Monday, September 28, 2009

Frugal or Frivolous?

I once read of a practice during the Great Depression when people were in desperate straits financially. A person would go into a restaurant and order a meal. While the waitress was putting the order in and the cook preparing it, they would fill their water glass with any condiments they found on the table: ketchup, salt, pepper, sugar, etc. and drink it as soup. When the waitress returned with their order, they had already left the restaurant. As I read this, my first philosophical thought was, "Ewww, gross!" My second was, "Maybe that's why the server never brings a glass of water in a restaurant anymore?" Then, I thought just a bit more deeply and came to the conclusion that this may be a frugal practice, but it is seriously lacking in ethics (not to mention, good sense!).

The other extreme happens as well. I've heard of dogs that have more toys and bigger bedrooms than my kids (or most people's kids for that matter). I remember the craze when Beanie Babies were new at McDonald's and people would buy the happy meals and throw them away to collect the toys. (Now, you can pick up these same Beanie Babies through Freecycle!).

Photo by scmtngirl

People that believe in frivolity poke fun at the "cheapskates". People that practice frugality shake their heads in disgust at the "spendthrifts". In today's economic times, "keeping up with the Jones' " could be interpreted differently if you have a lot of "green" neighbors. ("Oh, no! Did anyone see me buy that plastic wrap, use it once and throw it away?") Or not. (Uh oh. The kids at the playgroup are wearing this year's Gymboree outfits which means that they will be able to tell that my kids are wearing last year's that I bought from the thrift store!")

Photo by pixeljones

I will make my confessions. I have never used cloth diapers (although I think the diaper covers that are out now are so cute and almost wish I had!). I have made my own laundry soap, used it for a couple of months, and went back to store bought. I occasionally use convenience foods. I only recycle pop cans and only because my daughter collects them for extra spending money. (And, yes, they are from the pop that I buy!) When school is in session, I buy paper plates and napkins (and run out regularly).

I think the famed Proverbs 31 woman strikes a good balance between extreme frugality and frivolity. She works hard and is resourceful, yet her merchandise is good -- not cheap. She's careful how she spends her money, yet she isn't stingy--she willingly gives to the poor. She doesn't clothe her children in rags. In fact, though she makes all of their clothes, they are sewn with rich and beautiful materials. She even dresses herself in expensive clothing. Her husband has a good job (it would seem), yet she doesn't loaf around and attend multiple dinner parties. She works hard to stretch his income as far as it will go and adds to it herself.

As always, a discussion of this woman can drive us to despair that we will never be like her or it can inspire us to pick one aspect of her character and improve ourselves in that area. Let us strive to strike that elusive balance between the extremes of frugality and frivolity!

1 comment:

  1. *gasp* You buy pop?! :) Thanks for the confessions! I sometimes feel guilty for the way I do things, but every family has their own priorities and sometimes mom's sanity comes before some other things! (Like how my 3 month old is sitting in her bouncy chair in front of a Baby Einsteins video so I can get caught up on some computer stuff!)