Frugality – Desiring less in a world of more
This is a guest post from Darren Shields, a mental health blogger at Darrenshieldsblog.com
We are grateful to him for this post and hope that in it, you can find inspiration too.
A massive thank you to the girls for letting me post on their blog. I have been blessed by their kindness and positive spirits.
Their brief was a simple one. “Prepare anything along frugal lines.”
I’m certainly no expert on frugality. Heck I’m no expert on anything. Just a mental health blogger seeking to inspire, encourage and empower others. But I’ll give it a go. Perhaps the girls will give me some poetic license to drift ever so slightly from frugality.
Frugal, frugality or ‘frugalness’ are not words we tend to use in our everyday vernacular. Frugalness is in its simplest form the quality of being economical. It usually refers to money or things that we possess. To be frugal is to be able to make do (or even thrive) with much less than the societal norm. It means you can spend less money and possess fewer things yet still experience a great level of joy.
For me frugalness is about contentment. It’s about having a realisation that things cannot make or bring happiness, no matter how many of them you have.
By finding true and lasting happiness in one’s self the need to self-indulge and overspend will be significantly less.
Frugalness is a quality that is in short supply in today’s world. In fact those who are frugal are often scorned. “Oh you’re so cheap.” “You are such a tighta*s*”
Those who are content with having less are often accused of having a lack of ambition. They can be mocked because of the quality of their cars, clothes or the interiors of their homes. Yet it is often they who are the most content in their own skin.
We live in a world that is obsessed with “more.” There is always a desire to acquire more. More money, more property, more titles, more letters after one’s name. More and more.
It’s often the case that people will assume this pursuit of more will eventually lead to happiness. That one day the switch will flick and they will acquire the possession that will finally bring happiness.
It’s not just more and more but it’s next. You pass one exam the question is what is next. Get a degree – what is next? Get a job – what is next? A promotion. Then another promotion? Where does it stop? Does it ever stop?
The belief of so many people is that happiness is to be found in what you have. In your possessions and your status on this planet. There is a belief that acquisitions directly equate to happiness. Have more – be happier.
Yet I have learned that to be happy is to be at one with you. To be at peace with whom you are. I guarantee that this will result in automatic frugalness.
Great being happy can save money.
So how do I be happy then?
That’s the age old question. The purpose of this blog is not to weigh religions and philosophies against each other. Instead I want to explore three simple things that the devout Muslim, the lapsed Christian or the seeking Agnostic can apply. No rocket science, just simplicity. Simple things that can help happiness thus helping frugality.
If you wanna make comparisons – change your benchmark
Let’s be honest; we all compare ourselves to others, right?
Whether we care to admit it or not we have probably all done it today. Judged ourselves skinnier or fatter than the woman beside us on the bus. More or less intelligent than the person in our class. Better or worse at our job than our colleague. You know the drill.
Some of you could be reading this right now and comparing your writing style to mine. And you probably come out better. That’s fine. It’s not a contest.
When it comes to possessions we tend to compare ourselves to those “better off.”
Y’know that ‘grass is always greener’ analogy. We look at someone with the bigger car, the tighter abs or the hotter husband and assume that if only we had that we would be happy.
So we go out, work hard and buy the car they have. Or piss money away on a crash diet to look how they do. Not because we want these things necessarily but because someone else has them of course.
Comparisons though habitual for most of us are actually pointless. But if you must make them try comparing yourself to someone worse off. Someone with a cheaper car, or a bigger belly or anything at all. Compare yourself to the sick child or the poor man or the girl suffering from addiction.
Ideally, stop comparing. But if you’re intent on it – change your benchmark.
Appreciate the small things
It’s your wife’s anniversary or your son’s 18th birthday. You have to spend money. You have to get something expensive. That will show how much you love them.
Does it though? Or does it just reflect the fortunate possession in which you find yourself that you can spend a large amount of money.
It’s a cliché that the greatest things in life are free. Yes an expensive present can be nice. Of course it can. But more than anything your wife needs your time. She needs your support. She needs you to switch the football off and actually listen to how her day was.
None of these cost money. Yet their impact is immeasurable. I urge you to stop trying to subsidise your relationships with expensive things. Compliment your relationships with presents. But never subsidise.
Strive for happiness in who you are not what you have
Things cannot make you happy. Not on the deepest level.
They can bring happiness for a season, of course they can. And then the new iPhone comes out or Davy next door gets a better car and the cycle starts all over again. A constant collecting and disposing of possessions in the hope that they will fill a hole.
Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t got to the bottom of the happiness formula. I’ve tried many things. Yet for me I have learnt great peace in simply accepting who I am.
That has been a difficult process filled with eating disorders and depression but right now I am content. Not in what I have. I wear the same clothes all the time, eat the same foods and rarely spend money above what is essential. My phone is old, my laptop is slow and my most worn pair of shoes have holes in them.
And I don’t care. I am happy. I am content. I have money should I ever need it. I don’t waste it and I don’t seek to acquire possessions in exchange for happiness.
Being frugal in the 21st century can be incredibly difficult. I appreciate that, and many are not as fortunate as I and do have to squirm just to keep afloat.
Yet the lesson is this: happiness cannot be found in possessions. By striving to stop reaching to and for possessions to achieve happiness I guarantee you that a natural level of frugality will organically appear.
Such a beautifully written piece full of wisdom way beyond his years! Thanks so much, Darren. let us know what you think by adding your voice to the conversation. Use the comment box below.