The Thrifty Path to a More Abundant Life
Dispelling the Belief that Thrift Means Living Without
I want to start out by stating a little-known truth that can change your life: Thrift isn’t about living without. It is about actively deciding how to spend the money and resources you have in a way that brings the greatest value into your life.
The word “thrift” has roots in Old Norse, with a word that meant something like “prosperity” or “to thrive.” It wasn’t until the 1550’s that the word took on a definition leaning more toward “saving” and “economy.” So, this one brilliant word brings together two seemingly disparate meanings for a word that basically means to prosper by saving.
My wife offers a good example of thrift in action. A petite woman, she struggles to find clothing that fits her smaller frame. Instead of spending tons of money we don’t have, she uses Pinterest for inspiration, collecting ideas that help her tailor her clothing using DIY tips. From my perspective, this is a win/win activity. She learns something new, gets a wardrobe that fits her to a tee, and she saves money that she (we) can put toward more important things.
People often become thrifty when they hit a bump in the road. They go through a divorce and start watching their pennies because they no longer have another “half” to rely on for payments, or they run into health complications that put a strain on their finances. I encourage our members to be thrifty for life, rather than for a specific reason. Make a habit of it and you’ll find yourself putting more money into savings each month, which you can earn interest on, invest in your retirement, or spend on something truly valuable.
So how do you do this?
Develop the Four Habits of Thrifty People
- Examine and reduce your expenses: What are you paying on your utilities? Your television? Food? Mortgage? And where are you OVERpaying? Could you cut down the electric bill by using fewer lights during the evening hours? Could you go with a different heating fuel provider or join a fuel group to save money during the winter? You may want to put in a garden where you live or participate in a community garden to eat fresh healthy food without spending a lot of money. Look at everything, from internet and phone bills (there’s always a way to save there), to detergents and kitty litter. Where can you save and where do you want to spend your money?
- Pay down your debt: Paying down debt helps you avoid interest charges. It’s a best practice to start with the highest interest debt (credit cards and other unsecured debt) and work your way to lower interest debt (school loans and secured loans like mortgages). Decide how much you can afford to spend each month and put it all toward the high interest debt until it’s gone. Be sure to pay it off at month’s end, though, before interest is applied.
- Reconsider the word “abundance”: My most recent internet search uncovered the word “abundance” defined as “a very large quantity of something.” Money is not the only area where you can experience and enjoy abundance. A mid-day hike can give you a sense of spiritual abundance. Eating a delicious home-cooked meal (that is ten times more delicious than a restaurant meal at a fraction of the price) can make you feel like you are living a life of abundance as well. Think of the ways that abundance expresses itself in your life and focus on those things.
- Stay motivated: Thrift is not easy for everyone. Some of us are built for thrift (my wife included). I know plenty of people who truly enjoy the finer things in life and can find it difficult restraining their impulse to spend. If that sounds like you, try motivating yourself by focusing on the abundance in your life that doesn’t have a price tag, as the former paragraph suggests, and remembering why you are practicing thrift. In order to remember why you are being thrifty, you must have a good reason. So what is it? Are you trying out a new way of working with money to stave off the money-spending beast inside you?
Hopefully, this list will help you begin living a more thrifty life. Finding ways to be thriftier can be a lot of fun. Not only does it present an opportunity to think differently about the things that you bring into your life. It’s also an opportunity to save more money and make more interest on the money you’ve saved.
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About Blair Wolston
Blair Wolston is a Member Service Consultant at our St. Johnsbury branch. He helps members in his region open new accounts, find valuable information, acquire financing for the things they need and want, and more. Blair’s core values are excellence, cooperation, respect, integrity, and community, and he brings these core values to work with him every day.