“Why should I keep a budget when I’m doing fine?”
“Why should I save more money than I already am?”
“Why deprive myself when I can afford to live a little?”
These are all good questions. After all, what’s the point of “saving the crumbs” (both the principle as well as this blog) if frugal living is simply masochism with no purpose? If you’ve perused any of the seemingly gazillion of personal finance blogs out there on the Internet, you’ve more than likely come across frugality pundits who lay out their most persuasive arguments for why you should live more economically and save more money than you are already doing. Here are some of the most common reasons I’ve come across:
- To be able to spend more time with loved ones.
- To be prepared for emergencies.
- To prepare for big life events. (i.e. Children’s college tuition, a house down payment, and/or retirement.)
- To enjoy life. (i.e. Vacations, toys, big house.)
- To pursue your dreams. (i.e. Travel the world, start a new enterprise, do something that doesn’t pay.)
- To get rich.
These are all very possible outcomes of a frugal life, and in fact some of them contribute to Deb’s and my thinking as well. So while some are valid motivations, I think there are even better reasons for why you should consider a simple, efficient, and frugal lifestyle.
3 Better Reasons
1. To Give More
Haven’t we all, at some point in our lives, said that “someday” when we’ve “made it”, that we would give more money to charity. Or maybe we said, “If only I had as much money as ‘so-and-so’, THEN I would give more money to my church.” It sounds noble, but why do we need to wait until we’ve amassed a fortune before it’s OK to give? Isn’t it more blessed to give than to receive? So why delay the blessing years or decades down the road?
You see, I believe that living a simple and frugal lifestyle enables us to have the blessing of giving right now. The hundreds going to pay off consumer debt could have helped a child in need. The thousands burned up in our 12-mpg gas-guzzling SUVs could have built many churches.
Now I’m not advocating ascetism or anything like that, but simply that when we waste less, are more intentional in our spending, shave the unnecessary costs from our budget, get out of debt, and live an overall simpler life, we have the freedom to give more to help people around us. For Deb and me, we strive to keep our lifestyle as simple as possible so we can give at least 20% of our gross, pre-tax income. Over time, as we improve our crumb-saving techniques, we hope to give even more.
2. To Serve More
My whole family works in the medical field and I grew up in a medical university town with many friends having gone through or are going through medical/dental school. I’ve heard many times the dreams and aspirations to be a mission doctor out in the bush or of using their medical skills to help the poor and underprivileged. After the training is over more often than not, the zeal to serve has flagged under the huge burden of student loans, expenses for opening practices, taking care of a young family, and of maintaining a standard of living befitting an MD or DDS. I don’t criticize my friends’ good intentions nor deny the fact that they can still do good wherever they end up, but I simply want to illustrate how possible it is for financial constraints to hamper and prevent many willing-hearted individuals from serving the world to the utmost with their gifts.
I have a physician friend who volunteered on the ground with relief efforts right after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the Japanese tsunami in 2011, the Philippine typhoon in 2013, and many other disasters around the world. He works a flexible schedule each month, making far less than he could if he wanted and spends most of his time traveling around the world providing medical services, health education, and serving church mission projects—for free. Oh, and I forgot to mention that he also cares for his elderly grandmother who suffers from dementia in his own home. Do you think this type of life is possible while carrying a huge student loan, making payments on top-trim luxury sedans, or charging expensive vacations on credit cards? As you can probably guess, this friend is very careful with his money. Although he’s a doctor and could live more luxuriously, in many ways he’s a more diehard Crumb Saver than us! He tells me his goal is to save and invest wisely so that he never needs to turn down a service opportunity due to money.
Of course not everyone is a doctor and not everyone has to fly around the world saving lives. But we can all serve. It might be getting involved with your church, or helping the homeless, or mentoring some young person, or cooking for the elderly, or visiting the sick, the list goes on!
For Deb and me, we’ve chosen to work in nonprofit ministries that pay much less than what we could make elsewhere. We find fulfillment in knowing that our work directly benefits people’s lives, and are happy to keep our lives intentionally simple so we can continue serving in organizations that don’t have the ability to pay huge salaries. Not only that, we volunteer a great deal of our time for different worthy causes. There have been periods in my life where the time I spent volunteering exceeded that of my day job. We’re thankful that we don’t need to trade in these experiences in order to make ends meet.
3. To Be More Content
When we live a simpler life, we don’t need as much stuff. When we don’t need as much stuff, we don’t have to buy as much stuff. When we don’t have as much stuff, we learn to appreciate more what we have.
I visited Romania during the month of March a number of years ago. I had mistakenly understood that the weather would be warm by then and so I only brought one light jacket. There was still snow on the ground when we arrived and we didn’t have hot water where we were staying. I don’t think I ever took that one jacket off the entire time I was there. (I think I might have even slept in it.) I appreciated what I had. But nowadays I open my closet and I have jackets of varying thickness, in different colors, for every occasion and I never have the same level of appreciation for any of my jackets as I did during those cold days in Romania.
When we realize that we don’t need as much stuff, we become more content with life. We become less irritable, less greedy, and less stressed out. No fisticuffs early on Black Friday morning, no worrying about how to pay the next credit card bill, no stress about people scratching our brand new car. One of the weirdest things is that by needing less and spending less, you will actually feel wealthier!
Satisfaction will no longer be measured by how much money you have, but rather by how little of it you need. Fulfillment won’t come when you have a million dollars, but rather when you don’t want to spend it even if you had it!
The Recipe for a Better You
I believe this is the recipe to a meaningful life. You know why? Because it makes us better people. A life centered less on self and more on others is the genuinely fulfilled life. It places a check on our human tendency towards greed and it helps us be more generous. Money can be a barometer of our character, can’t it? We can criticize the Wall Street fat cats or the glitzy celebrities for being materialistic and extravagant, but isn’t it possible to live frugally out of a greedy motive too? Maybe it’s time for some better reasons to save the crumbs.
Money doesn’t bring happiness, a life well-lived does. So why not try living frugally so you can give more, serve more, and be more content? You just might become a better person along the way.