If you’re reading this blog, chances are saving money and living beneath your means matter to you. They matter tremendously to me, too! Working to this end has helped me stay at home with my two children, helped our family pay off debt, and put food on the table.
But as of late, I’ve been contemplating pursuits that may seem “frugal-ish,” for lack of a better word, but may not really be the cheapest option available. Or maybe just hobbies you’ve taken up that seemingly don’t gel with a money-saving lifestyle. Today, I wanted to expand on this topic and then provide an opportunity to hear from you.
The Simple Life
Consider if you only learned how to use a calculator – that you had no concept of how math worked. Sure, you could bring that calculator with you everywhere you went, but isn’t there a bigger freedom in having that calculator and also being able to quickly add, subtract, multiply, and divide on the fly?
This is exactly why I’ve taken considerable time in my own life and here on the blog to write about things such as: making your own bread, canning applesauce, dehydrating fruit, and making your own laundry soap. There’s something inspiring about making something from scratch that you just buy at the store every week. It’s empowering, isn’t it?
Many of these pursuits will save you money either short- or long-term. But let’s not kid ourselves, sometimes they don’t save you money. And if that’s the case, why bother?
Value Beyond Frugality
The other day I shared a photo on my Facebook profile of a cooking project I just completed. One of my friends shared that she used to cook that way, but couldn’t do so any more due to the cost involved. (If you’re really curious about what I cooked up now, patience…promise, I’ll be sharing it here soon!)
There are times when saving money trumps everything. Job loss, income loss, unexpected expenses, emergencies. In these situations, you are operating from “how can we live for the least amount of money possible?” I get that, because that’s been us at different points in our family.
Other times, you might find different goals that sometimes compete with saving money. Here are a few examples of hobbies and pursuits I’ve taken on and the value they’ve provided beyond saving a buck:
Gardening. Lots of people will tell you it’s cheaper to grow your own food, but I’m going to argue “not necessarily”. Particularly when you are getting started. No doubt, there are ways you can save (check out Erica’s Urban Gardening posts for some ideas), but chances are you’re going to need dirt, seeds, supplies, and possibly lumber, compost, tools, and other related items. Let me fill you in on a secret: when we started our garden three years ago, saving money wasn’t our primary goal. Our goals were: 1) to turn our yard into more usable space, 2) to fulfill a desire I had to start this hobby, and 3) to appreciate the work and reward of growing your own food and work to eat a better diet. We’ve been relandscaping for the past four years now, paying cash and doing it ourselves to save on costs. The past few weeks I’ve enjoyed not buying salad or smoothie greens and just picking them out of my garden, but we’re a long ways yet from breaking even on our investment.
Traveling. When you’re on a budget, traveling is probably the first thing to nix, right? Well, when my husband and I got married 10 years ago, we decided that traveling was a priority for us. It’s how we make memories as a family, and how conversations have the time to open up. Last fall, we splurged on a trip that screams anything but frugal – a trip to Disneyland. Now before you begin to think we up and go to Cabo or Bora Bora on a monthly basis, let me clarify a bit. Traveling for us can be as simple as getting in the car for a day trip or an overnight stay (usually bought with a Groupon) to a nearby town. To some this might feel like a wasted gas of tank, but I wouldn’t trade those day trips for anything. They’ve helped shape our family into the fun-loving, tight knit unit that it is.
Cooking (some forms, anyways). When I was in high school, my parents had me take this test to gauge where my strengths and interests lie to help me figure out a future career. (I apologize, I forget the name of said test.) The results indicated I should do something culinary. While I’m feeling fulfilled in a career that uses my love of writing, I have to agree with the test that yes, I LOVE cooking. I love creating new dishes in the kitchen, trying new foods, exploring different ingredients – it’s a form of play for me. While the large stock of recipes I make are budget-friendly, there are times I bust out the Grand Mariner for a decadent dish, or splurge on good quality balsamic from Pike Place, or bake something from scratch that would’ve been infinitely cheaper to buy pre-made. What am I doing? I’m playing, honing a skill, cultivating a hobby.
I’m sure if you thought about it, there are areas in your own life you can relate to the examples I shared above.
It’s all About Balance
In Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey explains that budgeting is a lot like choosing what to eat from a menu. You can’t have the steak and the prawns and the appetizer and the soup and still have money for cheesecake and a 40-year old port. You pick and choose.
Ramsey has real wisdom here, it’s simple truth, but good to remember. While we may like to getaway here and there, we don’t often buy fancy clothes (or really, go clothes shopping much at all). While I like to garden and cook, I don’t have other crafting hobbies. While I like to make fancy and complicated dishes on occasion, I often am doing probably exactly what you all are – clipping coupons and shopping with sales most of of the time.
And now, I’d love to hear from you. What pursuits have you taken on that don’t save money, but provide value in other ways? When does frugality take second seat? When does it trump everything else?