Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Frugality is Not Scarcity

Success-minded authors tell us not to focus on our lacks, but on our abundance. They say that when we focus on what we don't have, we attract more needs, not more abundance. They would look at the United Waste of America and think, "The more you think about needing to save 50 cents a day, the more poverty you're likely to attract."

Their point is partially valid. I agree that not feeling gratitude for the things that you have will not help you achieve or attract more. It's a lesson I've been trying to learn myself: complain less, appreciate more. Complaining often shuts down creativity and openness, leaving us unable to see ways to improve ourselves.

But all the same, reality is real and finances are finances. Bills have to be paid, salaries are what they are until review time. Even if we adopt a radically open and gracious mindset of overwhelming abundance that leads us to a path of fabulous wealth, in the meantime, the car payment is still due on the 10th.

Hence, the UWA looks to chart a middle path between miserliness and starry-eyed optimism. On the one hand, we encourage a hard look at our spending patterns and habits and a realistic approach to freer finances. On the other hand, we encourage savings not just as a way of stabilizing finances, but as a chance to refocus on the things that truly matter. The UWA is also a call to remember that money does not buy happiness, and that we don't need all the things that we spend our money on.

Hence, "frugality is not scarcity." There's a difference between not needing to spend money, and a constant panic about spending money. We should adopt a mindset where we reject stuff as the path to happiness, even as we feel free to pay for what is actually needed. Scarcity is a mindset where we are afraid to spend money. Frugality is a mindset where we are free to spend as needed, but need little.

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