Dusting Off “Frugality” and Making It Work For Us

Dear Reader:

Because it’s commonly misconstrued to mean cheap, “frugality” is thought of as a bad word. But in reality, there is a big difference between being frugal and being cheap.

Several years ago, while talking to a friend at my bank….he suggested (since interest rates were almost non-existent at the time) to open up two checking accounts instead of retaining the usual one checking account and one savings account. One account should be used to “live” on….pay the monthly bills (food, clothing, and shelter) while using the other as a ‘means to an end‘ for long-term goals and dreams. He called it “practicing conscious spending.”

It is the best advice I ever got. For some psychological reason…I found myself more willing to dip into my former savings account but less so with my second checking account. In fact, today, my second checking account is always, considerably, larger than my everyday account and continues to increase the gap, as witnessed on my banking pie chart.

Adverbs like ….to be frugal, or to be prudent or thrifty….are considered obsolete in today’s huge advertising campaigns pushing instant gratification. It goes back to one of our popular themes… and that is simplifying our lives. For every extra penny I can transfer from my primary account to my secondary account, monthly, is a victory for me.

It works better some months than others…life is always going to dish out the unexpected…but we just have to deal with it…and keep putting the other “cents” in the second account. (It really does just make “sense.”)

When I came across this true story from Guidepost on the wisdom of putting money away….in this case literally away…it fell right into today’s thoughts.

“A Miracle in an Old Coffee Can”   (Roberta Messner)

Where was I going to live? How could I afford to start over at my age? I drove to my friend’s place, still shaking with fear. Mark, my husband of 25 years, had thrown me out of the house in a rage. I only had time to grab a few belongings before I ran out the door. I glanced at my bag. I didn’t have enough to make it on my own. Not nearly enough. Then I remembered.

Mom’s coffee can. I had to go back for it.

Mark and I had been happy, once. But he changed. He’d disappear for days with no explanation. When he was home, he’d explode at me. The worst was tonight. I told him I was thinking about taking a leave of absence from my nursing job. I’d been having health issues of my own. “You don’t want to work? Then get out!” he shouted. “I’m keeping the house.” I was afraid what he’d do if I stayed.

Had Mom seen this coming? Five years earlier, she visited after I’d ended up in the emergency room with food poisoning. She noticed Mark was nowhere to be found. “Get a coffee can,” Mom told me. “Hide your money. Bury it in the backyard.”

She just had this feeling, she said. Mom’s funny feelings tended to be right. I found an old coffee can—one of those extra-wide Blue Plate ones from the 1940’s in her attic—and buried it under a bush in the backyard. Mark controlled most of our finances, but I worked as a stylist on the side. Every week, I added that money to the can.

The weekend after Mark kicked me out, I parked a little distance from the house and sneaked into the backyard. Quietly, I dug up the can. Thank you Mom, I thought. I just hope it’s enough.

A few days later, I found the place to start anew—an historic log cabin. With some fixing up, it could be the stuff of my dreams. The seller wasn’t asking much, but the buyer would have to produce cash for the down payment.

It cost exactly what I’d squirreled away in Mom’s coffee can. Down to my last dollar.


So until tomorrow…”If we want to change the world, achieve goals, and leave a legacy…maybe we need to understand that sometimes doing without means ending up being able to do more. Let’s all strive to be more frugal, prudent, and thrifty.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Jo, in her usual witty self, shared this comment from yesterday’s blog with me….in case you didn’t see it…here is an excerpt. (Remember it was about missing our own typo’s when writing)

“…I do agree with you that it is so much easier to spot errors in someone else’s writing, and yet, it is after it is sent that we can find ours. To show you how the teacher never leaves us: once when Joe had had some throat surgery, I gave him one of the girl’s little pads that you could write on, lift the clear top sheet and the words would disappear.

When he wrote to me, I found myself correcting the spelling, and then writing back. He just sighed and said, “Jo, I’m just trying to give you a quick message, and really, I can’t talk, but I can hear.”



About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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