Any good home economist will tell you that living frugally and sticking to a budget is all about separating wants and needs. This has always been a struggle for me - I have always wanted a lot and thought that I needed a lot. During the last few years that we've lived on a very meager income I've learned how little I truly need. And in this time I've learned that not only do I need very little, I also don't really want a lot either. For me, the key wasn't simply distinguishing wants and needs it was needing and wanting less.
For example...I love to cook. And not only do I love to cook, I love to use lots of fresh ingredients. A lot of times when I'm preparing a meal, my cutting board looks like this (this particular meal happened to be Moo Shu Pork - yummy). Now, there are many reasons that I could say that I need a new cutting board. First, it's way too small for the how I like to cook. I have pretty good knife skills which really saves me time when I'm working through a huge pile of fresh ingredients. But, it's hard to work quickly on this cutting board because I am so cramped for space. So, it takes me a lot longer to chop things on this cutting board. Second, it stains and holds onto smells (even though Pampered Chef said that it would do neither). I really don't like being able to smell the pickles from yesterday's Cuban sandwich while I'm slicing the green onions for today's stir fry. It takes bleach to get out the stains and I really don't like the bleach fumes in my kitchen. Really, there are many ways in which this cutting board is not meeting my needs. And, it would be really easy to convince myself that I need a new one. But, I don't want a new one.
Another example is our office chair - it is 8 years old (and was very cheap) and broke the other day, I mean, really broke. Rather than going out and buying a new one, we were able to fix it very discreetly with duct tape. We didn't want to buy a new chair, even though we definitely need one. It still it's completely fixed and we have to adjust it all the time, but we deal with it.
I've finally come to a point where I don't want to spend money on things, even things that I probably need. I would much rather save the money for later when we really need something (like rent money). Life is not about having things, it's about having experiences. By lessening the money that we spend on wants and needs (ie things) we're able to spend more money on experiences - like vacations and charitable work.
It has been a long hard road that has lead me to acheive this mindset. We've had quite a few financial setbacks ever since I quit working when we had our first child. The Lord has humbled us and then taught us lessons that are so valuable. I am so grateful for the things that I have learned during these times and I hope that we will always remember them even when times are better in the future.