My Frugal Mindset: Looking Beyond What’s Here and Now

I come from a long line of frugal-minded individuals. As a kid I watched my mom clip coupons and shop only during sales. I saw my dad act as the “electricity police” for our family and flick the lights off the second anyone left a room. And now that I’m an adult, that frugality gene shows itself in a couple of different ways in my life — I’m a proud thrift store shopper– but the best way I’m frugal, in my opinion, is in my garden.

I made fast friends with a talkative 9-year-old. We had a great time working together.

Volunteering with

Over the summer I volunteered with my husband and to help with a gardening project at the Washington State Patrol District #2 Memorial in Bellevue, Washington. Mark and I brought our gardening tools and gloves and several flats of mums to plant. We weeded, planted, and watered flowers for several hours with other volunteers in the sunshine.

Every fallen officer’s marker was decorated with abundant color.

Can Something Really be Not Dead Enough?

Our project manager was eager to beautify the grounds for an upcoming ceremony to honor fallen officers, and every volunteer wanted to contribute to that vision and make it something special. Several established flowers and ferns were fairly wilted when we arrived and “didn’t make the cut,” so they were yanked and tossed into the yard waste pile like trash. And I tried…I REALLY tried not to look…but some of those flowers and ferns didn’t look dead enough to me. I was pretty sure I could revive them if I had enough water… and if I clipped away the wilted leaves and stems…. Maybe I could soak the roots and transplant them in my own yard. I was getting pretty excited!

We had a great team of men and women that came together from as far as Yakima, more than 130 miles away.

I whispered to my husband that I thought some of those plants could be revived. He asked me why I didn’t set them aside and he walked off to ask our project manager if it would be OK if I took some of the discarded plants home with me. I wanted to die of embarrassment. Exactly how frugal am I, anyway? We could certainly afford to buy some plants of our own. But that wasn’t the point. There was still life left in those discarded plants and it bothered me to not give them a chance to live. Sappy, right? I blame it on the frugal gene!

Detail of one of the markers.

Fortunately, I brought my own recycled bucket and I put at least a dozen of the less-than-desirable plants into it and walked it calmly to my car, trying not to speak words of encouragement to these pitiful, wilted plants — or even worse, sing to them.

I did bring them home with us and in the cool of the evening I soaked them in water, dug holes that I filled with wet compost, staked them, and clipped away the dead parts. Some of them seriously looked like little naked twigs. But after they were planted, I watered them every day and they did perk up. In fact, there was a lot of green left on them.

Every day I continued to go into my yard to water and look upon my work with satisfaction. And then it occurred to me….Maybe when I look at these frail plants, nestled in their new homes I’m not really seeing the flowers as they are, I’m seeing them how they will be many seasons from now — laden with buds and blooms, and filled with fragrance. Just because they’re not thriving now doesn’t mean they never will.

First bloom from one discarded beauty in its new home.

Looking Beyond What’s Here and Now

Just like those plants, I sometimes feel like we discard people who are slow to bloom. Maybe they’re not planted in the best environment, so they’re not thriving and producing fruit. Maybe they’re not getting watered every day with words of encouragement. Maybe they’re baking, neglected in the sun, becoming dry, withered, and discouraged. If we could all just look at what could be instead of what is, I think we might pour a little bit of our time into people who really need it.

Maybe my neighbor is lonely. Couldn’t I shower him with my time and conversation? Maybe my friend hasn’t eaten today. Couldn’t I invite her to lunch? Maybe my teen’s friend is feeling neglected and living in an unhappy home. Couldn’t I be his sunshine and ask how he’s doing? We all need something.

I look at the little plants now, and think that rather than money I invested my time and energy, and provided things necessary for growth like water, shade, fertile soil, and sunshine. If I can  see so much potential in a pile of discarded plants and invest my time to nurture and care for them, how much more should I invest my time to nurture my family, my friends, my neighbors? My investment was so small but my reward has already been so great.

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