Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Frugality is not about cheap, its about the choice

I like the frugal way of leading life. I like living light and having less stuff. I like the money in the bank and peace of mind that comes from being debt free. But even with all this I had a very difficult time explaining to myself why should I look after every penny I spent, why can't I buy a few things ( inexpensive) on impulse, why don't I feel right whenever I spend even a single dollar that I could have saved. Very recently I got the answer to this question through a personal experience.

Me and my husband used to go to a nearby trail everyday for biking. It was a great workout, we got to spend some quality time together and it was nice to breathe in the fresh air. It worked out really well from December to April but as summer approached our routine began to change. In summer, the sun would shine even before we could get up and get ready. Most of the days I began to avoid going out once it was even a little hot. Growing up in India and that too in relatively hotter parts of the country, I have this habit of avoiding sun as much as possible. Now the habit has become so ingrained that I can't stand even mildly hot sunshine. I experience headache, parched skin, breakouts and get really jumpy and irritated if I have to remain outside in full sun.
So during summers our workouts became smaller, because I just didn't want to remain outdoors for long. Now, that led to another problem because I was desperately trying to lose weight and reducing workouts was not really an option for me. To solve this problem I started going to the gym at my workplace. We have a nice one at my office and it is free for employees. I got a great workout and could see the impact on my weight. Still, a small issue remained. After tracking my weight for about one month, I noticed this pattern - my weight would steadily decrease during the week, but would climb back to its original place on Mondays. It was easy to see the reason for this - no workouts and an increase in the calories consumed. I realized that my weekends were undoing the whole week's workouts. Biking was not possible on weekends because we would usually get up late and by that time, sun would be shining brightly, making it difficult for me to remain outdoors for an hour or so. I had an obvious choice - taking membership of one of the gyms around here. So we tried a couple of gyms in our area and have finally settled on joining one of those. We're currently in the seven day trial period, but as soon as it ends, we are going to become paid members here. What has it got to do with frugality? Everything.

Had it not been for leading a frugal lifestyle, I wouldn't have been able to isolate needs from wants. Once I had known that I needed a gym membership for my physical well being, it didn't take me any time to make up my mind and add this expense to my monthly budget. Contrast this with the situation when I already had subscriptions of n magazines that I never bothered to even flip through, had paid for the fees of 4 classes that I had left after 2 days, had numerous unfinished craft projects stowed away here and there, I would have had a difficult time convincing myself that this gym membership is different, I really need it and will use it.

Frugality is not about sacrificing, its about choosing and prioritizing. Frugality makes you sift through unending list of expenses and come up with a few that are really important to you. I feel that it unclutters your view so that you can focus your time, resources and energy on the few things that really matter. With this thought in mind I add another twenty dollars to our monthly budget. Here's to a healthy life...!!!

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