frugal family: /ˈfro͞oɡ(ə)l - ˈfam(ə)lē/ A group of people living together who are sparing or economical with regard to money or food.
Lots of families, regardless of religious or political affiliation, try to be frugal. There’s just something exciting about saving money. It feels like you’re cheating the system. Like you’re a rebel.
So why is this blog titled, “Christian Frugal Family Living?” Simply because I want to make this one point. As Christians, our frugality should only be motivated by our God-given job description – Steward.
A steward is a manager. An employee of sorts. All we have – our time, talent, and treasure – is a gift from him, and he wants us to manage it well.
That’s an important point to always keep in mind because if we don’t, things can get out of whack. Being frugal can be great because it means each of our dollars gets stretched. Our money has more impact. However, if kept unchecked, the frugal-minded can quickly turn into the stingy.
Ask me how I know…
What Prompted us to Become a Frugal Family?
Trent and I got married in 2008, and by 2009 we were on the Dave Ramsey plan. Our goal was to become 100% debt-free, and we were all in. We didn’t start having children until 2012, so that gave us three solid years to live on one income while using the second to pay down debt and build up our savings account.
I don’t know if restricting your spending will happen unless there’s a good reason for it. Maybe I’m wrong, but spending money is our default, especially in America. There’s so much messaging coming at us saying, “You deserve it.” “For three low payments of $29.99, this product will change your life.” And if we have the money, why not give it a shot?
The problem is we end up with subscriptions we don’t use. Products that take up permanent residence in our kitchens and garages, and for what? So we can maybe one day use them? It’s kind of a racket, but it’s so easy to fall into it. We did it for a long time, until we caught a vision for our future.
That’s what prompted frugal living for us. We caught the vision. We saw what living differently could offer us.
Truth be told, frugal living is not for the faint at heart. It can be very challenging, but it can also be super rewarding. If you’re in, then here are our top three Frugal Living Tips and the unexpected positives that come as a result.
TOP THREE FRUGAL FAMILY TIPS
1. Start with a Strong Why.
In our last blog on minimalism I shared a few Bible verses that I think apply here, too.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
– 1 Timothy 6:6-7
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2
Fighting discontent and breaking the hold of materialism in your life is a perfectly acceptable why. However, paying off debt, being able to up your giving at church, or taking your family on an epic vacation are all great as well. The cool thing that happens when we “do not conform to the pattern of this world” is that we’re able to gain new direction from the Lord. There are so many better things we can do with our money than buying more clothes or throw pillows. When we pare back our spending, dollars get freed up to have more Kingdom impact.
2. Turn Frugality into a Game.
You know those passages in the Bible where Jesus is talking to the Pharisees about fasting. He’s like, “Guys, go wash your face and quit looking so grumpy.” That’s the Sarah Shivley translation… Frugality, done poorly, can make us look all sad. My recommendation is to turn that frown upside down, and turn frugal living into a game.
At the grocery store, see which brands cost less per ounce. If you’ve never bought any mac ‘n cheese other than Kraft, give them a whirl. See if you can find brands you actually like better that cost less.
When we got on a strict grocery budget it forced me to cut corners. Sometimes I’d have to buy different brands. Other times I wouldn’t have the money left over at all, so I’d make do with ingredients I had at home. I’ve learned how to make bread, peanut butter, hummus, granola, garlic toum, a whole slew of copycat soups, and more all because I had to figure out how to make things cheaper than I could buy them.
Honestly, it’s been so fun. Turn frugality into a game and you may just be surprised at how fun it can be for you!
3. Identify as Frugal.
There’s something to be said about identity. When we’re trying something out it’s easy to fall back into old habits, but when we identify as frugal our decisions are different because, “Frugal people wouldn’t do that.”
The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously). - James Clear
As Christians, this should be easy. We’ve experienced the identity change from lost to found. Slave to free. Condemned to redeemed. Sure, we can change our identities to a certain extent on our own, but Jesus can change them ultimately.
If the foundation of our frugal family is built on being good stewards, and if we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to help us live to honor him, then behavior change is inevitable.
UNEXPECTED BENEFITS OF BEING A FRUGAL FAMILY
1. You find things you’re good at.
I already mentioned having to figure out how to make food from scratch, which was something I didn’t know I would enjoy so much, but there are other things you’ll find you’re good at when you start living more frugally.
Maybe you start making birthday, baby shower, and wedding gifts instead of buying them. I did this and found that I was pretty decent at sewing. I wouldn’t have known that otherwise. Currently, I’m roasting coffee at home because I like high quality coffee but hate the price tag.
I’m not sure what it’ll be for you, but when you focus on saving money you’ll find gifts and talents you didn’t even know you had. You may even realize you can make money using these new found abilities, which is an extra bonus.
2. You’re able to give more.
Saving money means you’re able to stretch each dollar. The question is, “What are you going to do with the excess?” If you’ve never put together a budget (or a spending plan) that would be our top recommendation. Check out this blog for help – Budgeting 101: 5 Steps to Creating a Budget You’ll Love.
If you feel guilty because you don’t give much, if anything, to your church then frugal living will give you an opportunity to change that. If you want to increase your giving, following a budget will help you shift dollars.
One thing that’s super fun is to set aside a certain amount of money to bless people with every month. It keeps the motivation up and makes things more fun when you know the money you’re saving is being used to bless others.
3. The Frugal Family finds better deals because cash talks.
This was super unexpected, but when we started living more frugally we didn’t just find deals. Deals found us. We had to do some unexpected basement waterproofing a few years ago. Fortunately at that moment we had an emergency fund, so we wouldn’t have to finance the work. That alone was a savings because #nointerest.
But then they told us, if we wanted to pay cash they would knock $500 off the bill. Woo Hoo! Sign us up! That’s the compound effect of frugal (intentional) living. You’ll come across so many unexpected ways of saving even more money because you’ll be in the small percentage of people that are willing to actually live differently.
Being a frugal family doesn’t mean you’re a poor family. Though it can sometimes feel that way. You just need to remember that the reason why living different feels different is because most people are just floating downstream. They’re following the crowd. Keeping up with the Jonses. They’re also most likely drowning in debt and living paycheck to paycheck.
You don’t have to live exactly the way we do, but you do need to realize that there’s a better way. Figure out what that looks like for you, and own it. Don’t follow the crowd. Live different!
Because there’s a better way,