Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Source Of Inspiration

My first experiences with frugal living occurred in childhood. Long before I ever knew there were people intentionally living frugally, I noticed my mother's crazy money saving habits. I have fond memories of going to McDonald's after church with my mother and my little brothers. After ordering our food, instead of spending the extra dollar or so for a fountain soda, my mom would drive up to a nearby soda machine in the plaza and purchase twenty five cent store-brand beverages. She would purchase three sodas, for less than the price of one small soda at McDonald's. At the time I didn't think much of it as I was so young all I cared about was the pleasure of enjoying fast food and soda. These days however, I look back on such small strategic moves with a sense of pride in my mother.

As the years progressed, my attitude toward my mother's frugal ways would change in accordance with my lifestyle. Between the age of around eleven up until I was fifteen, I was quite annoyed by her spending habits. In these days I'd constantly call her "cheap" and was irritated when we waited longer than most families to acquire video game systems. I'd go to friends houses, where a full twelve pack of coke was put in the fridge and available to whomever, and wonder why my mother wouldn't do the same. She would purchases twelve packs of coke and place them in her bedroom, only taking out one per day for each of us to have with dinner. As there were never cold sodas readily available in the fridge, her storage idea worked because no one would drink more than one soda a day. Our twelve packs of soda would last the entire week. I suppose she must've known that someday I'd agree with her practices, as every-time I called her cheap (and even when I do playfully now) she always laughed about it and never took offense.

I first began to truly admire her ways and notice her deep-rooted influence on me when I got my first job at sixteen years old. As I spent the entirety of my paychecks on fast-food, mall outings with friends and collecting music, I began to get a sense of value. It was pretty evident that money was easy to spend and that many things cost more than I had initially thought. I suddenly went from thinking my mother was the cheapest woman in the world to one of the smartest. Memories of brand new school clothes and trips to Busch Gardens came to mind and I realized how my mother's shortcuts left her with more money available to spend on the things she values. What was more interesting was how her habits had become ingrained in mine. When we would go out for fast food for example, my friends would all order premium combos costing somewhere between five to eight dollars. My regular meal choice was three dollar menu food items and a free cup of water as my beverage of choice. While certain friends of mine didn't mind buying forty dollar jeans at the mall, I refused to pay that much. I would instead spend my time scouting Beall's Outlet, TJ Maxx and Ross for twenty dollar jeans. It appeared that one way or another, a little bit of mom's "cheap" tendencies had rubbed off on me.

These initial inspirations are what motivated me to practice and write about living frugally. My mother never really thought of the way she lived as frugal. She doesn't read frugal living literature. She learned to be that way from her mother. Her mother, my grandmother, was raised in a farm environment understood much about preserving resources and living on essentials. Frugal living is so natural to them it's not something they'd ever feel needed a title or explanation. Although I'm nowhere near where I would like to be, I do have plenty of deep-seeded frugal inclinations that steer the way I feel about finances. I've met very few people my age who are cheaper than I am. I nearly always get clothes, electronics, sneakers, movies and albums at lower prices than my friends do. I've always enjoyed discussing saving money and money management and that is what I enjoy about blogging about frugal living. Thought I take pride in my frugal inclinations, I know there is still plenty for me to learn and plenty to improve upon. As I continue on this path, that is precisely what I hope to do.

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