This is a guest post from Amanda, a Colorado tech writer and an activist for children with congenital heart disease.

Two key tactics in our strategy for frugality have included moving to buy only what we need and will actually use, and to only pay cash for purchases. Despite good intentions, we have backslid a few times.
 
We started down the slippery slope while attending a wedding near Rocky Mountain National Park last Memorial Day. As a “couple-time-treat” we stayed at a hotel and paid way in advance, so that was an “approved” purchase. Then we went to Rocky Mountain National Park. Park entry is $20 per car or $35 for a season pass. We bought the pass, thinking, “Even if we don’t go again, the money goes to a good cause.”

We used our park pass again with our kids and had such a good time that we justified a purchase of hiking packs from REI on our credit card. We did this thinking we would go again and again. We had some buyer’s remorse when we got the credit card bill, but we paid it and moved on. We’ve been hiking five times and plan at least once more before the end of the season. (Though it’s getting cold up there!)

Before we became “Fruggies,” we might have left those packs in our garage, next to the tennis rackets, roller blades, picnic baskets, etc.  But changing our perspective on money has made us get off our butts and get back to nature. Changing the way we think has also causing us to expose our kids and ourselves to things we missed out on as children because our parents ignored the amazing opportunities in our own backyard. We’re learning to use what we pay for and in the process enriching our lives through experiences rather than things.

The park-pass/backpack lesson caused us to drag out our fondue pot and enjoy some gruyere cheese from the local farmer’s market. I’m using the popcorn popper I got for Christmas. The kids love making popcorn and then watching their few Disney movies that were collecting dust.

As for the tennis rackets, those went to charity. And the roller blades got us a surprising $24 at Play it Again sports (which covered a medical co-pay). Thinking about not only how often we’re going to use a purchase, but if we’re going to enjoy it helps us stick to our budget.

Sometimes I see things I would like to buy, but I stop and think hard about how and if I would use it — then the urge can be fought. On the other hand, if a purchase is going to improve our lifestyle, health, and happiness, then we can be comfortable with investing in those things instead of just buying stuff to fill up our garage.

I’ve learned that when purging and simplifying gets hard, I can feel good about the things I’ve bought in the past by starting to make use of them!

This article is about Choices, Frugality, Shopping