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.

Spendy versus Frugal Families VennOn 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.

Frugal Families VennA 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.

My new frugal friends and I on a frugal snowshoeing adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park
My new frugal friends and I on a frugal snowshoeing adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park

How to Find Frugal Friends

FriendbookSince 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.
You won't find frugalers here
You won’t find frugalers here
  • 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?

Dinosaur Scrabble 1

  • 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

What are your best tips for meeting frugal folks?

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  1. Can I opt to be in the wheat beer part of the venn diagram? I have no car preference on that front, but I’ll take the wheat beer and the charmin (though kirkland isn’t too bad, but I don’t have a costco membership.)
    I love this post. There are so many misconceptions about what being wealthy looks like! Frugal tendencies are what gets people to wealthy!

    1. Oooh, I am the opposite of you. Keep those wheat beers away from me and give me Kirkland (except for the Kirkland Lite Beer)! I do like planes though, so we’d have a lot to talk about there!

      1. Haha, I bought a case of the Kirkland Light (Kirky Light as we’ve come to call it). It’s legitimately terrible…I can’t hardly give it away.

  2. And don’t forget about all the frugal folks at the Berkshire meeting! What was it that Munger said last year? That he and Warren seem to attract “you people” (meaning all the frugal folks)!

    1. Yeah, I should have thrown Berkshire into that meeting. That’s probably the largest gather of frugal people/millionaires/billionaires in the world.

  3. I love your tips! I am always looking for frugal friends, you know… people I can talk to about frugality without them looking at me and thinking I have some secret gambling debts I am trying to pay off. Its particularly hard in the industry I’m in – since many of us make quite good salaries. I’m surrounded by Mercedes at work. But I know there must be some potential frugal friends hiding out there… somewhere…

  4. I am certainly in the category for most of these, although I might get kicked out of the club for having an SUV(paid for and pre-marriage), DIY toilet repair at the rental unit, and not being IT/Engineer/Programmer, although Mrs. Even Steven and I are pretty nerdy Banker folk.

    Also the Scrabble pic is awesome good work, very Fancy!

  5. This is nice. I have a hard time making new friends, too, and only recently have started thinking about my frugal-dar. “The girl building a shed and raising chickens? Yes. The couple who brings their dog to doggy daycare every day? No.”

    But sometimes the Consumer Crazies fly under the radar, too. Sometimes you don’t know how much money people are wasting until you really get to know them. “Wait, you eat out three times a week?”

    Agreed on the board games. We played Ticket To Ride last weekend with some new friends. I love your Frugal Families Venn diagram. I hate being reminded that I am a type, not a completely original person, whenever my interests are neatly summarized inside a demographic. But that diagram cracked me up.

    1. Thanks Norm for the kind comments.

      I see what you’re saying about some Spendywoods flying under the radar too. They seem to fall into 2 categories; the first are those who like to show off and spend money for the sake of spending money. The second group are those who have a problem, but just haven’t realized it yet.

      Next time you’re in town, we’ll break out the board games!

  6. I kind of like not having people know how much I make and that I’m in over my head financially. My car is starting to give away that I am a cheapo, but who doesn’t have a wooden shim holding up their window […]

  7. Hee. I agree with most of this — especially the note that a friend who shares your sensibilities is a great blessing! I’d add carefully selected religious groups to the list, too; my craftiest, frugalist, most unpretentious friends are mostly ones I’ve made through certain church/vounteer communities. They’re committed to simple living as a moral practice but most of them bake damn good bread and ride bikes everywhere. As far as technology jobs, I wouldn’t overread that; tech people have really good salaries, which gives them a huge boost in the FI department if they’re careful. Other frugal folks are maybe less focused on FI and MMM per se because they don’t realistically have the income to move relatively quickly there.

    1. I actually thought about volunteer/charity work after the post was already done. A lot of the richest people in the world are also doing the most good with their money (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark ZUckerberg).

    2. My theory about why so many frugal people are in tach is that tech fields seem like a world of possibility when you are first learning and starting out, but then after just a few years, you realize that you are really taking a lot of orders from other people instead of building your own sweet stuff.

      As a result, a lot of tech people start looking for a way out which is typically freelance or building your own company, but that means dealing with income insecurity, so then tech people have to learn about dealing with that which leads to the world of FI and frugality.

      1. I also think people like developers tend to think a lot. We are less accepting of the status quo and are more likely to think freely. I do like my job, but I’d rather write code for my own projects than for someone else.

  8. I like the idea of fishing for frugal friends? SO much better than the spendy ones that either make you feel cheap or poor for not keeping up with them. I used to be one of those, so I know not all of them do it on purpose. At least I didn’t.

    1. “Fishing” is a good way to put it. I’m going to do just that and post something on the MMM forums later this year inviting people to come over for a frugal BBQ or pizza party. Hopefully I catch something interesting!

  9. Hahah great work Mr.1500.

    I think we are frugal, but we dont check off all The boxes specifically the cars. Are cars are pretty new. Though one is older then 2 years. 🙂

    I also can’t wait to do rental property! I need to see if I find myself some frugal friends even closer to home. That would be great!

    1. Well, your mind is in the right place. New cars may be OK as long as you plan to keep them for a long, long time. A modern car that is well maintained can easily go 200,000 miles without sendng you to the poorhouse for repairs.

  10. You’re so spot on on all of your points. Frugal people don’t show off hence it’s hard to spot them in the big crowd. Having frugal friends will only make yourself even more frugal. 🙂

    1. It’s fun to get a bunch of us frugal types together. I find that in no time, we’re bouncing all kinds of ideas off of each other. I like to think we all make each other better people.

  11. It’s difficult to find like-minded people sometimes. What I do is trying to convince my friends instead – not by preaching, but by displaying how happy I am through minimalist living.

    1. Good point Tobias. Frugal people are very hard to find. I would say that zero percent of my long term friends are frugal. They are certainly good and worthy people and I drop hints as well. However, I find most of them aren’t yet receptive to the message.

      1. When friends ask me how I’m doing, I usually say “amazing, it couldn’t be any better”, and it’s true. They know that I work less than average, blog about minimalism and sing in several choirs. There is no message to be receptive to, but an example to live by. This is how to motivate people 😉

        1. Pretty awesome attitude and I can definitely learn a lesson. I tend to be negative, but I think your approach is better all the way around. No one likes to be criticized.

  12. I love this! Part of what made FinCon so awesome was being surrounded by people who enjoy talking about personal finance. I wish I had more of that in my life. =) For the most part, I’ve continued hanging out with my college friends. We only graduated a few years ago, so most of us are still fine doing “broke college student” activities like potlucks and board game nights. It is harder to find frugal friends at work, though.

    1. Thanks Erin! FinCon is great! I just wish it wasn’t so expensive to fly there this year. Charlotte isn’t a cheap flight for those of us on the other end of the country. Sigh…

      See ya’ in 2016?

  13. Here in our neck of the woods frugal people are a bit more common–all that Amish and German influence but it still can be difficult because like you said, frugal people don’t usually stand out in the crowd. BTW, I love all your graphics and visuals! Great use of toys to get your point across, makes me laugh every time.

  14. I have the best luck meeting frugal folks online;0) Yep! They are all quite encouraging when the real life friends are constantly on the spend and a game night would prove laughable. Add in the mix that we don’t drink and you can clearly see we are toast.
    It is quite interesting to me that we are all frugal in our own ways yet willing to spend in others.

    1. We are all frugal in different ways, but I think that you after you cross a certain line, you’re not frugal anymore. For example, I bought a $1000 bike a decade ago. That is a lot of $$$, but I’ll use the bike for decades. If I bought a new bike every 2 years, that wouldn’t be so frugal…

  15. I am not hard to find. I am an out and proud frugaler (not sure about the word). I brag about my on-line, second hand deals. As for my car…one persons ugly is another ones beauty. I love my little pumpkin orange car. I named her Zippy. She parks in the smallest of spots, can be filled with a thimble of gas and has no fancy electronics and is therefore easy to fix. The only thing smaller and cheaper would be a scooter, alas, they don’t work well in a Canadian winter.

  16. Scooter + Canadian winter = disaster.

    Keep preaching the good, frugal word! I suspect frugal flocks are more abundant in Canada than they are in the U S of A…

  17. Frugal friends, it can be said, are worth their weight in gold. Because you’ll save a lot of money by having such friendships versus hanging with free spenders. I have one friend who is quite wealthy but drives a 15-year old car that he wants to get even more mileage out of. You would never know he has money if you saw him chugging along in that old car!

  18. Great post. I especially like the part about not underestimating the power of MMM. Mr. FI was recently in the forum chatting it up with other Mustachians living under the Big Sky, and now they’re talking about a meet up! Pretty cool. Not as cool as living in the same city as THE Triple M himself, but it will be nice to meet some like-minded people in our own state. Our friends are pretty cool, but I know they think we’re a little…extreme because Mr. FI rides his bike instead of driving to work, I commit to cooking for almost every meal and don’t shop for non-essentials unless we have gift cards. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces when we tell them we’re thinking of becoming a one-car family 🙂 Thanks again for your tips!

    1. I’m not friends with MMM, but we see him often. Most of the time, he’s on his bike, so it’s good to see confirmation that he’s the real deal.

      One car family is a pretty smart idea. Do it!

  19. Mr. 1500,

    Good stuff. What’s really great about being frugal these days is that technology has made it so much easier to connect with like-minded people. Before you would have been a total weirdo putting out some kind of notice in the local newspaper about meeting up with frugal folks. Now, it’s totally cool to get a meetup going with some fellow frugalists. And even without those physical meetups, the online network we have here is incredibly supportive and encouraging. It’s a wonderful time to do what we’re doing!

    Best regards.

    1. Very good point DM. Look at just what JD Roth or MMM have been able to do thanks to the Internet. It’s incredible.

      And see you at our meetup in a couple months in Omaha. Again, thanks to technology!

  20. I love it! We have several frugal friends in our new neighborhood and it certainly makes life easier. We have BBQs in the summer instead of going out to eat, etc. Everyone is on a budget so we all stay mindful of each other’s expenses.

  21. While I agree that in general, most of the signs of frugality that you mention here are usually true upon casual observation, it isn’t totally fair to judge a book by its cover. I drive a new car and I am frugal. I am uncomfortable with the idea that some people might judge me as a pretentious, consumerist snob just because I chose to prioritize reliable, comfortable transportation. I am frugal in many other ways so that I can have this car. All of my furniture was second-hand or free, I cook healthfully and frugally at home, I take on side jobs, sell things on craigslist, use coupons, invest, and employ many other frugality-centered practices. Part of my journey in becoming financially secure has been learning to not judge others by casual observation. You are right that many people, frugal or not, do not wish to openly discuss the details of their chosen lifestyles. That is one of the reasons why assumptions are so dangerous. I have been wrong so many times in my assumptions about how other people live. I hope readers can use this article as a starting point in identifying potential like-minded friends, but not write others off based on incorrect assumptions or judgments.

    1. I don’t think anyone would judge you just based on a new car, unless it’s something completely ridiculous. If someone did judge you on such a narrow aspect of your life, they’re not worth it anyway.

      The full picture is really what matters and smart people see that.

  22. I feel like there should be a subclassification of the Lazy AND Frugal Person 😀
    For instance, since I live in a small house in the city with no driveway I do not change my own oil. Changing oil is messy, and buying oil gets expensive. Instead, I paid $200 to the dealership once to buy a package that they change the oil for the life of the car, complete with tire rotation and car wash (The car had ~10k miles on it when I bought this package). I only need my car when I’m heading out of the city, but I don’t like biking. So this Lazy and Frugal weirdo walks or takes the free city bus everywhere 🙂

    Love the list otherwise!!

    1. I’d say your bus taking/walkng habits far outweigh the $200 you spent on lifetime oil changes. I’d keep the car for 300,000 miles just to max out $200!

  23. That is true that so many FI people have tech related jobs. Is it such a burnout position that it makes people want to quit early or are naturally frugal people drawn to that field because you can make big money without a long, drawn out, graduate degree? Chicken or the egg? I don’t really consider myself frugal in many ways, but we do have many of those characteristics. I think Colorado is a great place for frugal people because there are so many free or almost free outdoor activities you can take advantage of.

    1. Good question Kim and I have no idea what the answer is. For me, it was job security and good money.

      The work can actually be quite fun. The most fun type of work is work you do for yourself when you don’t have to report to anyone though.

  24. To hear someone in real life actually say they know about MMM is pretty shocking! Like a bizarro world episode from Seinfeld. I remember the day my friend and I talked about MMM and the Republic Wireless service. She already had the phone, I was getting ready to switch and knowing she already liked her confirmed it for me. Of course I told her about Frugalwoods.com. Luckily there are lots of free sports to do out in Utah since the great outdoors are so close. A quick hike after work is a great way to catch up with a good friend. We do have some friends who just eat out a lot and we have to decline invitations now and then because eating out gets old honestly! I did make homemade pizzas for those said friends on Sunday while we watched football. They were all amazed.

    1. “To hear someone in real life actually say they know about MMM is pretty shocking!”

      It was totally bizarre. I was shocked then they told me. They didn’t seem to be as surprised as me and I’m not sure why.

      Utah is a pretty great place. All those National Parks are amazing. So is snowboarding at Brian Head!

  25. It is great to find friends that can have fun without having to pretend to be something they are not. Frugal friends can see the worth in the friend and not what they can get from the friend… And doesn’t everyone read MMM?

    Maybe a meetup for Frugalists? “Come snowshoe/hike and talk about frugal living a finance hacks.”

  26. Hi there, I live in Queensland, Australia and have never been able to find frugal friends with likewise interests other than frugality. Most of my live I have lived in the big cities and have spent much time travelling at present in a caravan (a car pulling a mobile home behind) staying mainly in free areas or cheap ones. You often meet frugal people but as you only stay a night or two often you do not get a chance to understand their lifestyle choices. I will let you know if I ever find frugal friends.

  27. Woot! Ticket to Ride is an all time classic. Our new favorite is Lords of Waterdeep.

    By the way, those ven diagrams are maybe the funniest thing I’ve seen in 2015. Cheers.

  28. This is a great post. For me, I wasn’t fully able to prioritize debt repayment and stop buying stupid stuff I didn’t need until I happened to find a few such frugal friends. By that I mean, having people in my life who, instead of validating my consumerist behavior, will give me the facepunch needed to bring me back to reality (like responding to a text about how badly I want a $35 vintage cat-shaped candy dish with a “have you lost your mind?!”). We bond over things like savings, thrifting and flea marketing, and host DIY days at each other’s (similarly old and small square-footage) houses. My frugal friends really helped me snap out of the more stuff = happiness mindset.

    1. You passed on the vintage cat candy dish! It would have been a wonderful addition to your collection. 🙁 I have relatives that think about salt shaker collections. If you have to have an addiction, saving cash isn’t a bad one.

  29. I have struggled with finding “new friends” post becoming a frugally minded person. It’s amazing how uncomfortable you can make people with conversations about avoiding clothes shopping or cutting cable, especially since I live in a neighborhood full of Jones families. I am thankful, though, that I have met many online friends who have become real life friends along the way. I will keep on the lookout for all of these clues, though, to find more friends closer to home.

  30. Just found you today with a link to this article. Even with the internet I thought myself an odd ball. Turns out there is a whole demographic of mini mes – I just need to find them! Thank you for the motivation. Rental properties – check. Ticket to Ride board game – check. Techy, DIY in the family – check. MMM fan, check. Even blogger – as of four months ago – check. Drives an old car – check. Young (ish – 40 qualifies doesn’t it?), financially free and simplicity obsessed – check, check, check. I’m loving surfing around your website. Very fun! One different twist in our story is we moved to the heart of a bustling urban downtown with our kids instead of retreating to nature. There are so few families downtown -even spendy ones. And yet it’s so fun and so doable (as long you you give up 90% of your stuff of course). I’m in St. Paul, MN. Dear Frugal readers – move here with your kids. We’ll be best friends :)!

  31. Yay! The internet really is a godsend for those of us who are a ways out of the mainstream 🙂 We’ve gotten to know so many people, even locally, who we never would have met if not for the blog. It’s pretty awesome!

  32. Great post! Being new to this scene i am finding it surprising jut how many like minded people there are on the internet… yet none of my friends outside are like this.

    Some people say that you will gradually drift apart. While i hope this doesn’t happen, i can see why it might.

    I look forward to reading more.

    1. Thanks so much for reading! Glad you found us :). There really are a lot of us frugal folks on the internet and it’s been awesome to discover the incredible community!

  33. Volunteer for music festivals. You get immediate co-frugal friends, free music, a T-shirt, and usually free food.
    Hint: try it out by volunteering for 1 shift. Next year, if you register early, you get your pick of shifts.

  34. If you really want to stay frugal for a lifetime, stay healthy. Get into good habits, mainly good & natural food & exercise. The most common cause for personal bankruptcy in the US is medical expenses. Ill health robs your pocketbook as it steals your enjoyment of life.

  35. I find the most frugal friends by volunteering on home building projects or recycling nonprofits, and paying attention to what people bring for lunch. If someone brings a homemade lunch every day and carries a (scratched-up metal or nalgene) water bottle, they tend to fit in with my crowd. And they tend to bring apples with their lunches. I swear, they might as well write frugal on their lunchbox when they bring out an apple.

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