Being Frugal is Being Different

Being different makes the world a colorful place. As an American living in France, people know that I am different as soon as I open my mouth. It might be because of my accent, or the minor grammatical mistakes I continue to make, even after eight years here. Or it might be because I speak to my children in English, and that always turns heads.

In our consumer culture, being frugal also makes you different. Not having the nicest car, or furniture that matches, or a house full of pretty things, or even owning the house you live in, all because you’re frugal, makes you different from others. It’s not quite as easy to spot as my accent, but it makes you stand out none the less.

How you react is a question of attitude. I always smile when people in the grocery store turn around at the sound of my voice. When they make comments about how great it is that my kids are growing up bilingual, I agree politely. I don’t mention how tired I get of always having the same conversations!

It’s the same thing with being frugal: it’s all about attitude! I have a standard answer for why I don’t go out more often, or buy lots of things: ‘It’s not in the budget’.

It’s like saying ‘I don’t have the money because I have hundreds / thousands / hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and I’d rather throw all my available and hard earned cash at that than buy another overpriced cheap piece of tat / eat another meal I won’t remember in five years, like you’re doing now.’ Only you’re saying it politely.

Saying ‘It’s not in the budget’ shows that you’re different. It shows that you’re the sort of person that cares enough about where your money goes to establish a budget and, more importantly, stick to it. It shows that you’re the sort of person who is working hard to overcome past indulgences, and well, if that makes you different, you don’t really care. Saying ‘It’s not in the budget’ acknowledges that you’re different, but doesn’t make a big deal of it.

So go ahead: the next time a spendthrift friend or acquaintance tries to talk you into buying something you don’t really want to buy, or going somewhere you don’t really want to go, use your secret weapon. ‘It’s not in the budget!’

What do you say when someone asks you to spend money you don’t want to spend?

Photo by pasotraspaso.


By , on Mar 12, 2008
Kelly is an American practicing frugality in France with her husband and three children. She blogs at Almost Frugal about getting out of debt and also has a great Etsy shop. If you enjoy this post, be sure to subscribe to Almost Frugal!


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  1. Budgeting and Being Cheap are 2 different ways of thinking about money saving. I think budgeting is to know your financial limit while still enjoy life to the fullest. Being cheap is to know your financial limit while making yourself miserable. Sure you can save money both ways, but I would take a side of happiness next to a frugality entree any day instead of the other combination.

  2. CHB:

    When people question me, I like to say that I choose to spend my money on other things more important to me. I think it sounds a bit more empowering and positive than “not in the budget”. However I can see how this would come across as mildly condescending, so I always try to be very careful how I say this.

  3. Great to read that,

    thanks for sharing it ,

    tracy ho

  4. Ryan S.:

    I’m a bit of an eccentric; I usually brag to people that I’m frugal. Still, I can’t help but sometimes wonder if I’m not living right when someone who has more obligations and about a zillion times more debt that me just continues to buy “stuff”, lots of which I would like, like a new Airport Extreme router… but I also know I have a better ending coming to me than he does…

  5. Looby:

    I used to feel a bit embarrassed to say “it’s not in my budget” or “I can’t afford it”. I must be growing up because it really doesn’t bother me to say that now. Sometimes when it is someone I really don’t want to discuss money with I might say “it doesn’t fit in with my plans” which is nice and ambiguous!

  6. Jackie Star:

    I saw your blog yesterday, I’m also starting a blog on being a poor girl with a rich life, I did a little blog/review on your site, loved it so much, added the rss feed to the side of my site too, hope you like it and don’t mind. Keep up the good work

  7. To me, “It’s not in the budget” now sounds like “My priorities are elsewhere.” Which is good 99% of the time. Unless it’s with friends. In which case I explain a little bit more unless they already know about the budget. And I look for compromises.

  8. I’m always using the “it’s not in the budget” line on people. Sometimes I go into a bit more detail, but that usually does it. Though, I feel awkward having to say it as much as I do—but I’m not about to change my spending habits; just wish some of my friends would change theirs! :)

  9. I find this a challenge when friends make plans to go to restaurants, especially if it’s a large group for a birthday or other celebration. I don’t want to be excluded, but I have a horrible fear of someone saying “let’s split the bill 13 ways.” Then you pay for that $8 dessert and someone’s 3 glasses of expensive wine that you didn’t get a taste of. I hate to be cheap, but I end up being so anxious the entire meal I hardly enjoy it. With a big group, usually I just order appetizers and take off early, leaving exactly what I purchased plus a nice tip. I have a toddler, so it’s an easy excuse. Kind of lame, but it works.

    My good friends know about our financial situation and they are sensitive to it. Usually I pick the place and we just go out to breakfast, which is never more than $10 (I live in Los Angeles – it’s expensive here.) Or, I invite them over and often they will pick up take-out if I host.

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