So how frugal really is too frugal? Thinking back to my college (or actually post B.A., but pre-M.S. days) days when I would save drink cups from fast food places (which I now realize was tacky and none-too-smart...hello the drinks are their biggest mark-up...why buy it in the first place if I am trying to be frugal!;) and eat top ramen and mac n' cheese for two of my three meals! I realize that for me, that was too frugal. I think there were some valuable lessons I learned from that time, I could have learned them in smarter, healthier way.
Some of my frugal misadventures have included the above mentioned ramen/mac n'cheese diet, with some frozen mixed veggies and a can of tuna mixed in for good measure. During that time I lived on a $40/month grocery budget. Crazy I know! I think that included food I shared with a roommate as well...which makes it even crazier. But it makes sense when you think about ramen being about $0.10/package, store brand mac n' cheese was 5/$1 where I bought it, and I had cereal, milk, a little juice and one can of soda pop a day. Add some green beans or mixed veg, occasional tuna and very little else and that works out to be about a buck a day. Crazy!
Looking back at that time I realize that I was a bit on the depressed side and overweight, and I think diet carries a good share of the blame. The benefit of this short-term lifestyle was that I finished paying of my $5000 or so in college debt as well as saved enough $$ for my first year of grad school during that time. A period of time with extreme frugality can be worth it however, but in light of what I know about nutrition, I would have spent a few more dollars a month on food, and cut out the processed garbage for the most part. Beans and Rice, Rice and Beans, good stuff!
Another negative to this time was my tight-fisted mentality. Although I have always loved to give to the church and to missions/ministries that have a need, during that time I shortchanged some of my relationships by missing the opportunity to be generous. It is a hard balance to strike, but instead of seeking that balance, I allowed myself to count every penny even when I probably could have been a blessing to someone with less money or financial sense(especially those closest to me!).
I think the point I am trying to make is that there is a time for extreme frugality, but it must be weighed against the costs. Not taking extreme measures cannot be an excuse relied on in order to retain comfort or to support old habits, but most everything can be up for grabs for a time when goals regarding financial freedom (which enables one to be in a position to give generously and think about more important things than debt).
Next week I will be sharing some of the things we do consistently that I would consider to be valuable frugal ventures for our family, and maybe for yours as well.
Where do you draw the line? Visit Biblical Womanhood for more frugal discussions.