Blog reader Maria left an insightful comment the other day, and I want to highlight it and discuss it:
“Some people treat thrift as a religion and I don’t think that’s any healthier than having poor spending habits. I don’t want to die sitting on a pile of money–even if that means my kids would get a better inheritance. I want to appreciate it as a gift from God, and use it to live simply but comfortably, enjoying some “fine” things in life, and using my money to bless others. I don’t do that perfectly for sure–it can be really hard to find the balance, but I wish I saw more of a balance between thrift and hedonism. It seems for so many it’s one or the other.”
Well put, Maria.
Sometimes, saving money can become an unhealthy obsession.
I want to be clear: There’s nothing wrong with trying to save money and stretch your dollars as far as they’ll go. We all want to be good stewards of our resources, after all.
But sometimes, we can take the frugal lifestyle a bit too far.
We need to be cautious when our focus shifts from, “I want to provide for my family in the best way that I can,” to “I want to get as many free things as I can.”
Some go to drugstores, stockpiling deals and hoarding items, perhaps donating extra purchases. But, for some, going to CVS can start to resemble attending “The Church of CVS.”
I certainly don’t want to be judgemental of anyone (I hate it when I’m judged!) but when I see pictures of people’s cabinets absolutely overflowing with a 10-year supply of toiletries — a supply big enough to where they can start their own store — I have to wonder: Isn’t that a bit excessive?
Where do we draw the line? When do we cross over from being smartly frugal to being dangerously obsessed?
When I was new to the drugstore game, I made several trips per week, stocking up on things whenever I could. I bought several things I’d never use, reasoning that since they were free or could earn me money, I should buy it. I’ve since donated those items, and now, I try to watch my purchases to make sure we really will need the item, or I really will donate it to someone who needs it.
With a baby on the way, I’m working the drugstore deals again in the hopes that I’ll have a large stockpile of necessities by December or so. But how can I be sure I don’t get too carried away?
It’s not just toiletries that can get me into trouble.
As you might recall, Shane and I are working hard to build up our emergency fund. We’re attacking our goal with extreme focus. All our extra money goes into that fund. We aren’t depriving ourselves of necessities but we aren’t spending money on anything beyond the absolutely necessary.
But could we actually be depriving ourselves? We aren’t being as generous as we could be when it comes to gifts for others, for example.
I need to do better. I need to keep my focus where it should be — on God and on why I’m trying to be frugal in the first place.
It’s so easy to get excited about saving money, that it can turn into an obsession — or worse, idolatry — that I think it’s worth evaluating from time to time, to make sure we aren’t going bananas.