Don’t Give Up on Gratitude

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In the US we just finished our Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which starts with giving thanks and ends with wrestling discounted televisions from your neighbors to save a few bucks. When we were poor graduate students, our apartment was sparse, and those savings felt real – so we shopped on Black Friday. Now that we are professionals, money isn’t as hard to come by, and in the span of a few years our house is brimming with things. Being grateful is a bit easier now.

Expressing thankfulness throughout the year helps to keep you focused on your goals and increase your happiness. So don’t let the shopping bonanza happening this December let you drift from your financial goals or finding your values.

Practicing gratitude is easier when in nature
Practicing gratitude is easier when in nature

December is a challenging time to practice gratitude. Even though greed is demonized in holiday movies (don’t be a grinch!), greed is encouraged in advertising. And maybe you are entering the holiday season with a few more items on your wish list, that you never knew you wanted.

A couple of weeks ago, my Christmas list was sparse (read empty). We fortunately, don’t have to shop for many people and instead are practicing acts of kindness this year. But after a weekend with (slightly) less frugal folk a few items have made my “nice to have” list.

We spent Thanksgiving with family and ended up wandering a few thrift stores on Black Friday, then the farmers’ market and some small businesses on Saturday. We spent a whopping $11 ($9 was on fruits and veggies from the farmers’ market) shopping. (Sidenote – I LOVE that going to the farmers’ market is a hip activity, I get to buy groceries, and frugal/non-frugal people enjoy it too!)

But wandering some of the downtown shops where my husband grew up revealed all these items, I never knew existed. My wardrobe could be greatly improved (that’s for sure), our chocolates could be even more fine (not just raw cacao nibs), and we could always use another coffee tumbler! Um, no, I don’t really need any of that stuff. Yeah, I may be able to look a little more hip while strolling the river trail picking up garbage, but that won’t help me reach my goals.

Reflecting on all of the things I have to be grateful for helps to ground me again and shrink my wish list. Practicing gratitude beyond the Thanksgiving holiday helps to keep our frugal focus.

Gratitude goes in waves throughout the year and seasons of saving. Planning for retirement and saving towards the future leads to a few financial phases in life:

  • Stuff accumulation/debt payoff
  • Wealth accumulation
  • Enough

Practicing gratitude may take a backseat in the different stages of life, but incorporating gratitude will help your physical, mental, and financial health.

The Stuff Accumulation Years

The years of accumulation of things and debt payoff can be expensive. Stuff accumulation is probably best limited to 0-4 years (debt payoff will vary). Once you have the basic household necessities, living the frugal life doesn’t require buying the latest “save you money and time” gadget. A frugal home looks different for everyone, but we enjoy having:

Frugal kitchen tools for the frugal chef
We own a LOT of kitchen utensils.
  • A well stocked kitchen
  • An overflowing pantry (but I’m working to use this stuff up!)
  • A vacuum and broom
  • Basic yard work tools: lawn mower, hedge clippers, gloves, spade, garden rake, leaf rake, and utility wagon
  • Dining Table and Chairs
  • A cozy place to sit or two
  • A few houseplants
  • A bed, dresser, and hangers
  • And of course a good number of board games 🙂

That list may seem daunting and expensive, but most of those things can be obtained for free or cheap. We were lucky enough to get almost all of our furniture handed down from friends/family.

Practicing gratitude during the “stuff accumulation years” helps to reign in hoarding tendencies. Hopefully, you can avoid my over accumulation issue, so you don’t have to go through the minimizing stage!

The Wealth Accumulation Years

Once you settle into adulting and start saving beyond the basics, if you are like me, you have no clue how to actually accumulate that wealth. Fortunately, I started asking around, and amazingly got some good advice! Make your spending match your values

Following the Simple Path to Wealth and investing in low fee diverse index funds is a pretty safe of a financial choice. Fortunately, it’s also simple. Once you get the accounts open and understand the basics you just have to add the money as you earn it. I like to track my net worth using Personal Capital (it is free and simple).

Spend less than you make and FU money (and eventually financial independence) will be yours.

Since there’s not much tweaking to do, this phase leads into playing the comparison game. It is easy to judge yourself off other’s progress, but their story is different than yours. Practicing gratitude during wealth accumulation, helps you realize the privilege of saving for your future and (if you are reading this) you likely are #blessed.

Once you figure out your ideal spending, you will start making more intentional choices. Time will be freed up and embracing gratitude will make these years not so miserable (hopefully they won’t be miserable at all)!

We are accumulating wealth now and grateful for so many things, but we still have our stresses. We are limited, not remotely perfect, and have a chronic illness lingering in the foreground. Practicing gratitude helps us manage our expectations and recognize the good things we have.

The Enough Years

Defining  your enough will help you recognize when you are financially independent. Basically, you need to have 25x-30x your annual spending saved and invested.

It is easy to think you will never have enough, and much like hoarding things it’ll be easy to start hoarding money. But money won’t bring you happiness and your anxieties will change.

Embracing gratitude before you reach your enough will help to prevent you from missing your enough. Consider opening a donor advised fund and start giving away your money (in more substantial amounts) before you are fully FI.

Recognize how amazing it is that you were able to diligently save, educate yourself on all things money, and reach FI. Most people won’t learn the secrets and will never reach “enough” even in retirement. Share your knowledge, help others in need, and be grateful.

Gratitude and the Secret to Our Frugality

If you’ve looked at any of our monthly spending reports, you’ve likely seen that we hardly spend any money. In fact, when we hide out at home doing projects or free activities with friends I often forget even where people spend money.

Going on a walk is a healthy frugal option
Going on a walk is a healthy frugal option

Then, after we spend an extended period of time with others I’m reminded of the true secret to our frugality:  we don’t shop.

That may sound so obvious, but we don’t even shop online without a specific purpose. When we discover we want some item we add it to our Google Docs file and go on with our day. A few days later if we still want the item we buy it. Most of the time, we don’t actually want it.

Shopping is not an activity nor a way to spend your day.

Instead, we invite our friends to hike in the woods, play board games, or grab a beer (we do spend some money). And we end up only setting foot in grocery stores normally (we gotta eat)!

We are grateful for our frugality for many reasons:

  • Improves our physical and mental health
  • Helps us connect and build stronger relationships
  • We are more able to filter out the consumer culture
  • We are able to give back with our time and money
  • Even while working full time jobs, we have freed up our evenings and weekends to pursue hobbies of our own choosing

What are you grateful for? How do you embrace gratitude?

6 comments on “Don’t Give Up on Gratitude”

  1. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be able to be grateful by working to keep great people in our lives. The last few points you listed might not be applicable to every one at every time of year, but they’re important to consider. We’ve found that actively deciding what we want to do with our time and/or money and how we choose to feel based on those decisions can make a huge difference. That in turn enables us to pursue who and what make us happy and – ultimately – gives us the opportunity to be grateful.

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    1. Reply

      Having great relationships goes a long way! I’m grateful for my friends, family, and readers! (Yay, that last one is new! Six months into blogging and loving it! (Also, never have I ever used so many exclamation points.))

  2. I’m grateful for a family I actually WANT to give gifts to. My in laws are absolutely fantastic people, and since my mother in law watches our son twice a week, Christmas is a great time to be able to spoil her and say thanks without her being able to refuse 😉 Even so, we stick to practical (a new memory foam mattress) or edible (no salt taco seasoning) gifts that are actually appreciated. There’s nothing worse than gifting something that ends up in the trash or at the thrift store.

    1. Reply

      Yes to giving gifts that will be cherished and used! It is so awesome to have family that you love, and amazing to be able to give back since they help you out! And your son will be so close to his Grandparents!

  3. Reply

    “The true secret to our frugality: we don’t shop.”

    Yes! This is my secret, too! It makes such a difference when you aren’t walking around a mall aimlessly. You save far more money over shopping the sales if you spend the time at home. 😉

    1. Reply

      Yes! It frees up so much time and I don’t even know what the cool kids are buying these days!

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