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Without overtly saying so, a typical theme on my website at Backdoor Survival and others like it is saving money. Whether it is making your own household products, finding new ways to repurpose old things, or showing you how to build stuff yourself, saving money is something widely promoted on most credible prepping and homesteading websites.
The truth is, being frugal simply makes sense. These are uncertain times and regardless of how fat your bank account, even the teeniest economic calamity will throw our lives into turmoil.
Some may say that being frugal is being cheap but the truth is, being frugal is an important part of being self-sufficient. Every prepper I know has the singular goal of taking care of their own needs with only nominal reliance on governments, politicians, Wall Street, supermarkets and shopping malls. That is my goal and if you are reading this, is undoubtedly your goal as well.
But how does it all come together? Surely there is a point where being frugal moves beyond being a burden and instead becomes part of an important quest for a better life. Finding this point – and mind you the exact point will differ from person to person – is what I like to call the sweet spot of frugal.
Frugal is a State of Mind
I have always maintained that living a frugal lifestyle means living a life without waste. It means being economical when it comes to utilizing resources (money, power, water, even words) so that those same resources can be spent on things that matter. And that is the crux of the deal: what matters to one person may be insignificant, excessive or even wasteful to someone else. It all gets down to choices.
You can be rich and be frugal. You can be poor and be a wasteful spendthrift. At the end of the day, frugal is a state of mind.
Wikipedia defines frugality as the practice of acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner, and resourcefully using already owned economic goods and services, to achieve a longer term goal.
Definitions aside, what does it mean to be frugal?
Six Ways to Be Frugal
1. Understand the difference between need and want.
There is not a darn thing wrong with wanting something. Where people get into trouble is failing to recognize and understand the difference between need and want. Needs are things that are required to live your life. Food, clothing and shelter, with all of their permutations, fall into the “need” bucket.
On the other hand, the want bucket includes a new car, a larger house, 20 different pairs of shoes and a vacation trip to Paris. There is nothing wrong with these things if you can afford them without sacrificing your needs or going in to debt.
2. Live Simply For the Sake of It
There is a special joy in living simply. That means eating , plain, wholesome foods (think soups, stews and garden fresh vegetables). It means creating your own household and personal care products. And it means pursuing family-oriented hobbies such as camping, fishing, hunting and even board games.
By choosing simplicity, you save money and are frugal by default. You live a life of doing rather than spending. Which gets us to the next point . . .
3. Do It Yourself
Whether you are you are growing your own food, remodeling your own home, or simply walking to your destination instead of driving, being frugal means you do things yourself, without reliance on others. Not everything, mind you. But some things. The important things. Things that give you satisfaction as well as the financial freedom you crave.
4. Use What You Have
Madison Avenue has bombarded us with gadgets and gizmos. Truthfully, do you really need that top of the line food processor to chop veggies when a solid chef’s knife will do? Do you really need a computer, a tablet, a Kindle, and an iPhone to browse the internet and jump on Facebook?
The 20th century spoiled us and now, well into the 21st century, our thirst for the latest and greatest has become part of our culture. Get over it!
Whatever you do, try not to get caught up in thinking that you need the newest, the biggest and the best. Sometimes the tools, gadgets and gizmos you already own are as good or better than anything new you can but. Just make sure that you take the time to learn how to use them. You just might be surprised at what they can do.
5. Repurpose the Old
When an item has served its useful life, look at it with new eyes. Can an old table be refinished? What about that old shirt? Can it be used while working outdoors in the yard or can it be cut up and used as rags?
No one wants to be a packrat, or heaven forbid, a hoarder, and collect useless old stuff, but give some consideration to the fact that the reason your discarded possessions are useless is that you purchased replacement items due to want and not need.
If that describes you, consider passing the useful but no longer needed items on to a family member or friend. Or sell them on Craigslist or Ebay, or donate the item to charity. Just remember that the right thing to do is clean up and repair your used items first so that they are serviceable. Don’t foist garbage on others.
6. Don’t Go Broke When Gifting
Gift giving is often a rote activity, mired in obligation rather than fondness and the desire to make someone happy. Once you jump off of the gilded gift-giving wagon, you might actually enjoy and look forward to the gift-giving process.
Make it a point to give gifts that are thoughtful and practical. Better yet, give the gift of memories or the gift of yourself. Ask yourself whether, in the big picture of life, will the recipient recall a special picnic you shared together or that expensive trinket that maxed out your credit card? Will they remember the time you took care of their children while they went on a much needed vacation or that expensive, but unwanted sweater that languishes unworn in the back of a closet?
When it comes to gifting, be practical and be simple. At the same time, ensure that your gift reflects your values and is not something that speaks of obligation rather than caring.
The Final Word – Embrace the Sweet Spot of Frugal
Are these the only steps towards becoming frugal? Of course not. On the other hand, they are easy things you can do now without adding complications to a life that is already to busy, too cluttered and too chaotic.
Before closing, I would like to share one last point. Never giving in to the wants in life – no matter how foolish and irresponsible it may seem to someone else – is stupid. Are you surprised by that?
Here is the deal. Life is for living in the here and now. That means that an occasional indulgence is okay. I give you permission for that. That said, most of the time, make your indulgences simple things that cost little money. But if you really, really want something and you can afford it, give in once in awhile. Think about it, dream about it, and then do it.
Life is to be enjoyed. The secret is to find the ultimate sweet spot of frugal that is right for you.
Until next time, make every day a prepping day!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: The article I wrote on DIY cleaning turned out to be hugely popular all around the web. In cased you missed it, here is a link to the article Prepper Checklist: DIY Cleaning Supplies and to some of the products that I use to make my own cleaners.
Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth, (Pack of 36): No list of DIY cleaning supplies would be complete without these wonderful microfiber cloths. They will last you for years and will allow you to replace paper towels forever. Truly. I color code using green for glass and windows and the other colors for everything else. I love these.
Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleanser: I know that Dr. Bronner’s Magic Castile soaps have a cult-like following but I prefer the Sal Suds. I call my DIY cleaner “Sudsy Sal”.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap: Of all of the Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps, peppermint is my favorite. I use it to make “Peppermint Magic”, an all purposed cleaner.
Peppermint Essential Oil: I favor peppermint and tea tree (Melaleuca) essential oil in my cleaning supplies. But there are many types of essential oils to choose from. Take your pick. One thing you will find is that a little goes a long way. The nice thing about essential oils from Spark Naturals is that they are also excellent for therapeutic and healing use and well as for use in DIY cleaning supplies. Just remember to use the code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout to get 10% off your order.
Mobile Washer: This is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub.
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