What does "frugality" mean to me?
The concept of "frugality" is very simple - making the most of what we have to build the best life we can. Money, like anything else, is not unlimited. Frugality is about putting each dollar to its best possible use for my life. A simple example: I am not a "foodie." To me, some of the best, most enjoyable meals are comfort-food-style, made-in-the-crockpot, beans-and-rice type foods. I also don't really like to eat out - I'd much rather curl up on my couch with a bowl of something delicious. So I don't spend a lot of money on food, because that would be a bad use of those dollars for me. If I spent my dollars on fancy groceries and eating out, I wouldn't be able to spend them on other things I really value and enjoy. Not only does that not make sense, but it's deplorably wasteful and irresponsible. Which brings me to....
Why is living frugally important to me as a Jew?
I believe that, as a Jew, I am commanded to do or not do certain things. These commandments - or mitzvot - encompass my relationships with God, with my fellow human beings, and with the world around me. (I will address/refer to these mitzvot in much greater detail in other posts.) In short, how we handle our money touches on each of these relationships:.
- My relationship with God: I believe that God provides us with everything we have and everything we need. To be wasteful, or to abuse the things that I have, shows that I am not grateful for or mindful of all that God has given me.
- My relationship with my fellow human beings: I believe that we have a responsibility to care for our fellow human beings. From supporting our family to the best of our abilities to giving tzedakah (charity), what we do with our money shows how seriously we are taking those responsibilities.
- My relationship with the world around me: Our planet has finite resources. Jewish tradition, from the Torah all the way down through Jewish legend and contemporary commentary, has stressed the importance of caring for our environment and stretching those resources as far as they can go. Wasting those resources flies in the face of thousands of years of deeply held Jewish values. The mitzvah of bal tashchit ("Don't waste stuff") is, at its origin, an environmental value.