Category Archives: Frugality

Five Reasons To Stop Being Frugal And Get A Life

This post was inspired by Invest It Wisely and his post Challenging Your Thoughts and Beliefs.

This post was featured as an Editor’s Pick in Carnival of Personal Finance #286.

This post was included in The Best Personal Finance Articles of 2010 by Free From Broke.

I like spending money. There… I said it. I like shopping (if you didn’t know that, read about it here). I like going on vacations even if it means only a two day getaway to some place I’ve never been before. I like eating out with my friends. So, overall I like spending money and I don’t feel guilty about it. Or even worse – I don’t feel like a fool who is parted from her money.

Some people like saving money, some people like spending their hard earned dollars. It is a personal choice. Do you believe you can be frugal and not be afraid to spend money?

A frugal lifestyle could require a lot of work, time and patience. It could overtake your life. It could control your life in the following ways:

1. You spend endless hours researching, exploring, shopping around for good prices and deals. A frugal person like you understands that shopping is not fun. It is hard work comparing prices, planning and timing your purchases, organizing your schedule to accommodate your shopping trips so that you can get precisely what you need for exactly what you want to spend on it. Instead you could be walking in the  park with your dog, playing with your kids, spending time with your friends, visiting your parents, reading a book or watching the news.

2. Your hair will eventually grow out of control, lose shape and style. But, being a frugal person you cannot justify spending more than $20 for a haircut. Annually. You decide to cut your own hair, even though you cannot see if you cut it straight in the back. Instead of looking stylish and preppy, you choose to look frugal. Come on… what is really important? Definitely not looks. Substance.

3. You separate the 2-ply toilet paper rolls into 2 separate rolls. You even start considering to use newspaper instead of a toilet paper. You wash and re-use plastic storage bags. You make your own soap and you tell yourself it is better for your skin (and it probably is). You cook at home all the time. Why go out and pay someone to serve you the same food you can make yourself? Time consuming? Yes. Boring? Probably.Instead you could be … see #1 above.

4. You don’t want to pay money for cable or the Internet. You sign up for your local library to get free books, magazines and movies. You wait for months because all popular books and movies are taken, and the waiting lists are huge. However, you don’t mind waiting because you don’t have time to read or watch movies. Insteadof reading and watching movies, you are busy cooking, cutting out coupons, making your own soap, unrolling and rolling toilet paper and washing plastic storage bags.

5. You don’t go on vacations because they cost money. Instead you take naps and dream of places you have never been because that doesn‘t cost anything and gives you so much needed relaxation.

If after reading this you are still considering frugality is a way of life, think twice. And for Goodness sake, go get a life!

Family Lessons in Frugality

I learned the word “frugality” from my American friend. We were at lunch talking about shopping. She said that she likes good bargains, thinks about herself as “frugal” and doesn’t settle for “cheap.” Even though my English was really good by then, I still didn’t know what “frugal” meant. My friend explained that it meant “spending wisely.”

Lately the life style of being frugal has become somewhat of a phenomena. Everyone is having heated discussions about it. Bloggers passionately write about it. People try to accurately define it. Why being frugal is such a popular notion? Probably because it is very difficult to be frugal in a consumerist culture (read about my financial discoveries in Saving Money Today). Then I thought about my own life experience and decided to compare my Russian definition of frugality with American definition.

Russian Frugality

I grew up in the family that was frugal by default. We were poor and used to live from paycheck to paycheck. My grandmother and mother were teachers and got paid twice a month: a small advance in the beginning of the month and a bigger lump amount three weeks later. My family was not cheap by any means. If we needed new shoes or coats, we would invest in quality goods. You have to realize that in the Soviet Union we did not have bargains, coupons or sales.

My grandmother and mother tried to stretch their paychecks as much as they could but the money would usually run out by the end of the month. We would eat better in the beginning of the month, and a little bit worse by the middle of the month. If something broke, it could become a big problem because it meant taking a good chunk of money away from what we usually spent on food. My parents used to borrow from close friends who were a little bit better off then we were. In fact, borrowing money from friends was a very common practice. Majority of the people in the former Soviet Union lived this way.

My family taught me four very important lessons about the ability to stretch money:

1. Get the best quality of clothes and shoes because they will last longer.

2. Don’t invest in cheap products because they will fall apart faster.

3. Try to save a little bit at a time because you will have an emergency spending sooner or later.

4. Evaluate your needs, wants and spend wisely.

Applying these rules are not easy, especially in the US where the consumerist culture encourages spending.

American Frugality

I asked my American friends what their definition of frugality was and this is what I heard back:

– Not being extravagant, spendy or wasteful;

– Balance your lifestyle: get what you need and want without overspending; look for deals and bargains; cut coupons and shop wisely; repair and re-use as opposed to buying new and discarding;

– Live within your means;

– The practice of acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner, and resourcefully using already owned economic goods and services , to achieve a longer term goal (when I heard this I wondered if it was a text book definition);

– Living a bare bones lifestyle (Really? This one made me depressed instantly. Even back home I never lived a bare bones lifestyle);

– Being cheap (I don‘t even want to comment on this one);

– Being mindful and practical (just like my grandmother!);

– A habit of choosing not to spend money that you theoretically could.

No matter how you look at it, frugality is a word with a controversial meaning. But it definitely has a lot of similarities no matter what culture you are from. For some people it means saving, being financially smart with your money, finding a good bargain. For some people it means being cheap, stingy, boring and having no life. Some defend frugality by saying that they enjoy quality and a respect for value. Some attack frugality by saying that a frugal lifestyle means saying “no” to everything that brings enjoyment to your life such as eating out, drinking lattes, shopping and traveling.

Sometimes I am still wondering if frugal people live for bargains or do they simply spend smart? I prefer to think that I practice the latter.

EDIT: This post was included in Festival Of Frugality #253 – Frugal Halloween Costume Edition hosted by Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.