8 days left until the merge is complete. Today's glimpse is on my financial life - extreme frugality.

My mission president gave me two pieces of advice when I finished my mission. The first was to love the temple. The second was to not be too frugal with my future wife.

I can understand his sentiment. At the end of my mission I gave back 16 months of stipend money, which meant that I had been living on a quarter of what other missionaries used each month. It was the most any missionary had ever returned to the mission, and he knew that I hadn't augmented it with personal funds. His wife is still convinced that I wasn't eating.

The reality is that I've been extremely frugal for all of my life. I'm not sure where it came from - I mean, I have frugal parents and we have crazy family traditions, but I'm extreme even within my family. My family will buy things for outrageous prices, and will usually leave the grocery store after price shopping and couponing with cartloads of food. I'll do that, but I also remember getting field trip permission slips in kindergarten and first grade that had fees of $1... and not taking them home because I didn't feel like the trip was worth $1.

Since I've had to fend for myself, I obviously have to spend more than $1. Nonconsumption isn't always an option. But I don't buy fresh food unless it's in season and on sale, and had almost a years supply of food even in the college dorms for the express purpose of being able to buy things once a year when they're cheap and use it until the next time.

On my mission, and throughout life since, I've simply followed the same pattern as before. Buy things that are healthy and inexpensive, and only if they're necessary. If it's expensive and I really want it, then I get the ingredients to make it from scratch. I almost never pay for convenience. And if I can't make it from scratch, then I do the ultimate in delayed gratification. I tell myself that I'll have everything I want in the Millennium, and forget about it. Amazingly, it works.

I think the reason why it works, though, at least for me, is because I'm not just saving money for some nebulous future use. I'm trying to use it for something better. Part of my frugality is trying to find better and better ways to use the money that I save. Sometimes it's the obvious methods of offerings through the Church, but more often it's in finding people and causes that need it far more than I do. And that's what moves me to pass on going out to eat - do I need to eat at this restaurant more than someone else needs food? I can still go for the camaraderie and save the money for something else.

I realize that I'm extreme, and it's been a long road to learn to even invest in myself. Buying clothes that give the right impression, taking classes to improve talents, even buying healthier food when it's more expensive than processed junk has taken years to learn and implement in my life. But I'm learning. I've been to more restaurants in the past few years than ever before in my life. It's worked only because I've realized that the gifts the Lord gave me aren't just to give away. They're to build the kingdom. And part of my stewardship is determining where the application of those gifts would effect the greatest impact. Maybe it's in taking voice lessons. I have a hard time believing that most days. Maybe it's in donating to the Temple Assistance Fund. Or maybe it's going out to dinner or buying flowers for a girl to let her know I care.
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