Would you ever think that frugality could help you be a more self-confident individual? I’m here to tell you that it can! I attribute my growing self-confidence in part to the frugal lifestyle I’ve been leading for the past three years. Living a frugal lifestyle is pretty basic and simple. You just don’t spend money unless you need to, you say no to people, and you ask people if you can borrow stuff. Pretty simple, right? Maybe so, but it ain’t easy. These behaviors require kick-butt communication skills, which you may (or may not) have honed in high school or college. Saying no and asking people for help builds not only your self-confidence and causes others to rethink the way they do things – it also fosters community.
Living below your means requires that you go against the grain daily. When you have ambitious goals of paying off debt early, i.e. your student loans, car, or house, you have to tell your friends, family, and coworkers that little two-letter word that nobody wants to hear, the word ‘no.’ You also have to tell yourself no – and often. I can’t decide what’s harder, telling other people no or telling yourself no. It’s not easy to say no, especially if you are a people pleaser, but practicing it will help you build self-confidence because people will look at you funny and they will judge you. But people are going to judge you no matter what you do. Would you rather have money in your savings account to cover an emergency like your air conditioning going out in the middle of August – and be judged – or would you rather have no money in your savings account and have to put your new HVAC on a credit card, then be stressed out for months while you try and pay it off – and be judged anyway?
Invite your friend over for “coffee in” – and save $5!
If your frugal existence is a new endeavor, then already you have witnessed the reactions from your coworkers and friends when you turn down their invitations to lunch, coffee, or dinner out. One of my coworkers is always doing something fun on the weekends, so on Monday morning when we are catching up and he is asking me what I did over the weekend, I feel like Andy from the 40 Year Old Virgin in the opening scene of the movie when he tells Seth Rogan’s character that his weekend consisted of craving an egg salad sandwich, going to the store for the ingredients, and making one. When we first started working together, I felt like Andy and cared about what he thought, but now I couldn’t care less. I have more self-confidence now. I’ve practiced saying no enough times that people’s reactions just don’t faze me anymore. It’s very liberating!
Part of my growing self-confidence is due to my age. In two months I’ll be 35 and, as each year goes by, I find myself caring less and less what others think about me. Ten years ago I cared too much what others thought of me. I was all about going out to eat, buying expensive home décor and trendy clothes, and looking a certain way. My peers spend money they don’t have on hip, foodie restaurants, the mall for retail therapy, traveling, brand new cars, destination weddings, professional photography for any life occasion you can think of, over-the-top kid birthday parties, home renovations, and just generally buying anything they can think of that they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. This is the norm.
I think our generation spends money like this because we want to fit in and we also expect to have a house as nice as our parents. But what we sometimes don’t see is the fact that it has taken our parents 30 years or more to have such a nice house. Also, technology and Smartphones have conditioned us to be instantly gratified. We want what we want and we want it NOW. Also, our society has instilled in us the idea that debt is just a part of life and that everyone has a mortgage, and that student loan debt is “good” debt. But this doesn’t have to be the norm, and we do have options. Frugality gives us options, as the Frugalwoods have written about in this blog piece.
Recently I got to practice my communication skills by asking to borrow items from friends and neighbors. For example, a good friend of mine at work has a baby who is 3 months older than mine. I knew she had one of those Johnny Jump Ups (almost $40 on Amazon), and that Baby Noah would love to jump up and down in it. I asked her if we could borrow it and she kindly said yes. There was no need for us to buy one, score! $40 immediately stayed in our pockets. We don’t need to own one because Noah will be too big for it in just a few months. Frugality also helps preserve the environment. With less stuff circulating the planet, there is less to throw away and less things sitting in landfills.
This same friend has loaned me so many things (she is so giving, I don’t know what I would do without her). Maternity shorts, breastfeeding cover-up scarves, baby clothes, and a Chicco stroller, which is a pricey item that most new parents wouldn’t think twice about buying new, so that saved us at least $100. Another friend gave us her son’s car seat and bases, which are not expired (I didn’t know car seats expire, but they do!) and has never been involved in an accident (car seats that have been involved in a crash are no longer considered safe because the materials have been compromised due to the impact of the crash). Recognizing that we don’t actually need to own any of these items (due to the need for them being very short-term) has helped us save so much money that we have been able to apply to our debt.
Last week Scott and I have been cleaning up the exterior of our house, and we needed to pressure wash our siding because it was really dirty, so I asked our neighbors next door (who are just wonderful) if they own a pressure washer. Low and behold they did, and they gladly let us borrow it, which meant we didn’t have to pay Home Depot or Lowe’s to rent or buy one. Since then, they invited us to a cookout at their house and we’ve gotten to know them better, and are closer as a result. Frugality not only gives us options, it helps build community, and this is just one example of how it’s done.
Next time you want or think you need to buy/own something, ask yourself if it’s something you might be able to borrow from a friend, coworker, or neighbor. Don’t be shy – ask someone. And, if you can’t borrow it, wait 72 hours before buying it. Sometimes, as time goes by, we lose our excitement for things we want or think we need. This weekend I was hot for some new throw pillows for our living room sectional (because I want to change the colors). I made myself wait 72 hours and then reassessed my feelings about new pillows, and I’m glad I did, because now I’m kind of over them. I don’t feel as “hot” for new pillows as I did on Saturday when I was honestly just bored, and shopping sounded fun.
Next time someone asks you to join them for lunch, coffee, or dinner out, or to go on a shopping expedition at Target (when you daggon well KNOW that Target is your epic downfall) be confident and just say no! Suggest going for a walk instead – it’s good for the body and the soul! Don’t take people’s reactions personally. You just might inspire them to spend less money, too! You really will be surprised at how much money you can save by practicing your communication skills and asking to borrow things, and also by waiting 72 hours to buy something you’re “hot” for. So, go forth and say no, ask to borrow, and wait!!