Frugality Is Not Mainstream
A major factor in our ability to pursue financial independence and early retirement is the fact that Mr. Frugalwoods and I don’t care what you think. This is not to say that we don’t value your opinion, your advice or your guidance–we surely do!–we just don’t care if you judge us. Go ahead. We’ve mastered the art of letting go and surrendering.
We accept, and announce, that we are officially unusual. Frugal weirdos. Contrary to the mainstream. I used to be a bit closeted about our frugality, but now I’m known for it. Living a super frugal lifestyle is what makes us happy and is our most genuine iteration of existence. It’s getting us where we want to be in life at age 30 instead of age 65. Plus, our friends know we’ll gladly take their hand-me-downs, and we have no shame in picking up sweet furniture discarded by the side of the road.
The minute we stepped off the ridiculous carousel of consumerism (ok, we were never really ON it) and disavowed the “socially correct,” we felt free. Disclaimer: this doesn’t mean we break laws or treat others badly. We’re moral, just, upstanding folks who clean our house weekly and pick up Frugal Hound’s poop. Being a good citizen (especially when living in dense urban environs like we do) is important and we are believers in karma. Ok, now that’s out of the way, I’ll continue.
Many of the peripheral things society dictates people care about are financially draining and don’t bring true happiness or a pure existence. Frugality isn’t a mainstream mode of existence. It’s odd to live below your means, reuse everything, cut your own hair, shop used, and not spend tons of (or, like, any) money on clothes, restaurants, and entertainment.
Let’s analyze the hamster wheel of success touted by society:
Graduate high school and attend the best university you’re accepted to (no matter the cost or the loans you’ll incur)
- Get a job to make money (doesn’t matter if you enjoy it, it’s more acceptable to complain about it anyway)
- Get married and buy a house (preferably a huge one you can barely afford)
- Buy new furniture for this house and in fact every time you move
- Reward yourself every time you get a raise by inflating your lifestyle (perhaps by leasing a new car that’s too expensive to pay cash for)
- Distract yourself from how much you dislike your job by entertaining yourself with expensive movies/concerts/restaurants/your big screen TV
- Become too important to do things for yourself and instead pay people to clean your house or fix your leaky toilet or wash your dog
- And on and on and on…
This carousel of lifestyle inflation will enslave you to your job in perpetuity. I think it’s terrifying when you see it for what it is–a way to keep you chained to your desk. Work, buy, work more!, buy, go into debt, better work more! The horror.
Here’s a brief debunking of some “trappings of success”:
A flashy car.
- If you’re “successful” you have a nice car. Right? That’s how you show people you’re making it. Well, I disagree. The Frugalwoods-mobile (a 1996 cosmetically-challenged Honda Odyssey minivan) does a great job. Gets us where we need to go and we don’t owe a dime on it.
A high-powered career.
- I used to be really hung up on where I worked and what my title was and how quickly I was advancing. Well, that didn’t make me happy. There was no fulfillment. Now, by letting go of caring what others may or may not be judging or saying about my job, I’m free to pursue a life that brings me joy.
Lots of stuff.
- Clearly I feel exercised enough about this one that I devoted an entire post to it. Enjoy!
- Hey, other people are exercised about this too! Here’s a great post by 1500 Days to Freedom on the concept of finding your Enough.
Fancy vacations, entertainment, restaurants, things of that ilk.
- Most of these are road-bump opiates–they make you feel good in the moment but ultimately don’t fulfill you and derail your savings efforts.
- We absolutely believe in enjoying life (we don’t self-flagellate or put stones in our shoes as penance I swear). On Saturday we went on a picnic with friends, road our bikes around town (specifically to the grocery store to eat the free samples), and enjoyed a coffee date at home.
- And we do go on vacation (in fact, we’ve traveled abroad quite extensively), we just frugalize it.
By freeing ourselves from material competition and the so-called trappings of success, Mr. Frugalwoods and I are able to live a life entirely devoted to our goal of retiring early and moving to a rural homestead.
I think some folks are inherently unconcerned with what other people think (Mr. Frugalwoods falls into this camp), but this wasn’t always the case for me. I had to make a conscious effort to abandon societal conventions and instead pursue my conception of a meaningful life. For some reason I was hung up on the notion that I needed to achieve or prove myself in order to be a good person. I’m so over that. I now believe that I need to live my true purpose and that being a person who effects positive change will naturally follow.
How do you buck the consumer trend and build a fulfilling existence?
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