Frugal Family…What it is and isn’t

When I began this blog two weeks ago, I gave an introduction to what it was about. But since that time, my friends’ list has more than double…and I have received a couple of comments that make me feel that perhaps I need to clarify a bit as well.

So let’s begin with a few things we are not:

It is not about being perfect. I am not and I have reached a point in life that I accept I never will be perfect.

It is not about a particular family lifestyle or structure. Our families have may have two parents working outside the home, or a full-time homemaker, or even single parents.

It is not about never buying things we want. Our economies rely on us spending money as well as saving it.

It is not about being green. I will never be listed on the Friends of the Earth site or similar groups, simply because I do not go far enough.

It is not about health food. Again, I simply do not go far enough.

So what then is this Frugal Family and its four core values all about? More than anything else it is about changing the way we think, which will ultimately result in the way we behave. Put simply…it is about making us think about actions that may have become nothing more than habits. Sometimes this will be uncomfortable; even for me. I will be challenged by some of you that are perhaps greener or healthier than my family. But it is about being able to think about those things that challenge us most…and recognise the truth; even we do not change our behaviours. It is about learning our limits if you will.

A preacher I once knew said it best…it is about spitting and chewing. In any message, there are truths that we simply are not able to digest at that point in our lives or development. For those, it is about saying…s/he has a good point, but I’m just not ready/able to do that right now. You have then examined what may have been nothing more than a habit and turned it into an actual choice whereby you accept responsibilities for its consequences. Mine is Pepsi. I recognise that it breaks every last one of my core values, but at this point I am not ready to give it up. And that is alright for me…and there will be things in my blog that you will feel as strongly about.

So let’s look again at those four core values as I call them:

Family first. This is about finding new ways or reviving old ones that will allow us to spend more time together as a family…and make the time we do spend together more valuable. It is a value that can apply to your family whether you have two parents working full-time jobs, whether the mum (or the dad) is able to stay home with the children, or if you are a single parent. How do I know this? Because I have been in all those situations at various times in my life. Likewise it can work if you are middle-class, working class or even on benefits. And I have been in all those situations too. It is about talking together over dinner. It is about sharing the kitchen with our children. It is even about watching television together…something we rarely do anymore. It is above all about stealing every moment we can together…and treasuring each as special.

Saving money. It is about simple things like trying to get our grocery bills down, or saving money on our gas and electric bills. It is about re-decorating our homes on almost no money. It is about looking at when to shop at charity shops, when to purchase new at discounters and when it is worth it to invest in name-brand quality goods. It is also about wants and needs, and the place that each has in our lives.

Environmentally friendly. It is about the little things that all of us can do without changing our lifestyles markedly. It is about the adage reduce, re-use, and recycle and considering when each is appropriate for our lives and families. Because I believe that if we all did those little things each and every day, it would make a huge difference.

Living healthier. It is not about shopping at health food stores or avoiding all processed foods (although I admit I admire those that can and do). It is about taking baby steps if you will. Recognising where we are and changing the things we can. And likewise accepting those we can’t or won’t. If your family eats mostly take-out or ready-meals, this may be about learning to make one or two of those things at home. Maybe it is even about just cooking homemade once a week at first. Or walking from the Tube station, which takes ten minutes, instead of taking the bus, which may take five minutes.

So to the environmentalist on my list, I applaud you…teach us. To those who swear off all processed foods, I admire you…teach us. To those who save a substantial amount of their income, wow…teach us. But please also bear with the rest of us…and I hope that you will find other ideas that will help you as well. This blog is about the average Western family, who is never has enough hours in the day or money in the bank. It is about those of us, who want to take steps sometimes baby ones and sometimes huge leaps, towards being better stewards of the precious human bodies and environments we have been given. It is a message that I believe cuts across all genders, faiths, classes and race.

So I hope you will continue this imperfect journey with me as we strive to do just a bit better at spending more time together, saving money, and living greener and healthier lives.

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