Frivolity to Asceticism

As with most mothers, there is a calculus that goes on in my mind every time I am about to spend our family’s resources on something. Most of our clothes are second-hand and I make extra trips to food stores in order to get the best food items for the price.

It is with this frugality in mind that I recently questioned some “silly” items I purchased. Then I reconsidered, “why is this silly? Just because it enhances my ascetic experience of life? Didn’t God give us senses for a reason?” But then again, why am I buying $15 worth of decorative seasonal muffin cup papers if that is precisely what I saved by getting my produce at the market instead of the grocery store? I feel conflicted here, because I aim to live a life free from hypocrisy or double standards. I want our children to see that we are consistent in every decision we make, however, those mauve and golden paisely muffin cups might be just enough to turn my frown upside down on a Monday morning as I eat a pumpkin muffin. I just don’t think I am ready to make the clean break.

What are some of your “frivolous” purchases, and do you think this is even an issue on which to spend moral-brain-cell-time?

  • Anonymous

    AWOL, that is SO well said!!! You’re singing my song, girl, I am the exact same way. I think our job is to save money everywhere possible, and everywhere we have the energy and opportunity, and in most cases this is living good spiritual virtues of poverty and humility and self-denial (avoiding impulse buys, not “keeping up with the Joneses”).nnBut I also think that our Lord wants us to live with freedom and joy, and money is not an end in itself but it all belongs to Him, it shouldn’t imprison us. Yes, he gives us senses and a longing for beauty so that we can experience Him and raise our family’s hearts to Him (MaryAlice’s recent post about buying herself flowers). AND our money is well-spent when it’s being used to keep mom cheerful and joyful and peaceful (hiring help to go pray/Mass/exercise/date). The discipline of budgeting is good regular discipline but not when it suffocates our souls.nnMiserliness (to which I am prone) makes me and everyone around me anxious, and leads to other vices like dishonesty. I don’t think Frugal Frannies should be concerned about this type of spending–in fact I think it’s a step toward living with more freedom and abandonment to God’s goodness.

    • Mary Alice

      I am prone to extremes in general, so when I began to think about budgeting, miserliness was a big issue for me. nnI do believe in beauty, joy, hospitality and family traditions, all of which require some careful spending on luxuries, so I probably spend more on entertaining than I really should, I am more likely to add in extras like those seasonal muffin cups if it is going to be for a little occasion or party, even if the only guests will be my own family.nnI think one helpful mark can be the tithe — if you are giving generously first, meeting your family’s basic needs second, saving a little bit or paying off your student debt at a reasonable pace, then if you can pay for it out of what is left over, it seems like a little indulgence is okay — most of us have so little left over that I don’t think we are going to be decked out in prada anytime soon!

    • AWOL Mommy

      Hey, JM, I am coming to your house in four weeks! Sorry, not relevant, just excited.

      • Anonymous

        Heaven help us, AWOL, we’re going to kill ourselves finding a way to spend $15 on a Thanksgiving dinner for 14. I’ll take the kids into the forest with bows and arrows in search of wild turkeys next week.

  • Mrs_bruner

    Sometimes frugality and stewardship are the same and sometimes they are not. We want to be good stewards of the resources God has given us – time, money, brain cell power, etc. Besides using them well, God wants us to enjoy our blessings. We will each do that in a different way. One person may pay for cable TV, while I might want to go on a nice vacation and use rabbit ears. nnAlso, we want to build memories and make our homes a peaceful and restful environment. So, that means we will spend money on things we don’t need to live.nnI do think it is always good to question yourself about what you are buying. Is this clutter? Do I need or want this item? Can I buy this and stay with in my budget? Is there something else I would rather spend my money on? Do I need this right now? Is my “wants” spending balanced by my giving to those in need?n

    • AWOL Mommy

      I really like that: “sometimes frugality and stewardship are the same and sometimes they aren’t.” That has totally re calibrated my mentality. I think if I focus more on stewardship it will resolve a lot of my doubts.

  • KT

    My husband I keep cable purely so that we can have DVR. Now that we have a child going out is much harder and pricier than it used to be. Having DVR gives us the ability to watch a little TV together in the evening after baby bedtime. Neither of us are into watching junk TV and the shows that we watch more often than no spark an intelligent conversation afterwards. An example is a great production of a play that came on PBS in the middle of the day that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to watch together. It certainly doesn’t take the place of a real date night but it makes us less desperate for time together when we’re getting to watch things together that we both really enjoy. It also takes any sort of pressure off of “oh it’s Wednesday, we have to watch ____” we can just save a show and keep it for a weekend or another time so that we don’t spend every week night vegging in front of the TV. For us it has been money well spent.

  • Erin

    The last frivolous thing I bought was a Target, the epicenter of frivolous and useless spending, when I saw my favorite nursing tank now comes in hot pink. Surrounded by boys all day and all night, this made me happy and I bought it even though I already had enough nursing gear. To my surprise when I came home and told my husband all about the hot pink nursing tank I found at Target he said “Did you get it? I hope you did.” He’s so good. It makes me happy to wear a pretty color even if the baby is the only one who ever sees it!

    • B-mama

      Here, here to Target being the source of many things frivolous!! My trip today included the purchase of lightbulbs, a new bra, and a brown sweatshirt to go under a tarantula costume. A seemingly frivolous list, but all randomly necessary. There is no reason I should avoid replacing burned-out lightbulbs or wear bras with holes to save a penny!! This always challenges me.

      • AWOL Mommy

        I need to see this tarantula, that is so you, B!

  • Kat

    Great topic, AWOL! I would have to say that many of my frivolous purchases are Starbucks-related…I’m a bit ashamed to admit this! Sometimes, it’s just so nice to stop through the drive through and have someone else make my coffee for me, and since I usually sip my coffee throughout the day, it’s the gift to myself that keeps on giving :)nI appreciate everyone’s thoughts on prudence vs. miserliness. I tend to be very careful when it comes to purchases related to decorating our home, but I’ve been convicted that I might need to spend a bit of money to make our home warm and inviting for my kids/husband and our guests. This also applies to entertaining – not that we have to serve filet mignon to our guests, but it’s fairly obvious when I’ve been miserly – not comfortable for anyone!

  • JMB

    My general rule of thumb about frivolity vs. asceticism is to determine who is the ascetism hurting and who is the frivolity helping. Basically, if it’s just me living without something, I can handle that. My inner cheapness rears it’s head with white wine (summer drink of choice $4 bottle of vino verdi) and paper goods of all kinds. I also go cheap on running shoes and work out stuff. But those are my deals. As with the frivolty, we like Mary Alice entertain a lot. I’ll spend on extra food every week during the summer to have family and friends over for cook outs and swimming. We don’t always get repaid by invitations to other people’s homes, but that’s ok with me. I’d rather have people around here enjoying their company, and that does cost money.


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