Sunday, 22 January 2012

Frugality and the selfish gene


Frugality in a global recession makes sense. We need to make cut backs and step up to austerity; the government and big business will tell you that. It’s true of course that we need to improve our budgeting skills but can it be actually done with a full and generous spirit?

Frugality hurts; it’s a painful process to constantly keep a tally of your outgoings and then to make adjustments that feel like sacrifices.  In relationships, since opposites attract, achieving the right balance between couples is tricky especially when money issues are one of the most common causes for family breakdowns.  He wants to increase the cable subscription and she wants to splash out on a designer treat for herself.  One partner is usually on the side of saving more and spending less and the other is more prone to throwing caution to the wind. To live for each day is impossible if you’re a committed frugalite.  Just like the ant and grasshopper in Aesop’s fable  some of us have the ant like qualities of saving for a rainy day and whilst others prefer to relax like the grasshopper until reality bites.

I’ve known many a frugalite but for all the wrong reasons. These are the self proclaimed Scrooges who exist on the bare minimum – rice and beans if you please and they never ask for more. They have no debt and a sufficient income that affords them the privilege of being smug and self-righteous. They are tight fisted and judgemental of others who do not adopt a severe lifestyle. They balk at the idea of spending on anything other than the bare necessities. 


Whilst I applaud true frugality I believe that without generosity and kindness to yourself and others it’s an empty gesture. Ask any miser’s family - they are good providers but they do it with resentment. They believe that whatever they provide (even a pittance) is a luxury. People from impoverished background are sometimes the worst culprits and to live within your means is to live like a pauper. Their wallets rarely see daylight and whatever you buy is always " a waste of money!"

Mean people often hide behind a façade of frugality. There’s a selfish gene that cannot be put down and it’s no doubt what got Adam and Eve banished from the garden of Eden. When we become self-absorbed we lose our sense of social justice. When we don’t feel blessed or have gratitude for the simple things then we become mean spirited. We walk past the person rattling a tin at us in the street, we ignore the homeless person sleeping in the doorway and we switch channels when we see another heart wrenching appeal for money. We don’t value ourselves or the people around us.

Meaningful frugality means that we never lose our humanity.  Just sharing our spirit through a smile is to reconnect with what’s important. Generosity does not have to break the budget and  genuine frugality is an enriching experience.  Frugality is a tool for seeking the path of peace. The incessant chatter in our heads is the cause of mindless spending and frugality is the first step towards emotional and financial organisation. Put your money where your mouth is and get a grip on your cash flow, squash that selfish gene and live frugally ever after.

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