This is a guest post from MD of Studenomics— a blog for normal 20-somethings that want to save money and enjoy life. You know the deal. If you enjoy this post, please subscribe to the feed for more!
I recently wrote about the flip side of frugality. I got some negative responses (as expected) and surprisingly I also received some positive feedback. Today I’m going to defend frugality.
There’s a common axiom out there in society: frugal people have no fun. Admittedly, I believed in this axiom until I joined the personal finance blogging community a few years ago. I won’t get emotional or tell you how you should treat your money. I just want to show all the young people (even if you’re over 30 you’re still young at heart) that you CAN be frugal and have a life. Frugal people are not boring. This is why…
Experiences are worth more than stuff.
Anyone can take your possessions away from you. Nobody can rescind your memories. You have your memories for life. I’m a strong advocate of finding ways to enjoy life, without going broke. This also means that I make a trade-off between possessions and experiences. I would much rather have a backyard get together with a few friends than buy a $100 dress shirt and go to a downtown night club where drinks are $8 a beer. Frugal folks may not have the fanciest gadgets or the newest Ed Hardy jeans, but they certainly do value their experiences in life.
Just because someone isn’t keeping up with the Joneses it doesn’t mean that their life isn’t meaningful. In fact, a lack of credit card debt and an emergency fund can actually lead to a serious reduction of stress.
Being frugal isn’t a 24/7 thing.
Yes being frugal is a lifestyle choice, similar to working out. However, it’s not a 24/7 thing. The reason I save money by going out less is so that I can travel more. Most of you reading this that save money, do it for a reason, whether it be to help your child pay for college, go on a family vacation, or move to a better location. Just because someone is frugal, it doesn’t mean that they never spend money. So stop making assumptions.
Frugal people aren’t “cheap” and they don’t hold on to every penny. They spend money. They just happen to spend their hard earned money wisely. Consequently, being frugal can be hard. Once you make the decision to give frugality a try, you need to realize that you won’t always need to stress about saving money. The emphasis is placed on planning your purchases and cutting out the junk. If you value your family trips, then you’ll eventually find ways to cut back on other expenses to ensure you’re annual family vacation goes through.
Frugality is a minor aspect of life.
Most frugal people will agree that they move on with life once they get their finances on track. Frugality is about saving money/cutting back expenses, not about drastically reducing the quality of one’s life. Frugality doesn’t transcend to all areas of life. Once you embrace frugality, you simple learn to make conscious financial decisions.
When I hear people my age bash frugality because they think it’ll ruin their life, I just laugh. Being smart with your money will almost always improve your life. Once you get over the negative stigma that unfortunately follows frugality, you’ll realize that you can be much better off. Stop bashing and join the frugal revolution!
I’m curious to hear from the rest of you frugal people that manage to have a life…
Well i have to tell you that ever since i became what i like to refer to as ‘a master of being frugal’ (which only happened in the past few years) that i am actually having MORE fun in my life. It is such an amazing feeling to finally have all my debt paid off…to know what the next credit card statement will read before it gets here..(zero most times i might add)…. to have my utilities under control by ‘un-plugging’ when not in use and not wasting other precious resources….as others are cringing standing at the mailbox…i can remain calm, cool & collective.
Yea this is a completely different lifestyle than that of over-consumption and never feeling like i have enough. But i have found ways to see the beauty in those items that have NOT been produced in any factory. Give me sunshine and a warm summer breeze anyday over the glaring lights and stimulation of the nearest mall.
Not having any fun? I am having some of the best days of my life now and i owe it all to being frugal.
My fiance and I are frugal for a few reason, we bought a duplex and money is tight and we are saving for our wedding. We have student loans to pay and I am having trouble finding a job. However the biggest reason is having the choices gives us flexibility and decreases our stress. We would not stop being frugal if I got a job, just put more in savings.
My husband and I have never been big spenders and we’ve always tried to be good stewards of our finances, but still, we needed to get a better grip on our budget. Three years ago, we started on the Dave Ramsey plan and it made an amazing difference in how we could spend our money. Since then, we’ve paid off huge amounts of debt and only have our mortgage left to pay off. Our combined income is under $100,000. We give 14% of our income to our church and other charities. In addition, we are still able to help others in tight spots. In the last two years, we have taken two trips to Germany (one with 3 adult children/we paid), one trip to London, two trips to the Dominican Republic. We have also paid cash for a HUGE renovation project on our home AND we continue to put money away in long-term savings.
The key is being in control of your money, not your purchases being in control of you. Every dollar we earn is designated. I use to nickel and dime even gas purchases as it got close to payday. Now, it’s in an envelope and I fill the tank.
Our ‘frugality’ has increased our fun factor, not decreased it.
I have been living with this mindset for at least a decade and I am happier than I have ever been. I could care less about material possessions, just the creature comforts and a peaceful mind and heart. But I still LOVE finding deals and saving money. I buy and sell gift cards at mercardi.com/home. that is one of the most fun and profitable ways to save money that I have found online.
I love your point that experiences are more important than objects–and that no one can take them away from you. No matter what happens to the stock market, I will always have my education and my travels!
My husband and I discovered frugality 30 years ago when we were in grad school with 2 preschool kids. We developed a mindset and a skill set that are still with us. But, we do spend money. We just spend it wisely and for what we feel is important. We give to charity, we help out people who are down on their luck, we love to give gifts and we love to travel. We are now approaching retirement and probably most of our habits and mind sets with go there with us. It seems natural to us now. It has also meant that we can retire and not worry about money. We will cut our coat to fit the cloth available if problems arise.
I also believe frugality does not mean boring.
However, I have seen frugal people who were very selfish. We sometimes think of people with money as proud and sometimes even stingy with their money but these same frugal people I mentioned that seem selfish also seem “proud” in their frugality. Both sides are extremes and we must be careful we don’t fall into either one of them.
Hope that makes sense,
I agree with the post, especially about experiences. I find experiences to be far more valuable than most material items.
I like how you point out that frugal people are not cheap! This is so true. Just because I choose to spend my money wisely does not make me cheap. I think I value the dollar more because I have to work harder for it in this economy.
I have just started to try and live more frugally since I have paid off the majority of my credit card bills. However, I still budget in money for going out and even for clothes. The difference is I try to meet friends for happy hours where there are food deals or I look at the menu ahead of time to see what I can get that will keep me in a comfortable price point. Sometimes it isn’t always my first choice on the menu, but it is still fun and gives me a night off from cooking.
Also, my friend and I went to Costo last night and ended up spliting a lot of fresh produce. Since we are both single, there is no way we would be able to eat everything if we didn’t split and we both end up saving money.
Finally, I love clothes but refuse to buy anything at full price. I love a good bargin and the designer pants I am wearing today were only $17! Sometimes it does suck not to buy what I want right away, but I try to live by the motto – if they don’t have it when it is on sale in my size, I wasn’t meant to own it.
Agreed! I’m rarely bored — except when other people drag me shopping just to shop. But they probably think I’m very boring. Their loss. I’m glad I no longer have to spend lots of money to have fun.
“frugal people have no fun.” …. The truth of the matter is that Frugal people don’t have to BUY fun, or what is thought of as “fun” by some people… and of course, “fun” is different things to different people… they know how to have fun, real fun, without spending money, or lots of money….. To me, spending money is NOT fun!!!
I think the people who have to spend money to have fun are the same people who think that it’s “boring” if something is not happening all the time….. For me, I just don’t understand the word “boring” to start with… I don’t ever have time to be bored… :) Life is too wonderful, even in its simplicity, to ever ever be bored :)
Actually, I would say that being frugal IS a major part of my life and is pretty 24/7. By that I mean that it is now part of how I think about things, even who I am to some extent.
But that’s not a bad thing at all. For me, frugality is about making the best use of my resources by carefully considering how I use them and keeping in mind what really matters to me. The result is that I don’t spend a lot of time/energy/money/etc. wasted on things that aren’t important to me. It’s not that I don’t spend money on fun stuff. To the contrary! I now spend (on average) less money on stuff that is more fun.
For example, my husband and I used to think that we went shopping in the mall because it was fun. At least, it seemed more fun than sitting around the house. We ended up spending a lot of money, and there were some fleeting thrills as we spent money we didn’t have, but we weren’t really all that happy. Then we realized that what we really enjoyed was spending time together outside of the distractions of the house (like our computers). When we focused on that, we realized that we didn’t need to spend money to do that. We now go on walks around the neighborhood together instead and find it much more rewarding.
My husband and I are polar opposites. He is drawn like a moth to the flame when it comes to shopping. I shop for what I NEED and then I’m done. We don’t have fancy cars or other things, but by living frugally, we do have a nice home and we are relatively debt free. If neither of us wanted to work, we wouldn’t have to. The great thing about living our lives this way is that our children (25, 23 and 16 years old) see the difference between my husband and me and they are money-smart. Our oldest bought a truck and paid it off 3 years early by making extra payments. Our youngest asks for jobs to earn money…he doesn’t expect us to hand it to him. Our middle one is working and able to pay double on her student loan and still save money every month so she could take a trip this month. Too many people worry about what the govt will give our children when parents can really provide the best financial model if they are not spending every penny as it comes in or going in debt for wants. We have wants, but we saved the money for them first. Doing so also gives us a cooling off period to make sure those items are what we really want and not just an emotional decision. Oh, and we have traveled with our children to Mexico, Hawaii, England, France, Belgium, and many other places for wonderful vacations…not all at once, but throughout their lifetime. Before some say we must have loads of money, we are definitely middle incomers. We are just smart with what we have.