Frugality Is Not Deferred Spending

Frugality is not a hardship. It also doesn’t take a ton of time. And actually? It makes life easier.

Frugality Is Not Deferred Spending

Our apple trees are applin'

Our apple trees are applin’

I’ve had quite a few readers ask me lately how they should stay motivated to stick with frugality until they reach their longterm goals, which might be decades away. And my answer is that you don’t. You can’t.

Because effective frugality doesn’t have an end date. If it did, then all of us financially independent people would no longer be financially independent. And Mr. Frugalwoods and I wouldn’t be living on our homestead. We all would’ve hit our respective goals and then blown our savings in a Rumspringa of consumerism after all those years of going without. But we don’t because: frugality isn’t deferred spending; it’s a wholesale transformation of how we interact with our money.

My clothing-buying ban is an illustration. I decided to stop buying clothes over 2.5 years ago and have remained clothing-purchase-free since January 2014 (I would just say “clothes-free” but then you might think I’m some sort of frugality nudist, which I’m not… ).

Despite this relatively long no-shopping phase, I don’t have a list of clothes I covet secreted away somewhere. I’m not waiting for an arbitrary timeframe to elapse after which I’ll dash out and buy 2.5 years worth of clothing. It doesn’t work that way. Rather, what I’ve done is completely alter my approach to clothing such that I no longer feel compelled to buy it. And sure, I’ll need some article of clothing or shoes eventually and I’ll buy them. But I don’t pine away after dresses with greyhound prints; I’ve entered a new era of my life, one that doesn’t revolve around material goods.

Frugality that’s effective is a lifestyle change, not a short-term sentence to deprivation.

Frugality Is Not Obsessive Deprivation

Now we just eat our greens and get on with it

Now we just eat our greens and get on with it

Mr. FW and I once did a diet requiring militant restriction of every morsel. We had to write down everything we consumed, tons of foods were “forbidden,” and there were no treats. Not even wine!! In short, it was awful. We did not appreciate this and we were not happy about it. But, we did it for a brief period of time and we both lost a bunch of weight. It served its purpose as a short-term jumpstart.

However, there’s absolutely no way we could adhere to this diet for the longterm. We had to constantly think about food, track and measure incessantly, be obsessed with calorie content, and we felt deprived. If we’d tried to maintain that diet for years on end, we would’ve retaliated in spectacular fashion–I personally imagine myself guzzling doughnuts. Mmmm doughnuts…

Coming off that diet, we acknowledged that although successful insofar as weight loss was concerned, the cons were too severe for the longterm. Instead, we devised a system of eating that incorporates most–but not all–of the foods we like, that’s healthy, and that’s not obsessive. Now, our lives aren’t ruled by our refrigerator and yet, we eat well.

Successful frugality operates in the exact same way. A frugality regimen that causes depression or anger isn’t something you’ll be able to stick with for the duration. A frugality regimen mandating rigid budgeting absent any permissiveness for fun isn’t sustainable. A frugality regimen where you tick off the days until you can start spending again is pointless. The key is to uncover your own personal balance between saving and spending. To formulate a lifestyle of frugality rather than a diet of frugality. Don’t set yourself up for failure–put yourself in a position to experience victory.

Know Your Stage of Frugality

Baking with Babywoods--more frugal than storebought!

Baking with Babywoods–more frugal than storebought!

That being said, it’s also true that we go through different stages of frugality at various junctures in our lives. And the beginning is absolutely the hardest. People whine that frugality is too tough and that they just can’t get started and that they’re afraid of it. But you know what? Most worthwhile things in life are tough at first. Most worthwhile things in life do take some effort. Most worthwhile things are, in fact, a bit scary. It’s how we mature and advance. Self-improvement, financial improvement, home improvement–it all takes work!

Need more motivation? Here’s the thing: time will elapse. Soon it’ll be tomorrow, then next month, then next year, and then five years will have passed. Do you want to be in the same mired financial position next year that you’re in today? Or do you want to be progressing towards attaining what you want? Towards changing your life? Just start and do it now–there’s truly nothing to gain by waiting.

I know, I know, it’s stupid-sounding advice, but honestly, it’s what works for me. Sometimes the simplest thoughts can motivate the most profound change. It’s how I motivate myself to do everything from exercise to make new friends (sometimes challenging for introverts like me).

So no, I don’t think that your first month of frugality will be a blissful romp through money-saving ecstasy. But I can almost guarantee that you’ll be proud of yourself and that your next month will be easier. By the way, I’m pretty sure no one has ever been disappointed that they saved money. “Oh this is terrible, I have more cash in the bank than I need!,” said no one ever. So it’s unlikely you won’t be excited about your progress.

I will add that there’s a difference between frugality out of necessity and frugality by choice. If you’re steeped in debt, then yeah, you might need to start off on the frugality equivalent of that strict diet Mr. FW and I followed. Your frugality is less of an elective option, like it is for someone saving towards traveling the world by sailboat. But you can do it. We can all do just about anything for a short period of time. And once your debt is erased, imagine how awesome it’ll be to instead watch your savings grow.

Yes, The First Month Is The Hardest

I stick out my tongue at the first month of frugality!

I stick out my tongue at the first month of frugality!

At the outset of our extreme frugality program, Mr. FW and I had to make a concerted effort not to spend money. We had to follow all the steps I outline in How To Be Frugal: One Month At A Time. That first month was populated by us constantly encountering spending junctures and realizing we needed to reconfigure our approach in order to hew to a frugal path. From the banal coffee I used to buy every morning to our decadent weekly dinners out–Mr. FW and I fiddled, rearranged, substituted, and slowly over time, created a life of luxurious frugality. I can’t give you a punch list of how to construct your own luxuriously frugal existence because your luxuries are likely different than mine. But I can share what we did and how it worked for us.

And that’s another truism of frugality–it’s very easy to shame others because we perceive that they’re spending too much money in one category or another, but that’s a fruitless exercise (plus it’s mean).

I define extreme frugality as spending only on what matters most to you and only in service of your longterm goals. Since everyone’s longterm goals are different and what matters is unique to each person, there’s no copy-n-paste frugality to be had. When you whittle your spending down to those two principles, you’ll unlock a lifetime of frugal dividends. The endless benefits and freedoms that frugality provides are suddenly available to you.

After that challenging first month, Mr. FW and I began to ease into a mode of frugality that felt comfortable. And after several years, our frugality is an ingrained habit. Our frugal actions are the repeated grooves that we grind along. Habitual frugality is like habitual anything else–it’s not tiresome or painful, it’s just what you do. And once you incorporate frugality as your modus operandi, you can apply it as needed to new life events (such as having a baby!). We didn’t have to revamp our entire budget when Babywoods was born, we simply applied our lens of frugality to this new element of our lives.

There’s an assumption that frugality is onerous and that you have to labor over every single $3 decision. But I don’t live that way. I did the work once to make frugality my default and now I follow that habitual path every day. Think of it this way: most of us don’t consider brushing our teeth an arduous task. In fact, we probably do it without even thinking about it. But when you first teach a kid to brush their teeth, they’re like “whoa! this is weird!”–partly because they’re a kid and partly because it’s something new. Be at peace with the idea of trying something new and rest assured that you can mold financial aptitude into a routine and a lifestyle that works for you.

How To

So how did we come to this place of habitual frugality? Of feeling that frugality is not a state of miserly deprivation?

A spending priority!

A spending priority!

1) We selected our spending priorities (nice groceries, coffee, seltzer, and a dog among other things) and eliminated all superfluous expenses (haircuts, eating out, buying stuff we don’t need). If you’d like a more in-depth treatment of examining expenses, check out this post and this one too.

2) Make frugality a goal in and of itself; not merely a means to an end. I’ve absorbed frugality as my worldview and my overarching life philosophy because I believe frugality isn’t just about money. It’s about being a person who isn’t defined or hampered by excessive spending. I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that I owned a lot of stuff, but didn’t find fulfillment or spend quality time with my family.

3) Let go of caring what other people think. Much of our spending as a culture boils down to our (usually futile) attempts to impress other people. Clothes, hair, makeup, cars, houses, watches–so much of this is in service of trying to look cool. Let go of it. You’ll be happier and richer. And if you really care what you look like? Do some free exercise (here’s the site I use). Looks a lot better than makeup. Just saying.

4) Embrace simplicity and the joy that comes when less is enough. Frugality reduces stress, decreases our dependency on external validators, and encourages us to live more authentically. We need less, we consume less, we’re content with less.

5) Habitual spenders can transform into habitual savers. It’s your choice as to which you’ll be.

6) Adopt frugality for the longterm. Don’t impose deadlines or parameters on your frugality. Make it a pleasurable, fully incorporated aspect of a meaningful life.

7) Forget about it. Don’t obsess about spending every day, don’t fret over budgeting, don’t drive yourself to distraction over investments. Enshrine frugality as your autopilot approach and then, get on with your life.

Arrive Sooner

Your nascent frugal endeavors might be difficult. They’ll probably make you uncomfortable. Mine did. And that’s OK because you’re changing your life–you’re altering your human response to stimuli, to temptation, to an ingrained method of how you operate in the world. Be patient with yourself, but keep yourself on track. When you realize a place of tenable, enjoyable, lifelong frugality, you won’t worry about an end date. You’ll have arrived.

How do you perceive your frugality for the longterm?

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64 Responses

  1. Marion says:

    I live a frugal life out of dire necessity and truth is, I still live a life of such abundance much of the rest of the world can only dream about it. It’s a matter of perspective . Simple, easy, peaceful works for me.

  2. Caroline says:

    This is spot-on. I have never ”believed in” (well, they exist, clearly, but you know what I mean!) ”special diets”, particularly very restrictive ones, or ones where entire food groups are largely disallowed, or even better want you to use THIS highly-expensive item instead of THAT very cheap and readily available one. I think the same applies to any of life’s little endeavors. The way to lose and keep off weight is to decide where you’re going wrong in terms of your eating / exercising, then remedy it, probably fairly drastically initially, and then just via tweaks, until it’s just how you always eat / go for a run with the dog on Thursday mornings and do pilates on Wednesday morning early. It just… is. Making it a short term sprint of mammoth effort almost guarantees failure because extreme, extreme changes are painful and too much for most of us. We are inherently wired for happiness and comfort!

    We recently realised – well, I did, very, very reluctantly – that our level of childcare was too high for our actual requirements, and that it was partly inertia and habit that kept the status quo, and partly a desire not to reduce someone’s work hours. But we bit the bullet and re-organised things so that the childcare person had as much work as she wanted (elsewhere some of the time) and we re-jigged our outlook to incorporate doing some of the things she was doing… that we have, so far been totally and completely capable of handling… yes. It is a bit more input domestically, no doubt, but the sky hasn’t fallen in and the house is pretty much as clean as it ever was, the children just as well-loved and cared for…

    Small, sustainable… hard to do in the initial instance, totally easy and auto-pilot later… it’s the winning formula!

  3. Bob. Frugal+as+dirt. says:

    So you used the entire can of deep logic and a whole bag of sound reasoning in this “bread” recipe, didn’t you? Keep the least one’s toes out of the dough too.

  4. Diane says:

    That photo of Frugal Hound with her tongue out is priceless! She is very photogenic.

    I have always lived frugally, I guess, because I have never had any interest in “stuff”. Just not in my nature but I don’t judge people who do although I don’t understand it anymore than I understand a desire to, say, skydive.

    I tease my kids that I am going to spend all my money before I die but they don’t worry. “You won’t, Mum, because you never want anything”, they reply. It’s true. I can’t even spend my gift cards because I can never find anything that I want.

  5. Eric says:

    Frugal nudism. Perhaps this is the next level of FI blogs? Hey, just another benefit of homesteading! 😉

  6. Darcy says:

    “Rumspringa of consumerism after all those years of going without”- made me laugh out loud. All excellent points. I do think it feels a tad de-motivating to know that you’ll have to wait decades to enjoy the freedom-fruits of your frugal labor (past and on-going), and I’m still in the process of identifying those things that are a priority to me vs those that aren’t (I can have a tendency to be over-zealous and cut out those which are and then “binge” on those which aren’t. Oy!) But I see your point that after awhile, if you do it right, hopefully it doesn’t feel like labor anymore. And I used the very same ” time will elapse” example yesterday to encourage someone to go to graduate school (although that’s only a 5 year timeline for her not 20!) Thank you for the excellent (and timely) post!

  7. Beth says:

    We love hanging out with our friends, and what used to be dinner out or shopping, has now turned into us hosting every other Sunday a dinner-in and game night. Everyone looks forward to it…and our guests always help by bringing food as well. This is one of the small examples that shows that frugality can also be fun and not depriving.

    Thanks for the post! Enjoyable as always!

  8. Money Beagle says:

    Fantastic advice, especially noting that it will not be easy, no matter how hard you want it.

  9. Diane C says:

    I never thought about it quite like this. I just thought I was born frugal, lol. As a person who realized her dream of FIRE, I want to reiterate that frugal choices when you’re young really do pay magnificent dividends. The earlier you adopt a frugal lifestyle, the sooner your life becomes your own. Great article, Mrs. FW!

  10. Norm says:

    Maybe not everyone is this way, but I’ve found I’m very malleable and accepting of change. Down-shifting expenses in one category after another has not been difficult. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, and it comes from one of my favorite movies, The Truman Show:
    “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.”

    After living my bicycle and bus-riding, no dining out, lower heat, Tracfone lifestyle for a few years, it has become my new reality. It’s the “default.” Spending more would just be unnecessary luxury.

  11. So I’ve made some major changes in my budget since the job layoff 3 weeks ago. I’m amazed at how easily I’ve slipped back into a frugal mindset. You’re totally right about deprivation! Instead of working 10 hours a day (blogging + freelancing + full-time job) I’m using the extra time to cook meals at home, take longer walks, and have a more laid back day. I’m not very motivated to go back to the 9-5 lifestyle, so the change is worth it.

    • Caroline says:

      Well done to you for maintaining a positive and sensible mindset at a time when many would panic and get hysterical. I’m sure finances have been impacted, but it truly is incredible what *isn’t* spent when you take a full time commute / job out of the equation. I see that you are also a freelancer and a blogger so there is at least some remuneration, and for the rest, I wish you the very best in using this as a springboard to totally revamp your life! I left a job that was poorly paid and took advantage of the staff in very demeaning ways and decided the freelance… and my life has drastically improved. I was SO scared and worried and convinced I’d be in the poorhouse within a month… but no. I got my life back and found enjoyment and motivation from doing my own thing.

  12. Frugality. Minimalism. Simplicity.
    These words, these ideas, seem to be the trend right now.
    The thing is, they really NEED to become lifestyle.
    And for some, for those of us tired of life spinning out of control, they ARE becoming lifestyle.
    I, myself, am at the beginning stages of Simplicity. (This is word I choose. It feels “right” to want to live in Simplicity.)
    I am learning that Simplicity does not have to mean deprivation.
    I am learning that Simplicity brings freedom.
    But, as I said, I am only at the beginning stages.
    I have much to learn.
    It is not just physical.
    It is emotional, and spiritual as well.
    While it is not easy to change after 44 years of being steeped in consumerism,
    I am most definitely ready.
    I choose the freedom of simplicity, over the chains of consumerism.

  13. We definitely go through stages of frugality. For me, the beginning was easier because I had no choice but to be frugal. My budget wouldn’t allow for anything otherwise. As I make more though, I find I’m really enjoying the lifestyle creep. Thankfully, it’s all within my means, but it’s still most certainly lifestyle creep and I admit, I’m looking forward to more. Though I have the restraint to wait for more until I make more, I do find it wild how quickly I’ve gone from total frugality without feeling much sacrifice to true enjoyment of spending on total non-necessities like nice fitness classes and meal delivery.

  14. Teresa says:

    LOVED this article. Thank you so much for the inspiration. I just hosted a Dames and Dollars Happy Hour for over twenty-five single women whom are new hires for the company I am an employee of. I shared much of the same advise you just shared here. I was surprised at how much they wanted to learn about money, investing, and buying a home. Thank you for giving me the courage to talk to the next generation about money. I will retire in September and am proud that these young people have decided to continue this group to help support each other. You are inspiring!

  15. Exactly! I get this all the time!

    People often ask me, “Mr. Tako why would you do it that way [the frugal way] when you already have plenty of money. Just go out and buy it!”

    They just don’t get it. Frugality is not a mindset to adopt for life. Having money (or not) won’t change that mindset regardless of the dollars in your bank account.

  16. Sandra& the 2 Spaniels says:

    What an insightful post! I know that in the 30 days that I have embraced Frugalwoods’ Philosophy, I am already feeling more in control of my life. Bills are getting paid down towards zero, and I have not missed wandering and spending at HomeGoods! (Yeah, that was my “I will just look”….not!) Now, to get 2 Spaniels on the same Frugal Spending. Personal Capitol is the bomb-getting to see exactly where your money is going versus remembering to write down every dollar spent. The Frugalwoods-including The Hound-always appear polished and current, so obviously the clothes ban is working.

  17. Dorothy says:

    Here’s the thing about procrastination. Our future selves aren’t likely to be any more motivated to start work on our goals tomorrow, next week, next month, next year than our present selves are. The work isn’t likely to get easier. So we might as well get off our duffs and get started.

    Oh, and do as I say, not as I do; I’m not claiming superiority in this arena; I mean this as much for myself as for anyone else.

  18. “I believe frugality isn’t just about money. It’s about being a person who isn’t defined or hampered by excessive spending”

    Yes, I agree that frugality isn’t really about money and neither are most of the FIRE blogs. It’s an entirely different way of viewing the world and I find it just so inspiring. It’s true though that there are times when I wonder whether I’m forgetting to have fun especially when we’re just so far from FI so I’ll save this post to come back to if I ever find myself doubting myself.

    Great post, Mrs FW! Thank you!

  19. I’ve found that my embrace of a frugal life, which started during my college years, has perpetuated most facets of my life and is now an embedded habit. Now that it is a habit, I could see that many of my frugal life choices will remain throughout retirement (when I get there), but I still see my frugal life more as a means to an end still. I do hope to embrace more and more lifestyle inflation as I near and enter retirement. Or in other words, when we hit retirement, we hope to have more spending priorities than we do today.

    Thanks for the post!

  20. Cindi says:

    We have always been frugal — early in our marriage we had no money, and later, we were saving for a house or a car or to avoid debt. However, when we really got serious about retiring early, our approach was to question every expense — was it really the best value for our money and did the expense truly add value to our lives/make us happy? At first it felt a little odd to ask this kind of question about everything (go home for a sandwich or swing by for fast food?) yet over time we had already decided about the expenses we faced regularly (sandwich is the healthier, cheaper and better-tasting choice) and evaluating before shelling out money became second nature. Sometimes the answer is yes — that new pair of hiking boots is going to enable me to walk pain-free and encourage me to get out more. Sometimes the answer is “let’s see if the thrift store has something that will do as well” or “let’s see if we can making something at home that will serve the purpose just as well.” Though I do still sometimes suffer buyer’s remorse, those times are few and far between. Now we are FIRE and very content continuing to live this way.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! You’ve articulated it perfectly. Asking that question is such a good way to train yourself in the frugal mindset–it certainly helps me!

  21. Mrs. Frugalista says:

    I was raised in the Caribbean and many of the “frugal” things people do in the U.S. were a way of life for my family and I. I’ve been living in the mainland for many many years now and frugality offers me the opportunity to gift my children a college education free of loans, I can spend some time in New York City and delight myself in Broadway shows and keep my home looking good and within my standards. I don’t seek to impress anyone; I do it all for myself and my love ones.

  22. Nice article. I’ve posted before about how swearing off all spending is like drinking smoothies for every meal. Almost immediately, you’ll be craving a mountain of food.

    You’re spot that the key lies in reaching a mindset where you no longer think about being frugal. Ironically, this is exactly what happens when you allow a little breathing room on the spending which truly brings happiness, while eliminating the waste. After a brief adjustment period, the wasteful stuff won’t even be missed.

  23. Aliya says:

    I’m frugal but I still stop but frugally if that makes sense. I buy clothing sometimes but like on -80-90% discount, I buy discounted organics, etc. So I can’t say I stopped shopping altogether. But my frugality mainly comes from the fact that I love saving money than spending it. My every payday is my savings day, I look for it, I enjoy trealuzing how my savings are growing. So in a way it is frugality driver, my approach to it)

    As always thanks for sharing your experience, it is very inspiring!

  24. julie says:

    Now I want a dress with a greyhound print…

  25. I love the focus of this post and the explanation to folks that you aren’t just “waiting out” this frugality phase! Your mindset shift is what helps to make your lifestyle work – for the long run. I also appreciate how you explained that this is very personal and that following someone else’s ideas is not going to work for you over time. I appreciate that my husband is on this journey with me. I can imagine how difficult it is if one person believes in the “deferral” period, while the other makes the lifestyle change.

  26. Josh says:

    I love the message of this post – that frugality needs to become a sustainable lifestyle, not a temporary diet. I’m still finding my right “level” of frugality if you will, and I’ve made huge progress since I subscribed to your blog one year ago.

    Lately anytime I struggle or want to spend out of habit, I pull up a random one of your archive posts, and read it just to be reminded why I’m choosing financial freedom over things. Thank you!

  27. Such a thoughtful post! I think you’re right, frugality is something that you have to just dive in and do it. My husband is the spender, and I tend to be the saver – we influence each other of course but try to stay on track with our spending and budget plans.

  28. Jamie says:

    Frugality is a practice. I love being frugal as it helps me save more and achieve most of my financial goals. Being frugal is really a choice especially when you want all the best for your family and to give their needs.

  29. The food comparison is so apt. I have seen so many times how depriving yourself to the extreme with a short-term goal in mind backfires, be it shopping or eating! It definitely needs to be a lifestyle adjustment. Better to make a smaller adjustment you can stick with than a dramatic one that will send you on a spree of some sort.

  30. Brook Hart says:

    Sadly I totaled my car out recently. The car was paid for but because it was relatively new, I carried full coverage insurance on it. The settlement I received was more than I paid for the car. I have shopped wisely and bought a 2015 model for the amount of my settlement. My new car is 3 years newer than the last and paid for. The 600.00 a year I pay for full coverage is well worth it. My medical bills will be adding up to a great bit and I am fully covered. Good decisions and priorities keep me safe and covered. That 600.00 a year could certainly be used elsewhere but I try to play it safe and be practical. I am grateful each day for my parents frugal influence,

  31. beth says:

    We are frugal by necessity but love the challenge. This week at the grocery we saved more than we spent. I think if I won the lottery I’d still buy second hand. It’s just more enriching. I need to buy new clothes because I’ve lost enough weight that my pants fall off my hips buttoned and zippered. But I’m waiting on a church rummage sale so I can re-supply at better-than-goodwill prices. (I guess might run to cheap). It’s all good and we have fun economizing.

  32. Kate says:

    I love this perspective. While it certainly can be beneficial to adopt “extreme” frugality or diets or exercise programs for a short-term boost or reset, I much prefer the long-term changes. I like being more frugal naturally. Many things we used to be non-frugal about simply required a shift in mindset, so that initial adjustment led to a permanent change. I find it almost painful to shop now and love the lifestyle we lead. I agree that we have to know what our goals are and make every decision in service of those goals. I’m loving all of the tales of your homesteading adventures!

  33. Marie-Josée says:

    Wonderful and thoughtful post. As others have written, it needs to be a thought-out lifestyle change. Love the picture of Gracie!

  34. Laura says:

    Great post. As I get older, I’m accepting that my willpower sucks and deprivation doesn’t work. I basically had to re-program my brain with months and months of financial freedom blogs, podcasts and books, AND figure out how to enjoy the process of frugality. Not easy but definitely more effective than trying to force myself to stick to something I don’t feel happy about. Your blog is super helpful for this, by the way — joy and enthusiasm eminates from every post. Thank you.

  35. GO says:

    “Habitual spenders can transform into habitual savers. It’s your choice as to which you’ll be.”
    Thank you. You’ve given me hope.

  36. Oh my gosh, I love this. We made the switch to living more frugally over a year ago, and we’ve had our ups and downs. It’s such a radical shift away from the norms that have been ingrained in us, and it’s difficult to be perfectly frugal all the time. We’ve had moments where we weren’t sure if we were depriving ourselves or not. It can be hard to know what’s right for you. But it’s been the best decision we’ve ever made! We were able to pay off our $14,000 in credit card debt and save for a down payment on our home.

  37. Kim from+Philadelphia says:

    What a beautiful picture of the two of you!!

    Your feelings mimic mine white closely. It’s not a effort for us to live the way we do. We find life to be more fulfilling, with more emphasis on what matters to us. I never, ever feel deprived. I’m actually happier than I’ve ever been. I value relationships over things, and I’m treating the environment in a respectful manner by reusing, recycling, and using what I need sparingly.

  38. My grandfather has basically been known as frugal his whole life, while my father is a bit of a spender. I always thought this was a bit odd. I am tending towards the frugal side, so maybe frugality skips generations!

  39. Totally with you on the “frugal for life” mindset: in the past five years we have gotten married, moved across country, bought a house, given up a career and started school full time, bought a school bus to convert into an RV/tiny house, and most recently, left the only job our household had because it got yucky. Frugal living allowed us to do all those things.

    For us, it’s a practice of aligning our financial habits with our values. Spending, yes, but also how we are willing to earn. Keeping the spending in check means that when anything about the earning part of the equation becomes too onerous, we’ve given ourselves the flexibility to step back and try a different path.

    That’s worth more than any luxury item ever!

  40. Daniel Manfre says:

    Extremely well written post, I really enjoyed it.

  41. Karin says:

    Frugality is not differed spending. I take this point, and it is a good one. At the same time, differing spending is a great step if that’s what you up for. The price is at least the price, not price plus whatever interest. The thing is yours from day one and there is no chance it will break before it’s even paid for.

  42. Karin says:

    Frugality is not differed spending. I take this point, and it is a good one. At the same time, differing spending is a great step if that’s what you up for. The price is at least the price, not price plus whatever interest. The thing is yours without any chance of breaking before it’s been paid for.
    Thanks for the enjoyable and thought-proking read.

  43. I’m still practicing and exercising my frugality muscles. Sometimes it feels like I’m on a roll but all it takes is a disrupted weekend to get me disorganised, and see me back buying expensive lunches at work, etc. I guess it takes practice!

  44. We’re not nearly as frugal as you are, but I do believe our frugal habits are ingrained. It becomes second-nature after a while.

  45. ThreadCookie says:

    I love the comparison to dieting! I’ve counted calories and weighed out portions for so long now that it really has become second nature. I imagine that if I had to start establishing healthy eating habits all over again it would be challenging. It didn’t happen all at once for me but gradually it became easier. I landed my first “grownup job” about a year ago and I started budgeting at the beginning of the year once all the dust from the move had settled and I’m spending a lot of time reflecting on what I want to do with my life. I’m hoping I can establish similar spending and budgeting habits. Your blog is bringing back all my dreams of homesteading that I’d almost forgotten about! My career path is not one that allows for remote work though, unfortunately.

    Sidenote: have you read The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk? It’s based on a homestead right in your area. I pulled it off my shelf last night to revisit it…

  46. Mr. 1500 says:

    I just love that you use the word Rumspringa!

    I had a mini Rumspringa a couple months ago. Mindy won me a $200, Father’s Day shopping spree at JC Penney. By the end of it, I felt like a glutton at a cruise ship buffet. You’re full and have had to loosen the belt already, but hey, you can eat all you want, so you stuff yourself a little more. While I was thrilled that I was able to acquire some new underwear for free, I felt uneasy by the end. I just didn’t need anything else.

    I do have to tell you though that I often give people this advice: “Save your butt off. When your finances are completely set and buying the Ferrari wouldn’t hinder your financial independence, you can have it then.”

    This is actually what I told myself to quench my silly desires. I did it with an asterisk though. I had a feeling that once I reached that point, my desires would go by the wayside. And they have. Seeing a silly, fancy car still makes me smile, but I won’t ever have one in my garage.

  47. Kate says:

    This! I have found this to be absolutely true in my own life, especially after I did a no book buying year with my Mom. But I find it really difficult to explain this idea to other people. Why should they be more frugal? It will just cause them not to get what they want! But living a frugal lifestyle really eliminates those desires altogether. It’s kind of magical really. And thanks, now I can direct people to this post, instead of bumbling out an answer myself. 🙂

  48. Lindsey says:

    My BF and I decided a little over a year ago to switch to a frugal lifestyle. We were making good money (80k a year), and instead chose to build our savings, save up for our goals, and completely make a 360 to a frugal life. I definitely agree that frugal living isn’t something you can turn on and off.

  49. TomTrottier says:

    Rather than wholesale discarding of “what others think about you”, rather, discard “what others think about your possessions and lifestyle.” Some standards of honesty, friendliness, and integrity are useful measures of your involvement in society.

    Have your own standards of “good enough” rather than “perfection,” reducing waste, and reducing our footprint on this planet.

  50. TomTrottier says:

    Things will not make you truly happy. Even a lover or a friend will not make you happy forever. The truth is that life is more complicated.
    If you seek happiness and meaning, look within, then act according to your feelings, your thoughts, and your values, and when you see the need for change, do the work to change.

  51. I’m re-kickstarting my uber frugal lifepath this month with a super frugal August. The first month is definitely the hardest, however there almost seems to be this adrenaline that’s kicked in for me accompanied by a little voice that eggs me on, saying “yes, yes I can do this, look at me do this, yay I’m doing this!” and it makes me want to keep going! Being able to put into action changes I didn’t think I had the confidence to make, saying no to events and invites I felt too guilty to say no to in the past, and realizing more and more everyday that I want nothing to do with this blind consumer lifestyle is almost exhilirating! I’m doing my best to make solid strides in the “don’t care what people think” department. I’ve recently started as a bike courier every evening after work as a second job, and I used to “hide” myself with huge sunglasses and tucking all my hair back so none of my corporate coworkers and acquiantances recognize me, but over the past week I ride with pride – I *really* won’t care what anyone thinks when I’m living debt-free in my air bnb property I’m fantasizing about in the West Indies. It feels – dare I say beautiful? – to feel like my scope of vision has zoomed out of the cookie-cutter life advertisers and big business want us to live in and see the world and its opportunities from a wider, brighter lens.

  52. Kim says:

    “Rumspringa of consumerism”. Nice 🙂 And thanks for the yoga site rec. I’ll check it out. You might like I use esp when traveling.

  53. I’m slowly getting there. Not quite a frugal Jedi master yet, but well on my way considering where I was 8 months ago!

  54. Joe Freedom says:

    Great piece. I think that for many people frugality is hard-wired in their genetic code. For others it is learned from early life experiences. Much like a language or a musical instrument, either having an innate ability or learning at an early age makes achieving mastery much, much easier. But these skills can also be learned later in life–but typically with a much steeper learning curve.

  55. I really like your definition of frugality. I spend a lot on camping, backpacking, and climbing gear (less now, because things like tents don’t need to be replaced very often), but I use it all a ton, and it’s important to me. I’m frugal in areas that don’t matter at all to me, like I don’t have cable. Or even own a tv. But there are people who care a lot about those things, and not a whit for the things I care about. Put your money where your love is!

  56. S.G. says:

    Yes. This is especially true once your life gets more complicated with a spouse and kids that have different priorities. Sometimes spending mindfully means buying things that are worth it to you, even if someone else would make a different choice. My husband is usually game to work with me, but he is far less frugal and he can be pushed so far, but no further. He will bring his lunch, but he doesn’t care for leftovers. He will carry a snack, but it will be prepackaged. I take the trades where I can get them and move on to the next possibility. I have managed to circle around a couple times (he is willing to reconsider his leftover ban with specific dishes) but ultimately as long as we are moving in the right direction I accept the tradeoffs and figure the marital contentment is worth working the extra hours. But he also likes his job and doesn’t know what he’d do if we managed to retire early anyway.

  57. Victoria says:

    Yes!! So true. I think levels of frugality and different frugal living goals will change over the years but the overall idea of frugal-ism and the money-saving lifestyle is your way of life. If you only commit to it for the time being, just trying to be frugal UNTIL “fill in the blank” happens, you will never be able to truly embrace it. Also, we are going into a year of no clothes buying for 2017 and I am so excited that I just saw this on your blog. Definitely going to be looking into that more

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