A Single Person’s Guide To Frugal and Happy Living

This week, I’m collaborating with Sam Lustgarten of Frugaling.org on the topic of relationships and frugality. Sam is currently single and was kind enough to lend us his thoughts and advice on how he lives a fulfilling, happy, single, and frugal life.

I’m delighted to share this perspective on Frugalwoods today, since it’s a topic many of you have asked about, but that I’m not able to address from my personal experience. To round out our project, I’ll share my thoughts on marriage and frugality this Wednesday over on Frugaling.org.

I hope you’ll enjoy Sam’s insights!

By: Sam Lustgarten, Frugaling.org

Sam!

Sam!

I never imagined being single for this long. I never imagined declining offers from friends to spend the night out on the town, get buzzed, and clumsily talk to women. I never imagined deleting my dating profiles and focusing on my budget. But even more, I never imagined liking it – until now.

Frugality led me to this point, but it wasn’t always attractive. See, being frugal was something my grandparents showed me. They didn’t purposely teach, but their habits were evident. I was close with my four grandparents – spending many summers and holidays with them.

Frankly, as a young child, they could be a bit boring, stuffy, and dull. In their older years they mostly read, worked, and cooked their own meals. They participated in book clubs, were eager to entertain friends, listened to classical music, and wondered about local politics.

I hated it. I wanted to play my own music, eat out with friends, and not be interrupted by their simplicity. I wanted to explore and do. It felt like they wanted to relax and be. Their simplicity was my inconvenience. And so, their lessons didn’t click with me initially.

In college, I could’ve sowed my pockets shut. The money didn’t need a home or wallet. Anything I made, which was minimal, would be forked over to someone else – a corporation usually. I’d buy clothing at expensive retailers, and carelessly ignore sticker prices. I traveled across the country – East and West – because I was an exciting guy doing exciting things. I was someone others wanted to be (so I told myself). I had the fascinating Facebook.

When I dated, I chose expensive gifts and restaurants to share with those I cared about. Roses at the table, reservations at the bistro, and a $100+ bill at the end. I felt assured by their smiles, blushes, and moments of joy. Happiness was worth the cost; at least, I thought.

Eventually, something shifted in me. I clipped more coupons, saved, and managed my bank accounts online. The spending raged on, but now I could feel these inexplicable, new pains. I didn’t want to part with this money as much. I felt compelled to nonetheless.

Then graduate school happened. It was the best news of my life when I received my acceptance letter. I moved to Iowa and entered a PhD program. My heart was full of happiness that couldn’t be achieved through material goods. This moment was about inner worth and long-term goals. Dreams were being made.

Shortly after moving to Iowa, I struck up a relationship with someone who I continue to care about deeply to this day. It was a long-distance relationship, where I would fly all over to meet her, stay in lavish hotels, and try to “make” her happy.

Despite my monetary efforts and outsized spending habits, she was the first person to slow me down. She simply asked how much debt I had, and I stopped in my tracks. It hurt to be embarrassed, but I needed to be honest with her, and myself. Her question spurred me to start Frugaling.org.

Unfortunately, after countless struggles related to distance and money, we broke up. I could feel her crying over the phone, but couldn’t see her. I wanted to support her, but that was no longer my job. As the call ended, I remember walking outside and “being single.” For the first time in my life, I didn’t crave another person.

Sam visiting Boston

Sam visiting Boston

It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half since that moment. Much has changed. I sold my car. I bought a bike. I sold furniture. I sold my TV. I sold books. I donated clothing. I retooled my diet. I packed more lunches. I ran and biked to work. I got up earlier. I worked harder. I connected with more people. And most importantly, I began to feel happy, alone.

It’s funny, we grow up saying, “I’ll never be like my parents and grandparents.” Then one day you wake up and you realize, “I’m exactly like them. How did this happen?”

It’s hard to deny, my grandparents’ habits rubbed off on me. When I was younger, their lives bored me to tears (literally). All I wanted was adventure and fun. Now, I crave the moments of calm, peace, and tranquility. I lust after books more than ever, eager to soak up every word. I look around me, and the subtle frugal lessons my grandparents modeled have trickled into my life.

Photos of family line my walls, music often plays in the background, and a new pot of coffee is the perfect accouterment to a good book. Life is simpler than ever, even if it’s busy.

Every now and then I get these pains. I think about whether I’ll ever find someone I crave – someone I can see getting old with. Part of me wonders whether they could understand my simple living and frugal ways. Would they be my teammate in these frugal adventures?

The jury’s out, but for now, I’m happy with who I am: frugal, simple, and passionate about helping others. And whenever I doubt this resolve, I remember the following:

  1. Attraction is a reflection of who you are

I stay grounded and content because I want to find someone that’s attracted to the real me. I don’t want them to be fooled into thinking I live some lavish lifestyle. Fundamentally, I continue being frugal because I want people to know that I care more about who they are, rather than the brand they’re wearing.

  1. Frugality, like life, is long-term

When I first started Frugaling.org and writing about my adventures in frugality, I didn’t realize I’d eventually embody that persona. Nowadays, people continuously joke about me; I’m the frugal one of the group, drinking water at the bar. Frugality is not a short-term fling because I don’t have the means to live a more fanciful lifestyle. It’s a part of me that I cannot remove – and wouldn’t want to!

  1. Money can disrupt relationships

Unfortunately, monetary differences are frequently one of the greatest causes for domestic arguments and separations. Whether it’s financial instability or disagreements about how it could be best spent, money is at the root of many concerns. What this tells me is that people are matching up with others who have different means and temperaments around money. If a relationship eventually materializes for me, I hope that the values of frugality are shared.

As always, I’d love to know what your experience has been. What keeps you grounded and motivated to be frugal? How do relationships help, hinder, or hurt your ability to stay frugal? Is it easier to be single or in a relationship when trying to save money, why or why not? I look forward to your input!

Sam Lustgarten is the founder of Frugaling.org and a doctoral student in counseling psychology at The University of Iowa. His personal finance website focuses on issues of social justice and consumerism, which are at the heart of many money concerns.

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73 Responses

  1. Kalie says:

    Being content with what I have, and wanting to have money time to share with others are two motivators for me. Also putting our lives in perspective historically and globally makes living frugally seem easy, and hardly frugal at all compared to many others. I like how you brought up your parents and grandparents. I recently posted a “Live Like Grandma Challenge” because so much of the frugal living we read and write about is a return to simpler times that is actually quite rewarding.

    • Kalie,

      Love your point about perspective with regard to frugality. I think you’re probably right, even my level of consumption might be seen as excessive or extreme to older generations! Haha. Awesome article title, by the way.

      Sam

  2. I think it’s awesome that you learned to be frugal while single. It seems like a lot of people don’t really adopt frugal habits until they get married and learn they *have to* find new ways to save money. It’s a lot easier to be frugal if your spouse is also frugal though. My advice: Don’t marry a spender! HAHA

    • Holly,

      “Learning” to be frugal was certainly out of necessity for me — I was just married to significant amounts of student loans and other debts. That was my push and motivation, as I wanted to be able to live a fuller life down the road. The debt needed to go! And your advice is well said — duly noted! 🙂

      Sam

  3. I’ve been single for a very long time. I do miss being in a relationship sometimes, and envy my friends who have such solid partnerships (while being realistic that partnerships also always bring the other person’s problems along with them.) That said, I’ve found that being single enables me to be emotionally present to a range of people that I otherwise might not have the time or emotional capacity for. I spend significant time each year with my two best friends and their children, my godchildren; if I had a partner (let alone kids of my own) it would be pretty hard to pack up and leave for a month or two every year. For another example, this winter I volunteered overnight at a shelter about once a week. It was incredibly valuable to me, and would have been impossible to do that often if I’d been taking care of a family at my house. I don’t know, I go back and forth, but I will say that being single and coming to a place of accepting the pros and cons has been good for my ability to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m glad that’s been true for you too, Sam!

    • C,

      I never knew your website name was such a fantastic pun: “the single dollar.” 🙂 As a single frugal guy, I can tell you that I share in that development of comfort. If a relationship ever does come along, that’s certainly something I’ll strive to keep.

      Sam

  4. bev says:

    Agree. Don’t marry a spender. Once you marry, then both parties come to the table with how they want to manage money, and marriage can become a race to the bottom when those ideas don’t coincide. If frugality is important to you, then find someone with similar values. You won’t always agree, but at least you’re both coming from the same place. Sometimes, money needs to be spent to live a good life. It’s important to know when that is.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Well said, bev. I think knowing a potential partner’s money proclivities is crucial, but sadly, so many people just ignore that aspect of a relationship. It’s definitely true that you won’t always agree, but having a similar money worldview has been such a wonderful thing for me and Mr. FW. Sharing the same financial goals has made all the difference for us!

  5. I think relationships can motivate financial responsibility or fiscal irresponsibility as couples feed off of each other. The initial stages are the hardest though. The longer you’re in it, the more acceptable it becomes to sit at home and watch Netflix every night 🙂

  6. brookst says:

    No doubt it is harder maintaining frugal in a relationship. I was a super frugal single for 10 years. Now I live with someone. We are similar in our philosophy on money…similar not exactly the same. There are things he will spend money on I wouldn’t and then I feel I need to “pull my weight” and spend comparably. What works for me is separate bank accounts. We have a joint one for the rent and utilities that we contribute to equally but the rest of my money, investments and savings are mine to do as I want and not have to explain.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like you have a good system in place. I think it’s all about figuring out what works best for you and your individual situation. What works for one couple won’t work for another!

  7. I think it depends on the relationship as far as whether it’s easier to be frugal when you are dating versus single. When you’re in a relationship and on the same page it becomes much easier to be frugal imo. When you are in the early dating stages, though, I think there is pressure and sometime necessity to go out and do more. There are frugal dates but the reality is that dating costs some money and it’s much easier to stay in when you’re married or have been in a relationship for a longer period of time.

    • DC,

      I can definitely imagine that it might be easier to stay low-key and avoid “going out” when you’re with someone you care about. Marriage might be one route to find that, for sure. Without a partner in the mix, staying frugal is a bit singular. But I try to rope my friends in when I can!

      Sam

  8. Julia says:

    I’ve heard that money is one of the top things couples fight about, so I’m really thankful for the man I married who shares my love of simplicity. No engagement ring, a simple wedding, and a life that values time together over fancy things, for almost 17 years now.

    Sharing frugal values is also huge as we parent our two children. They find joy in simple pleasures like picnics and bike rides, and embrace the challenge we’ve set up as a family to pay off our mortgage in 4 years so we can work less hours.

    It’s so good having a partner in my quest to live simply. We remind each other about our big-picture goals, and have fun thinking creatively together about solutions to everyday problems.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Love it! What a great story, Julia! That’s very much how Mr. FW and I operate too. We’re so much more frugal together than we would be apart. And, we really do enjoy the simple things in life. That’s wonderful that you’re on track to pay off your mortgage and work less! Congrats!

  9. Mikel says:

    I could not agree more with Sam’s three points. Having been married twice and in another couple serious relationships over the past few decades, I can say without a doubt that you need to be COMPLETELY YOURSELF in order to find your match, and money issues DO DISRUPT relationships. Oh, “if I had to do it all over again,” I would have heeded the warning signs and saved myself a lot of agony. Common financial goals and habits are ESSENTIAL to a happy relationship. And, don’t think you can really change another, or change them very much. If you want a peaceful relationship, be sure that person’s a good financial match for you from the start!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you for sharing this perspective, Mikel. I completely agree with you on finding a partner who is a good financial match. Money is such a crucial aspect of life (whether we like it or not) and being on the same page with a partner is absolutely paramount, in my opinion. I appreciate you weighing in!

  10. Karen says:

    I really appreciated this article. I’m currently single and trying to be more frugal and this really spoke to me.

    I think it’s easier to be single and frugal. Not that it is easy either way (my friends still pressure me to spend and my old habits sometimes crop up) but I like to dote on my partners and give them gifts so not having someone to give to makes it easier.

    I’ve never been married but my brother was and 5 years after his divorce he still has debt from it. I think single people can live with less whereas marriage tends to come with certain expectations. If both parties agree to save or on goals(like the Frugalwoods) then it can definitely work but a lot of people go into marriage with ideas that eventually get them into debt. They feel they need a nice house and lots of stuff to make the marriage work.

    I’m currently thinking about one of my friends to see if we could be in a relationship. But he doesn’t talk much about his past. He was previously married and I think he’s in a debt hole. My heart tells me I could work it out but I’ve also seen money problems ruin relationships. I’d hate to lose a friend over debt.

    • Karen,

      In this same vein, debt was what spurred me on to make a change and take action. I feared that the level of debt I had might prevent me from a future with someone I cared about. The process showed me that without debt, I was more whole.

      Sam

  11. Mrs. Maroon says:

    Having a partner, with whom you share all of your frugal tendencies, can help further support your frugaling. The peer pressure out there to be spendy can be intense. Being able to come back home to someone that keeps you grounded can be a huge benefit – to me at least. Maybe I’m just not quite comfortable with it yet… goes back to letting go of what others think. With a strong personal sense of who you are and your core values, maintaining a frugal lifestyle while single could be just the same as with a partner. But I thrive with the support and confidence of sharing it with Mr. Maroon.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      It really is wonderful to have a partner that shares, and loves, the frugal lifestyle. It absolutely has made the journey easier and more fulfilling for me and Mr. FW.

  12. My hubby and I met 13 years ago and we had different financial mindsets when we met, I was spendy and he was frugal. Over time, unfortunately, he became spendy like me and we wasted more money than I care to think about over that period of time. Finally, three years ago we decided to change our ways and focus more on financial freedom rather than working for the rest of our lives and living the frugal life we live now would not be possible if we weren’t both on board and worked together as a team to make things happen.

    • Shannon,

      I sincerely appreciate your comment. This story speaks to the growth that can occur in certain relationships. Your potential match doesn’t need to be and likely isn’t perfect. Similarities might be present, with some sizable differences too. One of the more exciting parts of relationships is the shared exploration and discovery. Really love your way of looking at it!

      Sam

  13. Nicki says:

    I would have to say it is easier to be frugal when in a relationship than single. However that definitely assumes you are on the same page as the person you are with. When I was single I spent more being social, i.e. going to bars, restaurants, weekend activities or things where I might be able to meet new friends and guys. Of course I could have done park walks, picnics and not gone out to eat, but at the time I felt that the social opportunity cost, as well as less chances to meet a mate, were too high. Now with a partner I have someone to do the cheap “simple” stuff with and we have expanded our circle to include frugal couples that like to do potlucks. Both situations can be lived very well frugally, but it’s harder to find a spouse sometimes living frugally.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you for sharing this perspective, Nicki. I definitely find that it’s easier for Mr. FW and I to be frugal together. And, I completely sympathize with the costs of trying to meet a potential partner. I think Sam is so inspiring for his ability to achieve such awesome frugality as a single guy.

  14. Amy@DebtGal says:

    Hmm, I’m not sure if it’s easier to save while single or in a relationship, since both have their challenges. On the one hand, while single one can make their own financial decisions, without having to compromise and potentially dilute their savings. But in relationships – assuming they involve living together – it can be easier to take advantage of economies of scale.

    I think you’ve identified the key, which is always being true to who you are and your goals.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Totally agree on the importance of being true to oneself and one’s priorities! I really like how Sam highlighted that. I think it’s a terrible idea to enter into a relationship under false pretenses–financial or otherwise!

  15. As far as relationships, I guess I lucked into finding the right woman early on. We met right after I started college and stuck together since then. We eventually married 7 years later after living together for most of those 7 years.

    I think our frugality clicked early on. She grew up rather poor and I came from a middle class but very frugal household. Neither one of us were used to going out to eat, so Taco Bell or pizza or Applebee’s was living the high life. For the first year or two of our relationship, I didn’t even have a car because insurance was too expensive, so she provided that part of the relationship and I had some cash so I could get us through bumps (not that there were many). We took an amazing 6 week backpacking trip across Mexico and spent less than I would have on a few months of car insurance, so the smart spending paid off.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You two are so wonderfully suited for each other! I love hearing about your story together–it’s the future Mr. FW and I hope for!

  16. Wow I LOVE this article. And by the way you are cutie so I’m sure you won’t stay single for long! Uh, hope that wasn’t creepy! Anyway, I do love that you value simple and tranquil. I think so many people, no matter what their relationship status, get caught up in living a lifestyle that seems to be “what everyone else is doing,” but it’s not right for them. Good for you for recognizing that!

  17. Moving to NYC motivated me to be frugal. I saw people earning more money due to the high COL, but spending it all on drinks, brunches, and eating out at least two meals a day. One day the bell in my head went off. I could actually lower my COL here since I don’t need a car, and bank my extra pay. It has nothing to do with being single or not. If frugal is important to you, then just find someone who shares similar frugality traits. Might not be easy, but they’re out there!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love that NYC motivated you to be MORE frugal–that’s awesome! And, I imagine not generally the norm for the city. Frugal people are indeed everywhere (at least I hope 😉 )!

  18. I was making changes when I was still single, and trying to lead a better life financially. But, I have to admit, I didn’t feel the drive to really straighten things out until Bryan and I started getting more serious. I think our age gap has really helped me get my sh..tuff together. Being in my mid-30’s, retirement seemed like a lifetime away. Dating a man in his mid-50’s, I know that changes are right around the corner. Even if I don’t decide to retire for a long time, I need to be prepared for what his retirement and/or health will mean for my plans.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That makes sense to me! It’s great that you’re mapping out a future together and making those plans with the other one in mind. All about the team work :)!

  19. jen says:

    All these comments about not marrying a spender crack me up. What if you put two spenders together!!! That’s my family. I can sum up our attitude to money as –Wheeeee!!! Obviously one of us (me) is trying to change or I wouldn’t be reading this crazy frugal blog. So don’t give up hope on a spendypants if you happen to love one, we may just surprise you one day with newfound frugality, hopefully sooner in life rather than later.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, glad to hear you’re reading this crazy frugal blog :)! We’re so happy to have you here! I love your newfound frugality attitude–that’s awesome.

  20. In high school and college relationships I never really pondered money/the way other people spent money. I had my weird tight-fisted lifestyle, as some people saw it, and I stuck with it. I never recommended we go out fancy places, or he spend money on me, etc… I never really considered what he spent his money on.

    I met the man I married at my college orientation. We didn’t get together for a few years later, but we did know each other and take stock of the way we lived our lives. One thing that drew me to him was his sense of frugality, and that flipped a switch in my brain thinking this could potentially be a partner rather than just a playmate. Handling joint finances in a relationship is not for the faint of heart, but it is one of the most important things to your longtime relationship happiness. Setting a basis for dealing with spending and debt is something I always recommend to people for thinking about in both their single-dom and marriage.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you for sharing your story! I agree that making those important decisions about how to handle your money are crucial for everyone–regardless of relationships status.

  21. I love hearing about the process of people getting to know themselves. That’s often easier alone.

    My wife is ABD now and, for what it’s worth, the academic life does seem to correlate with being single, at least from what I’ve seen. It’s a career that takes a lot of one’s time and dedication.

    • Thanks for acknowledging the arduousness of the doctoral program process. I can definitely agree that it takes a lot of dedication and delayed gratification. Haha. But I love what I do, and can only hope to continue this through life. 🙂

      Sam

  22. The best thing we have done as a married couple was to give each other an allowance. That way we each have our own fun money to spend any way we want. The hubby was a spender when we were married and I was the saver. It seems these days we keep each other in check. When one of us is passionate about something and wanting to spend, spend, spend, the other brings us back to reality;0)

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like you two have a great system of checks and balances in place! We find it definitely helps to level each other out 🙂

  23. Tawcan says:

    Great article, single or not there are definitely challenges we all face when it comes to be frugal and save money. When it comes to relationship I think the most important thing is that you need to be happy with yourself without your partner. If you rely on your partner to be happy then you’ll never be happy.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a great point, Tawcan. Being happy with yourself is such a key aspect to a happy relationship!

  24. This is an awesome perspective from a frugal single guy, Sam! I love it. I don’t meet many frugal single people, so this is very refreshing. I think most people realize they need to be more frugal after they get married and settle down and need to do so out of necessity. You are really ahead of the game by adopting this mindset already, which is fantastic! 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I agree, I’m continually impressed with Sam’s thoughtful and intentional frugality. It’s inspirational to be sure!

  25. Kim says:

    Congrats on figuring it out before you were married with a couple of kids and tons of debt. It’s so smart to know your financial goals and habits before you get married or into a serious relationship. I think my husband and I were frugal in the beginning because we didn’t have much money, but we let lifestyle inflation take us out for a while once we started our real jobs. It would have been much easier if we’d made plans and had goals before we started actually earning real money.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m with you, Kim. Knowing your financial preferences and proclivities before marriage is a valuable thing!

  26. Michelle says:

    I never thought I would be single as long as I have been. But quit frankly, I’m glad that I didn’t meet someone when I was a complete financial hot mess. I want be in control of my money and at least have a system of debt repayment that I can articulate to whomever I end up dating. I want them to feel reassured that I’m pulling myself together. As I move forward I trust that I will meet someone who is comfortable with my frugal way of living. I really appreciated this post and I know that there is love in your future 🙂

    • Michelle,

      Thanks for your support and shared story. I think it’s vital that we have some financial knowledge and plans going into anything that might be a longer-term relationship nowadays. Personally, being without debt grounds me, which is a good thing if I ever date. 🙂

      Sam

  27. Frugalwoods, I admire those people who are brave enough to show their frugal side. I never loath them because I am one of them. It really needs to be shown to others so that they may realize what they are missing in this life and adopt a frugal life.

  28. Suzanne says:

    With your website and posts, you are OUT now, as a frugal person, so any new romantic interests to waltz into your life at this point will already know that you are a frugal guy who walks his talk and otherwise sticks to his principles and ideals. That is a major battle already won. The other thing that I noticed is that you are doing your degree in counseling psychology — my field. If you read up on self-employment in various occupations (I researched this before going into private practice after earning my doctorate), hanging a shingle in our profession has the Least Overhead of any start up businesses (dentists have the biggest sinking costs in equipment and staffing). Becoming an university tenure track assistant professor teaching grad school full time, on the other hand, is the one of the lowest paid (salaried) positions you could take ( I know, that is often first choice for those of us who love the academy). Good luck to you and keep your eye on the prize!

  29. I’ve been with my husband for more than ten years and I was a spender before we met each other, so I can’t really compare single frugality with that of couples. I do think that couples have to compromise more; you can’t be as extreme in your frugality when there is another person’s interests to consider. On the other hand, it is nice to have a like-minded partner with whom you can critique the consumerist culture. Thanks for sharing your experience – you’ve got your priorities in the right place 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sam definitely has his priorities in line, no doubt about it :)! And, I think it is actually possible to be extremely frugal as a couple–Mr. FW and I are vastly more frugal together than we were when we were single. I think it’s a very individualized thing though and is certainly different for every couple.

  30. CBuggle says:

    Thanks for your post, Sam. It is a tough question: “Is it easier to be single or in a relationship when trying to save money, why or why not?”. In some ways it is very difficult to trudge the frugal road alone. I am a single homeowner and “mom” of a dog and a cat. What I find the most trouble with is time. If I had a partner who on his more relaxed days mowed the lawn after work or started dinner every now and then, the stress in my life would be less and I would have more energy to stay committed to keeping up my frugal habits, like not eating out, for example. I work full time and the only person who walks the dog, mows the lawn, goes to the store, and starts dinner is me. That is very hard. On the other hand, I’ve dated men who don’t have the same frugality habits that I do and they seem to be money vortexes. One of them wanted to eat out almost every day. Until late last year I had credit card debt that I was very ashamed of. I’m 32 years old and I thought that there was no way I could enter a serious relationship with that kind of debt. I would be a deficit to a relationship. I realize now that there are men who would have appreciated the work I was doing to get myself out of debt, but I was too ashamed to tell anyone I was dating about it. Now, I feel that I must be honest. Even though I’m not in debt anymore, I will still be honest with whoever I end up dating seriously because he needs to know my whole story. They need to know why I will decline meals out sometimes, or decline signing up for an expensive activity. I don’t feel shame about my debt anymore. I tell people where I’ve been and where I’m going.

    I do enjoy many aspects of being single. I enjoy relying on just me to make decisions, and if I mess up, I’m the one who has to deal with it and it won’t impact others most of the time. I enjoy being independent and choosing how to spend my time. But to be completely honest, I’m ready to not be single anymore. I feel like I’ve paid my dues. There was a lot that I had to straighten out in my life before I could really be in a relationship, but I feel very solid now and I would like to have a life partner. As I get older the motivation for finding a significant other has more and more to do with partnership and companionship and community than it does with all the sparkly romance stuff, although that’s great too.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you for sharing these insights. What you said about time really resonates with me. I fully recognize that Mr. FW and I are able to insource as much as we do because there are two of us.

      I also greatly appreciate your thoughts on sharing your past financial experiences with a future partner–that to me sounds like a wonderful way to create a deep and meaningful relationship with someone. It sounds like you’ve really got things ironed out and know what you want out of life and I congratulate you for that. I hope you do meet someone who shares your values (and who loves dogs and cats!) and I wish you all the very best.

  31. Great read, Sam. It’s amazing how much influence relationships (platonic, family or romantic) have on our finances. I knew I’d met my counter-part when I realized we could have any financial discussion without awkwardness or tension. And the one time I was falling asleep at the wheel during a road trip and he kept asking me financial questions to keep me awake (he couldn’t drive because it was a rental and he wasn’t 25 yet).

  32. I thoroughly enjoyed this post Sam and thanks for taking the time to share it with us all!

    I have been single now for 18 years and I love it! I have a great set of friends, a supportive family and more importantly, a passion for quality ME time! I don’t dismiss being in a relationship and might find myself in one some day, which would be nice. But it’s also nice being alone and in control of what makes me happy.

    At one point I did try the online dating world and found it funny how others responded to my dating profile. I kept it quite real and honest to “weed” out those who were looking for someone different. The bio has been online for 10 years and I have maybe had three dates…and those were about ten years ago. Since then, nothing…and that suits me just fine 🙂

    Take care Sam and all the best in all your endeavors!

    Lyle

    • Lyle,

      Well said! Love the aspect about quality “ME” time. 🙂 I try to mark out some time for exactly that. As an ambivert, I like to be social and hangout with friends, but I also love staying in with a good book. Each setting and place suits me. Plus, my work is as social as it gets: counseling.

      Sam

  33. As I was reading your story, I couldn’t help but wonder if there are frugal dating websites out there. I’m not sure if they’d work though. Would anyone want to part with the fees? 😛

  34. Your past long-distance relationship sounds like how we started. In our case, the long distance ended up being worth it, but our heads spin to think about how much we spent on travel that first year, not to mention that expensive dates and trying to impress each other. Of course, if we had it to do over again, we wouldn’t change much, because we think relationships and travel are the only things worth spending on. And we say keep the faith on finding someone who can relate to your frugal ways, or at least learn to work with them. We’ve changed so drastically on our money views, and we’ve each come to understand the other’s perspective much better. So change and understanding are more than possible, if two stubborn people like us can grow and adapt. 🙂

  35. Kurt says:

    I think one takeaway from Sam’s story is that rather than thinking about “being frugal,” we should think about “living frugal.” True and effective frugality is a mindset and a psychology, not a practice or set of self-imposed constraints to live by. It’s more akin to, say, Buddhism than to Weight Watchers. Diets rarely work, but being true to one’s core values is easy.

  36. Mercedes says:

    I was always pretty frugal, but some relationships in my early 20’s really side tracked that lifestyle for me as I was trying to take care of my significant others who were really pretty awful with their finances. I thought I was helping them, while all I was doing was draining my bank accounts. Thankfully I didn’t end up going into debt because of any of these poor choices in mates, but I did learn some valuable lessons about what I’m looking for in another person, particularly when it comes to money! After nearly 5 years of being single, I’ve been able to really whittle down my expenses, and I know what I’m willing to pay for and what I know I can get by without. Running and reading have become a regular past times for me as well as some of the “old” and “boring” things my grandparents did while I was younger too. I’ve taken up sewing, crocheting and even have tried my hand at canning (mostly things i grow myself or pick from the local farm). Ha ha, and although I know those things make me seem old or boring, I now know that I only want people in my life that appreciate those parts of me and that I am capable of so much more than dropping $100+ on a dinner out or buying the newest phone or gadget to hit the market.

    Like you Sam, I’m hoping to find someone who can appreciate all that I’m capable and what I bring to the table and not just how I keep up with the Joneses! It’ll happen!

  37. Great read. My frugal journey definitely didn’t begin when I was single, hitting the bars and paying for dates, so Sam is certainly impressive to be doing it solo.

  38. Sam,

    Superbe read! As someone who’s been single for ages I can relate to a lot of things you mentioned in your post.

    Even though I’ve been single for a long time, I do go out on (frugal) dates regularly. While I truly enjoy the company of the girls I go out with, often a click seems to be missing. Either they believe the date wasn’t fancy enough – I guess €20 dinner isn’t fancy anymore – or I feel like there’s a serious financial mismatch.

    Of course, finances aren’t everything, but they play a huge part of what I’m trying to achieve in life. If someone else holds you back from reaching those goals, even withouth actively trying to do so, you should draw your conclusions.

    Glad to hear you’re in a good place, keep it up!

    Best wishes,
    NMW

  39. jules says:

    We should date, lol! I want a Ph.D. but am having difficulty justifying the cost. Any tips? I want to avoid taking out loans.

  40. Peter says:

    I am being frugal all my life. I wonder whether it’s good or bad. It’s good financially as I have no debt to worry about. However, I might be single for the rest of my life. At the age of 37 and I have never been in a relationship. It’s part of my fault to as I didn’t look for it until the last few years. Perhaps it’s fate. Any lady here want to be friend?

  41. Blair says:

    This is a fantastic article and hits very close to home. I’ve had a similar experience in which I was in the same type of relationship/situation for a few years and I really over fueled the spending and ran in to a lot of debt on top of my MBA debt. Our break up was a little more complicated in that it was a divorce but I’ve now found myself so content being alone and being able to have the freedom to live the way I want to pay off my debt. I moved to a new lower cost city, started walking to work, packing my own lunches, and limited my fancy trips abroad to once a year. It really is a huge lifestyle change and it’s sad that my ex-husband really couldn’t understand that while we were together and really pushed me to spend more than I should have because I had the larger income. Bring on the weekend tea and public TV!

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