I do not understand why there is a stigma about saving money. In this cost of living crisis, people are trying to hide that they are struggling. They carry on with habits that are making them poor. Some of this is to impress other people that they don’t even know. Some of it is fear of change. One of my friends would not try a discount supermarket as she felt that she was better than that. Only poor people use those! This is not true if you look at the cars parked outside. After seeing my bargains she now shops there, but uses carrier bags from a more expensive shop. I was talking to a lady when I was out for a walk yesterday, and the conversation got on to the cost of living. I mentioned some of the things that I do to save money on heating, which she automatically dismissed. She didn’t dismiss them because they wouldn’t work, but because she felt that we shouldn’t have to live like that in 2023. The thing about surviving in hard times is that you have to be adaptable. You have to think outside the box, and be willing to accept change, and even embrace it. In an ideal world what is happening financially maybe should not be happening, but the reality is that it is. Putting our heads in the sand and blaming politicians, the pandemic, or Brexit will not change this harsh reality. We have to adapt and change ourselves or else we will go under and be in a lot worse position than we are now.
The thing that is stopping her from improving her situation is her ego. She feels she should be living in a better situation than that. I have friends who won’t buy second hand or go to charity shops for the same reason. Thankfully this is changing as it helps the environment, but there are still many who turn their nose up at anything second hand. Unfortunately our ego does not pay the bills. It is only when we learn to let go of our egos that we can move forward. We then see a different perspective and start to adapt and focus on the present situation. Adapting is the difference between surviving and thriving. It helps us focus on what is in our control rather than moan about what isn’t. It also improves our problem solving and unleashes our creativity.
Underlying the ego is fear. It is easier to stay in our comfort zone. However changing to frugal habits doesn’t have to be a major leap. We can incorporate a few tweaks daily. Over the last year I have totally changed the food we eat and how we shop. It is only when I look back that I realise how big these changes are. They have been small changes over a long period of time. It is so tough for so many families now with the increases in prices for the basics like food, fuel, and fares. It is therefore important that we make the most of the resources that are available, including going to food banks, apps like Olio, and buying wonky or discounted food. If some one needs help it doesn’t make sense to let pride make a situation harder. I remember the first time I went to a community pantry which was selling food waste at very low prices. I was scared to go in but then it just seemed normal inside, and every one was so nice. It was full of people in a lot better financial position than me, and so I felt silly for putting off going. I wish I had gone as soon as I needed to.
The change in mindset will not happen overnight. It took me a while to feel comfortable to embrace change, and even relish the challenge of being frugal enough to live off a small income. Initially, like so many who have been impacted by the cost of living crisis, I may not have totally chosen my lifestyle. Some people are lucky and it is a choice. I had to adapt to my circumstances after burnout and a breakdown, or else I would have lost my home and my child. I admit I did have an ego initially, and felt I had worked hard to attain my status and my large monthly pay cheque. Life didn’t feel fair. The thought of losing it was at first very scary, and I did feel low and as if I had failed. Relatives and friends definitely initially saw it as something to be ashamed of. However, learning to adapt, and tossing that ego, are the best things that could have happened to me. I am happier and can cope with anything now. Many of those same people now wish that they could live my life style, but fear stops them.
If you are resisting embracing change, why not just have a think about what is important to you, and what your values are. For me the important thing was to keep a roof over our head and being able to give up a stressful job. Being frugal does not mean that you have to save money on everything. It is absolutely your choice on where you save. Maybe you could have a think about what you are willing to give up or change, and what you are not. This will be different for every one. I am not willing to give up breaks away, but I will give up hair cuts, make up and clothes, reduce the money I spend on food and entertainment, and use my car less. I grow my own food so that my diet is still healthy and I constantly try to learn new skills that will save me money too so that my standard of living doesn’t drop. If you are worried about the neighbours, nobody needs to know. My neighbours think that I am rich as I have retired early and don’t need to go to work. They don’t realise I live on a very small career pension. One step at a time. You can do this!