I'm writing this post for 2 reasons. I want to show you how I can hardly make a decision that doesn't at least strongly consider frugality. Second, I want to give you some ideas on how to use math in your favor to be frugal and/or overcome frugality.
I'm going to give you some real numbers here and some of you are going to say WAIT! That's not frugal - that's a lot of dough. Others are going to say "I spend WAY more than that". The amount isn't so much the point as is the mindset. I remember learning early on in my life that there will always be more to buy and you will always be able to feel like you don't have enough, if you let it. In other words - the more you make the more you spend. To combat this - try thinking in percentages or hours worked. In other words, if you bought lunch today, that may have cost $5. If you make $5 an hour, that's worth 1 hour of work! Or, if you make $40 per day, that's worth 12.5% of your daily gross income. I use this technique with older kids who ask me for things as a way to explain to them how much things cost and the importance of understanding how wage works. I use minimum wage as an example (and stress the importance of working hard to make more than minimum wage) and then explain that the (insert football, soda, etc.) that they want to buy would mean they'd have to work 2 hours (or whatever) to earn...it gives them another perspective.
(It gives us one too if we think about it that way).
So here are my two examples of how I think about frugality and work it into our spending plan.
Example 1 - Home Decoration
My home has 17 rooms. I've lived in it for 2 years. All of the rooms are the original beige from when it was built in 2005, except one, which was painted sage-ish green before we moved in. Since then we've painted the kitchen (though not behind the refrigerator) and Summer's room. Logan's room is partially painted (and has been for about a year). That's it. We more than doubled the sq. footage from our last home so we have several rooms that aren't "setup" at all - the office, the craft closet, the media room - and all the rest are just filled in with what we have. I'm frugal. According to our adoption homestudy our home is "practically decorated". That it is.
Last night my hubby sent me to the store to buy decorations for the guest room downstairs seeing as how my mom will be visiting soon and it was looking pretty shabby. We don't have any bedroom furniture sets in our house and this room is no exception. When we began decorating last night it had the queen size futon my hubby's had since he was a teenager, a cheap desk from Walmart or Target my hubby bought for our old house, and Summer's nap-time pack n' play. There were curtains left from the previous owner. Basically it was ready for a makeover.
I'm a closet interior decorator. I love to do it. I'm bold with color. I just don't get around to it much. It takes patience. It takes a babysitter (I just won't paint with my current set of kiddos around - too chaotic). It takes money.
Anyway - I went shopping for 90 minutes to buy "a couple hundred dollars" of stuff to decorate. My hubby was thinking wall decor but I knew we needed a new bedding set and curtains to really make a difference. I shopped all of kohls. I shopped all of Target. (that's all that was open at 8:30pm on Sunday night). I didn't find anything that struck me as the right quality for a low-low price. I didn't find anything that gave me vision for the room when we were ready to paint. I couldn't imagine buying new curtains and new bedding and wall decor and eventually new furniture. But I wanted a relaxing escape that matched the rest of my house. I did find two bedding sets that would work - one with a greenish hue and one with an orange/brown/burgandy/taupe color.
I decided on the orange/brown/burgandy/taupe set. Why? Because I knew if I bought that set I'd be able to reuse the decor from my old guest bedroom that happened to have been painted the same color orange. I ended up buying the queen bedding set, 4 panels of curtains (one set of thermal), 4 new pillows, a new double rod curtain holder, and a wicker hamper for about $275 (including the 5% discount for using the Target debit card). When I got home my hubby helped me fix the bed up, hang the curtains, position the hamper, and hang the mirror and 6 matching pictures that we'd already had sitting in a closet. It still needs paint and one day a nice furniture set, but for today it is a beautifully decorated room. I'm re-purposing the existing curtains and curtain rod to go into the dining room - the room that was painted sage green and the one I'd say is the most "done".
Example 2 - Sea World
Last weekend we vacationed in Sea World - we needed to get at least one more use of the annual pass we'd acquired through a hotel package that included free Sea World passes. (Before I go further, yes I believe the hotel rate was inflated at least a little to accommodate the tickets). In any case - last year we were able to go to Sea World 2x for "free" but I felt we needed to use them again to make it worth it. So I found a buy 2 get one free hotel deal (at the same hotel as last year) so we could spend a couple more days at the park.
Entry to Sea World was "free" so we added a few extras. We ate breakfast with the Sesame Street characters day 1. Day 2 we rented a cabana. This was the BEST DEAL EVER! Here's how it worked:
For $199 you got the following:
-4 Sea World Towels ($40)
-1 bottle of sunscreen ($10)
-2 Large pizzas ($40)
-8 bottles of water ($16)
-8 bottles of soda ($16)
-8 bags of chips ($16)
-4 Ice Cream Bars ($10)
-4 Unlimited Quick Queue passes (jump to the front of the line on rides, all day) - ($140)
-Locker Rental (in the cabana, private locker with refrigerator and freezer) - $10
Of course with all that you also got all day use of the cabana which a great place to put our stuff, gave our kids a place to nap in the park, gave us a private place to eat where our kids could be crazy (or not), and had a ceiling fan. We also had a private visit from the characters with plenty of time for interaction and pictures. It was a special treat for the kids. It was a huge blessing for us.
So, from my estimation with just the tangible items the cabana rental was worth $298 if we purchased things separately. It was listed for $199. We paid $160 - you got a 20% discount if you were an annual pass holder, which we were, because we got "free" tickets from our hotel room last year.
Yes, $160 is a lot of money and we could have really not spent anything. That being said we learned last year that investing in the Quick Queue passes was a huge blessing for a family like ours because of the ages of our kids. The ones big enough are not really patient enough to wait in lines but I do want them to learn they have to delay gratification. The bigger help is for the parent staying off with the kiddos not big enough to ride who have to sit there in the stroller just waiting - if they had to do that for an hour or more waiting for their brother and sister to get off the ride it would really suck, especially because we go in the summer when it's really hot. Either that or we would have to have one parent go off and do a "little kid thing" with the little kids and one go off and do the "big kid thing" with the big kids. Our family spends enough time apart so it is worth it to us to spend the $140 and we'd planned on it, which meant it cost us $20 for everything else. One meal for 6 could have easily cost $20 even if we'd brought it into the park or left it in our car so we could have a picnic. We could have made the food they gave us last all day - due to a storm we chose to buy dinner and get out of the rain (which of course we could have done in the cabana too) - so that means everything else was "free".
That's how I look at it - I'll happily spend money on something, if I have it to spend, if I can see the value in the purchase. Alternatively, I have a hard time spending money just to spend it or on luxuries like home decorating or cabana comfort.
Just a little glimpse into my head :)