Keeping frugality in perspective

Don't obsess over saving every penny or clipping every coupon. Frugality shouldn't override your every decision, Hamm says.

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    A woman thumbs through a binder full of coupons that she carries on her grocery shopping trips at her home in Wilmington, N.C. in 2012. Being frugal can save you money, but Hamm says it's important to remember frugality doesn't come first.
    Mike Spencer/The Star-News/AP/File
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Frugality is simply a tool to ensure that whatever does come first in your life is well protected and facing a minimal amount of stress.

This is something I often have to remind myself of. I spend a fair amount of my time during the week reading personal finance blogs and other sites, looking for interesting links and ideas and perspectives.

When you spend time browsing through all of these people practicing and talking frugality, it’s really easy to let yourself focus on the nuts and bolts of maximizing every dollar and lose sight of the big picture.

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We don’t make meals in advance at home so we can be proud of the $2.50 we saved. We do it as a matter of routine so that we know we’re not overspending on food, which lets us save for that home in the country we dream of.

We don’t browse the community calendar for free activities so we can revel in the fact that we didn’t spend $20 at the movie theater. We do it because it’s fun, it’s a great way to meet people, and the fact that we’re also making sure the entertainment part of our budget stays under control is just a sweet kicker.

We don’t make our own laundry detergent so that we can pride ourselves on having a few more quarters in the change box. We do it so that our children can see such behaviors as normal and that adults think carefully about how they spend their money.

We aren’t frugal so that we can stare in slack-jawed awe at our growing net worth. We do it so that we’ll be able to take the entire family to France for a couple of weeks when they’re older without worrying a bit about how much the flight will cost and how overwhelmed our credit cards will be.

Frugality doesn’t come first.

It is a tool to fill the ordinary days so that the extraordinary ones come without stress.

It is a tool that we use to maximize the value of the things we do each day so that we have the resources to chase those bigger dreams.

It is a tool we use so that we can sleep well at night without financial stress hanging over our heads.

Saying that frugality makes you miserable is much like saying a hammer is bad because you can use it to smash your thumb. Frugality is a tool so that you can live the life you want by minimizing the cost of the stuff you don’t care about as much. Like all tools, there are good ways to use it and bad ways, and there are also times to put it aside.

If you let frugality come front and center in your life and if you let that ever-escalating bank account be the goal of things, then you’ve become a miser, and that’s an existence that leads to unhappiness.

Find the joy in your life. Use frugality to take care of the other things, the things that don’t bring you joy, so that the joyful elements can always stay in bloom.

The post Frugality Doesn’t Come First appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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