Category : Off Grid Stories
Published by admin on 17-Dec-2017 15:10
Good morning everyone and welcome. My name is Peter and I am going to give a little talk this morning on the Art of Living Frugally. I can see you all wondering why I call it an art and I hope that I can answer that question as we progress through the morning.

Just to give you some background, I have been living frugally for many years now and I have been through the steps we will talk about shortly. I do live a bit isolated so it is easy for me in some ways and a bit harder in others.

I think we should start by analysing the word a little. Frugal comes from the Latin word frugalis and frugalis simply means economical. I know, easy isn't it. Frugal means economical. The Macquarie dictionary defines 'economical' as : avoiding waste or extravagance; thrifty. So someone living frugally avoids waste or extravagance.

But it has come to mean just a little bit more than that as well. Oh before we go there, let's talk about what it isn't. Frugal gets a bit of bad press because people don't really understand what it means. Frugal does not mean - and here the list is long, but I will try to keep it short - frugal does not mean stingy, austere, mean, miserly, tight fisted, skinflint or penny pinching.

Right, back to where we were. Living a frugal life today means a bit more than just being economical. Frugality (I like to think of it as a virtue) has been around for a long time. It is a tried and tested virtue that has been passed down through the ages. Today it means basically the same thing as in years of yore but it has evolved a little. I'll explain as we go.
I would like to say first up that the simple message of frugality is to live within your means. In other words spend less than you earn. Charles Dickens (in David Copperfield) wrote, " Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery". That takes a bit of translating but I think you get what he was saying.

So spend less than you earn. Simple isn't it? And you know what? Something happens when you make that decision. It means you have begun to take control. Control of your spending, control of your choices and control of your future self.

When you make the decision to live frugally and start to put it into practice, some wonderful things will happen. All of a sudden you will be more self confident. You are choosing to act in a way that gives you control of your future. Your sense of worth will rise. Your reliance on others will reduce. And self reliance is a wonderful thing.

A frugal life by necessity is a simpler life. All of a sudden you are not trying to keep up with everyone else. You are questioning where you spend your money. You are stepping aside from the mass minded swirl of modern economics. You are choosing a simpler, fuller, more meaningful life.

And that simpler, fuller, more meaningful life is full of rewards. Rewards that are impossible to see if you haven't made the decision.

Righto, down to the nitty gritty. We are up to the nuts and bolts part of the talk. The very first thing you have to do is separate your needs from your wants. Sounds easy but it does take some practice. A human's basic needs are food, shelter and clothing. That is the bare bones basics. As an aside, I would put a fourth on that list and that would be, someone or something to love.

Now, with the bare bones basics in mind, start to separate your own needs from wants. Of course in this day and age we cannot cut back to the bare bones basics. But use them as a guide when you are working through this section. Also you do not need to start and finish this today. This process is an ongoing one. Every item you go to buy, ask yourself, do I need it or do I just want it.

In the beginning it is good to be quite ruthless with this process. For example take a good hard look at your grocery bill. How many things on there that you really buy for the convenience. Convenience is something that supermarkets like to charge you a lot of hard earned money for. I'll talk about this a bit later.

Not all wants are bad. For example you may want to take a more active part in your community. You may want to educate yourself. You may want to spend more time with family members. The real wants to sort through are the ones you spend money on. I want a new mobile phone, I want the latest fashions to wear etc. You know the ones that I am talking about.

Number two is learn to become more self reliant. This means being able to take a step back from the system. Self reliance really is a subject of a talk all by itself. There is so much involved in becoming more self reliant. In a nutshell it can be growing some of your own food, repairing things if they break or making some of your own clothing. I don't want to get side tracked here. I could talk about self reliance till the cows come home, but that is not what we are here for.

Number three on my list of three is easy. Simply it is knowing that enough is as good as a feast. This really isn't about food though. It is about much more than that. It is a philosophy. I have enough, I am contented. It can be food, it can be clothing, it can be belongings, it can be anything you can think of. I have enough I am contented.

I want to move on now to some of the steps to attaining the art of frugal living. They are in no particular order of significance. I have put some examples with some of these steps. They are just an idea of what you can do. What I would really like is for everyone to find their own examples of what can be done. That would be great.

1. Stay out of the shops. Shops and more importantly supermarkets and shopping centres are designed to make you spend your hard earned money. If you don't go in to a shop, you can't spend money. One example would be to have long life or powdered milk in the cupboard. That way if you run out of milk you don't need to go to the shops. It can be very difficult to dash into a supermarket and come out with just one item. This is because they are designed to make you spend money.

2. Buy used. There is no real need to buy very much new these days. Online second hand shops are easy to find. Op shops are also a great way to purchase many items, eg clothing, kitchenware, board games, books and magazines. Please do not feel bad about shopping in Op shops. There is no stigma attached to it. It is a great way to recycle, reuse and repurpose.

3. Make it yourself. Making it yourself ranges from small gifts for people through to perhaps sewing clothes for the whole family. I'm sure most people would rather a hand crafted gift over a store bought one. This is something that the whole family can be involved with.

4. Find free entertainment. Easy peasy this one. Check out the notice boards around town. Any free activities are usually well advertised. Libraries often have free entertainment for kids and adults alike. Check the local newspaper and perhaps online for anything in your area. And if you go to a free event and you enjoy it, give feedback to the organisers.

5. Plan your purchases. If you know that at a certain time of the year you will have to buy something major (like school supplies at the beginning of the year), have a plan in place to deal with that period. Or say, you know that your car isn't going to see the year out, work through a plan and know what you will do when it finally gives up the ghost.

6. Find like minded people. If your friends like to spend the weekend, or part of it, at the shopping centre, find new friends. Or even better start to talk to them about adopting a frugal life. Search for people that are leading frugal lives. They will be trying to do the same things as you. Make friends with some, bounce ideas off them, learn from them.

7. Don't waste. This can be a really simple step. Don't put on half a load of washing. Don't put on the dishwasher if it isn't full. Don't boil too much water in the kettle. It's amazing how much energy is consumed to boil water. If you want a cup of tea only boil enough water for one cup.

8. Question purchases. Before you buy something ask yourself some simple questions. Do I really need this? (see needs and wants above) Do I have something else that will do the job? Can I repurpose something to do the job?

9. Shop smart. It used to be that buying in bulk was a great way to save money. Now unfortunately manufacturers and suppliers have caught up. Always use the cost per unit analysis in the supermarket. Even for the same brand but different size containers. Sometimes you will be surprised by what you find.

10. Think long term. Christmas come around every year at the same time, right. So why not start shopping for Christmas in January to help spread the load. OK you can't buy perishables then but there is plenty else you can buy.

11. Cook from scratch. You know all those pre packed meals at the supermarket. They are a bonus right, so easy to cook. They are easy but in the long run, they are not cheap. You are paying a premium for the convenience. It is not just in the frozen food section. Any processed food is the same. Bottles of pasta sauce, cake mixes, mayonnaises most supermarket shelves are packed with them. Cooking from scratch is a wonderful way of knowing exactly what you are feeding yourself and your family.

12. Find hobbies that produce. Another one of those whole family experiences. the first one that comes to mind here is gardening. Time spent learning to grow your own food is time very well spent. Also consider hobbies that you can sell or barter. Sewing, woodwork, knitting, crocheting are just a few examples. Crikeys you could restart the macrame fad.

13. Plan and make goals. A whole talk by itself.

14. Budget. A talk better given by someone more qualified than me.

The examples I have given here are just to get you started thinking along this process. Please talk with other folks about how they are trying to be frugal. Come up with your own examples and put them into practice.

Written by Peter Cooper. December, 2017