Read an Excerpt
The Luxury of Frugality
"Every state of society is as luxurious as it can be."
Many people confuse luxury with opulence. To understand luxury you must look at the true sense of the word. The American Heritage Dictionary defines luxury as "something...conducive to pleasure and comfort," soto indulge in luxury, you need only to focus on what brings you pleasure and comfort. Does luxury have to mean diamonds and servants? Or can it be a plump down comforter on a cold night or a bowl of wild blueberries picked at the peak of that fruit's brief season? Practicing frugality allows you to organize your life and thinking in such a way as to control your own happiness. One way this is done is by allowing yourself to delight in ordinary things and occurrences.
As Thoreau so eloquently stated, "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor."
Make a conscious decision, at this moment, to appreciate what your own life has to offer in the way of frugal luxuries.
Sample...........Please fill in the following
Frugal luxuries to savor:
Love for my family, their love for me
The opportunities found in a new day
A humorous story
Smelling the herbs growing in the garden
Our wonderful neighbors
The laughter of a baby
The ability to read and write
The simplest pleasures evoke the warmest feelings of satisfaction. In my mind the word luxury evokes memories of eating fresh-picked corn on a muggy August eveningor the ability to travel to another place or time by losing myself in a hard-to-put-down book.
While there are many individual definitions of luxury, I'll never be convinced that these simplest pleasures do not truly define the word.
It has been my observation that too many people forget to enjoy these simple pleasures on a regular basis. They seem to wait for the Shangri-la of someday rather than adjust their attitudes and sample the small indulgences found in ordinary events. When that longed-for "someday" arrives, it is often too late.
There are so many outstanding experiences that are lost because people do not take the time to recognize and savor them. By ignoring the opportunities to experience these riches, you may be missing out on the finest moments of life. Life is composed of the details of every day, and it is in these details that we find our pleasures.
Lest you confuse this philosophy with hedonism, be assured that Frugal Luxuries does not advocate throwing common sense aside. Instead, it takes a page from the subtle Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher who prescribed a code of social conduct that promoted honesty, prudence, and practice to make a happy life. In essence, we are urging you to take the familiar and give it a twist in a gracious, friendly, and philosophical manner. We invite you to enjoy and elevate the quality of your life without stressing your finances. The strategies we offer in Frugal Luxuries will enable you to do so while remaining faithful to your budget, whatever its size.
"[Knowledge] is a rich storehouse ... the relief of man's estate."
Until several years ago, the art of frugality had been learned through an underground information network. The knowledge of how to live well using less money had been passed discreetly from one generation to the next. Many people had no one from whom to learn this valuable information, so they struggled to make ends meet, while asking themselves the question, "Isn't there a better way?"
Today the subject of frugality is no longer taboo. There are now a variety of sources from which you can collect frugal lore. John Quincy Adams pointed out (in his report on the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846) that "to furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is ... the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence." How exciting it is to discover that practicing the art of frugality, and making a written record of it for future generations, is recognized as a valuable endeavor.
Cultivate the Intangible
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
In the quest for a gracious lifestyle on a limited income, I have decided not to confine myself to material things. Making a conscious effort to court the intangibles, taking liberal doses of compassion, empathy, and faith, can enrich your life more than you might imagine. Focusing on the positive may be the most effective (and least costly) thing you can do to elevate your quality of life.
What precisely are intangibles? Intangibles are those things that cannot be perceived by the five senses. Wisdom, love, education, health, and joy are just a few. Intangibles are among the finest things to cultivate and possess in this life. They can relieve the pressure of your daily responsibilities, enrich your pocketbook as well as your soul, and elevate the quality (and appreciation) of your life. So on those braided days when the tasks of living seem overwhelming, you might want to make a deliberate effort to cultivate the intangibles.
Intangibles are not for sale. Even the very rich cannot buy a vessel of virtuosity or a hamper filled with happiness, and those of us who choose to cultivate these intangibles will have treasures that will not rust.
A Celebration of Distinction
"We are lovers of beauty without extravagance."Thucydides
Celebrate the differences between frugality and miserliness. Many people neglect to appreciate the gentle kindnesses and tender mercies that touch their lives on a daily basis. You may be unable to buy expensive gadgets, priceless antiques, or a mansionlike home for your family, but you can be grateful for what you do have. Discover the frugal luxuries hidden within your daily life.
Make the most of any situation in which you find yourself. Begin by designing an attitude, home, and lifestyle that appeal to your emotions and sense of well-being. Face the tasks of living with joy. Embellish ordinary days with intelligence, comfort, beauty, and a renewed faith in the fact that the finest things are those that cannot be obtained with money. Choose now to become quietly privileged. Feed your mind, your senses, and your soul through learning and practicing the art of frugality.
"There is no happiness where there is no wisdom."Sophocles
Benjamin Franklin, inventor, diplomat, and one of America's most famous Founding Fathers, had a reputation for being frugal. This, it is rumored, evolved from his impoverished childhood. Yet he also had a reputation for living a comfortable, almost lavish lifestyle.
Louisa May Alcott (my favorite author) told stories of families whose lives were marked by humble and practical wisdom. In what is probably her most famous work, Little Women, the character Jo March speaks of her younger sister Amy's artful (and frugal) ways. "It's a great comfort to have an artistic sister.... There's nothing the child can't do. Why, she wanted a pair of blue boots for Sallie's party, so she just painted her soiled white ones the loveliest shade of sky blue you ever saw, and they looked exactly like satin."
Even more humble are the stories written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In the first volume of her Little House series, Little House in the Big Woods, she describes how her mother enhanced a sometimes dreary pioneer life. "Ma liked everything on her table to be pretty, so in the wintertime she colored butter. After she had put the cream in the tall crockery churn and set it near the stove to warm, she washed and scraped a long orange-colored carrot. Then she grated it on the bottom of the old, leaky tin pan that Pa had punched full of nail-holes, and when she lifted up the pan, there was a soft, juicy mound of grated carrot. She put this in a little pan of milk on the stove and when the milk was hot she poured milk and carrot into a cloth bag. Then she squeezed the bright yellow milk into the churn, where it colored all the cream. Now the butter would be yellow."
On a more exotic note, Nikos Kazantzakis, author of the well-known book Zorba the Greek, let his characters discover the simple pleasures of life. Roasted chestnuts, a glass of wine, and a "simple, frugal heart" were his ingredients for happiness.