Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When you don't feel frugal

Rachel confesses that YMCA mommies make her simple family feel "less than." Lindsey wondered if frugal burnout will send her back to work.

I even threw away an old friend's Christmas letter without ever slicing open the envelope. (My mom filled me in on her amazing career, fitness and family success in great detail.)

There are times when it is hard to be content with what we have. What makes you feel down? What lifts you up?


Karen said...

I have quit comparing my simple life to the extravagant ones of others. Instead, I wonder how many other "poor" people out there can make a dollar stretch as far as I can. And I congratulate myself on seemingly small victories... this week, being able to locate fresh produce AND a sweet treat with my limited budget.

Inevitably, though, contentment is sometimes difficult. For me, it comes when I get lonesome for my family & can't afford to make the trip. And usually around Christmastime, when my heart is bigger than my wallet. :)

Anonymous said...

Ironically, what gets me down is often the very thing that I seek from blog's such as yours. I search for other people on the internet that I can talk with and learn from about simple living--my real life family and friends can't relate.

Anyway, I sometimes get discouraged that I can't be more cheerful, more organized, more efficient, more crafty, etc. Today I asked my husband, "What's wrong with me? I can't get up at the crack of dawn, bake a dozen loaves of bread and two lasagnas, vacuum the entire house before breakfast, homeschool nine children and then give birth later in day!" (not just your blog, Meredith, of course. I read others! :)

Seriously, I do suffer from some health problems and it is a struggle just to keep my house clean at times.

What makes me feel good is knowing that God is always providing for us!

Anonymous said...

I am de-lurking to answer this question...
I have been reading your blog for quite a while, and it has become a bright spot to me. Thank you for sharing your life and valuable information and ideas with us!

I try to be positive and not let anything get me down. But sometimes, waiting until we have enough money to have another baby, especially when everyone around me is pregnant, is VERY hard.

What lifts me up is knowing that God has a plan for me and my family. I know that our practicality will pay off in the end, and we will not have to rely on others to help us with the necessities and niceties a baby requires.

Anonymous said...

I could definitely relate to both Rachel and Lindsey. It is hard when I get together with a few of my friends who have the latest clothes and accessories, cars, go see the newest movies, go on cruises, new furniture, etc. and that is what most of the conversation revolves around. I find myself feeling inferior as I buy most of my clothes secondhand, although I look for the better, quality brands. I see movies in the theater once or twice a year. I haven't been on a vacation in almost 5 years, not to mention never going on a cruise. We're slowly replacing our furniture. I feel odd sitting there as they talk as I have nothing to contribute to the conversation. In the same breath, my friends who have all of this wonderful stuff, mention how much debt they have, how they are working all the time, and how they have no money. Then they turn to me and wonder why I'm not commiserating with them. My husband and I are debt-free with the exception of our mortgage and our vehicles are at least 5 years old and paid for.
What lifts me up is knowing the choices my husband and I have made work for our family. It's also having the support of my parents, my mother-in-law who has given me quite a few frugal lessons over the years and my sister-in-laws who also live simply and frugally and reading about others who also live this way. It's reassuring that I'm not "odd" and it's all right.

pomo housewife said...

Like Caroline, sometimes I feel a bit inferior because I don't homeschool, I only have two children, and I never get much past 'good intentions' with a lot of homemaking/baking/sewing. OTOH, in some company I feel inferior because my kids don't go to a posh school and have black belts in three martial arts and sixth grade French Horn....

What gets me down is when I've been trying really hard to save and then we seem to find some other stupid thing to spend money on.

I feel good that I'm trying to grow stuff and be greener. I'm proud of our tatty old car because we own it, not the bank. (It looks less tatty if I can find the time to clean it.)

I'm giving myself permission to enjoy a bit of self-congratulatory feelings of superority because I donate to Greenpeace, and if I've worn the same dress to the work dinner function every year for the last five years, that makes me a good custodian of the planet and a low-maintenance wife!

Day by Day said...

Ah yes, I can relate to this. I finally told my sweet group of MOPS ladies, that I won't be coming anymore. It was a choice of letting go of a fun thing. Although it had it's place for a season of my life with two toddlers, I often found myself leaving the meetings with the feeling of discontent. With those having nicer clothing, the fancy cars, talking about all the vacations they were going on, the shopping at stores were they got a good deal but truth be told it really wasn't so much. They were sweet and friendly, but there was a "disconnect" about the group or maybe I was. They were busy with social events, errands, the sport events, the playgroups to keep up with, and much more. There is no real judgment for these ladies, as I realize that part of the problem was me. All this to say, that it was a good thing that had to go - to let even better things intended for my life in.
(A disclaimer here: Not all MOPS Groups can be described in this way. It truly is a wonderful ministry to mom's of pre-schoolers!)

Anonymous said...

A great book to read is "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez.

I prefer time over having more money for stuff any day. It's all perspective.

Signed, living tight, very frugal (all my life), yet happy.....

Anonymous said...

As an observation, those who often squeak the most about what they have in material goods, etc. seem to be the ones who are most insecure in their life for one reason or another or they are filling a void in their life with "stuff".

I don't find that enviable at all.

Linda said...

It's an easy thing for me ;)

Just think of it this way: money is time. And vice-versa.. time is money.

Some people have to sacrifice their time in order to make more money.

We have lots of time and less money, because we prefer time (together) over money.

My husband is the only breadwinner in our family of 3, and he earns a minimum wage. Yet, every year he chooses to 'buy' 5 extra 'days off' just to spend more time with us.

Money is exchanged for time, and we're VERY happy about that.... just imagine having a husband that works 60+ hours a week, or having to be 'out to work' 40 hours yourself! I wouldn't want it any other way! :D

Lynn said...

My children are much older now and I get down when people wonder when I am going to make use of my qualifications and "get a proper job". I usually cheer quite quickly when I remember the freedom I have and the looks on my family's face when they come into a warm "lived in all day" house with the smell of a good supper & baking fresh from the oven. As I potter around my home each day I often wonder what I would be doing now if I was still in the work place you know - I'd be teaching English now etc and I always feel great that I am not there!

Andrea said...

It was the "threw away the Christmas letter" part that moved me to comment on this post.

I have done this. Not because I am jealous, but because I find it so very self-promoting. Why would I (or anyone) think, that if I had a sheet-of-paper's-worth-of-room to tell people about the last year, that they want to hear all that stuff? What does it really matter? What does it say about me if I send out a Christmas letter like that?

Last year, I sent out "New Year's" letters to everyone that sent us a Christmas card, and a few who didn't. In it we encouraged everyone with some things we had been learning in our Bible study, and the ways we hoped to grow in 2007. I know that must sound goofy and pious when I write it, but I found it much more meaningful to encourage all my friends and relatives to read through the Scriptures, than to blather on about our "accomplishments."

Bottom line, we need to preach to ourselves every day, that this world is passing away. We have a small slice of time to be significant in the lives of our nearest circle, and to learn to know God better, to love His Word.

When I look at it this way, the perfect ladies at the gym or the Christmas letter seem to melt into the woodwork. Show them the love of Christ, and don't worry about their "perfection." :-)

Thanks so much for this great post. It has renewed me commitment to live for what matters today.


Unknown said...

One thing I always have to keep in mind when I get stuck in the comparison trap is not to replace one thing with another. Like, "well I may not have the latest SUV but at least I got all my daughter's wardrobe second-hand." I'm always going to find someone that has more, can do more, is more talented, is a better frugal shopper, etc... It can lead to even more discontentment with me. I have to ask myself the question, "where do I put my hope? Where is my trust?"

Unknown said...

Great minds think alike, my dear! I posted something extremely similar to this yesterday. Sometimes it gets very hard to not get caught up in the "ways of the world". So today (with more sleep and a better perspective) I have decided to make the most of what I have and be happy with it. You have a beautiful home that I am (dare I say) envious of. When we left your house, Lauren said "It's like Wisteria Lane, her house is just so beautiful!"
Just adjust that little hippie ditty "Love The One You're With" to something like "If you can't have the stuff you love, love the stuff you're with"

And if you need more encouraging words, just call me -- that's what friends are for!

Anonymous said...

Well, I learned a long time ago that those who brag about what they have almost always do not have what is important in life. They brag about hair, clothes, cars, vacations, etc...yet their marriage is almost always in trouble because they do not spend time making a marriage great because they are works 60+ hours a week to make the money to pay the credit cards etc. I admit, at my age I do not get these feeling very often any more, but when I did get to feeling 'low' or 'down' about the frugal choices my husband and I made for our family, I almost always found the answer in some prayer, some soul searching, and in talking the matter over with my husband. I learned to stay busy. Idle hands you know, and I find I am content. It is funny, after years and years of not working when MY children were little, I now work more than 60 hours a week in a business taking care of OTHER people's children. (I do day care from my home) I see the stress in the face of these parents. I feel so sorry too for some of these kids..they see so little of their mom and dad it is really sad...if the truth is known I am raising those kids. Some of these children get to my house at 7:00am and do not leave till 6:00pm...so I know these children are not getting too much inter action etc. from Mom and Dad..
In a long drawn out way, what I am trying to say is when these thoughts come into your mind, stop and think about it in another way. You are doing a wonderful thing for your children. You are giving them something far more precious than money. YOUR TIME. YOUR ATTENTION. You are teaching them what really matters is family. Not things.
Meredith, God bless. Your blog is a wonderful place. I appreciate it so much. It is always a breath of fresh air. Roxie

Eleanor Joyce said...

Your blog is seriously a wonderful frugality burnout antidote for me. I'm always inspired and encouraged by what you can do with so little. Pretty MATTERS, fun MATTERS, and you do such a good job of showing that it can be accomplished (and then some!) on a shoestring.
Thanks for sharing your talent so freely.

Edi said...

Yes there are times when it’s hard to be content. The Bible admonishes us as such “having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” So if we have the very basics... food to keep us from starving and clothes to keep us from freezing - we should be content.

But b/c none of us are perfect – we’re not always content (I know I'm not!). Seeing only one side of someone else’s great, non-frugal life, will make you discontent.

Seeing the new car your friend just bought, seeing the new house your sister bought, hearing about the great cruise your brother’s family took, hearing about all the new restaurants and movies your friends went to. We can’t see the other side – and we’d probably be heartbroken if we always could. On one side – the new car on the other side – a new debt of $25,000. On one side a new house – on the other side a new debt of $250,000. On one side a great cruise – on the other side a marriage struggling to stay together. Eating out at fun new places on one side – a family that never shares a meal together.

Of course the other side isn’t always bad or that extreme, but it’s just a reminder that just because someone has something wonderful doesn’t mean that they are happy and that you would be too if you had the same thing.

Remind yourself of your goals – why you are being frugal (to get out of debt, to buy a new home, to be a stay-at-home-mom, to pay for college for your children – whatever it may be). When you buy something now – you get the “reward” (new car, house, clothes, yummy food) now – and eventually it is gone. You can see it, taste it, feel it, enjoy it for only a time. Your “reward” for being frugal may be a long ways off – but more importantly the “rewards” are long term.

mama k said...

I guess hearing my friends talk about this and that NEW stuff they are buying or are going to buy. It makes me a little jealous because we are not in a position to be buying any of those things. Eventhough I probably wouldn't want to. Just knowing that I have the option to purchase them if wanted to some how would make me feel better.

Then I go watch The Story of Stuff and I feel all noble. ha!

(www.storyofstuff.com if you haven't seen it)

Anonymous said...

I can relate to frugal burnout. There is a difference when you are living frugal because you are in financial crisis or because you choose to be frugal for a goal. We have never been extravagant spenders but now are in major debt. We closed our eyes to it for too many years. We are now on a 5 year plan to get out of debt. It is going to be soooo hard to make it. When I think of 5 years with very little breathing room it makes me feel the burnout. We do have a goal but it seems so far off in the distance and praying that nothing really bad happens in those 5 years to get us off the track. If we had a great nest egg to fall back on I think it would ease our stress. Your blog, Meredith, is so helpful in keeping frugality cheerful for me. It is a hard road but at least I can see how much better off we will be down the road.

Cyndi Lewis said...

Watching extreme home make over puts things in perspective for me. It's easy to think "I wish I could be them" when you see these people getting this great house and great stuff but then you realize that wait... all my kids are healthy, I'm not a single mom/dad, I don't have any debilitating injuries/handicaps, I haven't had any major deaths in the family. Wow! I'm doing just fine! Our needs are met. Thank you Lord, Jesus! We need to see ourselves through God's eyes not our own which are so apt to compare ourselves to the wrong standards. I have to read blogs like this very carefully because I can get Proverbs 31 syndrome and get depressed because my life isn't like someone else's. But my life must be what God desires it to be. As long as I'm reaching for that then I am sucessful.

Betty Canuck said...

The things that keep me happy and focused are a collection of things. And sometimes these are the things that can bring me down as well.

For example, reading blogs like this and surrounding myself with a community of friends that think the same and value the same things. Sometimes its valued out of necessity and sometimes because its a choice.

But then for example, the comment about the time and money and the husband choosing to work less made me sad. Because my husband is very different minded and averages 66 hour weeks for the last 3 years. I would willingly trade that for time.

Really its the little things and acts of service that give me the most encouragement. There is nothing to make you feel needed and valuable than to serve someone else.

Its taken a fair bit to find a service project that will accept my Homeschool kids. It appears that for some organizations kids aren't valuable under the age of 10. But today we are going out to spend our day packing Garden Fresh Boxes for our city.

Volunteering there benefits us with some extra local grown produce, but also because my kids come away encouraged by people from all walks of life because of their hard work. And since we go from the packing station to the delivery station closest to our home, we can see and hand out the boxes to the recipients and my children know that we are helping people. We are also recipients of a box.

But let me tell you, yesterday was a hard day for my pride. A few years ago I really needed sweaters. The only shopping was to go into my material pile and sew up some sweaters. The only warm material I had was a bunch of childish patterned fleece. I've managed to avoid having to wear these sweaters since we've moved to the city, but a washing machine incident has left me with no choice but to wear them now.

So there I was, going to an adult meeting with these really large frogs on lily pads all over my sweater. It was hard to stick my chin up and not feel bad about my clothes.

Its not being thrifty that bothers me so much as the appearance of being thrifty. I was perfectly fine wearing my $2 sweaters that were in style and modern, but wearing that 'free' child print sweater that was a stylish pattern but an off material... THAT got me down!

Anonymous said...

Boy, this is just the post I needed this morning. I don't think that families are just imagining that things are getting "tighter" financially, because they really are! I am astonished lately at the prices of just the everyday essentials whenever I go shopping for anything, and I am very sobered about the direction our country is heading. We are a homeschooling family, and have pretty much always lived on one income since we got married. We have five children, ( from 17 years old down to one year!) and I will say this: that the time we have with our kids is brief and fleeting, just like everyone says, and the biggest heartbreak in the world is to look back later and realize that you "missed" it. I have definitely had many times of feeling very discouraged about financial things through the years but as time has passed, and as my kids have begun to grow up, I have realized that the things we live without, for the most part, don't matter much later on. The years pass, and we have what we have, and later it doesn't really matter. I was looking at some childhood pictures not long ago and was struck by the thought that I don't have any idea where ANY of the stuff in the picture is now. Where are those clothes I had on? Where are those household things we had? Where are the cars? The dishes? Of course, my parents still have some of the things we had when all of us were little, but much of it has "disappeared" through the years, thrown away, given away, used up.... but the thing that I went away with after looking at those photos is that, unlike the physical "stuff", I still have many, many memories of all the things that we did growing up!! The memories don't get thrown away, or given away, or get used up. They are forever! This thought has been something I've thought about a lot lately, because the temptation is very great sometimes to just throw in the towel in the midst of increasingly difficult financial times, and go back to work. And, certainly, I am not saying that going back to work would make me a "bad" mom, but we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that there are things we are going to give up if we choose that option, and they are generally the things that no amount of money can ever buy us, and that we can never get back again. When I get discouraged about financial things, (and I would encourage other moms to do this, too), I get out some of the books we have on the Great Depression and read through some of the firsthand accounts of how people lived during those times. I never fail to come away with a renewed perspective, and it helps me realize, again, how we are not the first family to have ever lived through lean times. And here's one more thought, and then I'll be quiet! :) If you really want to get a new perspective on how fleeting life is, and how we don't really own our "things" for very long, go to an estate sale or estate auction. Right after we were married, when our oldest son was a baby, we went to the estate auction of an elderly couple down the street. They were selling their home, and all the contents inside, at an auction, and then going to the nursing home afterwards. I will never forget what it was like to watch them sitting there, in their rickety old lawn chairs, holding hands, watching as all the accumulated pieces of their lifetime together were handed to highest bidder, never to be seen again by them. I remember weeping, as I held our new baby, realizing that the frail, gray-haired couple in front of me had once been young and at the start of their lives, just like my husband and I were at that time. So I guess all of this is just to say that we need to encourage one another to live for the things that do not pass away. This blog is always a great encouragement to me to keep doing that, because we do get weary of the struggle sometimes. I am so thankful for Meredith, and all the ladies who comment here, because it helps keep me on track in the midst of a materialistic, sometimes shallow world.

Shannon said...

For me it's the kids. When we're around one of Levi's little friends in particular, I spend the whole next day hearing "why can't I have a (insert trampoline, miniHummer, trip to Disney World, video game, etc - and that's from one visit). I always wind up feeling down that we *can't afford* all those gifts for our kids because I don't want my kids to feel deprived. But when I stop to think about it, I don't want those things for my kids! In the long run, I know we're doing the right thing for our family. I just need to get more proactive about the things I do want them to have - the nature walks, playing at the park, baking cookies together....cookies usually cheer us all up:)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Meredith, that’s so sad that you tossed a friend’s holiday letter. Here are some perspectives that help me:

1) Being happy for the successes of others. (These don’t reduce my successes in any way.)
2) Live vicariously through others. I can learn for free about the adventures of others. Also, sometimes they let me play with their toys!
3) See if I can figure out a way to steal any of their ideas that I admire.
4) Remember that we are all inferior to other people in some ways and superior in other ways.
5) Remember than I can have anything I really want, just not everything I want. Or maybe I can even have everything I want, just not all right now!

Hang in there!

TheNormalMiddle said...

Meredith, thank you for the link love! I appreciate your reader's thoughts in the comments here and echo many of the same feelings.

It isn't that frugality is BAD. I've been on the frugal bandwagon for 7 years now since coming home full time. I've learned to cut my dryer sheets in half, buy powdered milk in bulk, find good thrift stores, and all that fun stuff! It was really FUN at first. But as the years have gone by, I've just lost my appeal for it. My knack is still there---I can, and do practice frugality.

I've just lost the "cheerful" part for now.

I don't know if it is my circumstances, my friends, or what, but it no longer is fun for me to try and squeeze every penny til it screams.

And lest anyone think I want to go buy a big McMansion and SUV....do you know what the one non-frugal fantasy of mine is???? Going to the grocery store and buying EVERYTHING I want to buy, without having to compare prices or make choices. I see myself breezing down the aisles, throwing convenience foods and expensive spices and such into the cart without even flinching!

TheNormalMiddle said...

And ribeye steaks. I'd buy LOTS of ribeye steaks.

And expensive coffee and ice cream, fancy olive oils and salts.

And wine. :)

See, it is ALL about the food with me!

Anonymous said...

What gets me down?...

when the line of achievement seems to be moved farther & farther away.

when I have to repeat, too many times, what I put in my kids' lunches.

when I find myself hoping we won't be invited to any weddings or graduations.

when I look at the good deals I've gotten on the things I need, & I think "I'm so tired of other people's things".

These are the times I know I need to stand stronger than ever, but it's not easy, that's for sure!! It helps me to play beautiful, uplifting music, do something kind for someone else (in the family or out of it), clean something, keep myself (hair & makeup) fixed up nicely, sit up straight & walk confidently...in other words, fake it until I can make it!


Meredith said...

Deb, don't feel bad for me!

I just wanted to admit that I, too, Miss Cheerful Frugality, even have those times when I just don't want to stare in the face at what my life might have been.

It was not to disparage my friend's success. She's earned it with hard work and different choices.

But we all have those moments--and the key is to find ways to get beyond them. For me that means finding beauty in what I do, giving to others, thanking God for what I have, and finding other moms who have also made the choice to live on less.

Anonymous said...

Ladies, thank you! You are my kindred spirits. This is just the kind of fellowship I need. My earlier post was a little facetious but you are saying everything I meant to say...

I have been there at MOPS and bunco and baseball practice and even a Bible study where all the talk centered around expensive Disney vacations, expensive haircuts, expensive handbags, expensive home furnishings, etc...and I've been at a total loss for things to say. I've felt odd, left out, and, yes, a little envious.

Someone mentioned that often people who have the most "stuff" and who feel the need to brag about it are the ones who don't have other more important things, like a good strong marriage, fun times with the kids, and meaningful relationships with the Lord.

After a good night's sleep, I feel more positive about what I can do, instead of focusing on what I can't do.
My hubby and I decided even before we had a child that my staying at home was the best thing for our family. God has honored, protected, provided, corrected in so many ways. I love being on this journey with my family and HIM!

Anonymous said...

1) read your blog!
Seriously, I quicky read 4-5 blogs every morning but keep yours for last as I want to savour it;
2) on my weekly vegetable market trip, I have a weekly thrift/2nd hand shop fix (I am very picky, so do not spend much, sometimes nothing);
3) buy flowers for the living room and our bedroom; it reminds me why I chose to take care of my family as my first priority every time I enter it- they are very cheap were I live and they last a long time;
4) call my husband at work and complain; did just that yesterday but it was not really the smartest thing to do, I am afraid - it did make for a very tense evening aftwerwards,:(

Anonymous said...

hey, there's more than one debbie m visiting here : ) hello.

The things that get me down change, but the root is inevitable: looking at what someone else has and comparing it with the perceived void in my life.

What gets me up is remembering Jesus' words to Peter in John 21 when Peter was caught in the comparison trap: "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!", confessing, thanking, moving on. This doesn't always happen instantly, but way quicker than it used to : )

deb meyers

Anonymous said...

Having been on the other side (and Merideth you know I've blogged about this before ;-) ), it is easy to get down after hearing about the big houses, all the electronic equipment, the big vacations, all the "accomplishments," all the stuff.

But then between the lines, you also hear about the constant busyness, the stress, the fractured relationships, the strains on marriage.

It is about making choices. I agree with all of you here, sometimes I feel I am constantly saying "no" or "we can't afford it," but am also changing my response to "we have better things to spend our money on," which hopefully is conveying the message of stewardship. It is about choosing family and relationships over stuff. I don't think I'm going to ever regret choosing my family over a career. I don't think I'm going to regret buying less house than the bank says we can afford.

I'm thrilled about starting to bake my own bread again; I'm always thrilled to find a new frugal tip or find a way to do something less expensively, or better yet, to do without!

It is choices and how you choose to look at things.

TJ said...

I find that the real burnout happens when we are so stretched for finances that there isn't a bit extra. I enjoy the challenge when we have some money put away, but with the medical bills piling high I'm just waiting for it all to fall.

I don't have so much problem in comparing myself to others. I'm around so many people who might seem so much better off all day at work, but I know that we all have our own goals and we all have our own struggles. Plus once a month our mothers of young children devotional time helps me and the other moms recharge. We are all very frugal and there is no competition.

Anonymous said...

Why do I have such a hard time being real! My above post is absolutely true (and therefore real), but it's the end, recovery process and not an answer to Meredith's original query: what THINGS get you down?

Truth is, I followed a link to a mom blog and was instantly hit with a photo of a southern USA mom's beautifully decorated AVERAGE home. Specifically, it was the wide white woodwork that did me in. Ubiquitous in the South, but non-existent in northern homes (at our price point). The speed at which I can covet was astonishing!

Back to God's truth. And now, for me, back to work. Thanks for this discussion, Meredith.

deb meyers

Anonymous said...

I will tell you how I feel without running down reading everyone else's comments and then seeing how my answer will shock people. I honestly do fight the monster of wanting more. I fight the battle more then what maybe some others would like to admit. I seem so content for a long time then bam it hits me like a brick wall. The mother that drives brand new suv's with their kids in brand new clothes with their perfect bodies, kids etc. I look at them and think what work did it takeor what will did they do to get to this? Was it handed over or was it given. I then analyze everything like I tend to do with everything then think after the fog clears in my head and get back to earth that what I have is from what my dh and I have worked so hard to make.What I want to teach my 4 children that you can have a better life with spending less or not so much for that matter. Being frugal has made me brag about how I didn't spend, or I didn't get in the rat race once again. Simplifying each one of our familes needs just showed me what exactly is needs over wants. I am happy right now with our 1999 mini-van that does what it is supppose to haul my family all 6 of us safely and comfortably. Food.. well we are not starving and make do with what we can provide and smile at how good we have it. Clothing well thanks to salvation army and goodwill we can happily say our children are dressed to the nine's and look great with the people that I thought I would love to be and with their old knock off clothes that fit us great to boot!
Mama to four- And I now feel better seeing others have felt like this as well.

Anonymous said...

This restlessness is pretty universal. It is really a blessing to feel this way. I look at all restlessness as a calling from God--the restlessness forces me to deeper and more intense prayer. Which saint said "my heart is restless, Lord, until it rests in You."? Was it Augustine? Oh yeah, and he was the one who also had the attitude of "convert me Lord--but not yet."
I've learned that when I feel strongly restless, that it is time to put my seatbelt on--I'm in for an exciting ride.
What do I do to lift myself up? I remind myself that discouragement is from the devil. God would never do anything but encourage--that is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit--courage. I also try to examine my conscience--am I feeling down because of my pride, arrogance or from envy or gluttony or avarice? Then I talk to myself--I remind myself that this life I have was given to me from God--I cannot compare it to the life others have been given. This is the one that is mine--and I only get this opportunity--that usually gets me off my duff and back to the business of my life.

TheNormalMiddle said...

Well at least for me, it isn't always wanting MORE STUFF. It sometimes is just wanting to pay the bills, meet the minimums, and not having to constantly be creative in doing it.

Sometimes I just want to breathe and not worry about the big bad wolf at the door with a big stack of bills I can't pay.

rural momma said...

Meredith~~ The thing that gets me down the most about frugal living is my kids. I have felt bad, through the years, that they do not have some of the things that other kids have. We are a family of 6, so it's not so easy to go to the amuzement parks, concerts, ect... Don't get me wrong, we do know what is important, but some times it would be nice not to have to be frugal.

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I've really appreciated reading all the comments here. I wish I could be as honest as I'm about to be on my own blog, but I have family and friends who read it, and I just don't want comments from them, like my parents telling me to go back to work, which is what I know they want me to do.

I quit my job as an English teacher almost 9 years ago to be a SAHW. That was a job that left me with little energy or time to have a life of my own, not to mention the fact that I was frequently sick. So, we've been a one-income family for nearly a decade. We have no children, just 2 cats.

I struggle sometimes with discontent and frustration, and most of that comes from being with people at my church. I go to a great church, but it's in a very wealthy part of town, and the majority of the members live in that area.

I became very sick over 5 years ago, and we depleted our savings with all the medical bills. Then stuff kept happening, like termites and a broken air conditioner, which is not a luxury but a necessity in Texas. We wound up incurring debt because of all of this.

A few years ago we were doing prayer requests in my women's bible study group. I was worried at the time about having the cash to pay for new tires for my car, but naturally, I didn't mention that to this group. Pride, you know. Another woman asked us to pray that her husband would let her have money to redecorate her living room. She said she figured she needed about $15,000.

I nearly cried because the other women were all commiserating with her about her "need" for new (expensive!) furniture, while I was secretly worried about having $500 for necessary car maintenance. It was hard not to feel discontent, especially as she reported a few weeks later that she got what she wanted.

I'll confess that I didn't pray for that request. I'm still not sure if I feel guilty about that or not since it was important to her. But it's hard to deal with people's excess when you're having trouble getting by.

We're in a much better financial place today, but it's still a struggle at times. My husband has kidney disease, and he's had some health complications in the past 2 months, and that has meant medical bills. And I'm about to have a big dental bill tomorrow. And yet, I look around and people have so much luxury in their lives, and I feel like I'm alone in this life of more-frugal living and having to watch every penny.

Don't get me wrong; we have a great life, and I wouldn't trade being a SAHW for all the money in the world. But sometimes I look around and wonder why everyone else seems to have it all together and we don't. It's just nice to read that others have felt the same way. (And I apologize if I've taken up too much space in the comments with this.)

Kate said...

I'll tell you what lifts me up in similar situations:

1. My husband: when he comes home and looks utterly pleased and relaxed to have his family greet him at the door, an orderly home, and a home-cooked dinner on the table.

2. My son: just the mere thought of leaving him with a babysitter or day care center puts tears in my eyes and I just want to hold him tight, especially after all the past and recent news reports of day care centers and baby sitters molesting, harming, detrimentally ignoring, and/or killing children in my area.

3. The game of thrift: I grew up poor. Thankfully, hubby and I live a bit more comfortably, but it's still tight. I enjoy the game of thrift and find no shame in used items. It only makes getting brand new stuff all that more exciting!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading the comments - I feel like I'm in good company.

One of the ways I've been working on my attitude is by saying "I don't choose to spend my money on that" instead of the old standby "I can't afford that." It reminds me that I'm not BROKE, for pete's sake, and that I'm choosing to be frugal instead of going into debt for material junk.

Thanks for your honesty, Meredith. Those Christmas letters. . .sighhhh

The Frugal Countess said...

Remind yourself that the "living well" awards really can't get handed out until you're retired. And you will be living large - and they will possibly be tearing up your Christmas letter one day. :)

TJ said...

I had no sooner finished commenting than I received a call from a relative that had helped us when we bought our home. What really has me down now, is that with all those bills piling high, we have no way to help her now that she is in the same position.

Anonymous said...

What gets me "down" sometimes since I am on a tight budget is that I find it is almost impossible to have friends. Friends meet for dinner, movies, shopping, etc. I just always have an excuse why I can't participate as I don't want my finances to be the topic of their conversation. My financial status has dropped steadily for years since I was divorced and I hear less from my financially secure friends because I can never accept invitations to do things. Depressing sometimes and I really don't know how to go about meeting new friends who are also on a budget (and since I once was rather well off my clothes, etc. still look good as they are expensive if getting old and my friends and co-workers assume I have more than I do). I don't want the focus of my life to be discussing how poor we are so I end up staying home alone a lot. I know this sounds whiney and I am grateful for an abundance of blessings - just don't know to go about establishing a full and frugal life with people who are interesting and fun to be without emphasis on doing things that always cost so much.

Anonymous said...

I am with Lindsey- wishing I could just spend whatever I wanted to at the grocery store- that's my dream too!
Getting out of the frugal doldrums? Well, I remind myself that we are paying off debt and that when I begin to drool over something someone else has- I ask myself- I wonder how much they are in debt for that?
I was raised frugal so I don't find myself in this place as often as someone who wasn't raised that way. I wonder how many of the "frugal hacks" were raised in frugal homes? I believe I would find it much harder if I'd lived on the "other side" before becoming frugal.
Amy W

pomo housewife said...

I had a big 'lift me up' last night: the bread I'd put on to bake at tea-time (for breakfast toast) was smelling delicious, and when the timer 'beeped' that it was finished, I came through to find the kids had snuck out of bed and were waiting hopefully for some warm bread, knowing I'd give in (as always) and let them have some. Simple happiness - kids eating fresh-baked bread.

Anonymous said...

What gets me down? Being 55, no retirement and little in savings. I work and have so little to show for it. My health is not good and I may not be able to work much longer. We could lose what we do have - not a lot. And my husband's job may also soon end. And believe me, we lead a low-on-the-food-chain life!

Truly, reading blogs and posts like this are a help. Prayer, and just resting in God. He knows before I can say a word how weary life can be, but it is that rest that keeps me going.

Unknown said...

What lifts me up when I am down is prayer first and foremost....the smile of a child...a beautiful sunrise or sunset...my husbands face....the first green sprouts in the spring....and a nice cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading all these comments!! Thank you for asking these questions because I feel like I am in a room full of intelligent, caring, living with purpose women - and that is a breath of extremely fresh air. :)

What I have been struggling with, just as one anonymous poster expressed; is that I have been having a difficult time finding people with similiar goals and lifestyle choices. In hopes to not sound snotty - but, in the past few months I have found it very boring to spend time with people who brag about all the 'stuff' they have or have done. Is that all they have to talk about... stuff? What about your children's accomplishments?!

What I do to bring myself up? I give myself a pat on the back and remind myself of all I have accomplished by being frugal. And each day that I get to see my child get on and off the school bus is a reminder that what I am doing is the right life for me and my family.

Thanks again Meredith, I read your blog daily and learn much from your cheerfulness. :)

Jenni said...

What gets me down? Spending too much time filling my head with societal junk; movies, TV, internet. They always lead to the inevitable, I wishes.

What gets me up? Lying in bed with all 4 of our kids around us (in our tiny house) and having my hubby say:

"I want nothing more in life. Well, maybe another baby!"

Thanks, Meredith, for not just providing frugal tips, but reminding us of what matters.

Jessica said...

Transistioning into a frugal lifestyle is hard because many of my friends do not understand. Also, working in a very large lawfirm in downtown Cincinnati does not help either. The women there always look their best in their nice clothes and going out to lunch all of the time. What helps me is being in my home, in the country away from it all and reading blogs such as this. I also love to read Tightwad Gazette when I feel myself feeling down and ready to give up. It's very hard sometimes but my goals are more important.

Anonymous said...

Once a therapist told me that the happiness brought by getting new stuff is fleeting. Sure you're excited about it for awhile but soon your just back to your old mood and you need more new stuff to get excited about life.
Stuff has nothing to do with how content you are. I have been really poor and now that my husband and I are well off I find I feel the same inside that I always have. Certainly having enough money to pay for insurance, shelter and food without having to worry can make a huge difference in quality of life. But the material goods one can aquire with more income provide nothing extra by costing extra. Personally I still love getting stuff at the thrift store and on clearance. I know I am making good use of the money my husband brings home. Extra can be reinvested or given to those who need it more. For us it's about not wasting and being good stewards of the blessing s we've recieved.

I hope this helps. I have been there and I know how discouraging needing to save money can sometimes be. Remember its a choice and something you can do to greatly improve not only your quality of life..but life for those around you as well. Don't give up. Frugality works wonders. The universe will provide for your needs in the most suprising and delightful ways. Often when you least expect it.

Anonymous said...

This is surprising! I thought y'all had it all together. This wonderful stay at home life. It's what I want. Yet, it shows that y'all are real women with real feelings and real life problems.
And I like that. Maybe there is hope for ME. Still, isn't this the life you WANT to live? Is it the choice of BOTH marriage partners? Doesn't that make it easier, if it is? I'm a little confused. I read all these wonderful blogs and yet I "hear" this. Aren't your blogs true? Or, is it just too late in the night for me to even try to make sense commenting?

Anonymous said...

Oops! It IS too late for me to be trying to do this!
I DO understand the "pain". I remember being very excited to hear a man teach about how to save/make more money...only to sit in tears as he told about his wife's 100.00 dresses that she HAD to have. I couldn't scrape together enough to buy a GOODWILL dress at that point! And I'm old enough that I am refering to a time when 100.00 dresses were VERY expensive. So I'm not trying to be mean. I'm just a little confused... and a LOT tired! So, I'll shut up for the night.

pomo housewife said...

Septemberlady, I'm not sure what you're getting at.

Yes, this is what we've chosen... but any choice has its pros and cons. No life is perfect. What most of us are having a little grump about here is that we've chosen to swim against the tide, and sometimes it's hard not to get swept back by the current. It's human nature to want to be part of the group - it's essential for our survival - but to choose to be a stay at home carer, or to save instead of spending - these things can make it hard to fit in.

Some of us are better off than others - everyone is at a different point in their lives.

Pay attention to the positives, as well as the negatives, listed here: you'll see how much joy we find in home and family.

Meredith said...

The point of this post is to say that yes, it is our choice, and how do we remind ourselves of that.

You know what would be fake? A blog that *doesn't* mention any moments of doubt and envy.

WHAT do we do to LIFT ourselves up from those down times? How can we help other moms who are struggling through these moments?

Anonymous said...

I would think when people I see are having a hard time coping with any issues is to just be there for them and listen, and acknowledge them and their feelings. That's all I need that's for sure.


Anonymous said...

Y'all just scared me, is all. I love the blogs I have been reading. I love all the tips and recipes and just plain regular life stuff. Like I said, I LIKE that it shows that y'all are real women with real feelings and real life problems(and I DON'T mean that I LIKE y'all having problems!)
I KNOW life isn't perfect...at least MINE sure isn't! I guess it was just a surprise to see that your lives WERE like mine. That's why I said maybe there is hope for ME, that I can learn to live like this, too.
Anyways, I hope everybody has a GREAT day! Thanks for "talking" to me!

Anonymous said...

When I get discouraged,and I do, because I live in a house that is virtually falling down around me,with no funds to fix it because each paycheck is alloted for something before I get it,I remember there are people worse off than me who would love to have the little bit that I have.A homeless person would love to be in my home to be warm as I am, to have food, which we do,and to have the luxury of a bath with fluffy towels.My bed might sag and be 20 years old, but it is cozy and feels good to lay in after a long hard day.I have been to third world countries where the poverty is so grueling,so horrible it would make you cry.But to me,your beautiful home,the wonderful things you find at the Goodwill are sources of envy.The nearest Goodwill to me is 1 1/2 hours away.And I would love to have a real home like yours.So you see,we all feel it.And those perfect Barbies feel it too about someone that they hang out with.It is a human condition,but take heart.I know my life is in God's hands,and I love Him so much, and trust Him.So I take comfort in that someday,maybe my life will be different,but for now,I trust in Him.Feeling those pangs makes you human.But trusting Him makes it bearable.Love to you,Gayle

Daiquiri said...

Hi Meredith - This such a great post. Sometimes I really need to be reminded of how simple contentment can be. I was going to tell you a quick story, but it got to long. I turned it into a post at my own blog instead (with a link to you, of course :) ). Come check it out if you have a chance.



Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

Gayle, I hear you on the house thing! What I haven't ever shared on my blog (maybe I will someday, but I kind of doubt it) is that our house is a major lemon. It started having foundation problems 4 months after we bought it. We had it fixed, then more problems the next year. And now we're sinking in the middle because of some leaks under the house. The leaks are repaired now, and we're waiting to see if the house shifts back into place.

But, with all of that, we have cracks everywhere. Whenever you see a cartoon that's trying to imply that people are really poor, they show them in a ramshackle house with cracks everywhere. So, I'm extremely sensitive about it (we haven't fixed them yet because with all the constant shifting, what's the point?). I get envious, too, when I see people's beautiful homes. And, of course, it doesn't help that everyone at my church lives in huge, gorgeous, flaw-free homes in half-million dollar neighborhoods.

BUT, I do remind myself that we are so unbelievably blessed. I think that wealth-wise, we're still in the top 1% of the world. We have a roof over our heads, and I really do love my home apart from its problems. It's not very big, but it's big enough for me to have a craft room, my husband to have a Star Wars room, and we even have a guest room that is mostly just occupied by the cats.

And, I really am privileged to get to stay at home. The majority of my friends in the giant, beautiful houses are couples with both spouses working. They're always running around because it's the only way to get everything done. Sometimes I envy their ability to pay for all that beautiful stuff, but I'd rather live my own life.

I just wish stuff would stop breaking, and we were both 100% healthy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a beautiful post. I try and remember all the same things you mentioned - it always puts things back into real perspective. We all really do have so much, even if some may not think so. I can only imagine the pain you have seen in some of those 3rd world countries. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Meredith, thanks for stopping by my blog :)

This is a very interesting discussion, although I've not read all the comments.

I read Lindsey's post and I totally understand where she's coming from because so often I've felt the same and we've looked at the pros and cons of me going back to work and right now it's just not worth it. I would just love a large detatched house and things like the full Sky package (UK satelite TV); but I also know that if I went back to work I would start to relax here and there and the pennies would add up to pounds and we wouldn't end up any better off, lol.

I remember a tradesman saying to me that it is always the people with the big houses and flash cars who want to withold payment until after the next paycheque, so life isn't brighter on the other side of the fence :) Readers might enjoy my post 'Contentment' which quotes from a Max Lucado book; I also quote one of my most favourite proverbs: "Even if you sleep in a thousand mat room, you can only sleep on one mat". (Japanese proverb). (Japanese rooms are measured in terms of how many bed mats it would take to cover a floor).

I do think that while children do find frugality hard when they can't have everything their friends have, but I also think that it teaches them a valuable lesson if we tell them why we do XYZ to save money and the tangible benefits they receive from a simpler lifestyle (i.e. more time with parents, etc).

I also understand where Caroline (second comment) is coming from because when I first started blogging I felt bad because I didn't grind my own wheat or homeschool. But there is always discontentment when we try to measure up to another's standards; something I really need to get out of doing myself. We can only honestly do the best we can for our families in the particular situation we find ourselves.

So my advice to anyone who feels discouraged is to look at the pros and cons of the situation. Sometimes just listing down the amazing benefits of the mother (or parents) being at home, the simpler lifestyle, the longterm savings, etc. for us totally outweigh the monetary benefits of my returning to work and living a less frugal lifestyle. One day I may have to return to work, we never know what is around that bend in the road, but right now we're doing what we believe is the best thing.