The Economics of Being Cool — and Frugal

Being frugal is chic these days.

It’s exhilarating to go to bed knowing that you’re weird and out of step, and then burst into the kitchen the next morning as a dynamic, exciting, creative, green living, Chic woman of power and wisdom!

I'm so cool I'm hot these days, although I'm not the beautiful woman in the signed limited edition print by Steve Henderson.

I’m so cool I’m hot these days, although I’m not the beautiful woman in the signed limited edition print by Steve Henderson.

At no point in my life have I so easily transformed from one persona to another, and what’s especially fun is that I haven’t made a single, solitary change in my life. I wish that losing weight were this easy.

But it isn’t, and neither is being frugal, actually, because despite all the articles urging us to Live Simply — Go Green and the online 10 E-Z Bullet-Pointed Steps to Saving Money Now! living wisely and well is not something that we do overnight.

It’s a lifestyle, a way of thinking which — until the economy tanked and decided to stay down there wallowing in the mud — was considered cheap and peculiar, not to mention a sign of failure because, as well all know, successful people own a lot of stuff.

But these days, successful people live within their income — a pretty good trick as many people find their disposable income going down while their expenses keep going up.

And yet, they make little decisions that add up to a big impact: instead of takeout pizza, they slap ketchup, cheese, and a piece of pepperoni on an English muffin and toast their ingenuity with a glass of wine.

Or they stop for a micro-second, hand hovering over that DVD and ask themselves, “Do I really need this — right now?” and they go home and think about it.

“You can talk yourself into anything; and you can talk yourself out of anything,” my grandfather always said. He was a Realtor, and he saw this happen a lot.

It would not take much convincing to persuade me to buy a house like this. Sophie and Rose, print and original, by Steve Henderson

It would not take much convincing to persuade me to buy a house like this. Sophie and Rose, print and original, by Steve Henderson

“Often, the deciding factor in purchasing a house was relatively minor,” he said.

Too often, before this new economy that none of us asked for and most of us wish would go away, or at least get over its flu, the deciding factor in a purchase was what other people would think.

But now, more and more people are liberating themselves from the tyranny of how they think other people think about them — and they’re considering what is uniquely best for them and their own families.

That’s frugality — that’s where it starts — reviewing the sensibility and wisdom of a purchase based upon one’s own thoughts, desires, needs, and resources.

Years ago, we dropped a chunk of pennies on a wheat grinder which does exactly what it sounds like — it grinds wheat berries into flour. People around us were buying phones.

Nowadays, their phones are broken, gone, out of date, while our wheat grinder keeps merrily grinding along, providing that someone is physically moving the wheel around and around. And we’re cool.

“You grind your own wheat? That’s really smart.”

Smarter than your phone, actually.

We spent the same amount of money as our peers for an industrial quality clunk of metal that will never look cool, but it provides freshly ground flour for the freshly made bread that we produce in our kitchen. We eat really well.

Being frugal doesn’t mean that you don’t spend money. Many times, as with our wheat grinder, it involves making a major purchase.

Being frugal doesn't mean that you don't buy things. It means that you save up and buy worthwhile items that make you happy and last for a long time -- like artwork. Enchanted by Steve Henderson

Being frugal doesn’t mean that you don’t buy things. It means that you save up and buy worthwhile items that make you happy and last for a long time — like artwork. Enchanted by Steve Henderson

But it means that you spend money wisely — on something you want, will take pleasure in, and will use and enjoy for a long time to come. That could be a wheat grinder, a hank of Bactrian camel hair yarn, a work of art, or even a phone, if that’s what you really, truly want — the only thing for certain is that it won’t necessarily look like what everyone else is getting.

Not if we’re buying according to what we want and need, as opposed to what we think others expect us to have.

This article was originally published in

About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
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4 Responses to The Economics of Being Cool — and Frugal

  1. I agree whole heartedly with this post. Also, we are, as a society, becoming more aware of what our purchases mean for others, as in, did this come from a slave labour, sweatshop type place, or are the resources to make this causing massive environmental damage or devastation for others, including animals? It is pretty hard to do the “right” thing at all times but at least being aware and balancing pros and cons is a step in the right direction. Btw…we bought a wheat grinder last year too and I still don’t have an iPad, or many other of the latest gadgets.

    • Karen — I hope that you are getting much joy out of your wheat grinder — I love ours. Considering that we own a business that depends upon people wanting to buy things — we sell fine art through — we want people to feel comfortable with buying,, but as you note, there is a difference between indiscriminate purchase of lots of junk, just because it’s cheap and we want lots of stuff, regardless of how it is made or under what conditions — and purchasing quality items, at a fair price, so that people of skill and integrity can make a living. We’ve got a long ways to go on that in this society, and lately, I think we’ve been going in the opposite direction.

  2. cabinart says:

    Wise words, Writing Woman! It is the reason I’ve always bought used Honda Accords as opposed to a new Pinto.

    It takes discipline and self-control and time to learn to recognize which items will wear out and/or lose usefulness. What is useful to one family could be a fad for another (saw it with the dusty unused wheat grinder at my cousin’s house.)

    One thing that makes me scratch my head with wonder is a magazine called “Simple” – Hunh? People who want to live truly simple lives don’t subscribe to magazines, and certainly don’t buy all the canned/frozen/processed ingredients that those recipes require. (I must have read one in a grocery store waiting line. . .)

    • Cabinart — Honda Accords are an example of a fine product that retains its value, but does so for a reason. I’m sure that you are far, far happier and better off with your used model than you would have been with that Pinto.

      You are right — each individual and individual family needs to make the decisions that are best for them, but therein lies the problem. Too, too many people factor in what other people think, or what they think other people will think, into ALL of their decisions.

      This is not surprising, given the increasingly strong Group Think climate in which we live — it starts in pre-school and goes throughout our lives — all of public school, into the universities, in the workplace, inundating our churches, splattered all over our newspapers, movies, tv shows, and magazines — “Do it this way. Be cool. Let us think for you.”

      Yes, the absurdity of “Simple” magazines does not miss me either — along the lines of paying $8 for a cup of coffee, or $2 for a bottle of water! (Don’t you feel, sometimes, that our society is that frog in the pot of gradually heating up water?)

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