A Journey of a Thousand Miles. . . . . .
. . . begins with a single step. ( Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu (604 BC – 531 BC) )
New Years has long been a time for all of us to reflect on the time just past, and to make plans and resolutions for the coming year. It seems to me that 2009 should be an interesting year. With the changes in the economy will come changes in our culture as a whole-I think that many more folks will become interested in cutting costs while still living a full life.
But where to begin? What to do first? What to do at all? The task of changing your lifestyle and mindset from the free and easy consumerism of the last couple of decades past to a more fiscally conservative one based on need and delayed gratification. . . well, it’s not going to be an easy road. Many will find themselves floundering about, uncertain.
In the coming months, to help folks with this journey, I will be highlighting some “back to basics” for those new to frugality. To start it off I thought I’d repost this article about the process of becoming frugal, initially published in my first month of blogging back in January of 2006.
Today I want to take a minute to talk about the process of becoming frugal. I know I look pretty darn together and frugal when you read my articles, but as I state in my profile, this has been a 5 year journey for me. Sometimes I worry that someone starting out could look at all that I do and actually get discouraged. It can look like so much hard work. I want to reassure you all, I wasn’t always this way- I am constantly learning and trying new things to improve my frugality.
Remember, any lifestyle change takes a series of steps. Sometimes all of those steps are thrust upon us without a choice. A job loss, a sickness, even something positive like starting college or getting married all can cause multiple changes simultaneously. Too many changes at a time can overwhelm a person, but human beings are incredible-when we have to we can cope with just about anything.
For those of you who are parents, think about all those changes you had to deal with when that first little bundle of joy entered your life. Suddenly you were in a twilight zone of sleep deprivation, constant feedings, loud crying, cleaning up (spitup, dirty diapers, and other miscellaneous excreted substances). If you had really understood what you were getting yourself into ahead of time, you might have believed that you couldn’t cope with it. But there you are, and there is this little person who you love more than you thought possible who is totally dependant on you. So you do what you have to-and somehow it all gets done.
The problem with doing everything at once comes when you actually have a CHOICE.
Becoming frugal is in a lot of ways a continuous series of small choices. Is that item I’m coveting a want or a need? I’m tired tonight, do I make dinner or order takeout? Do I shop around or buy what is most convenient? Do I turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater or just nudge it up a little to be more comfortable?
There are a million choices you can make on the road to frugality-but if you try to do too many of them at once you can overwhelm yourself. And since you know, in the back of your head, that you don’t HAVE to do each of these things, it is easy to just stop doing everything.
Set yourself up for success-don’t try to become a black belt frugalite in one fell swoop. Try adding one thing at a time to your routine until it becomes easy, second nature even. Then add another. As Lao-Tzu says “a single step”. Anything you do is an improvement and a movement forward to your goal. If you don’t try to make massive sweeping changes you (and your family) are more likely to stick with it and reach that goal.
The very first thing I did to start becoming frugal (and the easiest) was to start analyzing my purchases. This really was just a change in perspective. That’s all I did-just think a few more minutes about something before I bought it. Do I need this item? Do I have something else that I could use instead? If I do need it, and I can’t use anything else, do I really need it right now at full price, or can I wait and see if it is cheaper somewhere else/goes on sale? (this last one is important-how many times have you run out because you just had to have that widget, then had it sit in a box in the corner for 6 months before you used it for the first time?)
From there I started washing out ziplock baggies (if not too gross), then cooking more from scratch (which involved OAMC for me when I worked), making my own laundry detergent, and on and on.
If you really want to, you CAN do this.
Just start today with a single step.
Photo by Seryo