Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Frugal or Cheap

I've been struggling lately with a comment that was made many years ago by someone I knew from church. This person accused my husband and I of having a "poverty mentality". At the time I just assumed this person thought we were "stingy" or cheap and I discarded the comment because I knew that assumption to be false. We consider ourselves to be frugal, but not cheap. I also did not believe that this person's opinion carried any weight, because he didn't know how we lived, never been to our house and never had any conversation with either of us about how we view and manage our resources.
I never gave this statement another thought until recently when we received an extended visit from friends. Although they never made any clear comments on the subject while they stayed with us, my husband and I perceived in their behavior and some remarks that they frowned on the little "cut-backs" we make. Since this recent encounter the "poverty mentality" statement has been haunting me and I'm realizing for the first time that I don't really know what it means. I now regret not asking the person who made the original observation exactly what they meant and what their understanding of "poverty mentality" was.
My husband and I do strive to be frugal wherever we can, but we do it so that we can spend in other areas and also to have more to give to charitable causes. For example, we don't keep a light on in a room if nobody is in the room. I hang our casual "house clothes" on a drying rack after washing, instead of using the dryer, to save on electric and gas.  We save quite a bit by this minor adjustment. Instead of using the oven 3-4 times per week for meals, I plan ahead and double or triple whatever I'm making so that I only use the oven once. I then freeze the extra food or make lunches for my husband for work, and the rest we eat over the next few days.
These are just a few examples, but it is enabling us to splurge when it comes to each of us having a laptop to work on. It enables us to afford organic milk and eggs, since we wish to avoid the hormones and antibiotics found in regular milk and eggs. I've learned to bake bread, including making hamburger buns, and making meat patties with ground beef so that we don't have to visit a fast food restaurant if we're in the mood for a burger. By making it all from scratch, we not only eat healthier food without the artificial preservatives, colorants and flavorings added, but we also save a lot of money. By being frugal, we have also been able to help friends who have become homeless due to circumstances, give more for evangelistic causes, etc.
We are constantly searching for other ways to cut down on expenses and at the same time live healthier and with more resources for other important things. Although this seems like a very practical way to manage resources, our main motivation for being what we define as "frugal" is to live by the biblical principal of stewardship. We believe that everything we own belongs to God and that we are mere stewards in His service. The wiser we can manage His resources, the more we can do to further the spreading of His Gospel.