Personal finance isn’t really about investing or budgeting. It is about deciding how to live your life, what you value and then being smart with your money so you can create a good life with the things that are really important to you.
We decided from the beginning that going on family vacations was really important. For Dale because he always went on a summer trip no matter what. One summer they went even after his dad lost his job. For me because I rarely went on summer vacations. There were just too many of us for my mom to manage all on her own. After a few of us left home my siblings got to go places together.
That became our focus for saving each year. Not for a new car or furniture. Not for a new television (seriously, do people really save up for new TVs). We also spent a lot of time talking about where we wanted to go. We usually did this at the beginning of the year, with the kids helping us decide where we wanted to go. We always had a focus of something fun to do with our savings.
Another thing we learned to do right at the beginning. Every time Dale got a raise we never raised our standard of living, we always put the extra money into savings. Now that was hard, we were scrimping by at times. Especially when we had to move to Washington D.C. After 18 years in the service we found out Dale would be loosing his flight pay. This was around $500 a month, which was a considerable amount. We planned ahead and were saving well over that amount each month. When the time came we didn’t even notice it was gone, except we paid less tithing.
Part of frugality is buying quality instead of quantity. I would much rather have a very few nice things in my house than a bunch of junk. Quality doesn’t always equate to the most expensive thing in the store. You buy the highest quality you can afford after carefully considering what you need and how much you can pay.
Another aspect of frugality is thinking about what you really need. We had some friends who told their children they needed to get their “wanters” fixed when they were besieging their parents for things. Do you need it or want it? What are your priorities?
The last area is making things last. We had a red wagon for years that Dale would sand and repaint so it would last for all the children. Where is it now? Lost on a move unfortunately. But we did have movers once who told us that they were more careful with out household goods because he could see that we took care of our things. We have repaired things rather than throw them out and buy new. One of our early repairs was a popcorn popper that had a broken element. Dale took it apart, stretched the longer piece of element to fit and screwed it back together. It made delicious popcorn for many years after the repair.
Everyone can create the kind of life they want within the constraints of the income they have. It may take some creativity, but as they say in the Ikea ads “You don’t have to be rich, just smart”.