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.

HoneyBadger 2

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.

Look at these frugal weirdos. I bet they didn't even pay to go on that hike.

Look at these frugal weirdos. I bet they didn’t even pay to go on that hike.

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:

  • Washing your own greyhound: fun and not mainstream!

    Washing your own greyhound: fun and not mainstream!

    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”:

Frugal Hound shows off our sweet 18-yr-old ride

Frugal Hound shows off our sweet 18-yr-old ride

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.

    Coffee date at home!

    Coffee date at home!

  • 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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38 Responses

  1. Clara & Eddie says:

    We’ve been lurking here for a while now and really love your blog… We are a moderately frugal couple with a couple of rescue greys, living near Cambridge (english version). Excellent post, frugality/LBYM is absolutely a mind thing. So much of the conventional personal finance advice suggests you try your hardest to climb the career ladder and earn as much as you possibly can, but at what cost? More money, but more tax, less quality time with hounds and each other, more stress – no thanks. We may have a certain reputation for being a wee bit ‘tight’ among our friends, but are also known for being financially savvy and sorted, and the first to offer to bake an awesome cake when the situation demands it (including an amazing pilchard cake for hounds). Keep these fabulous posts coming, Mr & Mrs Frugalwoods, and those splendid piccies of Frugal Hound!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So glad you said hello! Thank you for your kind words–that’s lovely to hear! You hit the nail on the head with “at what cost”–what’s the point if you’re stressed and not spending enough time with your family! On a different note, what is a “pilchard cake for hounds”? Sounds like something I need to learn about! Also, Frugal Hound says “roo” to your greys!

  2. Clara & Eddie says:

    Pilchard cake is the best hound treat! 6oz plain flour, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp baking powder, 15oz can of pilchards or sardines in tomato sauce (drain off the excess sauce and squish them to a paste). Mix this lot together, then bake in an 8 inch lined sponge tin for 25-30 minutes at 350F, et voila … You can slice it up and freeze it too, if it lasts that long – hound nom nom heaven!

    The hound lying next to me, on his back with legs in the air, says roo to his American cousin 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That sounds like something Frugal Hound would adore! I’ll have to make it for her. Thank you so much!

  3. Dropping by to say hi from MoneyMustache forum! Great lil blog!

    Good Day and Grind On!

  4. ThriftyD says:

    Awesome post, Mrs. Frugalwoods! Like Asset-Grinder above, I discovered your blog here via Mr. Money Mustache. This is the first blog post I’m reading and I love it! I think Mr. Frugalwoods and I exchanged fun forum posts over there at MMM in a thread about how ridiculous paying for greeting cards, wrapping paper, and gift bags is! Now I’ve got an entirely new blog to get hooked on. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to diving into this blog!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow, thank you very much–I really appreciate your kind words! And, that definitely sounds like my husband, he’s a certified wrapping paper/gift bag/card hater (as am I). We are, however, both pretty excited about the wrapping paper I found for free by the side of the road. Thanks again for stopping by–we’re so glad you’re here!

      • ThriftyD says:

        Ha ha yep. That’s exactly what I remember about our exchange. He mentioned you found some rolls on the side of the road. Great find! It’s amazing what people throw out that is in perfect shape! I recently snagged a window box fan that was just sitting in the dumpster corral at my apartment. I plugged it in and it worked just fine.

        Glad to be here! Thanks!

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Hey a window box fan–that’s a fantastic find!! I’ll have to include those wrapping paper rolls in my next Great Trash Finds post!

          • ThriftyD says:

            Oh yes, you must. So much good stuff is left curbside. It’s amazing and sometimes sad to see what people will just carelessly throw away rather than sell, donate, or recycle.

            By the way, I think it’s really cool that you take the time to personally respond to as many comments as possible. I know the blog is in it’s infancy and you still have a small but growing readership but I think it’s nice that you can maintain that communication with your readers. It makes things more personal and it makes us feel like we know you as our friend or neighbor, not just some anonymous username over the interwebs. So thank you and I continue to enjoy your posts and comments and hope to continue to be motivated by yours and Mr. FW’s experiences!

          • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

            Why, thank you! We are indeed still quite nascent and I’m humbled and delighted that people are reading us and enjoying the content (I’m still amazed every time someone comments! The first time we got a comment, I nearly knocked a glass over I was so excited!). It’s a true pleasure for us to write and we love making these connections with fellow frugal folks. Would that we were all neighbors in real life!

  5. The Concordian says:

    I always used to think I was alone in thinking my different, there’s-something-wrong-with-modern-society thoughts. The internet has thankfully changed that, especially with blogs like ERE and Mr Money Mustache (from which I, too, found this blog… keep up the good work!). Interestingly, I find that if you go against the grain for long enough, you end up thinking there’s something wrong with a decision when it’s too much like others’…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a great perspective. I certainly had to get to this place where I’m comfortable making decisions that are consistently against the mainstream grain. Now that I’m in that place, I feel so free and am such a happier person. I agree that the internet is a wonderful font of like-minded non-conformists :). Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  6. May says:

    Just lurking around. Love your blog and the pictures of frugal hound. I was thinking about frugal/mainstream today and how it feels like “frugal” is a movement, a counterculture. A group of of people that almost simultaneously had a “matrix moment” :

    Morpheus to Neo: “You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”
    Gosh i must be a weirdo too! Just proved it.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hooray fellow frugal weirdo :)! I agree, there’s definitely a subculture of frugality and plenty of awesome people who espouse its benefits and tactics. And the internet is such a great way for us to find each other! Speaking of which, not sure if you’re active on the Mr. Money Mustache forum? If not, I hope you’ll join us: forum.mrmoneymustache.com

  7. Muoi says:

    Hola! I’ve been reading your website for a long time now and finally got the courage
    to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Texas!
    Just wanted to mention keep up the great job!

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