What does it take to be a frugal weirdo?
We all have our spending weaknesses. You know, those things we look at every month and say “I know it’s expensive, but…” and then insert some sort of justification/excuse/guttural groan. But what if you didn’t have any of those expenses? What if absolutely everything you paid money for was under scrutiny, was being “challenged” as Budgets Are Sexy would say.
Here’s the thing: if you have pants-on-fire debt or are saving towards a dream of financial independence, you can’t afford not to do this. Spending is like a gas–it’ll expand to fill whatever space you give it. If you allot yourself $900/month for groceries, guess what? I bet you’ll spend $900 per month on groceries.
Disagree with me? Sure, go ahead and cling to your Whole Foods organic seaweed ice cream and your cable and your gym membership. But don’t be surprised when you’re still in debt at the end of the month. I’m speaking truth-to-frugal today folks.
Never fear frugal comrades, it’s not a painful process to stop the spending. Why? Because we’re bringing frugal back. Just follow my 11 simple steps to frugal weirdo-ness and you’ll be well on your way to saving 71% of your income too. You think you’re frugal? THIS is frugal.
The Frugalwoods Guide to Becoming A Frugal Weirdo
1) Stop caring what other people think.
Frugal weirdos first and foremost do not care what you think about them. Much like the honey badger, we don’t care. Caution: your partner/spouse is not included in this–you should care deeply what they think and, you’ll experience the highest frugal weirdo success rate if you’re in this together.
By eliminating the notion that you need to impress people, you’ll suddenly start saving money! Way too much money is spent by people who labor under the delusion that other people give a hoot about their car, clothes, house, or snow shovel. Stop caring and start saving!
Do you really want to live your life for other people? Do you really want to base your spending and your time around what other people may or may not think? I doubt it. Instead, start caring about what YOU think and…
2) Embrace your inner frugal weirdo.
Don’t be embarrassed by your frugality. Come out of the frugal closet and no longer fear uttering the words, “I’m too frugal for this shirt, too frugal for this car, too frugal for this dog, oh just too frugal.”
Mr. Frugalwoods and I used to cloak and conceal our frugality, but no more. We own it, which makes it easier to live it all the time. We’re so transparent about our frugality that people stop us on the street and ask about our frugal ways. Ok not really, but that’s what happens in my mind.
P.S. I want to make “Proud To Be A Frugal Weirdo” t-shirts, bumper stickers, fanny packs… but no one would buy them. Dang! I’ve thwarted my own merchandizing.
3) Figure out what you want in life.
Can you honestly say that what you want out of life are expensive grocery bills? Or a new purse? Or a car lease? I’m not asking what you want in the moment (in which case it would obviously be cookies… or is that just me?), I’m asking what you want your life to look like in the long run. Who do you want to be in 10 years?
Money is life, whether you like it or not. Your money can either control you, or you can control it. There’s not a whole lot of middle ground. Set your priorities and your money will follow.
Mr. Frugalwoods and me? We want early retirement to a homestead in the woods. Everything else is a distraction from that goal, so, we don’t spend money on it. Freedom, folks. That’s what awaits.
4) Don’t spend money on entertainment.
There are approximately 1.2 million ways to entertain oneself for free. Get creative, get weird and cancel your cable, ditch the movie theatre, and avoid the mall. Go to the library, go hiking, dress your dog up in human clothes, bake cookies, watch free PBS programs, look around your house and fix what needs fixin’ and organize what needs organizin’ (for example, my basement… eeek!). Find frugal friends and have potlucks, picnics, and outings to the woods.
Our $0 entertainment budget gives us the license to devise all sorts of hilarity. Paying for entertainment is like admitting defeat. You’re essentially saying you’re incapable of constructing enjoyable ways to fill your own time. Don’t admit defeat, frugal it up!
5) Friends don’t let friends pay people to do things for them.
Cut your own hair. Cut your friend’s hair. Fix your own window trim. Bathe your own dog. Clean your own house. Cook your own food. Shovel your own snow. Refinish your own furniture. Heck, refinish your own kitchen cabinets while you’re at it.
This isn’t just about saving money, this is about self-empowerment. You can figure out how to do these things for yourself. Mr. FW and I have and we’re not experts in, well, anything really. All you need is confidence and patience. And a willingness to experiment. Remember how you’re not paying for entertainment anymore? You’ll now have plenty of time to teach yourself new skills.
6) Stop eating out.
This was our own personal weakness for a long time. Mr. Frugalwoods and I went out to dinner once a week for years. YEARS I tell you. And then, we stopped.
We really and truly just stopped as soon as we crystallized our homestead goal and set our aggressive savings rate. The first month was the hardest and then honestly, it simply became our new norm. Restaurants rarely even cross my mind anymore. We ate out for Mr. FW’s birthday in August and we’ll probably do the same for my birthday next month. Other than that? Nope.
7) Don’t buy stuff.
No seriously, just don’t buy things. 99% of our success with our savings rate, and the fact that we spent circa $13,000 in 2014 (sans mortgage), is attributed to the fact that we don’t buy things. You can’t really hack your way to frugal. You can and should take advantage of discounts, coupons, rewards points, and the like. But at the end of the day, the only way to truly save money is to not buy stuff. Money doesn’t walk out of your wallet on its own accord.
8) When you do buy stuff, buy used.
Don’t buy anything new. I’m serious you guys. There are darn few things in this world that you should buy new. Underwear, food, and socks come to mind and frankly, not much else. We’ve purchased plates at Goodwill for $0.10 each, I found my coat in the trash, we bought our solid wood dining room table and chairs off of Craigslist for $75, and the list goes on. Buying new is essentially announcing to the world that you don’t care about your money. Don’t tell the world you don’t care about your money, buy used!
9) Go moneyless.
This is the frugal weirdo corollary of paperless. One of my favorite tactics is to travel about town with just my ID and a pad of paper and a pen. Yep, I walk around moneyless. All the time. And if I see something I want to buy? I write it down. And then maybe I buy it later on Amazon for a fraction of the price. But more often? It turns out that I don’t need it after all. And thus my friends, money is saved.
10) Remove the need.
What’s the true nature of a need vs. a want? How dire are your needs? Wants often embed themselves in our lives and make us think they’re needs. But they’re merely masquerading wants!
I used to buy eyeliner. Eyeliner was a “need” for me until I admitted I was a frugal weirdo and began questioning every single dollar I spent. I quickly realized that calling eyeliner a need is tantamount to saying that Frugal Hound needs a bicycle.
Don’t mindlessly replace everything that runs out. Don’t automatically assume you need more of something just because it’s gone. Wait and see. If you run out of beard oil on a Monday, try going the rest of the week sans beard oil. Reassess next week and see if you survived without it.
11) Don’t Treat Yo’self.
Just because you had a hard day at work doesn’t mean you should reward yourself by going out to eat. Just because you have a job where you need to look professional doesn’t mean you should buy your clothes new or pay for haircuts. I don’t.
Also, think about it: how much do you honestly want to spend on your job? On coffee at work, on lunch out at work, on clothes and shoes for work, on transportation for work… pretty soon you could find yourself paying to work. Let’s put a stop to this nonsense right now. Cease the treating of yo’selves! You’re not treating yourself, you’re permanently chaining yourself to a need for more money.
Here’s Where I Rant About Consumer Culture
Our culture espouses the notion that people are supposed to employ these absurd workarounds in order to achieve what they want. For example, if you want the “best” for your kids, you’re supposed to work longer hours so that you can afford to send them to the best schools and buy them the most expensive “educational toys” and the latest shoes.
My counter to that is, why not do what Mr. Money Mustache and Root Of Good did and what 1500 Days to Freedom is doing and quit working so that you can actually spend time with your kids and teach them all this great stuff yourself.
If you want to be “successful,” you’re supposed to spend a ton of money mortgaging yourself to the hilt on a giganto-house and pour whatever’s leftover into a brand new car that’ll really show how powerful you are. Why not just keep the money and have power over your life and your time instead?
The material things society dictates people care about are little more than money drains that don’t provide fulfillment. The carousel of consumerism and lifestyle inflation will enslave you to your job in perpetuity. Work, buy, work more, buy, go into debt, better work more! That’s not a life, that’s a prison sentence.
We’re Bringing Frugal Back
Don’t unconsciously mimic the spending habits of those around you. There’s no reason to approach the world as a consumer. Your goal in life shouldn’t be to buy things. Spending money is the easy way out. It doesn’t require creativity, ingenuity or adventure. In a word, it’s boring. Don’t be boring friends, be weird.