While Mr. Frugalwoods and I are basking in the San Diego sun with my family this week, I’m delighted to welcome Mr. 1500 from the fabulous 1500 Days to Freedom! Please enjoy his superb post all about how to find frugal friends in our often unfrugal world.
The relationships that we have with others are some of the most important factors to living a good and happy life. Surround yourself with Consumer Crazies and your time will be spent in a miserable spending war as you get sucked into the trappings of a spendy lifestyle. You’ll have a difficult time fitting in because these people won’t share your core values.
On the other hand, surround yourself with good, frugal people and you have a recipe for joy and contentment. You’ll have friends who will be happy to watch your child (or greyhound) at a moment’s notice. They won’t judge you when you drive a 10 year old car or an ancient minivan. They will be happy coming over for homemade pizza instead of elaborate catered events. Your life will be better.
The hard part is finding frugal people. The Consumer Crazies are easy to find. They announce their spendy ways not so subtly through new cars, expensive purses, fancy vacations and super-sized homes. However, frugal folks fly under the radar. For them, money is a tool to be used for only the most worthwhile adventures and to make more money.
Today, I’m going to tell you how to find frugal friends. Before that though, allow me to back up a moment so I can tell you about how we recently scored some frugal friends of our own.
Old Friends Hiding in the Frugal Closet
The idea of the closeted frugaler was driven home to me in 2014 with friends I’ll call Brian and Lisa. We first met them a couple years ago through neighbors. I liked them both, but nothing stood out to make me suspect that Brian and Lisa were frugal heroes.
A short time after our initial meeting, our neighbors offhandedly mentioned that Brian and Lisa, despite being in their early 40s, were completely debt free. Not even a mortgage. Instantly, my frugal radar went on high alert. I sat on the information though since most people are uncomfortable with having the details of their financial lives known.
Fast forward to last fall when Mr. Money Mustache himself had a local meetup. Since the party was in the same area where we all live, I reached out to Brian and Lisa, thinking this may be something they would enjoy. It was then that Brian told me that they were MMM readers and they’d love to go. Wow, I had frugal friends for a couple of years and barely knew it.
How to Find Frugal Friends
Since frugal people don’t go around waving a flag with a big “F” on it, you have to pay close attention to find them. Through careful observation and study, I feel that I’m a bit of a Sherlock Holmes when it comes to finding fellow frugalers. It isn’t easy; finding them can be more difficult than solving a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mystery.
I have the advantage of knowing frugal habits my dear Watson, and I’ll share them with you all now.
- Ugly car: This one was driven home to me a couple years ago by Bad Car Bill. Don’t be surprised if the guy driving the 20-year-old Honda is a millionaire. I also have found that frugal folks favor manual transmissions. Bonus tip: Frugal folks can also be found performing routine maintenance like oil changes.
- Mr. Money Mustache (MMM): Don’t underestimate the power of MMM. If someone is frugal and tech savvy, there is a good chance he or she has heard of MMM. Find a way to throw a MMM reference into the conversation and see if they bite. Bonus tip: Check out MMM’s meetup forum for a get-together near you.
- Reach out to your favorite local bloggers: Lately, I feel like us financial independence bloggers are a dime a dozen. New blogs are born daily. Chances are good that there is a frugal blogger in your neck of the woods. While most of us bloggers would declare ourselves introverts (myself included), part of the reason is that we have a difficult time relating to most people. However, put a bunch of us like-minded introverts in a room together and we never stop talking. I’ve seen it firsthand.
- Job: A disproportionate number of frugal heroes have jobs related to technology. I work in information technology and so does Mr. Frugalwoods. At the MMM meetup, over half of the people I talked to were computer programmers. MMM himself retired from a programmer job.
- A small home is where the Frugaler lives: The Millionaire Next Door told us that the wealthy don’t live in McMansions, but in modest sized homes. Don’t be surprised if the couple living in the working class neighborhood are secretly wealthy. The wealthiest people I personally know live in modest homes.
- Rental properties: A common thread with frugal folks is ownership of rental homes. It is not uncommon for them to own multiple rentals or even multi-family buildings.
- Cell phone provider: Frugal people do not pay $100/month for phone service just for the “free” upgrades. Frugal people use low-cost providers like Ting or Republic Wireless. Also, don’t be surprised if their phone is 4 years old with a cracked screen that they have no intention of getting fixed.
- DIY masters: Frugal people like to fix their own toilets and do their own maintenance. A frugal hero will have a well stocked toolbox. Bonus: Frugal friends are an excellent source of tools and advice. Offer them a beer or two and they’ll probably jump at the chance to help you out with a project.
- Weekends: Frugal families don’t spend $200 on a day downtown or waste their weekends at the mall. Instead, find them at a local park playing with their children or at home having a barbecue with friends. Board games are also big with the Frugal set. Ticket to Ride anyone?
- Bikes: Frugal folks ride bikes. Bikes are a win-win. They get you where you’re going without buying fuel and get you exercise.
- Craigslist hunters: Frugalistas and Frugalistos (yes, I just made that up) will frequently brag about their Craigslist conquests: “I needed a new refrigerator, so I got this one on CL for $50! Can you believe it?”
- Approach with caution: While not quite as dangerous as a wild bear or badger, remember that most frugalers like to fly under the radar. Frugal people take pride in their lifestyles, but tend to be more reserved. If you’re invited over by a frugal friend, offer to bring some food, drink, or a board game. Take it slowly as it may take them a while to warm up to you. Be patient. It will be worth it.
So there you have it. Pay close attention to those around you and perhaps you’ll make a lifelong friend or two. Frugalers understand how important good friends are to a happy life, so they’ll be the ones that won’t hesitate to offer help if you find yourself in a bind. They’ll be the ones that give you a ride to the airport. They’ll be the ones who won’t judge you if your shirt has a hole in it. They’ll be happy to have you over just for the good conversation. Your life will be better.
Mr. 1500 writes about early retirement, frugality and plastic dinosaurs over at 1500days.com. When not writing, he can be found spending time with his family in the mountains of Colorado