Thursday, April 03, 2008

What I don't say

A few weeks ago a reader asked something to the effect of:

I understand frugal living to be where one chooses to save in one (or more)area in order to spend more in the area that they *really* want. I can see all of your savings from groceries and thrift shops, but do not see where you are benefitting.

I've been chewing on my answer ever since.

It is an honest question. It means that I'm doing a better job communicating the frugal details than expressing the joy of being a mother and wife.

Sometimes I downplay the richer parts of my life--I have so much, comparatively, it feels like bragging.

We live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood, with not 1 but 2 paid-for cars in the driveway. (Well, 2 when the Volvo runs!)

My husband works hard at a challenging career, using an education we paid for in cash. We have good health insurance.

We no longer worry about paying the unexpected bill. We owe nothing but a mortgage.

We visit relatives in sunny locations. We practice hospitality; we give.

My children have some of what they want and all of what they need.

And I can do it all without working for pay.

To the outside world, we may be rich only in time and creativity. Yet I'm almost ashamed to live such a life of luxury. Anyone else ever feel this way?


Unknown said...

My dear, "nice" home is a modest way of putting it. You have a LOVELY home! My daughter calls your neighborhood "A real Wisteria Lane!" You are very blessed, and although you know it, you are humble. This is one of the many, many reasons I admire you. You are inspiring to me and even to my daughter. Keep up the wonderful work.

April said...

It is true that you are indeed blessed. Your answer is gracious, as always.

But I think you may have left something out of your answer. According to your Homekeeping Mission, you are making these choices not because frugality makes way for what YOU want, but because you believe it makes way for what GOD wants.

It is wonderful that you have aligned your desires with those that you believe the Lord has given your family. Many of us don't make such a choice.

I would encourage you to delight in His provision with great thankfulness and without guilt. FWIW, your joy in your circumstances, choices and opportunities has been readily apparent here. It's one of the many reasons I am here each time you post!

Blessings to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Raising my hand and waving it wildly!

We live in Southeastern CT and we are living off of one income - that is virtually unheard of in this area.

What you "said" is spot on, for me.

Also, for what it's worth, I think of your blog as more than just a blog about me it's more about a woman helping other woman.

Thank you.


Jenny's Vegcafe said...

Yes- Yes- Yes. Whenever I talk about what we have- debt free except for a mortgage, a big house in a good neighborhood with a great school system, a husband who works hard to support us on a salary that a working couple would find pitiful- two paid for cars, and almost every creature comfort that we could want and everything we need while still giving occasionally to charity- I feel guilty.
It feels like bragging and on some level I guess it is.. but, I guess I want people to understand why I'm so happy about where I am. They didn't see us clawing our way out of 25G debt ten years ago so I could have and stay home with our babies. I'm proud to be where I am. I'm thankful. After awhile though my original goals were met and frugality just became it's own natural reward.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I think that is a rude question to ask someone what they are getting for all this thrift. Anyone could see that you have a nice life because of your thrift! That is the point right! To be good stewards of your time, money and resources. Sorry just thought that was a no brainer. Keep it up this is what it is all about!

Gini (Hallquist) Young said...

Great post. I often feel the same way except that we don't do the mortgage thing yet. Still renting. What a blessing to have all that you need and some of what you want. To have a happy hubby and family and not have to work for pay (at a job). You still use your brain in challenging ways and enjoy the challenge and outcomes. keep it up...i am there too.

Meredith said...

The original question was completely honest and real.

Sometimes (myself included) we get so entrenched in frugal thinking, reading frugal blogs, etc. that we FORGET what it is like to be just starting out.

Or looking in from the outside.

I do try to share the richness of my life through photos more than words, but I also want to be clear to the casual outsider.

There are many intangible rewards to the money choices we make.

Jane said...

The way I see it, you are able to maximize your lifestyle without debt. That is it's own reward! So many people believe that today one needs two incomes to survive. You are proving otherwise. Personally it is such a comfort to see how well you all live on one income. It lets me know that when we have children, we will have options too!

Lisa said...

Well yes, for most of us who live in America, we are very blessed.

I was thinking of the luxuries that our own family has. For example, today we are planning on taking the bus($2.00 trip) to the zoo(free admission). It's not that we don't have transportation to get there, it's just for fun, for my kiddo's to experience the bus for the first time. The novelty of it all. Here's the thing, there are many that don't even have a car, and the bus is their only transportation. Then there are those who live in other countries that can only ride the bus every day.

So, I am thankful for the choices, options, and comforts we are able to have, but also appreciative for the many other people in this world who don't have the "luxury".

Anonymous said...

For too many people, living frugally is being deprived. My parents would never think of buying "used" because it reminds them of their poor upbringing. You prove all of those ideas wrong. You prove that frugality and beauty can go hand-in-hand. You are both an inspiration and a challenge to me. Thank you!

Ellen said...

I also feel guilty sometimes about my life of beautiful plenty. We are able to live well on one income, in a lovely house with a beautiful yard. I can stay home with my son, and that means everything to me. We are able to tithe, pay our bills, and have some left over for vacations. We have generous and loving relatives who babysit for free and help with yard work. =) I am incredibly thankful. Thrifting and watching the grocery budget helps make it all possible, but I'm well aware that many people can't make it, even if they're trying to be extremely frugal. We are blessed.

Oh yeah, Meredith, I was wondering how tithing fits into the frugal world? Have you ever done a post about that? I wonder how many frugalistas out there tithe (10%, gross or net), and how they feel about it? I know that at times when things have been more pinched, I have sometimes begrudged the Lord that money and thought about ways I wished I could spend it on myself. Do some out there practice a frugal lifestyle so that they can tithe? I would love to hear from them... It would be refreshing. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

In the Tightwad Gazette, Amy D. writes about thrift as a viable lifestyle - not just a short-terms means to an end. Since I've started reading books and blogs on frugality and sustainable living, it's all started coming together for me. This is a way of life that is not only good for the wallet and good for the planet, but good for the soul as well. We are working off a big debt, and when that is finished we will start working on at least 4 (for now!) college tuitions. But we are actually giving more to charity than we ever did before, because our frugal/green mindset (reduce, reuse, recycle) has changed our whole perception of how much we already have. Thanks, Meredith, for helping make the frugal road so much more enjoyable and beautiful!

Kate in NY

Anonymous said...

I think, for what that is worth, that if the person read your 'mission statement' about living the best life you can, to provide for your family, being a servant of God, etc. that the reason for the thrift would be explained. I admire your ideas, your honest answers, and your obvious way you love your readers by sharing so much of yourself. You have a kind heart Meredith. That is a real blessing. You have a way with words, you have a wonderful talent with a camera, and your generous spirit of sharing the day to day 'things' of life and making it seem special is just amazing. Most people throw money at a situation and never get to have the satisfaction of doing the good deed on a budget. I know I am guilty of that. Just last weekend, instead of baking a cake myself, making dinner myself, I spent $36.00 on one cake and $100.00 on dinner at a not fancy diner for my friend. (I had other obligations and did not have time, but I should have managed better) I know that things are a little different for me, I am in my middle 50's and I do own a business, (so I have an income) My husband works outside the home. So money is not so tight for us as for most people. But I am 100% sure I could have made a much better meal and cake than the one we had for the money. That does not count the gift we gave her. The gift was something I am proud to give. I gave her a gift card to adopt a kitten from the local animal shelter. The cost? $85.00 So we had a very expensive weekend.
God bless you Meredith. He has given you a great talent. You bless us by sharing that talent with your faithful blog readers. Thank you...Roxie

Michelle Smiles said...

I had never wondered why you (or anyone else) worked at being frugal. I guess I assumed that it was in an effort to not be wasteful or that it allowed you to enjoy a life you might not otherwise have. Interesting question though. And great answer. Even when we have struggles (financial or otherwise) I am always count my blessings - I never dreamed of a life as rich as the one I live (maybe I dreamed of a life of financial riches...but my family has made me richer than I ever hoped).

Bethany said...

I just discovered your lovely blog and am enjoying it.

I feel guilty quite often as well, considering the downright luxury we live in on just my husband's income. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that our society often glorifies struggles and problems over contentment. Many working women are put upon, stressed and unhappy. Not feeling these things almost makes me feel like I'm selling out.

When I have the time to spend the afternoon knitting or embroidering, I have to consiously enjoy it and count this among my abundant blessings instead of paying attention to the nagging voice calling me a shirker or lazy. It can be difficult to realize that I'm buying my leisure time with thrift and living within our means, and so can spend it as needed, since leisure time seems to be in shortage and is a jealously gaurded commodity among my peers.

Anonymous said...

Your best post EVER. Amen for peace.

Eleanor Joyce said...

You've expressed it beautifully. "Godliness with contentment is great gain." according to scripture. Add in creativity, beauty, the love of our family and friends, and we are rich beyond measure. Money cannot buy what I value most, but saving money through frugality allows me to enjoy what is most important to me - spending my time and energies on my family, home, hospitality in creative ways, and answering to God, my husband and myself rather than a corporate boss!

Heather said...

Amen! Your not working towards what you want... but the comfort of knowing your not a prisoner to debt and and can do what you want... not what you have to. Plus who wants to have spent it all at old age and be eating cat food?

Julie said...

We have led a frugal life since we got married nearly 17 years ago because we've always wanted one of us home with the kids. Because we cut back in many areas we are able to do this and travel quite a bit -- as a family.

We're doing it much longer than we thought we would originally (oldest and youngest are 12 years apart) but it has worked only because we are so frugal. Like someone else said, no families around here last very long with one parent at home.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one reason the person asked the question is that it is almost incomprehensible to realize that "minding the pennies" can get you out of and keep you out of debt. Most people are looking for the big savings they can make and don't understand that consistant (joyful!)thrift can get you out of an enourmous debt problem.

My husband makes a wonderful salary and we could afford many more luxeries than we indulge in, but thriftiness is a fun game, makes me feel efficient and clever, and allows me to give more than I otherwise could to causes that God lays before me. When I get to heaven I want the Lord to look at what I did with what He gave me and consider it well handled.

Meredith, you are an absolute gem and I enjoy your blog so much. Thank you so much for doing it. You are a true blessing!


Kris said...

Meredith, this is my favorite post of yours, ever. Someday, I hope for the same kind of life. Thank you!

Right Brain Thinker said...

You said it perfectly! I get tired of explaining our lifestyle and choices to (mostly)family and friends. For me it isn't just about being frugal but also making choices that are good for the world we have been blessed with. We still have debt to pay off, and with the economy in such a bad state right now, frugality is necessary for our family, but I would still make the same choice regardless! Thank you for being such an inspiration and providing us with such useful information!

Anonymous said...

I know how you feel. I'm also in an incredibly fortunate position financially, yet continue to be frugal. It's how we got to where we are. It is also how we'll get where we want to be even more quickly. It reduces stress, knowing we can make it on so much less than we make. It gives us shared goals to work on and helps keep our marriage strong.

I also think it's our responsibility to do this work, as another poster mentioned. I think of it as good stewardship. I think of it as doing as much as we can with what we have because we are those to whom much has been given, and indeed, much is expected from us.

Plus, it's just plain fun. I remember Amy D of the Tightwad Gazette saying how even spendthrifts enjoy a bargain. We've gotten good at this game and it's fun to play it.

I also think your joy in your situation and the activities you share with us is apparent. Good for you. Keep inspiring us!


Jennifer said...

Sometimes I feel that way, guilty for having what we do have. I also feel guilty about stressing over money, when so many people have less. I think it makes us appreciate what we have more.

TJ said...

I think your way of life is fully worth any scrimping one may do! The richest people are frugal, and you have many rewards.

We are not in a position to live as you do, yet. But we are working on it. Neither one of us would quit working, but being able to live without worry of unexpected bills or downtime at work, that is a goal.

We put giving ahead of other things. we don't "tithe" but we are leadership givers where I work. With the doctors bills right now, it is tempting to stop the giving, but we won't. God will provide when you put giving first.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Meredith, for receiving and trying to answer my question in the spirit it was intended~honest and real.
I truly strive to listen and learn (see my xanga banner) and I find, in your blog, a source that I do not have in my *IRL* circle of friends. (They think I'm eccentric and wasting my time for clipping coupons, etc.~but they might catch on one day, LOL!).
I think what I'm looking for is where you purposefully splurge, or do you? And, perhaps this is not the right forum for my question--maybe the only things I should be asking about should be strictly how to be frugal. I would love to see the whole picture--not only frugality leading to savings, but frugality that allows splurges, and frugality that allows one to be generous to others.

Thanks again, Meredith!

Esther said...

Beautifully put!

Monica Wilkinson said...

I agree that your answer is very gracious while also being very true. It is hard to really share our lives fully when we want to remain humble and not come across boastful or full of pride about what God has blessed us with. I guess this is where we have to pray that God will take what we offer and let those who participate in it give HIM the glory and not us. That they would see HIM in us and through us and that we would be in the background.

Anonymous said...

Like Kat, I, too, wonder if you feel comfortable splurging on whatever is a luxury to you. I have to be frugal from necessity (not my nature but I recognize and appreciate the results is brings). Someone else said something about spending everything and having to eat cat food in your old age. That is a very good point, but neither would I want to have tons of money in my old age if it meant I missed out on having wonderful experiences that money could have bought. I think there is a happy medium somewhere in between the two extremes. Personally, although I have a tiny income, I still have a "bucket list" and am now saving for a mini-vacation at Blackberry Farm in your state. Granted, I won't be going anytime soon, but when I do, I will not fret over the cost, but enjoy every meal, view, luxurious linen and spa treatment!

Anshu said...

Having all of what you need, some of what you want. What a lovely thought, and a positive attitude towards looking at life. Why didn't I ever think of it that way? Taking this thought with me today.

Anonymous said...

Just nodding along to your post & what the others are saying. I think that also what feels like "frugality" to us was just the way things were for some of our parents and grandparents. We have recently been forced into circumstances where we needed to cut back, and last month we slashed our food/misc budget in half. Without major deprivation, just an attitude adjustment on my part. I think blogs like yours and what you are sharing is soooo important in this day & age. I do "see" where your priorities are...

Though I confess I wish I had the luck thrifting that you do! I need to get more organized on that front.

Oh, and thanks for talking about Aldi. Shopping there is really helping our food budget. I am getting great produce there at a great price! HT can't compete with them week in/week out, except for the occassional loss-leader.

Karla Porter Archer said...

this is a beautiful post!

xo ~K

Anonymous said...

When I look at people around me, mostly I do not feel guilt but sadness. They are so caught up in working so they can spend money they don't have so they can get more things. . . it's a nasty cycle.
This frugal lifestyle my husband and I live is partly choice and partly necessity. Yes, there are things we don't buy or don't do, but those things are not high on our priority list. And, yes, it's a little more effort to live within or below our means. But the payoff for us is in contentment and a wealth that can't be measured with dollars.

Christine said...

I guess I don't understand why they would ask such a question. For me, thrift is about not wasting one's resources on what you don't need in order to conserve them for what you do need. How is that confusing? Even if you didn't live on one income but had a blog about thrift I would assume it was because you were carefully targeting where you wanted to spend your resources. What a strange question.

amy said...

I love the name of your blog, as the Proverbs 31 woman is what I strive to be.
Be at peace, by being frugal, it seems you are being the very best steward of the gifts that God has given to you, and the talents to use them for His glory.
I really enjoy your blog!

Karen said...

I absolutely agree. What a lush life I lead, even though most outsiders-looking-in would not agree!
Thanks for your thoughtful heart-sharing. My heart nods in agreement.

Joyce said...

We are just finishing up putting four children through college, and we've done it with very little monetary income from me, since we chose to have me stay home with the children. I found it to be a challenge to my creativity, which was ultimately fun. We also see that our young adult children are pretty good at sorting out their wants from their needs, and have a "can do" spririt about making it on their own with as little debt as possible. I think that will be useful to them all their lives.
The other thing we are chuckling about is the way others are just catching on to the idea of frugality being good for the environment. We always knew that! So we don't have to relearn this style of living to jump on the green bandwagon!

The Proverbs Wife said...

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Amy said...

This is a great post! I struggle sometimes with guilt about how much we have, but then I think about how much we are able to give too. I'm not frugal for the most part. I admit this. But overall we live well below our means, which thanks to my gifted husband, are considerable.

There might be a seed of a post of my own in here. Thanks for helping me think Meredith!

Anonymous said...

WONDERFUL post!!!!! It's all about choices. You choose to live frugal which allows you to stay home and raise your children, rather than paying somone to raise them for you. God bless you. The borrower is the slave to the lender.

Red said...

It's important to remember our blessings because it gives us strength thoughout life's downturns.

Never, ever feel like your bragging when you're thanking your lucky (deliberately frugal) stars.

Edi said...

You said it perfectly.

People tend to equate frugality with either poverty or miserliness...neither of which sounds too pleasant. Folks that are living paycheck to paycheck and or in debt to their eyeballs, cannot understand why someone would choose to live simply - b/c to them it is painful and hard and unpleasant.

There is a difference between living simply and having money in the bank and living simply with nothing extra for emergencies or treats.

It's hard for them to understand why we live the way we do - b/c they never would...

Kristen said...

Amen. Life is better when you're thrify!

TheNormalMiddle said...

I think it is smart for each of us to define what is important to OUR OWN families.

What might look frugal to one, is extravagant to another and everything in between.

You are wise for thinking on this Meredith and defining it for yourself.

You are a smart woman and I loved your rationale behind how blessed you are! :)

nancyr said...

You should not feel guilty for your lifestyle. You work hard at it and you are very talented. It is a lot easier to live paycheck to paycheck, with plastic, that to be creative, inventive, and a good steward of what we have available.
I am frugal, and I don't feel guilty for being debt free. I feel grateful.

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

What a beautiful and well worded answer.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. You ought to send this in the ladiesagainstfeminism as an article. More people need to read this artice. Very good post.

Sheila said...

I agree with Heather who said that thriftiness is a fun game--I almost see it like a dare. Can you get by on just this much this month?

It isn't because we need to. We, like you, are doing fine. But the more we are able to save, the more we are also able to help others.

I sense a little defensiveness on the part of some over this issue. I don't think you have anything to defend--your motives or your actions. You know your heart; and you have excellent results.

If others question that, that's their problem, not yours.

Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

Anonymous said...

Meredith, I love your reply to this question. I love your blog. I find it beautiful & inspiring & it makes me want to live my life better.

A friend commented the other on how "lucky" I was that I was able be a stay at home mum. We have other no other debts except our mortgage, we live in a nice safe suburb with great schools, and have a big home (which we are slowly renovating) For some reason this comment annoyed me. I don't stay at home because I am "lucky", I am able to stay at home because of the choices we have financially in the past,present & future. If we can't afford something, we wait until we can, we eat at home as often as possibly, I try to get the best price for things when shopping, we use the library everyweek, we don't go on expensive holidays - BUT we are happy & want for nothing.

Keep up your wonderful, inspiring blog.

Julieann said...

Absolutely!! You have typed out my life---My husband works very hard to give us such a beautiful life and I thank God everyday. We are not rich in any sense of the word--but we are happy and not in need of anything. Do you remember the episode on Little House On The Prairie, when Nel's tells Charles he thinks he is the richest man in Walnut Grove---I feel that way too:) I am so rich in all that I have in my children and my husband.

Great Post!!

P.S. I love thrift store and being frugal too :o)


Christian - Modobject@Home said...

I feel exactly the same way. We ARE rich, rich with a life full of blessing that do not have a monetary value.

Anonymous said...

Your blog has been so inspirational since I started reading. I think you are at least 15 years younger than me, so you are learning a good bit earlier than me, and yet I am still challenge by you and still want to make changes to be a better steward with what God has blessed us with. It is about choices and many years ago my H and I made the choice for me to stay home and raise the kids, which my oldest just married in Jan and youngest is a jr in college. We are debt free with the exception of a home we purchased for my son to live in while attending college (our home is debt free) This is something I never imagined us doing, but it was a better choice than renting, since rent would be as high as the payment and we will get our investment back for the most part. Choosing not to purchase new cars and other less frugal options has been really a joy for us. It has enabled us to tithe, give more freely and have nice wedding for our daughter free of debt. Know this has been long, but you are an encouragement and inspiration so many, and I know God will continue to richly bless you for it.
Jackie in Georgia

Carrien Blue said...

I want to be where you are someday. I hope for it and try to save for it.

At the same time, while things are tight, usually, and we have debt, I get to stay home with my children. I don't have to leave them with someone else in order to work. Even in our leanest times, we've found a way to get everything we needed, and some wants too.

We live in the most expensive city in the US outside of downtown Manhattan, and we live on a single, unpredictable and often intermittent income. And I get to be at home with my children, to get to know our community and to make friends. We pay reasonable rent, for here, in a good neighborhood in a place that has a private playground, beautiful landscaping with plenty of space for the kids to play, 3 resort style pools to choose from, a fitness center and picnic area. We can afford to do that because we have only one car and I walk everywhere with the kids, and because we don't have a lot of space to fill with stuff we don't need so we are trying to simplify even more.

We are just stopping by distance from my in-laws. We are a train or car ride away from amazing beaches, wonderful museums, that have monthly free days for locals, and wonderful parks.

You are right, you are rich. Come to think of it, so am I.

Anonymous said...

This is totally unrelated to the subject, but I just have to comment on your beautiful children. They both look just like their mom!

Meredith said...

NOTE: One of the original readers gave me the exact wording of her question, which I have replaced in the post above.

She felt my paraphrase had a negative tone, which I did not intend--I just couldn't locate her original comment.

This is a frequent question I receive via email, and my answer is intended for all the readers who have asked.

Anonymous said...

I always say that my husband's job is to make the money and my job is to save it! By both of us doing our jobs well, we create a less stressful family environment and hopefully afford him to retire early. Time is our greatest resource.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how to describe this exactly, but as I was driving in the car one day thinking about so many things, this sentence just popped into my mind - "I have everything I need". I felt as though God had spoken to me, and blessed me with this feeling of complete contentment. Don't get me wrong, we are so blessed materially, but the feeling of being contented with what you have is so much more important that what you actually have. I thank God for this blessing.


TracyMichele said...

MEREDITH! I LOVE this statement!! "My children have some of what they want and all of what they need." Oh, that is SO true and today is a day I needed to be reminded of that. Frugal living CAN be hard but when you look at it from that perspective, it is SO rewarding. THANK YOU!

And yes, I too feel rich beyond measure! :)

rural momma said...

Meredith~~ I have been reading your blog for awhile now, and have even pointed people to it. ;0) You may have more then I do, but your posts come across in a loving and encouraging way. We are frugal out of necessity and not really out of want. We do own a house and have no other payments besides that. However, our household income is around $30,000 for a famlily of 6. Many in todays world would say that I should go to work so we can have more. What more do we need?? No, we do not have the fancy new gadgets and clothes, but we have a love that transcends all those things. You also have that love and it shows through your writings. We are all in different places and thats why the internet is so great, because we can learn from those we never would "know" otherwise. :0)

Anonymous said...

I love being thrifty and I thank the Lord, and my best friend for showing me the way of Thrift stores. Now to make sure I dont go thrift store crazy I try to make sure that what I buy is a need, not just a want. Because of our thrifty/frugal life style we have been living now for the past several several years, we can see we will be completely debt free within this year, which of course will make all credit card/banks around the world cry because they will no longer get interest from

Anonymous said...

Amen! I read this yesterday and just HAD to show my husband - he loved the "all of what they need and some of what they want" statement especially.

We're still renting, paying down the credit card debt we got stuck with when we got forced into helping pay for our wedding (my FIL had offered a certain amount of money to help my folks out, only to reneg a month before the wedding...), and we have student loans. DH's car will be paid off in November, my car shortly after that, and honestly....Once we get that CC debt paid down Dec 1st (that is the absolute last day I'll carry a balance if I can humanly avoid it!), all we'll owe on is student loans and rent. But honestly, we're going to start looking for a home in the next year once all that is paid off - this market is great for first time homebuyers if you've got a nice downpayment (which we will, PTL!).

Sure, we have digital cable and digital internet...we both have cell phones, but these are our splurges. With an almost 8 month old, it isn't like we're out dining on fine china and linens once a week... :) And we love it this way!

This entire post makes me think of John Piper's book, Desiring God - it is worth a read! I think every one of you ladies will enjoy it and Piper's view of 'Christian Hedonism" (otherwise known as 'enjoying the blessings God grants us!).

Have a good friday, everyone!

Anonymous said...

I just think that some of your comments come across as condescending to those of us who don't pinch EVERY penny, who don't re-use mylar balloons, who sometimes buy v-tech toys, can be frugal or thrifty without going to the extreme as you do.
Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy your blog and have read for some time now but I do feel that at times there is an undercurrent attitude of how much better you and your family are and how it makes you a better Christian\person to be SO thrifty.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

I understand frugal living to be where one chooses to save in one (or more)area in order to spend more in the area that they *really* want. I can see all of your savings from groceries and thrift shops, but do not see where you are benefitting.

It's funny, as a person who is very much not frugal and has a lot to work on in that department, it's so clear to me where you're "benefitting".

It seems to me that becoming frugal involves wonderful mental and spiritual discipline: you learn not to feel entitled to everything you want; you train yourself to appreciate the luxury that you already have; you learn to turn to God rather than your Visa card when a new need arises. I would imagine that seeking frugality would also help you realize that sacrifice is part of life, and that, contrary to what our culture tells us, the meaning of life is not to get cool stuff that you like.

All of these things are so healthy and are essential for a life of peace and fulfillment...(and are all things I need to work on). To me, it seems like that's probably a big part of what you're "getting out of it." :)

Sarah said...

Thanks for such a beautiful post! I love reading your blog and all your creative ideas!

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

This was a really lovely post to read.

This SAHW is about to run to her husband's office now with gift bags of homemade sweet breads for the coworkers who went above and beyond to help the hubby this week. Do I wish that we could do more, such as giving gift cards or something? Sometimes, but as most of his coworkers are bachelors, the homemade touch really resonates with them. He's even had a few of his married coworkers say that they wish their wives stayed home. We both take that as a compliment. We don't have all the latest gadgets, and I know my techie husband would like that, but we both truly believe the benefits outweigh the negatives with me at home.

For what it's worth, I didn't take the original question to be condescending, nor have I ever thought your blog has a holier-than-thou tone. I've always found it pleasant and instructive. But then, we all read with our personal backgrounds to color our perceptions.

Sandy said...

Hi Meredith, First of all, is that YOU in that top picture? :)
We have very little debt, too. A house payment! Two cars but totally pd. for and we pay extra on our house each month. What a relief, it's miserable living the other way!
Great post. When do you get your Volvo back?

Anonymous said...

Your post and all the affirmative comments really touch my heart. They are in direct contrast to the spendy, trendy consumer mentality that I see most often around me.
There's a bumper sticker around here that says "live simply so that others may simply live." For me and my family, thrift and simplicity is necessary because of our budget right now, but we also view it as necessary to our Christinity and will continue to be frugal even if our incomes increase.
I'm annoyed that anonymous 1:13pm left such a cheap shot. You, Meredith, have been full of ideas and non-judgemental all along. If that person feels judged, that goes with him/her.

Anonymous said...

I've learned to be "content in all circumstances" and look at life from a new perspective.

These frugal blogs have really encouraged me and many others to see that frugality is not a punishment or something to be worshipped but rather a gift and something we must do.

We live very comfortably and I'm happy with how blessed we are.

Heather said...

Beautiful post. Makes me reflect on how blessed I am, too.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post! I know some remarked that they felt you were being condescending, but I want to encourage you that you write these things so gently. I don't like electronic gadgets for children to "stim" on, and so I smiled when you mentioned how glad you are your toddler didn't waste time with a V-Tech toy. Even if I did have them, I'd not have taken your tone in a condescending way but rather as a "hmmm let's think about this. Is she on to something?" That is what I think when you comment on things I am not doing but that I am encouraged to consider by your mentioning it. So thank you for being honest even if some won't like it. :) Be bold. :)

Daiquiri said...

I love this post - been thinking about it all day. The phrase "my children have all that they need and some of what they want" rings in my ear :) Very sweet.

BTW - it was sure nice to see a picture of you with you kids. Beautiful family:)

Carolyn said...

I think it's funny that one of your readers couldn't see how obvious your benefits are. Every time I read your blog I can see what a happy life you lead and the blessing you have of being at home with your children instead of dropping them off at daycare early in the morning, picking them up late at night, and missing all the wonderful moments in between when they are growing up. I can also see that you have a lot of fun with frugality. It's not a life of deprivation to be frugal, it's an intelligent way to live your life without buying into our society's message that you have to spend, spend, spend on fancy things to be happy. I can also see that you enjoy the challenge of using your creativity in ways that save money and help your family stay out of debt.

Thank you for your example.

Anonymous said...

The thing I see most is that you are living well on one income and able to stay home and enjoy your children! What a treasure that is! Priceless really, and something so many feel they "can't afford". I think this is the biggest benifit to your frugal living, and an inspiration to all who would love to invest more in home and family but are having a hard time seeing how to make the numbers work.

Meredith said...

I feel like I need to address this comment directly:

I just think that some of your comments come across as condescending to those of us who don't pinch EVERY penny, who don't re-use mylar balloons, who sometimes buy v-tech toys, can be frugal or thrifty without going to the extreme as you do.

I'm sorry you feel this way. This is a personal blog, and I can't always escape my personal preferences.

I don't go to the extreme in every case, but if I know of a cheaper way, I like to mention it.

Maybe it will help someone who truly needs to know--like a reader who can afford only 1 birthday balloon, and wrote to say she was thrilled to learn she could reuse it for all 3 kids.

As for my post about V-tech toys vs. playing in the mud--that was certainly not a holier-than-thou line. My daughter is banging away on one of their toy computers right now.

I was reminding myself--and anyone who cares to read--how much MORE fun my kids seem to have in simple activities. Reminding myself that I don't need to buy so many toys.

I do feel that at times there is an undercurrent attitude of how much better you and your family are and how it makes you a better Christian\person to be SO thrifty.

I am so sorry you feel that way. I feel like God gave us each a set of talents, and saving money happens to be one of mine. I share my ideas and projects because others have always asked me for advice and help in this area.

Do I think it makes me a better Christian? Definitely NOT.

Does it make me a better person? No.

But I hope that my talent for saving money helps me accomplish other goals, many of which are tied to my faith.

As for my family being better, I do feel that I am lucky to have a family and one that is relatively secure at the moment.

I grew up without stability or money; perhaps I understand better than most that my entire life could turn on a dime.

For that reason I am unashamed to celebrate this happy life as long as it lasts.

Carolyn said...

Hmmm. I'm sad that someone left you a rude anonymous comment.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I take it back that is was rude! I too did feel that it was kinda of an insulting question at first! But, maybe to someone new who has not had to live this way it would seem overwhelming and with no purpose. But to those of us that this is just a way of life it does seem like a no brainer. I have to remember that sometimes too. Not everyone around you is going to see the point or even care why you do what you do. You just have to stand fast in your beliefs and carry them through. you will see the light at the end of the tunnel when noone else can!
Thankx for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

Ok I was talking about my previous comment. Not that I was saying she was acting holier than thowl(SP) I totally got that post and do not know what that person was so up in the air about. Sorry just read my comment and was afraid people would mistake me for the other anonymous person.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I just started reading your blog (recommended by MoneySavingMom). From the comments, it looks like you have a wonderful outlook on life, and people appreciate it. I used to be a stay home mom and military wife, so I remember what it was like. Now, I work full time and go to school. I live in one of those "sunny locations" where relatives hope to stay for free. Usually I don't mind, but when I am busy with work or school, they can get quite pushy. When they are here, they eat my food, use my gas, and expect me to entertain them and watch their children (some teenagers). I love my family but they wear me out.
I haven't read all of your posts, but I hope that when you visit your relatives in sunny locations, you bring food and gifts for everyone.
I have a friend who lives in a resort town. They have a rule for guests. We can sleep there if we plan and get the date approved in advance, but we plan (and pay for) our own meals, do our own laundry(including the sheets and towels) and if my schedule and theirs happens to coincide, we do something together. It is a lovely arrangement and we bring gifts of fresh fruits and bottles of wine for their hospitality. A no stress vacation.
_A Southeastern Beach Reader

Meredith said...

Thanks for your input, Southeastern Beach reader!

Let me clarify that we're not mooching off relatives for free vacations!

We visit these people because they are our closest relatives--not because they live in resort towns.

We would still be using whatever vacation time we have to visit them, even if they lived in Detroit.

That said, it is nice to feel like we've traveled someplace exotic even when we're visiting the grandparents.

I share many of your thoughts on being a guest and wrote about them here last year:

How To Be A Welcomed Guest

Anonymous said...

That's a great post. :) I didn't mean to insult you that you were a moocher. Maybe I should trade you for some of my in laws...haha.

I would welcome relatives that helped out around here. One relative, and one friend from high school, even pushed to visit when my husband was going through cancer therapy. They were quite insulted when I turned them down. Your family is lucky to have you.
SE Beach Reader

PS Yes, I too feel a little guilty having all of the blessings that I have.

V and Co. said...

love it. you inspire.

Thrifty Mom said...

Your site has inspired me in so many ways. Living frugally is something to strive for. It doesn't mean not living well. It means not fearing a phone call from a creditor, it means not fearing your credit card will be rejected at the check out. It means raising your children to know people are more important than things. Family time is more important than whether you have the newest gadget.
It means living a stress free life so that you can focus on what is really important. You inspire and encourage us all on our mission to wonderful gracious living!
I think people have gotten so used to living in debt that they can't imagine another way of life. They also don't realize the pressure they are living with.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a load of excellent comments. Someone above mentioned the "spiritual discipline" aspect of frugality, and I think that's an important piece of this. There's a lot to be said for frugality as a way of avoiding gluttony, wastefulness, laziness, discontent, foolishness, and more.