Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A New Way of Living?

I suppose it's only natural to become more interested in ways to cut costs and become more self-sufficient when things are uncertain financially. I've definitely found myself more budget-conscious and interested in ways to be more frugal in the past year or so. Until the past few years, I think I understood frugality mainly in relation to saving at the check-out counter. If I bought it on sale or "got a deal," I was frugal. More recently, I've come to see how frugality encompasses building skills and changing habits, as well as limiting spending, not simply finding deals.

In our church, this is often referred to as provident living. We're encouraged to have savings, 72-hour emergency kits, food storage, a family budget, paying tithing, and develop skills to be self-sufficient. Provident living especially involves joyfully living within our means. While I understood the importance of this advice, I've often found it difficult to apply in my own life for some reason. Tim and I have been slowly, but surely, seriously working on it over the past year and following this advice has changed my perspective so much. I should preface this all by saying that I am still at the beginner stages of all of this, learning as I go, throwing ideas around, and trying things out.

Dwelling on "the good old days" has never suited me. Give me the opportunity to choose a time to live and I'd say now. I don't wax poetic about pioneers or feel nostalgic about the 1950s. This might be one of the reasons I've resisted some of the tenants of provident living in the past. They simply seemed old-fashioned. As I've worked to change my spending habits, improve my cooking skills, and learn creative ways to stretch a budget, however, I've come to believe that the truth is, some ways of living are actually timeless. They are applicable no matter who you are or when you live.

The biggest surprise for me has come in the satisfaction I've found in developing new homemaking skills. As I typed that sentence, the 16 year-old Mindy recoiled. Homemaking skills?! Are you kidding me?! But I've come to see that, just as the workplace helped me to develop and refine essential skills to build my character, knowledge base, self-sufficiency, and confidence, so do homemaking skills. It's surprised me to discover the confidence and security I've found in working on developing homemaking skills and I wish I'd learned more from my mother when she offered. Now I want to learn how to be more self-sufficient and less dependent on ready-made goods. Not that I will never buy boxed food or will sew all my clothes, but I would love to have a vegetable garden, learn basic sewing, improve cooking skills, making my own cleaning supplies, etc.

A recent talk from an apostle of our church, Robert D. Hales, entitled Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually has inspired me to seek out new ways to live providently. I would encourage anyone who hasn't read this to do so at www.lds.org. Two quotes really stuck with me:

"I have learned that the three most loving words are “I love you,” and the four most caring words for those we love are “We can’t afford it.”

'We must want, more than anything else, to do our Heavenly Father’s will and providently provide for ourselves and others."

As I said, I'm just in the baby stages of provident living, but it's blessed my life. Cutting excess and debt has especially helped me to understand what a burden these things are. I'm interested in any ideas and experiences my friends and family might have related to provident living. Please feel free to comment here or email me.


Jen said...

I have to say, reading this is like looking in the mirror. You guys look so great, by the way. I'm glad to see that you're doing so well.

Chelle said...

Great talk by Elder Hales and great post!

We've just started taking a few baby steps too. We're started a financial tracking & budget system through Mint.com (free); if you don't already have something like it, check it out because it helps you see where everything is going, as well as your bottom line and your debt ratio.

I've started cooking more from scratch - and using things like local produce and cannery stuff. It's generally cheaper, healthier and tastes better than the processed stuff. Though, I still do buy the boxed stuff on occasion. Moderation in all things, right?

I make cards, learned some new crafts and upgraded my sewing machine so I can make gifts rather than expending a ton - and I'd like to think people enjoy those more too. :)

Cleaning supplies can be made with simple household items, like baking soda and vinegar. I'm still on the verge of that one.

Good luck!!

Mert said...

I think I must be the anti-homemaker. I hate cooking, cleaning and making anything from 'scratch'. I pay a 16 year old girl to clean my 800 square foot apartment twice a month and eat out 3-5 times a week. I'm like budget poison. I can barely take care of myself. Maybe that's why I'm not married, my homemaking skills are so bad that the Lord doesn't want to inflict that kind of pain on poor, innocent children. :)

Mindy said...

Just to set the record straight: I don't have a new love of cleaning and I would love to have someone help clean! I've just found that it's part of the life I've chosen and I'm surprised by the sense of accomplishment I feel when I learn new skills and adapt. :0)

Photographer: Rebecca Pierce said...

This is a great post. Good food for thought for someone who doesn't even have flour in the house...if I bake I eat! I have it in my food storage of course, but even my food storage is more of the open the can, heat and eat variety.

One thing that I have been AMAZED at is couponing. I have a friend that will walk into a store and when she checks out with $40 worth of stuff, she winds up taking a dollar from the cashier and leaving with her goods. Sounds crazy, but she literally does buy $300 of groceries for $65. I'm not saying that she can go home and make three weeks of meals from that stuff, but it is still a really good value. I think it is addicting, but if you want more info, facebook me and I'll get the sites she uses.