Howdy! While Mr. Frugalwoods and I enjoy/attempt to survive our very first month as parents to our daughter, Babywoods, I have a delightful slate of guest posts from my friends lined up for your reading pleasure. Today, please welcome the lovely Melanie Lockert from Dear Debt!

By: Melanie Lockert

Debt freedom: should taste even better than these apples
Debt freedom: should taste even better than these apples

In a few short months, I’ll have my first taste of debt freedom. My entire adult life — 18 years old to 31 years old — has been punctuated by student loan debt. In total, I’ve taken out $81,000 for two degrees. Currently, I have a mere $14,000 left.

It feels so good to be so close to something I’ve worked so hard for. For the past few years, I’ve worked hard to cut my expenses and build my income in an effort to get out of debt as soon as possible.

It hasn’t always been easy. A few years ago, I made $12 per hour. I used to think I’d never get out of debt. Now that I’m so close to being debt-free, I’m reflecting on everything that got me to this place. Aside from being a side hustle queen, a large part of it is due to being a frugal weirdo. While I am not a frugal weirdo in all the same ways as the Frugalwoods, I am a frugal weirdo in my own right. And that’s just fine with me.

Being A Frugal Weirdo

Frugal Hound agrees Melanie is smart to wait on getting a pet
Frugal Hound agrees Melanie is smart to wait until she’s debt-free to get a pet

In my mind, a frugal weirdo is someone who bucks convention and doesn’t live their life based on what they “should” buy or what they “should” do. Frugal weirdos are the opposite of the Joneses. Instead of trying to keep up with everyone else, they’re questioning every expense and ditching the ones that don’t serve them.

Not only do I think it’s completely okay to be a frugal weirdo, in some cases, I think it’s a necessity. In order to accomplish any big financial goal—whether it’s retiring at 33 or paying off $81,000 in debt—you have to do things differently than most people. For me, I’ve embraced being a frugal weirdo by questioning conventional consumerism and letting go of what I thought my life should look like at my age.

At 31 years old, I’m now at the age where many of my friends are already married, buying houses, and having kids. Me? I’m still living like a college student in most regards. My boyfriend and I share a cozy (see: small) studio apartment, furnished by Craigslist and Ikea.

We don’t own a TV or have cable. I don’t have a car or a gym membership. I get my hair cut once a year at the local beauty school and have given up fancy cosmetics. I’m a minimalist and hate buying clothes and despise stuff. I’ve even said no to having a pet until I’m debt-free (sorry Frugal Hound).

The Value of Being a Frugal Weirdo

Frugal Hound lets her frugal weirdo flag fly
Frugal Hound lets her frugal weirdo flag fly

While many folks might look at people like me or the Frugalwoods and think we’re so deprived, I know that we spend our money on things that are worth it to us. Being a frugal weirdo isn’t about never spending money—it’s about realizing what’s worth spending money on and letting your goals guide you and your choices.

In this world, where there’s so much pressure to keep up, it can be exhausting and downright difficult to figure out what you really want—and not what your friends, family, advertisers, and marketers are selling you. It takes guts and courage to be a frugal weirdo—and to you fellow frugal weirdos out there, I salute you.

It’s Okay to Be a Frugal Weirdo

My point is that it’s okay to be a frugal weirdo. You don’t have to buy things to make yourself happy (because they don’t). You don’t have to buy a house if you don’t want to. You don’t have to have children if you don’t want to. You don’t need to buy the Next Big Thing. You can change the rules of the game when you want to. There’s no life rulebook that says this is the right way and this is the wrong way.

It’s your life and your choice and if you have Big Financial Goals, then let your frugal weirdo flag fly.

Melanie Lockert is a Portland-based personal finance writer and founder of the award-winning blog Dear Debt. Currently, she’s a few short months away from paying off all of her student loans — all $81,000.

Do you consider yourself a frugal weirdo?

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  1. Oh hey there, Melanie! 🙂 I aspire to be a frugal weirdo. I’m working on it! I’d say that my top three best frugal weirdo practices are:

    – living with housemates (I’m 34, so this could be considered a bit of a weird choice)
    – going to Whole Foods to mooch off the multiple kinds of cheese samples that are always, always, always sitting around, then buying my bulk oats (the best deal at Whole Foods) and getting out. I’m pretty sure the employees are onto me at this point. 🙂
    – not using Netflix or any type of music streaming service (I get DVDs from the library and use Pandora for free).

    I’m excited to scour other people’s comments for more tips. 🙂

  2. I, too, am a frugal weirdo. …and proud of it! I have been a minimalist out of necessity for about a decade now. Now, I only need to be a minimalist if I don’t want to be punching the clock until I’m 67. I think it’s wonderful that you have thwarted American consumerism pressures to live a more authentic life. When you’re completely debt free, having the luxuries in life (including a pet 🙂 is much more enjoyable and rewarding. At least, that’s what I imagine. I’m close to being debt-free (aside from our home), as well. Your story is refreshing. I wish more people saw it this way. Let’s hear it for all Frugal Weirdos!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  3. Great post Melanie. I don’t consider myself a frugal werido (I still go out to eat, and I do have 2 dogs), but I would say in the last year I have become a mindful spender. While we don’t have debt (other than a mortgage), being mindful has allowed us to save more money and travel more. 2 of our goals. Wishing you the best with the last of the debt!

  4. We also lived like college students until our student loans were paid off (almost–payoff sort of culminated at the same time we purchased our home). In addition to increasing income, freezing your lifestyle to tiny shared apartment, and buying only used items you need, really goes a long way toward knocking out debt. Congrats on being so close to debt freedom!

  5. I love the diversity among frugal weirdos. You and I are so very different. I am a bit younger than you and about to have my 7th child. It’s not conventional and it’s not what I’m expected to do with my life. But it is spending my time and money on the things (read: people) that are important to me. My life requires sacrifice and creativity just like yours does. We can all learn something from each other!

  6. I get the tongue-in-cheek from this column about using the term weirdo, but it is not appropriate and sends a wrong image. Maybe it is others who are weird? If I choose to be frugal, that is (for me and most of you) my normal state. Language and choice of words matters.

  7. Probably the thing that separates us more from the rest of the “norm” is the fact that we are pursuing financial independence without planning on retiring early. We both love teaching and really see value in staying involved in education long term. So that makes us stand out from our real-life friends AND a lot of our/my virtual FIRE friends.

  8. I like her. She’s straight to the point. It’s so much harder living in a large city when we HAVE to have a car because there’s no train. I live in Atlanta (meaning I sit in lots of rush hour), I’m a single mom or two little ones, and work well over 40 hours a week. It’s hard to find time to slow down and make the right decisions when we have to go go go all the time.

  9. Agreed! Great post. My hubby and I are finding our own frugal ways and are questioning every expense. We are surprised how easy it is to leak money smh! We are thankful for God’s wisdom in our lives and daily gleanings from the personal finance community.

  10. Yes, I’m a frugal weirdo and proud of it. This is a refreshing article because I’m constantly thinking about this when I’m around my co-workers who spend spend spend and I often have to hide my frugality or be ridiculed for being “cheap!” I want to say that I’m not a cheap weirdo…I’m a frugal weirdo. Big difference. It’s not about deprivation but about values.

  11. It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one who’s not going to be out of student loan debt until their 30’s despite saving all the money they can. I’m getting tired of the focus on consumer debt.

  12. Please, please, please….do NOT refer to yourselves as “WEIRDOS”! It makes me cringe because – in fact – you are not weirdos at all. Sure, you are not going with the materialistic flow, but you have put measured planning, great care and level-headed consideration into your financial life. And that, my friend, is ADMIRABLE! I am a 60-something with a lot of life experience (i.e. financial) and what I get from your posts (and those of Mr/Mrs FW) is inspiration and confirmation that the inclinations of me and my husband are not lost to the next generation. There are frugal folks upcoming! Yay!!! In the meantime, in the words of my 60’s generation…keep on truckin’ with those loan payments! And remember, free at last, free at last, thank the Lord almighty, you will be debt-free soon (a bad paraphrase of MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech…but appropriate, I think).

    1. I sort of agree. I mean, living like we frugal types do used to be NORMAL. And in some circles – namely people with a lot less money – it still is normal (it’s a necessity!)

      But I think the term “weirdo” comes from how other people view us. While I am an engineer and work with a lot of frugal types, I do think that some of my cohorts think that I am weird. I pack my lunch every day, they eat out 3-5 times a week for lunch. I go camping, they travel to Europe, Asia, Hawaii. I shop at thrift stores (or not at all).

      To them, we are kind of weird.

  13. This is a very timely post for me. I’m curious – what has helped you the most as you’ve been plowing through your debt? Has it been frugality?

  14. I think figuring out what you can opt out of completely is the best thing about being a frugal weirdo. While almost all my friends have these enormous travel aspirations, I’ve realized that outside of natural wonders, I don’t really aspire to travel the globe. I also don’t really care what I wear, nor do I care who cuts my hair. I gladly spend money on high quality childcare and on home renovations, but I can easily forgo much of the rest.

    I guess frugal weirdos just have their priorities.

  15. I enjoy being a frugal weirdo, but it’s hard to convey the positive message of being frugal to most people. It’s fun to share frugal tips with other frugal people – using the library, buying only the necessities, eating at home and bringing my lunch to work, and of course how to save as much as possible. I’m looking for a future of financial independence sooner than later, so being frugal is so worth it to me! It’s unfortunate that most people look at us with pity thinking we are depriving ourselves…

  16. My favorite part of this post was: letting go of what I thought my life should look like at my age. I’m 38 years old with no children, 1 cat and still renting. Yesterday I finally got out of debt after 16 years of continuous debt.

  17. Congrats to you, Melanie, for living the life you choose and also for paying off your student loan debt. So many people are trying to get out of paying the loans or dragging them out for a lifetime while enjoying the income that an education brings. I know it’s hard to pay those loans, I did it, too, many years ago, only a much lower amount, but it was still a lot at the time for me. Now, closing in on retirement, there’s another goal to save for. I find people’s frugalness refreshing, so long as it’s not taken to extremes, i.e., eating out of dumpsters, dividing toilet paper, etc. But that’s just my humble opinion. Again, congrats to you!

  18. I have had many people in the last week, upon hearing about my new job, tell me I can do this or buy that. Why would I want to go back to those spending habits again when I already live like a semi-frugal weirdo. Glad you’re bucking the trend, by choice!

  19. It’s your money and your life, so why give any weight to whimsical judgments of others at all? I’ve always been a firm believer in living your own life, defining what you want and going for it. To do otherwise is to surrender your own free will.

  20. I don’t feel like a frugal weirdo until I meet someone new — someone astounded by my priorities. Then, I feel a little awkward. When people are maximal consumers, they tend to assume that everyone spends money in the same way. When you buck “convention” it makes you a little weird to them. But, I find most people are envious. They don’t admire my frugality as much as the fact that I don’t feel as much pressure to conform anymore.

  21. I am glad that I finally found my tribe (a group with similar ideas and values)! Thanks for all the great stories. I am motivated to continue on this path that I have chosen many years ago. This started after I read the book “Walden.” I chose to do my own thing and love being this way. Too many people live to please other people. I just want to please myself and try to be the best possible person that I can be. Thanks all of you!

  22. Total frugal weirdo. Mostly by necessity but making choices that direction too…like rarely buying new clothes and trying to limit costs to a quarter or less for what I spend on them…yard sales, rummage sales and our flea market being the cheapest source of good used clothing. Our grocery started putting bruised fruit out and I buy bags of apples and oranges at rock bottom prices. And we always shop the scratch and dent shelves and yellow tag meat. We buy at a grocery that gives a gasoline discount and we watch prices. We don’t eat out often. I save jars and cannisters. The sugar cannister works great for paint. We took collision ins off our car after it was paid off only to have deer hit it so we bought two cheap suction dent pullers and fixed it ourselves. We only have one car. Our furnace isn’t working and we haven’t fixed it yet but the weather has been unseasonably warm and we borrowed electric heaters. We buy books and movies at our flea market for around ten cents a piece. Thank goodness we like old sci Fi B movies lol. DH works in retail so he watches for clearances and he grocery shops after work for milk and bread so we only stock up shop once a month. I mend our clothing to wear it longer. We gave up cable all together. We look for used first. We are not brand loyal. I upcycle for fun. We give thrifted things as gifts. We make mistakes but try to learn from them. Weirdos yup

  23. Melanie, that’s a great story about your debt repayment.

    I paid off all debt ~10 years ago and have never looked back. As your debt is paid off and with what you’ve learned, personal debt will become a foreign concept. It’s just something that won’t be part of your life.

    I also think there’s a subtle stressness that isn’t boiling under the surface on a daily basis. One just kind of lives a lighter life.

  24. I don’t care what people think about me, this is something I learned long ago to be happier about myself. If people call me weird, whatever, I don’t really care. 🙂

    1. I’ll take it a step further and state that the ones who chastise me for my lifestyle are usually folks that I have no respect for, so I don’t care.

      I’ll take it a step further and say that when some of those people chastise me, it’s a compliment because their existence is so out of line with my values. If they thought my lifestyle was fine, I’d be doing something wrong.

  25. Welcome, Melanie!

    I wish Mr. FP and I had lived like college students! Instead, we bought a house for the kids we didn’t have yet; then we wanted to move in 2009 (oops!) and lost all our money. If we had just stayed in $600-a-month rental townhouse…

  26. You are exactly right. We should not worry about how other people perceive you. At the time of crisis, only things that will help you get up is your family and close friends that understand who are are and money in the pocket. 🙂



  27. I’ve learned that for me it’s not about what other people think my life should be, but instead what I thought it would be like. Many of my plans were derailed by an unavoidable health situation, which had a major impact on my finances. Things I had planned to do, put off or cancelled. But my finances will recover and I still have some great experiences. It just takes time for many people to reconcile the pictures they had in their heads with frugal reality. Once you do it gets much easier.

  28. I feel like we are kindred souls. You a weirdo and me a freak who follows the sound of a similar drum. Debt freedom is amazing and clearly the first step toward FI. Congrats on your FI journey and nonconformist lifestyle.

  29. It’s not weird to be frugal! I’ve been a tomboy my whole life and I’ve never bought into many things (see what I did there? Ha!) that others deem normal. For instance, I don’t buy fancy clothes (my jacket is covered in duct tape and I once wore a pair of sneakers till the soles fell off), I don’t get hair cuts very often, and I don’t even know how to use makeup. I tried it once. It was weird.

    I think this has helped me a lot in not getting too crazy with debt. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got about $75K in debt now, but if I did all those things I’m sure it’d be well past $100K by now.

  30. Congratulations for almost paying off all of your debt!

    I’m also a proud frugal weirdo. ;D I’m on social security, so you basically have to be frugal and have budgeting skills to live the way I currently do. Luckily, I am a good budgeter, lol! Living with my mother also helps out a lot too. ^^;

    Unlike other millennials my age (I’m 24.), I am choosing not to take on debt just to go to college. In fact, because college is so stupidly expensive these days, I have decided it’s not worth going near hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt for a degree that may or may not be good in this current job climate. I have decided not to pursue the college route at all. I did the whole college try thing at a community college in my town and I was terrible at it. I found some classes too hard and having four classes at once was too much work for me. : ( Plus, imo, those general ed classes you have to do just to get a stupid piece of paper, or a degree, I think are a scam to take more of your money. > .< I mean, why do have to have to take a history class again like you did in high school to be an engeneer or a doctor? History is important and all, but I don't think it should be a requirement just to become good in an occupation that has nothing to do with history.

    But I digress.

    Along with being a frugal weirdo, I enjoy saving money for things I want. Since I don't have a steady job yet, I wouldn't be able to pay off a credit card, so I don't have any yet. But from the trouble I see others get into from credit cards, think that is a good thing, lol. I also adore the Dollar Tree! I buy many things from that store including greeting cards that are $1.00 each! I mean, you can't beat that!

    So I raise my glass to all of us frugal weirdos out there and our money saving ways! Maybe someday the Joneses will follow our example! At least I hope so! You know they're broke, lol. ; ) Cheer to you all and Happy Holidays to everybody! ^^

  31. Hey Melanie, great article I have known for a while that I am a “frugal weirdo” the hard part for me is not what others say as much as my wife who thinks I’m very weird for the things I do to save money

  32. I’d say at this point in my life, I am 1/2 frugal weirdo. In the last few years I have changed my shopping habits to mainly second-hand and/or clearance racks only, making my own coffee, not spending as much on takeout and I’m really interested in less stuff surrounding me. A current challenge because my significant other is a keeper of stuff because “it may have value.” I don’t need the best car, the latest fashions or to take an expensive trip. I certainly have to room to improve though. Thank you for sharing your story!

  33. I live within my means without depriving myself. My priorities might be different from the priorities of others though. I once went to Prada and wasn’t impressed at all with what was offered at high prices, I guess I’d be considered a weirdo by others that love Prada, haha, 😉

  34. I am a bit older than most of you, never had any debts apart from mortgage, I have some shares and some mutual funds, I have had no car now for 18 years and go to work on bike or bus, depending on weather, I have no TV and I am not prone to clothes shopping, however, I have 7 cats that cost a lot of money 🙂
    I never had to be very careful with money, until now, work situation has deteriorated and I have still 7 more years to go, I am trying hard to get now some money aside to be able to quit working 2 years before the official retiring age. Love this blog and I am already working on my goals for 2016, I already cut my Nespresso capsule system, started cooking from scratch, try to sell some stuff, (declutter a bit too) , need some hobby that does not cost much, I enjoy walking and live near a lake, so that is great for me.
    Greetings from Switzerland and so glad I found you, one of the nicest blogs I’ve come across!

    1. Hi Anette from Switzerland… I’m older too, and loving learning from these (mostly) younger folks. Wish I had wised up 40 years ago, but better late than never, right ? I love this blog also.

      1. I agree , and reading a lot now about frugality makes me so much stronger and even more determined. Have a nice Xmas – time Marcia.

  35. I was definitely not always a frugal weirdo and I wrongly assumed that frugal weirdos were just cheapskates in disguise, but ever since I crossed over about 3 years ago, I realize that I was the idiot for not seeing the light sooner. Now I proudly own my frugality and I really don’t care what other people say.

  36. I used to think frugal weirdos were just weird and cheapskates in disguise but about three years ago, I saw the light and realized that I was the idiot for not making smart and frugal choices with my own money. Now I proudly own my frugal ways and coach my clients to embrace their inner frugal weirdo so that they can achieve their life goals that much faster.

  37. I’m working to become a frugal weirdo! I agree with a commenter above, it seems like the frugal lifestyle was the norm when I was growing up. We went camping for vacations, I happily had hand-me-down clothes. My bicycles were always hand me downs too and I loved each of them because they came from my older cousin who I idolized lol it seems like life was simpler then and I miss that. I love this frugal minded community that’s growing online though, it’s nice to get ideas from all the different blogs and commenters. Congrats on being so close to debt freedom- I just recently paid mine off and it feels GOOD!!

  38. How exciting for you to be so close to achieving your debt payoff goal, Melanie! I don’t think I’ve achieved “frugal weirdo” status just yet, but I have learned a lot about what I’m willing to skip, and what I am willing to buy. I’m working on it! Oh, and you’re right to hold off on getting a pet, says the owner of two geriatric cats, who has easily spents thousands of dollars on one of them (chronic health condition) in the past two years!

  39. Hey There, I am certainly working on becoming a frugal weirdo. I love it. I came to this decision late last year that getting rid of all my debt and getting financially independant was for me and I was amazed when I gave it a google and found that there is a whole community of people like me out there. So to become a frugal wierdo I have done the following:

    – I rented out my apartment and moved into a van
    – I cut out all spending on eat out
    – I ditched all TV, Netflix, and anything I can’t watch over the data on my phone
    – Sold most of my stuff

    I love my life so much more now without all that stuff in it and really weirdly I love living in my van a 2 minute walk from work. I hope I am moving towards being a super frugal weirdo like you guys 🙂 no shame, love it!

    Thanks for sharing.

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