Being frugal isn’t the key to frugality?! Martin, the name of your blog is ‘Be Frugal Be Happy, what on earth are you saying? That doesn’t make any sense?! If you are frugal in your everyday life then surely you surely reach the zen-like state of frugality?!? How could you lie to me!!
Calm down solitary reader (probably Mum), let me explain.
I’ve never had to diet. Lucky me right?! However I do know that millions try each year to shed the pounds to improve their health, their fitness and their bods. Millions try and close to the same number fail. New Years resolutions are broken by mid February. May if you are ‘serious’.
Goals. The ‘why’.
Why are you doing what you are doing? How will it change your life in the long term and make you and those around you happier?
When it comes down to it, that is ultimately why we do anything in life. We believe it will give us and those we care about a better quality of life, based on our own definitions of what this entails.
Telling ourselves we’re saving and investing to have more money to make us happier isn’t enough though. What’s our exact goal for that money, how exactly will we use it to make us happier?
Without a clear defined goal for saving, losing weight or achieving any kind of success, we find too many excuses to give up and we don’t have the motivation to follow through with our resolutions when the times inevitably get tough.
My wife and I recently went on a camping tour of the U.K countryside traveling from our home just south of London to the Brecon Beacons in Wales, then onto Shropshire, up to the Peak District and then met my parents in a cottage in Suffolk.
It was incredible. Being pretty much alone in the countryside, to discover new places, go on hikes over some of the most stunning parts of the U.K and visit some quaint stereotypically English castles. We felt free, relaxed and generally pretty damn happy!
Now I know the cynic in myself and others would say that this is typical of getting away from work for 2 weeks. Of course we’re going to be more relaxed and generally better to be around than after slogging a 40+ hour week. True. But that isn’t really the point.
We’ve both always loved the countryside and want to live and bring up future children in a more rural environment, despite loving living near London and all it has to offer at the same time.
A more rural lifestyle, living more ‘simply’ and off less is the primary goal of our frugality. To be able to live in a surrounding that we feel as relaxed as we possibly can, to be able to work as much or as little as we like in whatever field we like (maybe quite literally).
That’s what motivates me to not buy random crap I know I don’t need, to go over my direct debits and cancel that ‘tastecard’ that not only costs a fiver a month, but encourages me to eat out more, to cook every night and take food for lunch, to sell a second car we had that was useful on occasions, but not worth the insurance costs.
Without that goal, there would be little purpose to making those changes. With it, life choices and daily habits have a lot at stake. Habits most certainly define how we live our lives.
I was recently on Twitter and read a Tweet from possibly the most popular advocator of frugality out there, Mr Money Mustache.
He commented that some members of his online forum were saying that they would only recommend his older posts which primarily dealt with how to live a frugal life, as opposed to his newer ones which tend to focus more on how he uses his, now fairly significant wealth in order to develop projects to help his local community and like-minded ‘mustachians’.
Whilst I agree that the earlier posts are incredibly useful in providing practical information regarding living frugally and obtaining Financial Independence, without the latter, the former is completely pointless.
In this case, MMM’s goals for frugality are clearly wide ranging. To spend more time with his family, to work as much or as little as he likes and to engage in the types of community projects he documents in his later posts. Without documenting that those goals can be achieved through living a frugal life and achieving FI, then what really is the point of doing it all in the first place.
His later posts demonstrate that his goals can be achieved through living a frugal life. If we believe that our goals, hopes and dreams can be achieved through frugality too, then we of course are going to naturally want to live more frugally. Not only that, but we’ll take pleasure in it.
The key to being frugal and more importantly staying frugal is the goal. The dream. We certainly haven’t got our goals as clear as we would perhaps like, but I’m a student of the frugal life as many of us are, so it’s a work in progress. Our goals will inevitably evolve and may even completely change as time goes on, but having a shared goal as a couple and a vision of what we want for our future gives us the motivation to remain frugal. Not depriving ourselves of things that bring us joy unnecessarily, but just making a conscious effort to not be wasteful and pay ourselves first.
Being frugal isn’t the key to frugality. Having goals that keep our frugality on track is.