I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to commit to living frugally, not just for one uber frugal month as I wrote about, or even a year or two, but for the rest of our lives. And I gotta say, I feel really good about it. Mr. Frugalwoods and I like what frugality does for our marriage, our health, and our longterm outlook on life.
Living the frugal life yields hidden perks because it also means living the healthy life, the environmentally-friendly life, the family-centered life, the dressing-up-your-hound life… all could be considered by-products of frugality.
Our end goal is not frugality, but rather the life that frugality will enable. Retiring early and pursuing our dream of living on a rural homestead just wouldn’t be possible to achieve or sustain without our commitment to careful fiscal stewardship.
Our Hidden Perks of Frugality:
Peace of mind: Since we don’t live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have any debt (other than our mortgage), we don’t make financial decisions from a place of fear. We live so far below our means that financial hiccups here and there (car repairs, health issues, home repairs) can be managed out of our savings with no problem.
No arguing over money: I recently learned that disagreements over money are actually the top predictor of divorce (source: Kansas State University). What a sad thing. I can’t imagine the pain that must bring. I feel extremely fortunate that Mr. Frugalwoods and I don’t fight about money–we’re in total agreement and we communicate openly about our finances. We share the same financial destination, which ensures we’re always playing on the same team.
Family-centered closeness: Mr. Frugalwoods and I spend a lot of time together because we co-produce everything in our lives–we don’t pay anyone to do stuff for us. We work together on improving our home, taking care of our hound, writing this blog, cooking, cleaning, haircuts, etc. We’re also endlessly entertained by each other. I came home yesterday evening to find Mr. Frugalwoods and Frugal Hound playing some sort of rousing game with a stuffed pig. They both looked hilarious. Much cheaper than paying for cable.
DIY fun: Mr. Frugalwoods and I have always eschewed the concept of paying people to do things for us–him because he’s stubborn and likes to figure things out and me because I’m convinced we’ll do a better job since we have a vested interest in the outcome. Bonus: it’s a lot of fun to tinker!
Healthy eating: We’re interested in nutrition. Having Mr. Frugalwoods cook our food is both cheaper and healthier (he wanted me to point out that I don’t actually do any of the cooking…too true!) as is eating fresh, non-packaged goods. Vastly less expensive than restaurants or pre-packaged foods.
Regular exercise: We love being active and exercise is fabulous free entertainment. Our ideal day is spent hiking in the woods. I’m not sure this is consciously frugal–it’s just what we enjoy. We’ve also cultivated free hobbies because we find them more fulfilling–it’s stuff you have to do yourself like biking or baking or yoga versus passively paying to be entertained at the movie theatre.
Environmental consciousness: Much of what we do to save dough has the added benefit of being good for the environment. Mr. Frugalwoods bikes to work and always has (I’m on the Wall of Shame for still driving the longer distance to my job–I’m a work in progress on a bike…). We limit energy and water consumption to save money. We don’t throw a whole lot away. We don’t buy much meat (or much of anything for that matter).
Healthy outlet for competition: Mr. Frugalwoods and I are both competitive by nature and frugality & early retirement gives us something to win at together (as opposed to competing at odds). We regularly high-five over net worth and spreadsheets. We love that we’ve never had any debt and we track our savings like fiends. I’m sure we’re not the only ones…
Lack of concern over keeping up with the neighbors: We’ve always been unusual and we 100% own it and thrive on it. We have a non-conformist, minimalist, efficiency-oriented mindset. I’m not sure if that came first and the frugality naturally followed or if it’s the other way around.
Highlighting these perks doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work at saving money. We do. I make concerted decisions every day to do things as frugally as possible. I wrote this post in the semi-darkness of evening in our kitchen with all the windows open and no lights or AC on.
And do I sometimes really want to buy things? YES. Especially food (probably pretty much only food) but I just breathe deeply, remind myself of the future homestead that’s waiting for us and don’t buy it. As I’ve said before, its not about deprivation, it’s about structuring your life so that your long-term financial goals win out over short-term road-bump opiates (aka things that make you feel good in the moment but ultimately don’t fulfill you and serve to derail your saving efforts).
I wouldn’t say that I obsess over frugality. Rather, it has become an ingrained part of my being–without getting too far off the deep end, frugality is the essence of me. Is it weird to say that frugality is my calling? Well, I just did.