Saturday, April 27, 2013

Frugality versus Deprivation

There is a meaningful difference between frugality and deprivation. Frugality is about having what you need, and some of what you want but may not need, at a cost that is within your means.  Deprivation, especially self-deprivation, is about not allowing yourself to have something that is not harmful to you, that you need or reasonably want even if you can afford it. I am not talking about purposeful spiritual or religious deprivation that serves a developmental role in our spiritual growth, such as fasting or giving up chocolate for Lent.  Frugality is a lifestyle.  Deprivation as a monetary lifestyle could be a form of self-punishment and can become a mental or spiritual illness.

Here's an example of frugality: My Dear Husband likes a particular type of shampoo. I bought a 13.5 ounce bottle of it at Target for just under $11.00 (79 cents per ounce).   Soon after I bought that, which fits well in our shower caddy, I found the 33.8 ounce bottles of the exact same stuff at Marshall's for $9.99 (30 cents per ounce).  My DH doesn't care whether I manage my budget to spend 79 or 30 cents an ounce on the shampoo as long as he has what he prefers.  So I refill the smaller bottle from the less expensive stock and save or re-purpose the other 49 cents an ounce. That's being frugal.

 Same scenario, deprivation might look like substituting a cheaper shampoo (that DH does not like) to save money whether we can afford the green shampoo or not. The rationale may be fear of not being able to afford something else in the future (usually vague not specific), or a notion of some stigma from using a product normally enjoyed by someone of a higher socioeconomic status, or some other idea that I can't even imaging because I try hard not to be crazy. On top of the false economy, I would also invite annoyance from my husband for providing him with a bad substitute for something he specifically asked me to buy for him and can afford, so I would feel bad twice.  This is the area when frugality begins to slide into a mental illness of deprivation.  Specifically, doing something with your money that punishes you for no logical reason. Deprivation can also look like overspending on many small things you don't need (or don't need in a reasonable timeframe), which deprives you of more expensive things you do need.

Where I'm going with this is that frugality can be tricky.  Being prepared can also be tricky.  When preparing starts to take up so much space in your home that you can't live your daily life, it's a problem.  When you have a year's supply of soap and toothpaste and you keep buying it instead of the next item on your list, you may be stuck somehow. When frugality becomes self or family deprivation, it's time for some help. Surprisingly, one of the best sources of help is Debtors Anonymous.  You may respond with "But I'm not in debt!"  You may be in debt to yourself. You may not owe anyone any money, but if you are depriving yourself or your family of the reasonably affordable fullness of life or spiritual peace because of your practices with money -- including how you're earning, saving or spending it, you may want to try a meeting or two.  It may change your life.

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