“Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.” ― Elise Boulding
The concept of “frugality” is often met with negative reactions, and truthfully, I’m not sure it’s deserving.
It’s been defined as “the quality of being economical” – and for those of you who don’t know, economical means you are “careful not to waste money or resources; using no more of something than is necessary”.
But I’m not naïve to the American culture – we’re an instant gratification society who believes name brands assign status and that status helps us better compete for dominance over friends, neighbors and family.
I used to be like that – struggling with insecurity and believing that “things” were all I needed to be noticed and to find happiness. But as we get older, and we share our days with someone much wiser than we are, suddenly you realize that there is happiness in not having things.
Take my 2006 Pontiac G6. This year it turns 11 years old and just logged 103,500 miles on the odometer. In my heyday (when insecurities led me to do all kinds of crazy things) I’d keep a car for a year or two before moving on to the next one.
There was nothing wrong with any of these cars, but there certainly was something wrong with me.
I longed for that instant gratification, that momentary happiness new cars seemed to bring me. But it didn’t take long for the freshly waxed exterior and glistening tires to lose their luster. Over time I realized that cars are not a status symbol. They are a mode of transportation to carry us to work and play and everything in between.
I think it’s important to remember that everything was designed for a purpose, and as long as that purpose is still being fulfilled, there’s no reason to replace it with something better. It took me a long time to adopt that understanding, but I have proof of it sitting in my garage today.
Pontiac doesn’t even exist as a brand any longer, the chrome wheels are starting to show their age, there’s a few more squeaks and rattles on uneven pavement, but so what. It’s proven to be a reliable means of transportation for 11 years. And while it may seem passé to some, it’s functional purpose is still being fulfilled.
A car, or any material possession for that matter, will never define who I am.
Some might look at my classic car and think that I’m being cheap by not buying something brand new. But I’ve learned to live with an inner frugality, which doesn’t waste time or money on unnecessary items. Instead, I choose to enjoy the people in my life who understand that happiness is not something you can buy.