An honest look at my efforts to be generous AND frugal this year…

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In January I chose the word generous as my word-of-the-year, and this week I realized we are somehow already a quarter of the way through the new year! It’s amazing how the months just fly by.

I thought this would be a good time to revisit my goals and take an honest look at my efforts to live generously this year. It has been a challenge, but that’s why I chose it, right?

My family started out the year in financial rough times. My husband had lost his reliable source of work right after Christmas (he’s a self-employed carpenter) and we had to cancel a trip to visit friends in January as he looked for new opportunities.

I was determined to not let these temporary setbacks keep me from being generous, though! I believe that whatever you dwell on you’ll get more of in your life, so I try to always focus on what we HAVE, not what we are lacking. We have a our health, an amazing kid, a modest but functional home, and opportunity for work thanks to our education and skills, so I operate from a place of gratitude for all that we have.

That said, being generous is definitely easier when you feel like you have everything you need. We were operating on the emergency budget for the first month of the year, which cuts spending pack to the bare-bones necessities. We were able to make ends meet thanks to frugal living and our emergency fund. Thankfully my husband has had reliable work again since the beginning of February that is better (and pays better!) than his previous gig, so we are breathing easier.

So you might be wondering, what does being generous look like when you are broke? Well, here’s what it looked like during the first few months of 2017 for us:

  • Setting aside one or more items out of our bulk purchases to donate to the food drive at our local grocery store. It is easy to part with one jar of peanut butter out of eight and two cans of soup out of twelve. I save so much by buying these items in bulk at Costco or Amazon that it doesn’t affect our budget much at all.
  • Throwing a baby shower for a friend without spending anything on decorations. I created a bunting with some origami paper and twine we already had, decorated the walls with buttefly window clings, and created a “Welcome Baby” sign in PicMonkey that I gave to the expectant mama in a re-gifted frame. It was a lovely party and no one would have been the wiser that I did it all on the cheap (except for the fact that I told them all about it, of course).
  • Donating toys that weren’t being played with any longer. This is a semi-regular thing at our house, and I let my daughter pick what to give away and what to keep.
  • Buying an extra apple at our local co-op to give to the homeless man who has been hanging around the parking lot. My daughter was with me and I explained to her that he likely doesn’t have enough to eat, so we can share an apple with him. I don’t think I would have gone outside my comfort zone to do this had I not committed to being generous whenever I could this year.
  • Taking the time to send a follow-up text or check-in with a friend. I often think about doing this, then dismiss the thought as I go about my day. For me, part of being generous with my time and attention is noticing when I think about someone and taking the time to send a quick message.
  • Giving plenty of thoughtful feedback to my daughter. I am trying to let her know why I like what she has done, with specific details such as “I love how pretended you couldn’t see your friend while you were playing hide and seek and he was in plain sight, I bet that made the game so much more fun for him!” It takes extra effort, but giving her feedback like that just makes her glow and its a way I can be generous with her that is actually good for her.

Don’t think for a second that any of this comes naturally or easily to me! I fight with an inner miser DAILY. When I go to leave a tip and four dollars would be enough, but I think I should probably leave five for excellent service, I have to practically force myself to leave that extra dollar! When I think about hosting a get-together with friends, I find myself holding back and thinking, “I’m so busy, I don’t have time to put that together and do everything else”. But deep down I know that’s not true, and I have to work to alter my old ways of thinking. So please know that the struggle is real. I think this was the perfect word for me this year, based on how hard it has been to stay committed!

Did anyone else choose a word of the year? If so, how are you doing with it? I’d love to hear, so please leave a comment below!

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4 Responses to An honest look at my efforts to be generous AND frugal this year…

  1. Absolutely awesome post !!!! This is my favorite part of the entire post…it’s soooo true !

    “I believe that whatever you dwell on you’ll get more of in your life, so I try to always focus on what we HAVE, not what we are lacking.”

    Great parenting ! 😉

  2. Mary Leigh says:

    Great post! I think we are similar in trying to operate from a place of gratitude, which does make generosity a bit easier. The point that really resonated with me though was being generous with our time and energy! How often do we think about texting a friend or checking in on someone, decide to do it later, and completely forget?!

  3. Leah says:

    Thanks, Laura! It hasn’t been easy, but nothing worthwhile really is, right?

  4. Laura says:

    I love this post and how you have found so many ways to be generous even during a trying financial time!

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