While pretending to watch the local news one day, I heard a commercial for a Dr. Phil episode that intrigued me. That day, I dedicated an hour to Dr. Phil. The premise was this: Two families of four were given a challenge to switch grocery budgets for a week.
Here is how it played out. For clarity, I’m going to name the families: Family Fluff and Family Frugal. Family Frugal budgeted $60 a week for groceries while Family Fluff regularly spent $600 a week on food alone. SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS! Intriguing right? Dr. Phil’s crew went on a normal shopping trip with each family. Family Fluff’s kids threw name brand snacks and breakfast items into the cart while mom and dad stocked up on wine and prime cuts of meat. Dad Fluff admitted that he loved to eat, he loved to grocery shop, and he never looked at sale items. The grocery bill alone does not add up to $600, but since Mom and Dad Fluff both have corporate jobs, their eating out bills quickly add up. On the flip side, Phil’s TV crew taped Mom Frugal searching the grocery ads for sales, clipping coupons, and meal planning before heading to the store. At the store, she only put a few items in the cart and her kids never asked for anything nor added to the cart themselves. She stays home during the week and Dad Frugal brings his own lunch to work.
So, how did they do with the budget swap?
Film crews followed them on another grocery store trip, this time with the new budgets. Frugal Mom was overwhelmed but giggled as she put several steaks in her cart for her husband. Frugal kids loaded up on Fruit by the Foot and Chips Ahoy. Frugal Mom had to try really hard to spend money. Family Fluff did not do well. They took some advice from Family Frugal and bought simple things like rice, beans, and ground pork. Fluff Dad had to constantly say “no” to his kids and they all walked out grumpy.
Family Fluff ended up wiping their hands of the challenge after cooking their rice and bean meal. They were disgusted with their bag lunches. They ordered take-out for the rest of the week and didn’t even care how much they spent. I remember Fluff Dad saying something similar to, “What? Do you expect me to not feed my kids? I don’t know how they (Family Frugal) do it!”
Family Frugal admitted that they really enjoyed going out to eat as a family without worrying about the bill. However, Frugal Mom did not know how to prepare a steak dinner and none of them enjoyed it. Frugal kids had poor behavior and icky tummies after eating all the junk that they were so excited to buy. The consensus for that family was : it was too much and they did not feel in control. (They never even spent the full $600!)
OK, that is enough of Dr. Phil. Here is what I have been thinking about lately and this episode synopsis illustrates it: People view “simple living” differently. If I were to ask you what you think “simple living” is, what would you say? Family Fluff would say there was nothing simple about living on a tight budget. Making money stretch is HARD WORK. It is not always a simple task and you may need to put personal desires aside. A simple lifestyle, however, is not about easy living. It is about reducing distraction and living with a heart of contentment no matter what the weekly grocery budget is. Simple living does not have to be depressing, it can be freeing and a joy!
As I continue posting in this blog, you will get a better idea of what I deem to be important components to a simple lifestyle. Up-coming posts will be practical guides to achieving a more Family Frugal lifestyle. If your heart is not in it, you might feel sorry for me (which you shouldn’t…I’m so happy!). If you are content with how you currently spend, then my guides might seem silly or too much work. If you’re lookin’ for 5 star steak dinners, you may want to look elsewhere.
This blog is for the Frugal Mom. 🙂