I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to amp up my frugality. It’s easy to get lulled into thinking Mr. Frugalwoods and I have achieved peak frugality, but no sooner do I make that assumption than I’m confronted with a means to save even more!
True confessions: I enjoy the challenge of not spending money. It’s legitimately fun for me to uncover innovative methods of circumventing our consumer-focused society. Frugality, in fact, is a hobby of mine. Oh yes, I do frugality for sport. The nerdy competitive side of me relishes this opportunity to continually one-up myself.
I’ve never been even remotely decent at any traditional sports (supporting evidence: me being hit in the face with a softball, tripping over a soccer ball, spraining my ankle in a ballet class, and falling off a horse… need I go on?), but frugality is a sport I can handle.
Plus, it tends to have fewer injuries (although, no lie, I’ve gotten paper cuts from sorting through grocery store receipts… if there’s a way to injure oneself while doing an activity, 9 times out of 10, I’ll manage it).
Double Benefits = Double Happiness
The auxiliary benefits of having frugality as a hobby are fabulous and very real. When Mr. FW and I first commenced our foray into extreme frugality in April 2014, I thought the main outcome would be the money we’d save and the subsequent financial independence it would enable. And hey, that’s not too shabby a result.
Although this was reason enough for us to undertake cost-cutting measures, I’ve been preposterously thrilled with the additional pros of frugal living we’ve discovered. I waxed about these perks at length in the aptly titled “11 Benefits of Frugality That Have Nothing To Do With Money,” but it’s a topic I’m so passionate about that I can’t help but wax some more! Wax, wax, wax! Weird word, wax.
To indulge my desire to wax, here’s a quick rundown of a few hidden bonuses of frugality:
- Community-building. Frugality brings friends and neighbors closer because it encourages bartering and sharing.
- Environmentally friendly. Consuming less in all facets of life is advantageous for the planet.
- Leads to less waste. Not wasting food or material goods is awesome.
- Creates closer family connections. Frugality necessitates collaborating with your partner and involves spending more time with your family and less time on expensive toys that distract you from what matters most.
- Happier, less stressed out lives. Having fewer consumer choices = happiness. Without the pressure to conform to societal norms and lifestyle inflation, we’re free to instead pursue our passions.
- Fosters creativity. Not spending money makes us inherently creative problem solvers. How can we fix/resolve/create and otherwise hack our lives without taking the easy way out of buying something?
- Provides options. When you don’t use a lot of money, you don’t need a lot of money. And when you don’t need a lot of money, your life is suddenly open to tremendous possibilities. Frugality frees people from working jobs they don’t like to support lifestyles they don’t need.
We all have virtuous and non-virtuous hobbies. At least I do. My hobby of eating baked treats (sometimes in their entirety by myself)… not so virtuous. But my hobby of yoga? More virtuous! I try to balance myself out in this regard (not always successfully) and having hobbies that yield dividends beyond pure enjoyment is central to how I structure my life. We all like to do things that are fun.
And so I posit this to you: make everything fun! Ok that’s a tad ridiculous I realize (some necessary things are just sort of not fun, like taking out the trash… blerg).
But, I do find that by viewing frugality through the lens of a hobby, Mr. FW and I are able to derive more pleasure from our daily lives. Take, for example, the fact that we cut each other’s hair. In so doing we get to hang out together, chat during the barbering session, spend $0, and it takes far less time than it would to trek to a salon. Hence, a totally fun and rewarding undertaking! Now, I’ll admit it wasn’t fun the first few times we did it: I used to get super stressed over buzzing Mr. FW’s hair because I was freaked out about shaving bald spots or making an uneven line across his neck (both of which I’ve done and both of which he survived).
As time wore on, it became easier for me to give him a haircut and now, I actually find it gratifying. Additionally, I’m a slooooooooowly recovering perfectionist and am now better able to embrace the whimsy of imperfection that inevitably comes to bear in our DIY efforts.
I’m proud of myself that I’ve learned how to give Mr. FW a stellar haircut (strange as that may sound). This pride is counter to the fact that our society can be very de-empowering. We’re told we need to pay other people to do just about everything for us–from cooking our food to walking our dogs to cleaning our homes–the underlying message is that we’re incapable of doing stuff for ourselves. However, there’s great enfranchisement and accomplishment to be had when we do in fact prove we’re able to manage our own stuff. I defy you to not feel proud of yourself when you master how to do something new (say, for example, how to fix your plumbing!).
Same goes for Mr. FW cutting my hair. The first time I suggested it, I’m pretty sure he thought our marriage was going to end (to be fair, I wondered the same). But, being up for trying anything, he gamely went along with my request and he now cuts my hair like a pro without breaking a sweat (we were both pretty sweaty the first time).
Frugality = Skill Building Extraordinaire
The ability to fail and try again enhances our skills as productive human beings. Just last week I produced an epic baking fail via several loaves of cranberry walnut bread. See photo at right. Need I say more? But this week, I was back at it with a different recipe and a glorious result. Of course we still ate the crumbly bread (I mean it is bread after all), but I typically bake several loaves so that we can give some away to friends/church/etc and I was bummed that the crumbly loaves couldn’t pass muster as gifts. Although I did take half a loaf over to my new friend M, who very kindly said it was delicious. But still… sad crumbly bread.
This learning curve is present in nearly everything in life, so why not embrace it as a natural course of frugality? At its core, frugality is the art of learning because the true crux of not spending money is learning to do things yourself. Frugality has very little to do with deprivation or austerity–it’s all about skill building, which is largely why we view our lives as frugally luxurious. I 100% did not know this before becoming a frugal weirdo, so I’m happy I can now share this so you don’t have to panic about it like I did (although if you’re anything like me, you’ll panic anyway because why be calm when you can panic!).
By framing frugality as a hobby, I find that our efforts become an appealing challenge and not drudgery. In many ways, it’s all about how we choose to view the activities of our lives. While I don’t exactly prance around super excited to do the laundry, I do derive a certain amount of satisfaction from keeping my family’s clothes clean. Maybe laundry isn’t a hobby per se, but it’s elevated far above mere chore. Maybe I’m delusional, but I like knowing at the end of the day that I’ve done concrete things to care for my home and my family. And if I can be content with that, then perhaps I can find peace and fulfillment in everything I do.