women, and don’t forget to hug an advertiser!