I often felt lonely growing up. Sometimes it was by choice, sometimes by consequence. Whatever the case, that aching feeling would hit me – I’d want to move, do, fix, and solve the discomfort. Isolation and loneliness prompted me to go out – to frequent places with people.
Unfortunately, people tend to congregate at locations of consumption. You can see it in families taking weekend trips to the mall to walk, eat, and shop. The window shopping and actual shopping make people feel purposeful.
When I’d be down and out, I’d find comfort in the smiling faces of store clerks and fellow shoppers. People were happy to be buying and selling products. The light shined brighter. Smells of candied nuts and pretzels wafted around. And hip music reverberated through the stores. I felt happy for a moment.
From the outside, it seemed like everyone won. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Conspicuous shopping and browsing can lead to debt, overdue bills, and lessening credit scores (not to mention great environmental harm). There’s a psychological cost to this repetitive reinforcement, as well. The visit makes us happy, and we want to return to duplicate and relive these positive feelings. The purpose is in the purchase. Without the purchase, who are we? Without the mall, where does positivity stem from?
When I first started saving money and becoming more frugal, I didn’t notice my removal from society’s consumptive catches. There was this new purpose to live within my means. That seemed to be enough. I was able to share my journey on Frugaling, too. But over time, I started to feel this lump in my throat. The social outings to spend money at restaurants, go to movies, and frequent trips were severely reduced.
That feeling of loneliness crept back in. With each effort to save, came losses in social situations. As much as I tried to build in free time with friends that was actually free, I realized that it was challenging.
We all want to consume and spend and travel and adventure. There’s excitement and energy in all these activities, but too frequently, there are direct costs associated.
We each need to establish a balance in our lives where we are spending within our means, while achieving our needed social connection with others. To sacrifice the latter may mean suffering greatly and failing to maintain long-term frugality. Suddenly, the endeavor is unintentionally punishing.
To combat and bolster our social support, connection, and integration, we must embrace congregation without consumption. These are the moments circled around a board game, watching a movie at home, cooking at home, biking, running, swimming, etc.
If frugality is a philosophy and way of life, we must define our methods for staying sane and healthy. It should never stand in the way of healthy psychological functioning and connection with others. To say “no” to social gatherings that need money is a tremendous way to save, but costs something more than dollars and cents. There’s a social factor that cuts deep – for both parties involved.
Staying connected and frugal requires proactive planning. The initiative is on you – for better and for worse – to suggest events without a price tag. We are all in this together, but someone needs to start the trend. Longer term, our society must find new homes for purpose and energy with others – something beyond the brightly lit walls of malls.
Now, the important question becomes, Where will you spend your weekend?