We like to talk a lot about frugality ’round these parts. And with the tough times folks have been facing lately, the value in such advice increases tenfold. But can I be honest with you? It’s getting — well — a little old.
And excessive. Haven’t you noticed that so many articles you read about saving money say the same things? Forego that Friday morning latte and brew it yourself. Don’t get your nails done on payday — paint ’em at home. Don’t have that date night at a restaurant — cook a romantic dinner in your own kitchen. Vacation? Fuhgeddaboudit — try a staycation!
And sometimes we need that advice. We can benefit from a nudge out of our routine. We can stand to be reminded that superfluous spending cuts into our budgets without adding any additional joy.
But what about when it does?
Sure, a latte you didn’t have to make yourself could be wasteful. But it could also be your pat on the back for a job well done. It could be your little way of supporting local business owners and working in a friendly chat with a barista. (And y’all already know how important I think it is to have positive interactions with strangers.) That pedicure? For some of us it might be a frivolous luxury. But what if that pedicure is bringing a smile to your face for weeks to come, even as you’re changing diapers for the millionth time in a day, or staying up late working on a project — again? As for dinners out and staycations — of course they’re an indulgence. But occasionally you just need that change of venue and a hot meal that doesn’t come with a load of dishes to wash.
Being told to forego the small things that add a sense of luxury to life can wear you down and fill you with senseless guilt. In other words, sometimes we have to un-pinch our pennies.
If you really do need to scrimp these days? Well, I’m not going to tell you money isn’t important when I know very well that it is. And I won’t insult your intelligence with yet another list of thrifty ideas that you could probably come up with yourself. You know your money better than I do. I’ll just tell you this: tighten your belt here and there and do what you have to do. But when the worry is gone, enjoy what you’ve got. Treat yourself, treat the ones you love, and treat the world to a kinder, less pinched you.
When you potluck with your husband’s friend’s wife’s third cousin, instead of eating out, don’t use your savings on an extra 401(K) deposit. Instead, spend it on that whimsical elephant teapot you’ve been eyeing guiltily. If you choose to update an old purse with a scarf instead of buying a new handbag, don’t even think about your investment portfolio. Instead, splurge on that six-pack of French-milled soaps you’ve been lusting after. You don’t have to be a material girl, per se-but value yourself enough to be self-indulgent when it’ll do your heart some good.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that you never really needed to pinch in the first place. You may have just gotten swept along in all the doom and gloom talk that came along for the ride in this recession. Is your financial situation really as bad as you’ve been saying, or is it just the push to make more money, have a bigger house, a nicer car and multiple retirement plans? If you’ve got a roof over your head, enough to eat, a little safety net, and plenty of time for the ones you love, why fret over ways to have more?
There’s a fine line between saving and hoarding. There’s a difference between being thrifty and being tight. Tight is not a place you want to go. Tight means squeezing so much blood from the turnip that you can’t even cut it up and savor the flavor afterward. Tight says, I’m not worth the expense, and you aren’t either. Worse yet, tight makes you a slave to money. And when you’re a slave to money, you will never, ever have enough. Are we willing to take that kind of risk over a three-buck latte?
Extra whipped cream, please.