This post is from staff writer Suba Iyer.
“What is now proved was once only imagined.” – William Blake
Most of us embrace frugality to save money. Typically though, there are a few areas where we wish we could spend more. If you come into a windfall, depending on the amount, you might not be as frugal as you are now. However, will you completely give up being frugal? Or is frugality, for you, an outcrop of trying to reduce waste rather than saving money? What would I do if I won the lottery? Would I be drive the same car? Live in a similar house? What would I do with my time if I didn’t have to work anymore?
How much would the money change you? Can you imagine living the same lifestyle you have now, with millions under your belt?
By definition frugality means “prudence in avoiding waste.” In my life, I practice frugality by spending as little as possible in areas that don’t give me any pleasure and channeling that money toward something that has value in my life and makes me happy. I am not rich now, at least not by U.S. standards. Even so, I do not practice extreme frugality.
The simple concept of avoiding waste cultivates many great personal finance traits that doesn’t stop with saving money: spend less than I earn, spend based on priorities, be focused and disciplined, ignore the Joneses, delay gratification and continuously add new skills to save more.
Essentially I view frugality as a lifestyle that focuses on goals and a determination to achieve those goals.
What would money change for me?
Since I do not practice frugality just for the sake of saving money, not much would change. But I believe money can buy happiness if spent appropriately, so my spending and saving habits would change a little.
Realize my dream of starting a charity to work with mentally challenged kids much quicker than I can do now. As much as I would like to set aside most of our income to this cause, I am not there yet. I have started to take the first steps in this journey but I have a long way to go. Coming into a windfall would certainly make this go a lot faster.
I will travel the world. Traveling is one of my two luxuries (food is the other). Right now I cannot afford to take any international vacations. I would like to travel to different countries, meet different people, sample local cuisines and learn from all the cultures in the world. Having more money will certainly help me do that and without too much guilt of spending that money on me when it could have helped a few more kids.
Finally, I will be a lot more frugal with my time. I do spend a lot of time in getting the best value for my money. While that is not entirely bad, I feel I spend a little too much time for the return to be worth it. Right now, my time is not worth much so even if I save $5 by spending one hour it is not a big deal. But if I do have a lot of money, I will be a lot more prudent with my time.
What would stay the same?
Pretty much everything else would stay the same.
My lifestyle would stay the same. I never fancied cars; they don’t give me any pleasure. A car to me is just a means to get from point A to point B. So I will drive the exact same car (will probably add cruise control and a rear-view camera).
I do not own a home yet. If I come into money, I will buy a house but that would be the same house I would have bought without the windfall anyway. I do not have TV/cable mainly because I do not have the time to spend in front of a TV, not because I do not have the money to buy a TV.
Last year I quit my job to concentrate on my business and volunteering. That would stay the same but now I will have an added benefit of financial security. So I will be able to concentrate more on my charity goal instead of sweating about everyday expenses.
In a nutshell, if I became rich today, I would still be the same frugal person.
Yes, it is nothing more than day dreaming, but I find this a very productive exercise in two ways:
(1) Motivating myself to work harder, to earn more money, to help me achieve everything I want to achieve, if only I had more money!
(2) To evaluate the attainability of my goals (that I think I need to be rich to accomplish) in my current financial situations. I do not want to delude myself in thinking a magical golden egg will realize my goals when in reality I could do a lot more with my current finances. My goal is a journey not a destination.
Would you still be frugal if you were rich? What does your dream life look like? Are you confident that part of your dream life is not attainable right now?