One of my kids was born a pessimist. He’s an amazing kid, really. He is the first to apologize when he’s done something wrong, he’s compassionate, and he has a smile that lights up a room. But he constantly views the world through dark and murky glasses. On a regular basis he feels slighted…gypped…like the world is out to get him. So my job as his mother is to help him see the bright side. When his wallet was lost for a day with all his earthly wealth inside he was instantly consumed with fear and panic. His every moment was focused on the loss of his wallet and the fact that some horrible person must have stolen it from him when he wasn’t looking. So when we found it clean and crisp in the dryer with all the money intact was he happy and relieved to have it returned? Of course not. He complained that his dollars were now too crispy to be used. And so it goes, his serving is smaller, his homework is harder, his life is too complicated (must have been that ONE chore he had to do today) and so on. I find myself spending lots of time pointing out the good in all of his bad so he can see that there is balance to life. That there is always something good, no matter how small, that can be found in our circumstances.
Most of the frugal people I meet don’t just all of the sudden choose to lead a frugal lifestyle. Many have found themselves in circumstances where it’s adjust or bust. Whether it’s a job loss, illness, stock market gamble gone bad, or a lifestyle change that resulted in a lower income, all of us have had circumstances that lead us to a choice. Do we grumble, complain, and spend all our time mourning what we used to have or do we do we look for the bright side and press on? I’m a firm believer in the silver lining theory. Even though I have moments where my day to day life can get the best of me, I always know that there is something good buried in the tough stuff. You just have to be able to look for it and pull it up out of the rubble.
I’ve learned some things from this frugal journey that had nothing to do with money. I’ve learned that the American Dream isn’t about the car and the house with the picket fence; it’s more about the people that live in the house. I’ve learned not to assume that the guy standing on the street corner holding up his cardboard sign is any less of a person than I am. I’ve learned that less is truly more. I’ve learned that my life is rich with friends and family and there is no amount of money that can top that. I’ve learned that I appreciate things so much more when they are dreamed about, saved for and completely paid for when I bring them home. And I’ve learned that challenges make me stronger and bring out a creativity I never knew I had.
So if you find yourself facing frugality with a feeling of lack, take a moment to change the way you’re thinking about it. View it as the silver lining rather than the dark and gloomy cloud and I bet you’ll find that what you thought was lack is really just a new opportunity to learn.