How To Build Confidence In Your Frugality
Frugality is not trendy. Nor is it particularly popular. Many folks, in fact, decry frugality as deprivation, as miserliness. The media certainly doesn’t do frugality any favors since no one stands to make money from it (except, of course, those of us who are practitioners).
But as we frugal weirdos know, there are immense and far-reaching benefits of following a frugal path–from providing the financial freedom to follow your dreams to bringing peace and simplicity into your life. And far from miserly, our brand of extreme frugality is the art of joyful, luxurious spending in service of our goals and on the things that matter most to us.
Since frugality is not typically portrayed as a positive mode of existence, it can be tough to feel confident and secure in this lifestyle choice. For some reason, it’s more culturally acceptable to flout external demonstrations of wealth in everything from lavish birthday parties for one-year-olds (why is that a thing????!!!!) to new clothes every season. When we choose to instead manage our money responsibly and save our resources for substantial longterm goals, we just might come under harsh scrutiny.
It’s Not About Them
A query from readers that populates my inbox at least once a week is a version of:
My family/friends don’t understand my frugal lifestyle and judge/harangue me for it. How do I continue to embrace frugality without their endorsement?
I hate that fellow frugal folk must endure this judgement, it makes me frown, and I wish I could wave my frugal wand and instantly cause everyone to comprehend the liberation of being in control of your money. Also I would wave the wand to enact world peace along with daily cookie-eating and greyhound-cuddling breaks.
But since such a wand doesn’t exist, my best response is that it’s not about them, it’s about you. It’s about how you want to live your life, which is not the business of other people (it is, of course, the business of your partner/spouse, but that’s a different conversation for a different post… oh wait, I already wrote that post! It’s right here). Living a people-pleasing existence is exhausting and unfulfilling if you’re not doing the things that make you happy. You’re largely responsible for your own happiness and if you create a life designed around the desires of other people, it’s likely you’re not meeting your own needs.
If you’ve come to the determination that frugality will enable you to achieve your goal of paying off debt/quitting your job/traveling the world/living without fear of a job loss/simplifying and enjoying your life/having options, then go for it! Don’t let naysayers tear down the liberation you’ve uncovered through frugality. Be confident in the lifestyle you’re creating–you’re now a person of conviction, who isn’t ruled by spending, and who wants something more out of life than simply slogging through it as a mindless consumer.
Frugality, for the most part, is about making a conscious decision to pursue a life outside the norm, which can make some people uncomfortable. But you know what? Tough cookies for them. Frugality doesn’t make you a bad, ungenerous, ungrateful person–quite the contrary, it opens you up to exploring how you can use your gifts beyond merely earning a living to support your own needs.
Things Non-Frugal People Say
So that’s a barrel of kittens and now we all feel cozy and secure about how cool, frugal, and ridiculously good-looking we are (what with our home haircuts and thrift-store clothes). However. What about those relatives/co-workers/friends who simply will not leave you alone about how you want to spend (or not spend) your money? Key phrase here being that it’s your money–not theirs.
Let’s run through a few classic scenarios of stuff non-frugal people say:
1) You’re Depriving Your Children!
Really?! I mean, seriously? I would be aghast, but I know this is a common refrain parroted at frugal parents.
First of all, woe betides the person who thinks a child can be loved through material possessions. Full stop. Many of the parents I know who embrace extreme frugality did so in part to enable them to stay at home with their children (me, 1500 Days to Freedom, Root of Good, Mr. and Mrs. Money Mustache… the list goes on). Sure their kids (and mine) might not have brand-new clothes and mountains of toys, but they do have parents who spend lots and lots of time nurturing, teaching, loving, and listening to them.
Now you certainly don’t have to be a stay-at-home parent in order to provide these benefits to your child, but I will say that the cycle of working longer hours in order to afford more stuff for your kid is perhaps a flawed approach. Kids don’t need designer clothes and opulent birthday parties–they need caring adults who value them and spend time with them. There’s zero shame in choosing to modestly celebrate special occasions and rein in the panoply of presents at Christmas.
And since I simply cannot restrain myself here, allow me to point out that not showering a child with endless gifts and stuff yields far-reaching benefits (beyond, ya know, saving loads of dough). In the absence of a materialistic deluge, kids are less spoiled, more self-reliant, more self-actualized, more creative, more aware of their privilege, blah, blah, blah. These are merely my opinions on the matter. I’m sure some actual experts have written about this, but for the purposes of this exercise, you get the gist.
However, let’s be tactful here and respect this divergent, non-frugal viewpoint. What I like to say in response to the child-deprivation argument is thus: “Thank you for expressing your concern. However, we’ve chosen to raise our child(ren) with a certain set of values and those values do not include extravagant gifts/parties/vacations/ponies.” Through this phrasing, I’m focusing on the values frugality espouses and not the mechanics; because at its core, this argument addresses the notion that you need to spend a lot of money in order to raise your children right. And obviously, you don’t. Choosing not to throw cash at childhood is about a great deal more than saving money and I believe that argument resonates more soundly with the non-frugal.
Boom. Done. Next…
2) You Never Treat Yourself!
Au contraire! I have in fact treated myself to early retirement in my dream home in my dream location (the woods!). So uh, yeah, I don’t miss all those lattes and lunches out and haircuts and new clothes I didn’t buy…
This rebuke stems from the assumption that money buys happiness and that if you’re not spending on yourself, you’ve obviously entered into some sort of monastic destitution cycle. Yeah, no. As my friend Cait Flanders says, “You can’t buy happiness at a store; I know, I’ve tried.”
I’ve discussed at length the erroneous logic of the ‘treat yourself’ culture. It’s the belief that lasting, permanent happiness is out of our reach and so we’d better soothe our discontent with repeated, small hits of consumerism. As in, my daily latte and new car help me get through a job I don’t enjoy. This, we frugal weirdos know, is the road-bump opiate approach to life.
But we are being tactful! Hence, my preferred statement is as follows: “I appreciate your concern. But actually, I’ve discovered a new life path that’s quite fulfilling to me and that makes me happy. So I’m fine with not buying this _____.” Cheers.
3) Aren’t You Ashamed Of Your _____?!
So very many of my possessions could fill in this blank… my used furniture, my old clothes, my home-cut hair, my… oh the list is endless. Part of feeling confident in my frugality is feeling confident in my appearance and in my possessions.
These things don’t define me. I am not my sofa or my hemline. I am not the sum total of the things I own. I am much more than that. And accepting this was a challenging trek for me. Once we awaken to this higher plane of consciousness, we can disavow our culture’s clarion call to continually upgrade our possessions. Finding contentedness with what we already own is revelatory.
My response is any amalgamation of the above. Principally, the key is that this argument is about whether or not you calibrate your self-worth off of material goods. Hence, a response that drives at the heart of why we frugal folk don’t define ourselves so narrowly is strongest. I define myself by what I do, not what I own.
4) Life is short; live it up!
Another version of the treat yourself meme, this is our friends’ frank concern that we’re not taking time to enjoy our lives. And this is the one argument that does give me pause. The core point of frugality is to enter into a savings regime that will enable you to pursue a higher purpose.
That purpose can be as wide-ranging as working fewer hours in order to coach your kids’ baseball team all that way up to early retirement. But the point is that frugality facilitates your version of the good life. As it happens, I believe that frugality in itself creates a good life. However, if your frugality makes you a miserable, bitter, angry person, it might be time to reassess your spending priorities (the gross exception here is if you have pants-on-fire debt that you need to pay down–if that’s the case, then hang in there and pay it off!).
Life is short and unexpected, which is the precise reason why Mr. Frugalwoods and I decided to live a life of frugality in order to live the life of our dreams–on a homestead in the woods. While our frugality was in some ways a means to this end, it’s also our chosen mode of existence for the duration.
This anti-frugal contention hinges on the old trope that we can engender happiness through material possessions. While I find that premise profoundly false, I do believe that your money should bring you happiness. My money brings me happiness by remaining invested for the longterm to provide for my family’s future. So while I’m not spending it per se, my money is still a contributing factor in my overall wellbeing.
Shocking Newsflash: Money Is A Contentious Issue!
I feel it’s prudent to add that sometimes the best way to navigate such a conversation is to avoid it entirely. In much the same way as we are perhaps wise to skirt religion and politics at the Thanksgiving dinner table, if you know your frugality is going to rankle Great Aunt Hildegard, then just don’t bring it up. Trust me, it’s super easy to make it through social conversations without mentioning frugality once–I’ve done it for years. Then come share all your bottled-up frugal thoughts here in the comments section!
Since frugality pertains to money, people often leap to the conclusion that you’re doing it wrong if you don’t do it exactly as they do. And that is precisely why Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone. Although I espouse a certain frugal philosophy, I don’t impose it on others. I don’t expect readers to follow what I do exactly and I also don’t judge people for their diverse spending approaches. Who am I to say that my way is the best?
I firmly believe that you don’t have to impose your frugality on anyone else in order to fully live it yourself. I have plenty of friends who know I write this blog, but who know little else about my frugal outlook–and that’s completely fine. I’m always happy to share my money philosophy with anyone who is interested, but I don’t delude myself into thinking that everyone is just dying to jump on the frugality bandwagon. Part of being secure in my frugality is knowing that it’s not the right thing for everyone else. I do me; you do you.
There’s no fervor like the converted and so those of us who’ve unlocked the incredible dividends that frugality pays want to evangelize our awesome money-saving, goal-reaching lifestyle. But guess what? It’s not for everyone. Hence, sometimes you might save yourself a world of hurt by simply talking about the weather instead.
I’ve also found that, more often than not, jealousy is the underlying motivator behind a personal war on frugality. Those of us who save massive percentages of our income each year have unlocked a third way–a wholly unconventional and liberating means of progressing through life.
But not everyone has the advantages, or the privilege, or the circumstances, or the marriage, or the abilities to follow in these footsteps. And so I understand how disheartening it might be to someone who feels financially trapped and who feels they can’t turn frugal–for any number of reasons. Keeping compassion at the forefront of my interactions with the non-frugal is perhaps the most important tenet I can share. We don’t know the struggles or trials of even our closest friends and so I never like to assume that people are “out to get me.” I’ve found what works in my life, but that doesn’t mean other people want it shoved down their throats.
Let Go Of Caring What Others Think
People are going to judge you (and me). No matter what. So why twist into a pretzel of consumption to try and avoid it? If you are living a genuine, authentic life in which you try to put good out into the world, then who gives a greyhound’s booty if people whisper maliciously about your frugal choices? In a sea of conspicuous consumption, we frugal weirdos happily paddle our own little handmade canoes.
Also, can I be honest here? If you have friends who don’t respect your frugality and your life choices, then I kind of think it might be time to find new friends. A friend, by very definition, is someone you enjoy spending time with and who respects and honors who you are as a person. And don’t go telling me you’re the only frugal person in your town, because I guarantee it ain’t so–I’ve lived in some of biggest (New York City; Washington, DC; Boston) cities in the country and in some of the smallest (semi-rural Kansas, rural Vermont, suburban St. Louis) and there are frugal compatriots everywhere. Plus, I have plenty of non-frugal friends who respect my choices while choosing a different path for their own family. And it’s all good! Sidenote: for more on how we frugally socialize with our friends, check out: Maintaining Friendships And Frugality.
At the end of the day, I put this question to you: What matters more to you: living your life as you see fit and as you enjoy–or–constantly working to impress other people? Living a life to impress others is exhausting, futile, and expensive. Hoe your own road, embrace your frugality, and don’t be ashamed of the (dare I say freaking awesome) financial choices you’re making.
How do you build confidence in your frugality?
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“Oh contraire! I have in fact treated myself to early retirement in my dream home in my dream location”
I love this article. People do push back–hard–but I think a lot of it is their own frustration and struggle with debt and not feeling like they’re making progress. As we make progress, though, either these ‘friends’ see our changes, respect them, and even try some of the same strategies, or we spend less and less time with them. It all works out.
Mic drop… AWESOME!!!
Lovely article. I think for me the hardest part of socializing frugally is my shame of hosting amidst the clutter. My increased interest in frugality has not really helped me with purging. I’m looking forward to this being less challenging as I move into my own retirement and can slowly work through purging and not feel like socializing means the weekend is only centered on cleaning and hosting!
Another nicely-written article… thanks! I particularly appreciate this thought:
My money brings me happiness by remaining invested for the longterm to provide for my family’s future. So while I’m not spending it per se, my money is still a contributing factor in my overall wellbeing.
Thank you. For. This. So much more than frugality here. Awesome article.
Just had this conversation last night with a frugal friend. He just retired last week about 20 years earlier than his peers. He popped in to visit while sailing his sailboat down the East coast. We have the same dream of retiring early and circumnavigating on a sailboat. The discussion turned to driving old cars, wearing old clothes, but buying our “freedom chits” one frugal choice at a time. He brought up the point that we’re targets of ridicule because our friends are jealous. I think the hardest thing is when someone says “you have an easy life, or you have no worries you have your money.” They don’t see the daily behind the scenes frugal choices in every decision that is made that slowly builds those few dollars a day into a secure future. Thank you so much for expressing something I’ve been feeling a lot as I prepare to move to Italy for the next 2 years. Every time I have to make a difficult or complicated choice during this move process, my peers have said to me “just buy your way out, or buy it new when you get there” I remember there are people like you guys out there with the same values that take the time to make “mindful choices”. Now back to packing!
I’ve endured more eye rolls in response to my choice not to spend money on certain things than I can count.
I don’t understand why my spending choices seem to offend people. It’s like they need me to spend on the same things as them to justify their own purchases. Like you said, you do you – I’ll do me.
This. Exactly this. “It’s like they need me to spend on the same things as them to justify their own purchases.” A family friend made a snide comment to my mother about how I don’t spend any money, and it hurt a little bit to think someone else regards me as cheap. My mom quipped back, “Yeah, maybe we should be more like her.” Thank you, momma!
Love it! Mama’s get your back!
There is one who owes us a lot of $, yet rationaliZes by throwing up to me how I spend my $. Hello?
I see it all the time with people I talk to. My guess is that when people see others spend less, it can be seen as an attack. That others are more efficient or getting much better deals with their money. The easy way to suppress that feeling would be to rationalize and say that these people are cheap or missing out on life.
It can go the other way too and I was guilty of this in the past. I may judge someone for spending more than I thought they should. The truth is, I don’t know the details of their finances or their circumstance. Even if I did, it’s not up to me to determine if it’s worth it for them or not.
The bottom line is people can have great discussions around spending but still mind their own business at the same time!
My in-laws used to make fun of us all the time: our ten jars of peanut butter (stocked up when it was on sale), the dent in our old car (why spend $1000+ to fix it?), the antenna for our TV (instead of cable), etc. It was as though they thought we were too dumb to know how to have nice things.
Meanwhile my SIL was saying that people will always have car payments and credit card debt, as though it’s just inevitable. Then their house went into foreclosure. And my BIL is 70 and still working — maybe by choice, IDK, but he’s already had one mini-stroke.
People need to mind their own business.
Oh man, the car thing is so true for us too. We only have one car, a quite beat up 2004 Chevy Classic. It’s an ugly maroon color, has a hole in the front bumper cover, and is constantly covered in dust, pine needles, and assorted bird droppings (we have no garage). It’s by far the ugliest car in the parking lot at my office. Everyone is always asking me “when are you going to get a new car?” I honestly think they are embarrassed on my behalf! Meanwhile my 23 year old coworker just bought her 3rd new car in 2 years (!!!!) and was talking about what a good deal she got because it was a 7 year loan (!!!!!!)
We also live in the Seattle metro area and so there is traffic EVERYWHERE. Plenty of chances for your car to get stolen, dented, scratched, etc. It must be exhausting trying to keep a nice car looking nice.
Haha omg the “coworkers might be embarrassed on my behalf” is so me! I have a 10 year old car at 100,000+ miles and it makes me SO HAPPY. It gets me where I need to go and if anything happens to it, I wouldn’t even worry about it. Talk about freedom! Also, someone just dented it in the parking lot at work the other day…again. Did I freak out? Absolutely not! I laughed and said, “Oh it is so nice not to have to stress about this 🙂 “
My car is now 21 years old (a 95 Mazda 121 – Autozam Revue for you non-Aussie folks), with a few minuscule dents and two (now filled in) deep cuts on the rear doors (someone must have been angry at a previous owner!). It’s tiny, it doesn’t have airbags, but it goes! It has more than 150,000 miles on it and plenty of life yet. In fact, it’s never let me down. It has cost me less than $2k to keep it going in the last 4 years – cheap regular services plus some new brakes, new cv joint and a new clutch. It cost me $900 to buy and is in better condition than when I bought it, so I can look forward to plenty more years of driving yet.
Like Haley, I don’t think it’s a big deal if someone scratches it accidentally. It’s also so old that nobody even bothers to try stealing it. Last week was the first time someone ‘broke in’ to it. I left the driver door unlocked (whoopsie) but I live in a safe little country town so no biggie. It was probably some kids looking for some quick money, based on the fact the glovebox was open and so was the ashtray. They didn’t bother taking the stereo.
I’m not embarrassed by my little car. Sure, I’ll probably get something a bit safer once I save up for a new(er) car, seeing as I now have 3 kids, but again it will probably be at least 10 years old. I can’t stand new cars with all their annoying buttons and things. I don’t call people while driving or listen to music in the car so why would I need to be able to connect my phone to it?
Reminds me of this Jalopnik post, “Here’s Why This Beat-Up Kia Is The Best Car I’ve Ever Reviewed”
” There are dents in front, on the sides, and in back. There are scrapes, bent panels, and there’s one area that looks like it was repaired by a person whose sole prior automotive experience came from racing Micro Machines in his parents’ basement. It might appear to a casual observer like it was once washed with rocks.
And yet, getting behind the wheel of this thing is a remarkably freeing experience.”
As someone who takes a lot of pride in my car’s appearance, I can’t relate. Maybe one day I’ll embrace the freedom of not caring. It sounds very freeing.
A year later and I’m cruising through the comments, see this and I can’t help think about that time when someone literally drove over the hood of my 2002 Cavalier while backing up their massive monster Jeep in a drivethrough (I wasn’t exactly expecting someone to back out of a drive through so I wasn’t paying attention …). It was just the person’s hitch that rode up on my car, but it was pretty hilarious and I was super happy to just laugh it off, shrug it off, and tell them not to worry about it.
Kay:. I understand in-laws poking fun @ you. It can really destroy an otherwise potentially positive relationship. It is a bully behavior if we don’t meet their expectations.
Our close friends and family have been very supportive and even inspired by our potlucks, de-cluttering, minimizing and frugal raising of our kid. The ones who turn their noses up are very quiet and oddly enough think we are weird hippy types (despite being well dressed, nice house and all). Other “friends” who are upset and outspoken sadly I’ve noticed have been friends who are no longer the beneficiaries of “treating” ourselves and others on the level they have come to understand. At minimum, we were the ones always inviting folks out getting people out on the town. We even used to invite all our friends out to dinner and pay the bill regularly! And when you go from pretty decent birthday gifts to home baked bread for your birthday some people have been lashing out at our frugality. I have even had two people actually tell me, why do I have to suffer because of your new “thing”. Literally as if a portion of my paycheck was designated for them. Nuts right?!
Frugality helped me through my very real quarter life crisis, so I’ll sing it’s praises forever. It’s the same as any other life choice though- some people get married, some don’t. Some people eat meat, some don’t. You’re right that people judge regardless of what you’re doing, so do whatever you want!
Oh how beautiful it is to read an article that doesn’t have a link to go buy something.
Mrs. Frugal woods I love you for your honesty and openness with your reader.
I recently got married and plan on having children. I hope that the lessons I learn here will help me lead a life with more us time and giving back instead of buy now and we need this.
I want my children to experience a life of financial freedom, creating their own job and jobs for others, being part of their community and not just another neighbor.
Is Babywoods wearing Lilly Pulitzer? If so, she’s a lucky lucky girl. Shopping is my weakness. 😉
Also side note – I’m always impressed with how your frugal lifestyle “looks.” The smiles and happiness are the most important but buckets of peonies (for free!) and a cute living room show that it’s not all “old” things. Many frugal items are still beautiful! Most of our furniture is hand-me-down or Craigslist and it’s holding up better than our new stuff.
Hand-me-down Lilly Pulitzer from a friend who got it for free for her daughter :)!
Love it! That’s the best kind!
Oh my gosh will you please write a book already???!!!! So many quotes in this article that I want to tweet and share everywhere on Facebook but I’m not on social media, thankfully! That is just the most amazing piece I think you have written and I have spent the past couple of months going through your entire blog just trying to absorb your frugal weirdness.
I grew up in a most materialistic and financially irresponsible single household. But the Lord delivered me and set me into the most frugal family I’ve ever known by marriage. At times, it caused some disagreements and judgements because it was so completely foreign to me. But I am so thankful for my frugal husband because I have truly learned so much from him even if at times he made me mad with his extremes (refusing to buy a key spice on a grocery run for me that I needed to make a meal bc it was too expensive). We got in several fights on that one bc it happened several times. Now I can laugh about it and agree with him. Lol.
Like I said I want to share this post with the whole world but for now the only frugal weirdo that I know is my hubby so I will just send this to him for encouragement. Thank you for this post!!!!!!
I was just thinking how nice it would be if you wrote a book!!!
This is a great article – been loving your posts for a couple of months now. My issue is with friends who “expect” me to attend things like hen dos and baby showers, which have a cost associated and usually a gift as well. If I were to make a gift instead of buy one, I would be seen as rude because I have gone off the registry list. These events can, as I’m sure you know, spiral into hundreds of pounds. Any advice on how to navigate these costs, and how have you dealt with them in your life, if they have occurred? Appreciate you taking the time to read this and respond if you can.
I’m not Mrs. Frugalwoods but I have the same issues! For hen dos (I’m pretty sure that’s a US bachelorette party), I pretty much only go to the ones of people I’m very close with. An acquaintance invited me last year so another friend and I just met them for dinner but didn’t stay over at the hotel or participate in the other activities.
I’m pretty crafty so I make most of my gifts. Luckily my family and friends really appreciate the time and effort that goes into them. If someone did say something rude about a homemade gift, I think that’s what I would respond with–“I’m sorry this wasn’t what you were expecting, but I put a lot of love and effort into this gift.” I don’t think people should be upset when we go off registry–you are lucky we are giving you a gift!
I am dealing with this issue right now. My nieces and nephews are in the early to mid 20’s, have jobs and no kids but my sisters insist on birthday parties and gifts for them. The base is $50 cash or gift card. My 25 year old nephew works at the hospital with me and makes the same $. He has no kids or wife. Over the winter we (sisters) decided they had outgrown the gift phase then at the next birthday they reversed that and now if I don’t give I am the cheap aunt. Since I am frugal they know I have the money which makes me look worse. I think its about principal and treating adults like adults…it’s just frustrating.
Is like Mrs Frugalwoods said: Let Go Of Caring What Others Think” (even with family except partner/spouse), they are almost adults now (your nephews and nieces), and if they are expecting a gift for their birthday is a child behavior from them and I think you don’t want to encourage that, so it’s better to be the “cheap aunt” that can offers a good advice than be like everybody else, than only follow the flow to be not called in a certain way.
Brookst:. How difficult. Mil (whom I love), loved the parties & the gifts but everything had to be a certain way. No variation @ all. She was an rn & very generous. She used to even have suggestions for people to gift other people. It’s frustrating, or was then, when I was young.
Your sister insists on gifts, but do your nieces and nephews? I ask because I am 25 and have several aunts and uncles who do still give me gifts for Christmas and my birthday. I do not expect it (nor does my mother insist on it) and have tried to tell them that it is not necessary. I think they feel they need to get me something, because I don’t have children and am much younger than the rest of my cousins. Honestly, it’s kind of awkward on both sides, I feel awkward receiving gifts and they feel awkward about whether or not to get me one. I don’t know if your nieces and nephews are anything like me, but it’s possible they feel the same way or would be understanding about not receiving a gift. Maybe a conversation could help clear up the frustration? Just my thoughts as someone on the other side of a similar scenario.
Building on your “child deprivation” comments: We have an 18 month old whose grandparents buy him many fancy toys and think we are depriving him. Despite having an abundance of these fancy gifted toys, his favourites are things that are free : things from outside (pinecones, tree bark, rocks…), recycling (he loves yelling into / peeking through toilet paper rolls, opening and closing empty cardboard boxes, pouring water from one empty yogurt container to another, etc), food (rolling onions across the kitchen floor is a big hit at the moment) and clothing (he’s very much into pairing up shoes, pairing up socks, trying on various hats…).
I am sure that one day he will want things like musical instruments or a bike or other hobby-related gear, and we’ll find those used or on freecycle, but for now he actually prefers the not-a-toy toys. I just look at the mountain of gifted plastic and think that the best gift of all would be to spare him the problem of overflowing lanfills when he grows up. Sigh.
Exactly! Babies don’t know how to distinguish things that are intended to by toys from things that are not intended to be toys, so why bother buying toys? Along similar lines, my cats get far more entertainment out of twist ties and straws than any toy I’ve bought them.
I’m a bit of a latecomer to PF blogs but I just cannot tell you how much I love reading posts like these. This is how I was raised and it’s how I’m raising my kids. It can sometimes be a little lonely in the real world leading such an extremely frugal lifestyle but it really does pay off. Sometimes it can be difficult too not to question directly why on earth people think spending huge amounts of money on their kids equals a rich, fulfilling and interesting childhood.
Another great post, thanks Mrs FW!
Two things to keep in mind:
1) Your friends don’t pay your bills.
2) It’s nuts to buy things you don’t want with money you don’t have, in order to impress people you don’t like.
I wish we could have a “like” button here.
This was another one of your extremely well thought out articles on a topic that almost everyone who frequents the site goes through on a routine basis but might not have given much specific thought about.
Although I have faced some ridicule for my frugal choices in life, I actually find your comment regarding the fervor of the evangelist to be much more relevant to my daily/weekly discussions as I tend to try too hard to insert it in my conversations. Thanks for the reminder that not everyone cares, and that sometimes the weather is a perfectly suitable subject at times!!!
I think the distinction between cheapness and frugalness is important. Sometimes I think the most powerful response to these questions is almost no response. But also frugal people can be very generous, throw great birthday parties etc. and I can’t help myself, watch the corners on that beautiful coffee table as a mother with a son who still has a scar on his face from slamming into one when he was 11 months old. Forgive me!!
If you are now worried about the coffee table, might I suggest a $1 pool noodle. You chop off 4 pieces and then split them down the middle and, voila, frugal coffee table bumpers. Choose a color that makes you smile and enjoy the absurdity of life with small humans. You do get your normal looking coffee table back eventually and the pool noodle will not permanently affect Mr. FWs beautiful handiwork.
Loved the post. A friend informed me that I was pretty darn counter cultural a while ago and it had never actually occurred to before. I decided it sounded better than weird and sort of nerdy (which had occurred to me before) and decided to embrace the label and take it as a compliment – which is how I think she actually meant it. What made the whole thing really amusing was she was roughly 100,000 times more hippyish than my nail polish wearing, Lilly Pulitzer loving self but I was the counter cultural one!
While we cut our expenses to a point where we can save enough to meet our goals, I have a friend who not only has 50K of credit card debt but is still spending more than she makes. I note this because – similar to anyone trying to face a major challenge- she seems to be driven by fears and insecurities that get in the way of committing to a more frugal lifestyle.,
I’ve been there. I get it. I understand that partly conscious motivations can drive irrational spending.
What finally worked for me were a couple of sessions with a good therapist ( yes, only a couple) to realize that my emotions, especially fears and insecurities ( wanting to appear successful, keep up with the Joneses, distract myself from stress by purchasing something), were keeping me from reaching my strongest and truest goals: financial security and the possibility of reaching my dreams ( write a book, take long walks, hike, enjoy nature, read, spend more time with family, etc)
I wish there was a way I could gently guide my friend in the same direction. It is very hard to watch her struggle.
My general response is “I’m very happy with my life. I hope you feel the same about your’s.” Works well, except for a few relatives.
As I’ve gotten older there has been a mutual parting of ways with most of my friends. We had such different values and interests, and people who go out all the time don’t like being turned down all the time. I know there are frugal people in my area, I just haven’t had any luck finding them. Maybe one day.
Thank you for sharing this. Like many frugal folk, we meet our fair share of resistance, although it’s usually from outsiders. Luckily our family has been quite supportive of our efforts to live more simply. We do get chided every now and then for declining to eat out with family or friends.
It’s all about showing less-frugal people that there are equal or better alternatives to spending money to have fun.
I appreciate your approach to childrearing, Mrs. Frugalwoods. I think kids can become too reliant on material goods and rewards, and have more difficulty learning about the things that matter. While we certainly don’t think a couple of toys will ruin our children, I do think an overabundance of material possessions (and the mindset that comes with them) can be harmful.
Love the picture of you and Babywoods! Two very happy ladies! You can see it in your eyes! I am fortunate to be retired and did so at the age of 45, because of my husband’s pension. We had the opportunity to pull the pin while still young, but we also knew we would be getting less income as a result. We were fine with that. I remember someone back then telling me to not tell anyone I wouldn’t be working anymore, because people would be upset! Back then, retiring young, and not buying into the work until you are 65 routine was really “out there”. Isn’t that ridiculous?! Now at age 59, we have made many financial mistakes in retirement, but we have come out the other side wiser and as you say in control of how we choose to spend our money. We became frugal a number of years ago, and now, it feels like normal. In fact, it is a relief. It is websites like yours, especially yours, that have inspired me to take the path of frugality which has brought comfort not a feeling of being deprived for us. As always, thank you for your inspiration, top notch writing, and for sharing a hug with Frugal Hound!
Hi Melinda, my name is Melinda also and I am also exactly the same age as you. Melinda was a very uncommon name in my age group and I too managed to escape the workforce at 50 along with my husband. I am the frugal one in the family with my husband not far behind. Even as a child I would save my money rather than spend it. I enjoy reading this blog as I love to see the ‘young ones living this lifestyle’ so as to retire early or enjoy the things they like in life. One of my main reasons for frugality is that I just don’t like waste of any sort.
Glad you commented
Melinda (from Down Under in Oz)
Nice to meet you Melinda!
Great article as usual! You do have a way with words. I have a question for anyone who wants to answer. It’s about cars and buying new vs. used. I “get it” that leasing is not frugal. And I “get it” that cars lose a lot of value as soon as you sign the papers and take it home. BUT, I don’t get that buying a used car is much better than buying new IF you intend to keep the car until it falls apart. Seems like people who buy new have the opportunity to treat their cars nicely because they know they will be keeping it a long time. I usually keep a car for over 200k miles and 13 years approximately. With that in mind, does anyone still think it is WAY better to buy used? Thanks for your input!
IMHO, it is still FAR better to buy used! Imagine that a brand new car loses 25% of it’s sticker value in the first couple of years. Then you buy it. Now you get 11 year of use for 75% of the original sticker price. Your price per year of use is 6.8% of the original sticker.
What if, instead, you bought brand new? Now you get 13 years of use for 100% of the sticker. Your price per year is 7.7% of sticker. If the sticker price is around $35k (typical for new US cars) then you are paying over $300 extra dollars EVERY YEAR for the same exact car.
You make a good point about taking care of the car from brand new, but with modern cars, as long as the mileage and service history are reasonable, there is very little difference in maintenance in those first few years anyway.
Of course, only you can decide if the extra money is worth it to you to own a car from brand new, but at least this gives you an idea of the cost!
Hi Jazzy – I don’t just mean maintenance. How you treat a car that you own and will keep for many years is going to be different from how you treat a car that you are leasing. For instance, even though my Prius has 215k miles it still has the original brake pads. The Toyota mechanics are amazed by that. So, I don’t just mean maintenance like oil changes, but how you treat a car daily. When I look at used cars I don’t know how they were treated. I think it matters.
Thanks for everyone for their input. I see the opinions for new vs. used run the gamut!
I became convinced of the value of used vehicles (and for that matter, older anything) after seeing the number of recalls issued on vehicles, furniture, and appliances. Let other folks buy new, and ‘guinea pig’ it for me. After a few years, they’ll have identified the major kinks, and I’ll have the value of cheaper, thoroughly explored product.
We buy cars new instead of used. We got burned by a used lemon one time, and do take FANTASTIC care of our own cars.
Also, the “Cash for Clunkers” program changed the landscape of used-car buying for a few years – a TON of used cars were taken out of inventory, and used cars began to be priced at more of a premium. That was around the time my spouse and I both needed new cars. When we compared the used vs. new prices on the specific cars we were interested in, the cost vs. risk analysis didn’t pan out FOR US, so we felt good buying new.
I retired at 55 with a good pension and some savings. My parents came through the depression, and I consider what they taught me about frugality to be some of the most important things I ever learned in life. We had a very good, healthy, and enjoyable life on our farm, even though we worked hard most of the time. My parents always bought good used cars or trucks, and kept them for a number of years. Two years ago, I shopped for months but finally found the perfect used Ford Escape Ltd. with only 63,000 Km. It had been very well cared for as a daily rental in Ottawa, and had even been rust proofed. It looked just like new, and test drove beautifully, but I had my own mechanic check it all over, and test drive it for $40.00. He noted a couple of small repairs like a loose strut at the front that the used car place had to fix — also he advised that I needed all new tires, worth about $1,000, which they gave me, and they came down $700.00 on the original price, which was reasonable since the discount for a 4 yr. old car was substantial. In the end, I saved over $20,000 on the price of a new Escape Ltd. and I got all the luxuries I love — black leather interior, sunroof, dark tinted glass, roof racks, trailer hitch. The convenience of this little SUV is remarkable. I can use it for all my gardening activities since I had special weather tech vinyl mats installed, with a removable one in the back. I lowered the back seats, put a tarp down, and picked up 6 small sq. bales of straw yesterday, to mulch my vegetable garden. I just love this car, and have had no issues with it in 2 years. I have my oil changed every 500 Km. and try to keep it in good repair. The secret to buying a really good used car is to start early before your other car absolutely has to be replaced, and have your own trustworthy mechanic check it all over. He eliminated 3 others — two of them Hondas before we found this one. One had transmission problems even though it had supposedly passed a safety check at a dealership. If the salespeople will not let you take it to a garage for an assessment, run, and don’t do business with them. Do lots of research, and unless you know the owners, it is probably best to buy from a lot with a good reputation. I have done this sort of thing in the past, and usually keep my cars about 10 years. I know some people use bikes, and that may work find for them, but I need a car, and I have never been sorry I took this approach. Also, I always pay cash. I realize things are different in the USA. I live in Canada. Good luck with your search Laurel !
I made a typo. Sorry, that should be — I have an oil change done every 5,000 Km.
We always buy new also and run them until there’s nothing left! However, we live in CA and we get a lot of used cars here from the east where weather conditions and road conditions are different. It’s not unusual to buy a used car only to find out it went thru a flood, was dried out and shipped out here for sale.
I love this article! I wish I had done what you have done when I was younger. I’ve always been frugal which made it possible for me (just me, no spouse or children) to quit career #1 at 45, buy an old farmhouse and 26 acres and downsize to a slower paced career #2. Last month, at 62, my plans converged to enable me to retire completely with no debt (none, farm and car paid for) and a modestly adequate income. Knowing my non-consumer ways, my coworkers treated me to a selection of gourmet goodies and a cash gift. Yesterday was Amazon Prime day and I thought I might use my retirement gift there — but I soon realized that there is NOTHING that I need or want. Nothing. How wonderful is that??
It’s tough letting go of what others think, but it gets easier as you get older (mentally or age wise idk). But I’m happy to live my life in line with my values much more now than I ever was. It’s always not easy though. Money is for sure contentious. And therefore I only give my opinion on it when asked 🙂
Yes- I agree totally with this. As I get older I care less and less what others think. I am at home enjoying my FIRE time while everyone else is at work. And I also only give my opinion when asked how I was able to do what I do. This is a beautifully written article Mrs. Frugalwoods!
Great blog post Mrs. FrugalWoods. This one touched on tons of great points, but most important of all is the last one — not caring what other people think.
This is a tough one for most people — They grow up in a very social culture. Society has a way of training us to fit in. From bullies to social pressure, conforming is programmed in at an early age.
It took me a long time to build up my own confidence and thick enough skin. Now, I could care less what people think or say. I saved my money. I get to do what I want now!
Long time reader-first time commenter. I love how you always seem to combine, strong, personal and “unconventional” perspectives with a soft and compassionate approach to others! I totally agree with your point on evangelizing… once you discover the power of truly disconnecting from societal pressures you want everyone else you know (and some you don’t) to benefit from your exciting discovery!
I also connect with your point on frugality actually CREATING purpose in your life, that has been my experience too. Love your writing and your unique voice, please keep it up.
Before I sign off, as a fellow pedant of the written word, I love it when I discover my own personal mondegreens. If you are like me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I believe the expression is “hoe your own row” – a fitting one, considering your newfound veggie-growing prowess!
This is a great article. I grew up in a frugal household, so it is embedded in me, but my husband did not and it has taken some getting used to for him. Sometimes he still strays, but for the most part he does well, and we live well below our means.
We have a wonderful 3 year-old whom we have been blessed with and though I would love to be a stay at home mom, we are both still working. We are lucky in that we are surrounded by family. My husband’s mother has been the main babysitter, but we have also had my brother, my dad, and my aunt chip in. We are now paying for preschool as we want him to have the social interaction and not to fall behind for his Kindergarten requirements. Unfortunately, we don’t get free preschool here.
We do take a family vacation every year, but do so frugally. I have fond memories of my family’s summer vacations, and want to give my child the same memories. We have a U.S. Map that we are utilizing to document our trips and track the states that our little one has been to. I don’t buy him all the toys in the world, in fact most of his stuff is hand-me-downs, but I do want him to have great memories and experiences.
I also have great friends, and they all know how frugal I am and what we have been able to accomplish at a young age (one rental property paid off and under 3 years from paying off our current home mortgage plus aggressive savings/retirement investments)…so they all come to me to talk about ways they can pay off debt/frugalize/save. We don’t go out much unless it is free entertainment. Instead we have board game nights and popcorn movie nights. It is good to have a pool of friends that you can be yourself with!
Mrs. Frugalwoods…this is the first time I’ve heard that you’ve lived in Metro St. Louis. I would have loved to have met you when you were here! I’m sure we would have hit it off and been friends!! What time period was this?
I would not consider myself to be frugal, I consider myself to be a very mindful spender. I am always looking at ways to cut down on unnecessary expenses and to use my money for the things that are important to me. I am balancing planning for retirement (not as early as yours but we hope to retire at 55 – this has been our plan as I have a wonderful fulfilling job) with enjoying the things we want. We want to travel. We want to eat out occasional. We want to go to movies. These are things we value. I was recently blessed with a substantial inheritance, from my grandparents. I did the smart thing and invested most of the money. however, I took some to do things I wanted but wouldn’t have the opportunity to. We bought a used kayak for our lake (and new life jackets as safety is priceless), I did pick up a few new clothes (my grandmother would have approved, she only wore the finest) and we decided to upgrade an upcoming flight to a planned trip to Asia to business class (an item to be crossed off the bucket list). My grandparents would have described their life as frugal, but I don’t know if you can be frugal and never fly economy as they travelled the world! They just priorities their spending and did what was important.
While I may not be ready to ever hand my husband a pair of scissors (I do shave his head, but he is not touching my hair, which is one of my sacred cows), I do find I have a lot I can learn from people like you and my grandparents. I am choosing to spend my money the way I want and I won’t judge others for doing the same.
Kristen, was reading through comments and this one rung with me. I do enjoy reading on frugal strategies and even play the credit card game from time to time. However, for me I like to focus on value and set priorities more so than maximize every dollar savings. As long as you know what brings value to you and understand they can be different than the next person, I think that’s the way to go!
I do me; you do you.
This is one of my favorite articles ever
Life IS short. Surely everyone knows co-workers who have died before retirement. I think everyone’s goal should be to not let that happen!
How do I build confidence in my frugality? Through a combination of a trust in numbers and an alarming indifference to other people’s opinions. And practicing contentment and all that jazz. I love to give people money advice when they ask, but I never, ever talk about our own financial state, lest it come off as boasting, the last thing a Yankee ever wants to be caught doing.
I remember when I first entered the workforce and began paying for everything I needed, one of my co-workers made comments occasionally as to how “frugal” I was. And he put the air quotes on frugal as he was using it as a euphemism for “cheapskate” or some other term and was in general being derogatory of the practice. Fortunately, I didn’t care what he or others thought. And, in large part, I have my “frugalness” to thank for being on the road to FI and, similar to you and others, spend more time with my growing family. Thanks for the post!
I absolutely needed this post! Thank you so much:)
So well said! It is always a joy to read your blog and i just want you to know that I’m a fan of your thinking. I’m of the mind set that i don’t want to waste my energy trying to change my friends and family and their lifestyle choices. I can only talk about the things that i do, books i read , and blogs that inspire me. Not everyone will support or agree with how my family lives or the choices that we make, but as long as my husband and I are happy with our choices, that’s all that matters. It’s our money and we decide how we want to spend or not spend it.
“Thank you for expressing your concern. However, we’ve chosen to raise our child(ren) with a certain set of values and those values do not include extravagant gifts/parties/vacations/ponies.”
But you guys have a homestead….I wouldnt say “no way” to the horses so quickly 😉
Hahaha, touche on the horses! Yeah, you’re totally right on that one 😉
I find the way you live your values while offering grace to others so refreshing. Judging is so much easier than grace. Lovely article.
Hi Mrs. FW! I’m a big fan, first time commenter. I was just thinking the other day about why I like Frugalwoods the most, out of all the frugality/FI blogs out there. The reason is summarized in what you wrote here in this post: “Part of being secure in my frugality is knowing that it’s not the right thing for everyone else. I do me; you do you.” I happen to think your route is the “right” one, i.e. it works for me, too. But I really appreciate that you don’t cram it down readers’ throats or look down on people who go through life differently. I am not sure if there is a gender component to this; the other FI blogs I read are written by men, and perhaps that’s why I find more nuance and thoughtfulness in yours. (And yes, I know Mr. FW contributes to this blog, too!) Whatever the reason, thank you for sharing your worldview with us!
Just the other day I had to have some blood work done and was chatting with the receptionist while waiting. She mentioned she liked something I was wearing and I did my best model pose and said “thank you, outfit by Goodwill”.
She was stunned and didn’t seem to believe me so I did the breakdown for her, Guess purse $5, INC brand top etc.
She was stunned! I live in the San Francisco Bay Area which is quite an expensive and “showy” area but I refuse to give in to other people’s expectations. I do have to wear professional clothing for work but I don’t have to pay the retail price!
Our frugal lifestyle has allowed us to keep our home through the recession when literally everyone else who worked with my husband at his former employer lost their homes.
So I will keep driving my car with 160k miles on it, making due on some things and shopping at thrift shops. If other people don’t care for my frugality I guess that is their problem problem as it doesn’t bother me a bit.
I will also keep reading your blog as you are awesome!!
Love this! I do the same thing and especially enjoy telling my friend who finds thrift shopping too “icky” that an outfit she just admired came from the thrift store! Oh…she is still working too and I am retired…hmmm.
I’m pretty down with the you do you, I do me mentality and I don’t worry too much about what others think. With a few exceptions. First, my mom’s opinion gets to me. She does think I am depriving my children and overcompensates by showing up with a suitcase full of presents every time she visits. She’s teaching my daughter that shopping is a fun activity even with nothing in particular to buy. Grr.
Second, the group of women I met in college that I still consider my best friends are all smart and talented and very financially successful. For the most part, this does not affect our friendship. I am also smart and talented, I’ve just chosen a lower income, less stress, more frugal kind of life. My friends don’t question my choices like my mom does. The problem arises because we try to meet up for a long weekend every year and the price tag is always more than I am willing to spend on a weekend. I’ve tried to talk about it without sounding cheap and miserly, but the fancy hotels and expensive restaurants are really important to my friends. That is the point of the weekend to them. They work hard and want a luxury break. Renting a beach house and cooking our own meals would not be something they would want to do. I’ve taken to going on the trip only every 2-3 years so I don’t spend thousands on a weekend trip every year but it’s one glaring area of my life where differences in spending habits causes me a little sadness.
I know that must be difficult. We have a relative that has a girls’ weekend in the city every year around Dec. 1 for (Christmas shopping). Sounds like you’ve made a good choice. Hold up your head & don’t explain or feel guilty. I can relate to the “suitcase full of gifts.”. I’m guilty, but repented.
My “friends” in graduate school were similar. Every time they proposed getting together it was for a meal at an expensive restaurant. I would bluntly tell them the place they picked was too pricey for me. They would chose to go there without me instead of finding something more reasonably priced.
Maybe you can use travel hacking to get your cost down so you can still go. As long as you have good credit and pay your cards in full every month, you can enjoy the sign up bonuses and annual bonuses that would offer you free flights and free hotels (after the credit card annual fee). In particular, the Chase Ink card and Chase Hyatt card could get you started.
I applaud you Mrs. FW. You make many great points, but today I will focus on one:. Children’s birthday parties. One of our granddaughters goes to a birthday party almost every Sat. The gift, card, gift bag, & tissue average around $20. each. Most parties are “event” parties @ a skating rink, bowling alley, horse riding, etc. Then when it’s time for her bd, the parents pay about $20. per guest for similar events. Parents somehow feel they “owe” these activities to their children & the children “deserve” it. There is also a family party on a different day. It’s just overwhelming for all. Children are exhausted & don’t even remember their gifts. I guess it takes guts to step out of the mold & make a simple party memorable. It also has to be their decision. You can’t make them want it, do it for them, or make them do it.
I read a lot of personal finance blogs and have never seen anyone recommend my favorite book: “Freedom of Simplicity” by Richard Foster. One of my favorite things about this book is its insistence that simplicity and frugality, while being an ethical stance that is applicable to all people, is also highly personal and idiosyncratic to the circumstances of each practitioner.
I LOVE this blog–so well-written! But our particular brand of frugality is somewhat different in mission/application than that of Mr./Mrs. Frugalwoods. We are not saving for early retirement but rather for broader options and the ability to give radically.
Also–with children–yes, hard to stay strong in the twinges of guilt that we are depriving our son. But not that hard. I’m the one who gets up with him in the middle of the night to rock him back to sleep. Any attempt to make me feel “less than” because I don’t spend much money on toys/clothes for him kind of pales in the perspective of all the things he’s been to me and how much I love him.
Alexander Taylor, I have read Foster’s books. However, his first, Celebration of Discipline is amazing. I found an entire book in simplicity is a little much, but I have read, recommend, & given Discipline many times. Hub is clergy. Thank you for mentioning the works of Richard Foster.
I’ve read all his books! Freedom of Simplicity is amazing for the first few chapters and then does get a bit slow. I take it out and read the first few chapters almost every year. Discipline is my favorite, too!
I have recently discovered your blog and enjoy each new post immensely. With the arrival of our first child, my husband and I made the decision that I would only return to work part-time. Many friends and colleagues have made remarks that they are so jealous, I am so lucky, they only wish they could do the same. These friends live in larger homes, drive new cars and eat out regularly, while we do not. Only one friend was honest with me and said “I’d love to work part-time and spend more time with my daughter, but the lifestyle we WANT to have (new cars, designer clothes, meals out etc) requires me to work full-time”. And I can absolutely respect that.
Wait…no pony??? I always wanted one and cried when I did not win the pony raffle at the 4H Fair. It was a sad day indeed. My DH and I raised our tribe of 6 children in a frugal fashion, following in the footsteps of my only idol (besides James Taylor) Amy Dacyczyn of The Tightwad Gazette fame of the 1990’s. All are well adjusted, independent and productive citizens. Teach them the 3 R’s…Resourceful, Respectful and Responsible.
I love your friend’s comment about “you can’t buy happiness in a store.” I may use that line in real life… and possibly claim it as my own.
It always amazing to me that people take other’s financial choices so personally. As long as you aren’t judging or hurting others, just do what makes sense in your family.
Great post. I love the philosophy of just saying nothing. No one needs to know all that I think.
I agree with the other commenters – you need to write a lovely book!
How I WISH I would have figured out the frugal thing earlier. We are still new to it – but happily have paid off our student loans/car loans/line of credit. We currently just have our mortgage and are starting our savings for a cabin in the woods. Reading your blog and kon marie’s tidying book have changed the way I shop completely. How I wish I could go back and not buy all of the random crap/clothes/etc that I’ve since just donated. I have such respect for you. It just shocks me that the current mentality is debt is to be expected and inevitable.
Also I need a frugal hug – had to replace the alternator on my jeep today – It’s a rarer diesel so it cost a fortune. Happy we had the cash to pay for it but the expenses don’t end! Do you ever feel like that? It’s always something – darn adulting.
You nailed it! I am new (6 months) to frugal living and was brought up completely the opposite . In the last 6 months, I saved more money than I did the prior 5 years. There is a level of comfort from saving and living frugally that has come immediately. While I am 9 years or so from early retirement, I feel alot better knowing I do not need so much to live on. Instant good feelings!
Confidence comes from reaching self-set goals… like paying off our mortgage! When we first considered the idea, about a year after we bought our condo, it seemed like an incredibly remote possibility. I remember walking with my next door neighbor to get our kids from school and she asked me if we had had any work done to our unit (they moved in a few months after we did and completely renovated the kitchen). I told her no, and that we were waiting to pay off the mortgage in 5-7 years before considering any renos. As the words came out of my mouth I didn’t fully believe we could/would do it, but the look on her face was like, “whoa.. pay off the mortgage in 5-7 years?!?” It was a very motivating moment for me.. and we actually did it in less than 4 years! It was kinda cool that I had the opportunity to talk about it before they moved (they “upgraded” to a larger home in the neighborhood… no judging, no judging 😉 ). They simply couldn’t believe we paid it off… and they weren’t the only ones in the neighborhood. Besides “Did you really do it?” we were asked “So are you going to ‘loosen up’ now that it’s over?” The answer is yes and no. First of all, doing it did require some actual unsustainable self-deprivation for the last year or so… and while I could probably get by a little longer, my husband recently became an executive for a foreign corporation and I refuse to go overseas with a worn-to-rubbish wardrobe of low quality second-hand clothing I was given 7 years ago (when my husband was supporting a family on a graduate student salary). I’m telling you the truth: It’s bad, ya’ll… so yeah, for the first time in probably a decade, if not EVER, I’m having a BLAST shopping and consuming! But it’s not with moral abandon… I’m still working within self-set goals and my self-set goal is to buy a high quality “capsule wardrobe”. Every single purchase is made with precision and research, specifically for durability and eco-sensitivity. For example… I have a self-limitation of not owning but ONE pair of earrings, ONE necklace and ONE ring and thus I spent no less than 6 weeks “visiting” 2 dozen stores before I decided on a David Yurman line (classic style, gold, appropriate for casual and formal wear). Similarly, I only want to own one hand bag (and maybe a large tote) and I’m about to purchase from a company called Saddleback Leather Co. after reading about them on a great website called BuyMeOnce (Saddleack Leather offers a 100 year warranty… their tagline is ‘they’ll fight over it when you’re dead'”. The clothes I currently have aren’t appropriate not only because of their sad state, but also the climate: we’re moving to Southern China (more like Florida, less like Seattle).. I’m older: time to embrace middle-age!.. and I’m richer: no more poor graduate student family hand-outs! (which, don’t get me wrong, were really wonderful and VERY appreciated at the time!)… but life goes on 🙂 We’ll need some time to work out other goals (I’ve never lived abroad before or, quite frankly, had such an incredible income), but I could see a slightly earlier retirement date if we keep moving forward with goal-setting. I think it’s a snowball effect.. frugality WILL lead to success.. success WILL motivate you to sustain frugality.. frugality WILL lead to success… success WILL motivate you to sustain frugality.. rinse, wash, repeat! So, does that answer the question?
I’m a new reader to your blog. Your family is adorable! Your lifestyle so refreshing! I read back through some of your older posts… Your post on the clothes shopping ban inspired me to try this as well. I’m not a big clothes shopper, but I have all that I need for right now. Although, I will be needing a few fall items & a new winter jacket, I plan to only purchase those items I absolutely need & all second hand. Great frugal ideas. Excellent content of this post! Just what I needed to hear! Thank you!
Thank you Mrs. Frugalwoods! I think you hit a nerve with this article, judging from the many comments. In the last year on our journey to happy frugality some of the times we spent money I didn’t feel totally comfortable with was due to our perception of what’s “expected” by friends and family. Practice is helping navigate these situations, but this article was great encouragement. P.S OMG babywoods is the CUTEST! ????
My mom started me on a confident life of frugality. When I was young she told me that sooner or later I’d have to go against “the crowd” and if I started while I was young it would be easier later. I left the snob table at school and began eating with the special needs kids where I built lasting friendships. This led to the road less taken and I happily bought second hand or not at all for years with the one exception of used shoes…and then one day in a rush of adrenaline I bought a pair of shoes at a thrift shop and wiped them out with Lysol! It was a high point. Frugality is an open minded, independent choice that takes some will power. Thanks mom!
Oh I just want to squeeze that babywoods! I love it when they have that little baby fat all over. I was out at an art fair last weekend, my big spend was on breakfast out. I enjoy just looking. My friend however had come to spend and kept trying to talk me into buying things. I just told her I had medical bills I needed to pay off (true), and was watching what I spent. My reason will always be bills that need to be paid off – either in the present or the future.
Your values are sound, the spendthrifts are the ones screwed up. My sister calls me cheap, but she blows her money on foolish things and then moans she can’t pay her electric bill. I am a DIY lady and so is my guy. We view money as a resource to use wisely, invest in things that will give a return. Buying a homestead with land to grow my own fruits and vegetables and wood to heat my home is a smart investment. A used tractor with a bucket to clear snow and attachments to garden is more appealing to me than a fancy new car. Teaching your child to do things for themselves and be self sufficient is far more loving and caring for them then giving them junk they do not need. My kids get their haircuts at home as I do. Saves me over a grand a year. The results are great and my best friend fired the salon that destroyed her hair with bleach and a bad haircut that cost her over $350, and now stops by to get a better haircut for free by my hubby. She doesn’t feel she is depriving herself of pampering, she doesn’t want her hair ruined again. She is doing a garden and we are sharing ideas on canning and making plans to expand our gardens next year. Frugal and healthy eating.
As a wise person once said, “I never saw a U-Haul in a funeral procession.”
Ha – I like it! The ancient Egyptian pharaohs might disagree with you though. 🙂
When people ask me questions about my frugal life I don’t give them details about how I do it on a daily basis I tell them about how it feels. I sleep well at night. I don’t walk around with that knot in my stomach or a black cloud over my head. I don’t have fear that my car may break down. I have pride that my only child won’t be burdened with high school debt or having to financially care for her mom when she gets old. This stress and worry free life makes me a better parent, partner, friend and employee. It makes me happy. No pair of shoes or electronic gadget has ever done that for me.
So true especially the whole smash 1st birthday extravaganza . A kid that age asks for nothing.. nothing birthday related. Why would anyone set such high expectations….
It just goes to show that most kids are not expensive… parents make kids expensive. By going over board when kids ask for nothing and then shy away in “shock” when kids ask for more and more and more. … parents set the precedence.
Oops I’m getting all wound up…..
The thing I struggle with is having confidence in choosing to be frugal vs. being upset because I can’t afford something. I grew up in an environment where what little money we had was poorly managed so we didn’t have nice things because we couldn’t afford them. So now I have to constantly remind myself that my financial choices are in fact choices among priorities and thus not to feel bad because I can’t afford something.
The part of frugality that I struggle with is connecting with friends. It is so common to want to meet up at a coffee shop or bar to connect. I find myself either turning my friends down when they suggest a meet up or inviting them over to my place (which never seams quite as fun). I need to figure out a way to make connecting at each others houses more fun. Any ideas?
Happy hour? One drink? Share an appetizer? Say up front, “i can only stay 1 hour, but I’// look forward to seeing you.
Suggest and plan meet-ups at places that are either free or virtually free. Obviously I have no idea where you’re located, but getting together for a weekend morning hike with a picnic or going to the beach… or hosting a potluck barbeque… see what free or nearly-free things are happening in your area and make a date to go to those. It is horrible to always feel like the negative one saying ”no”, so by taking some initiative in fun ways, no one can ever say you don’t try or connect with friends! Then *very occasionally* and when it really and truly suits you, go out for a really nice meal or something that you really want to do.
This was so perfect, for me, great timing, I was so good at this and living my unconventional life right out of college. However, everytime I date someone it seems like I slowly give in to the people I am dating. I am currently dating someone I really like in every aspect but my unconventionality does not align with her consumerism. I don’t want to change her, but I don’t want it to affect me, and this seems unavoidable. Sometimes I think I should not date non frugal people. Idk. Any tips regarding this?
if I were the girl, I would be deeply moved if you are frugal to yourself and 10X generous to her.
Some of my frugality over the years has come from actually not having enough money to buy stuff that I would like to have. One recent example was a bathing suit cover-up.
But we were visiting some friends (at the time I resisted the urge to buy the cover-up) and I realized that I could have chosen to buy the stuff anyway. Our friends, they have bought all the stuff, from a bounce house for their kids(!) to a countertop ice maker. They make much more than we do, but have been bankrupt before and were on the verge again earlier this year. I would not trade my debt-free-ness (except for mortgage) for every piece of Stuff in their house. Not even the Mustang in their driveway.
Oh my gosh! Already they had such severe issues and aren’t living any differently! Wow…. We can truly learn what “not to do” sometimes the best from examples we see in others! I try not to judge, and stay in my own lane… but wow!
Some awesome ideas here. As I mentioned on Facebook, there’s really no shame in being frugal. Yes, some people look at it as being a little weird, but being weird is the new cool haha 🙂
Now that I’m preparing to buy a home and leave behind renting, I find it amusing how here in the UK a lot of people are absolutely frenzied about buying as much property, and getting into as much debt, as possible.
“How much can you borrow?”, they holler, and their eyes go swirly like a hypnotist’s. I explain I plan to get something modest which will give me long-term freedom. “Buy a two-bedroom place and get a lodger!” they shriek. But I could just buy what I can afford and not have to get a lodger. Sigh.
So I’ve decided to stop having any conversations about my property purchase and to keep my own counsel.
The people you meet on this site are far more sensible.
Life is short; live it up! That’s what I am trying to achieve-to enjoy life, while making sure that finances are well managed and future is well secured. I think one thing that I have to do is to never lose the biggest picture while I am in the process.
Your writing always brings a smile to my frugal face.
I’m an email subscriber and I just saw this post. I looked through the last month or so and I only get emails for about half of the posts now. Just wanted to let you know 🙂
Need to learn how to not bring the topic of frugality in when friends complain about their lives doomed by car payments, cable TV payments, dinners out, clothes… I can’t help myself but make them notice that I live within 50% of their budget even though I earn 5X, and I’m willing to help. The first reaction is usually pure repulsion and something like “it’s easy for you… but I work so hard so I deserve X, Y, and Z,…” or some variation of it.
I reached the conclusion that who didn’t ask for your help doesn’t want your help. But still, I can’t just be silent when people complain.
This is a great post! I’ve found people I hang around with respond well to tangible evidence of frugality’s effectiveness, too. At first they scoffed when they realized I literally eat rice-and-beans everyday for lunch, but when I mention that I’m excited to be a month away from paying off my used car (in half the time), I suddenly don’t seem so crazy after all!
I also want to thank you for the blog in general. I’m so grateful I came across it when I did… you probably changed the course of my life! (No pressure). As a grad student in the environmental sciences, I was immediately drawn to the woodsy-hiking-homesteady aspect of your blog, and after digging through older posts, realized that the frugal lifestyle could help me reach my goals in ways I had no idea were possible. The typical personal finance blogs could never reach me the ways yours did, and after just 6 months of frugal wierdosity I feel much more confident about my money handling (and life handling!). Thank you!! 🙂
The Price of Privilege (http://madelinelevine.com/the-price-of-privilege/) by Madeline Levine will back up your thoughts on parenting and spending. Research shows affluent kids are one of the most “at-risk” groups for certain problems, in part because they have less opportunity to develop independence.
Dear Mrs. Frugalwoods,
I think your points are excellent, and show very well how to deal with comments people make about frugal everyday life choices.
What I wanted to ask you is: now that you have achieved what most people can only dream of, do you get comments of envy?
In my experience, when it comes to harvesting the fruits of your frugality and hard work, people tend to forget what it took to get there, and just have feelings of envy and sometimes self-pity. In my case, slowly the results of my frugality become visible (in the form of rentals I am able to buy). But more than once, friends have told me I “make them feel bad”, and they would rather not have me talk about it (which is very hard, because rental reno is awesome and lots of fun, and why wouldn’t anyone be interested in my talk about tiling and flooring and painting? ^^). I don’t know how to deal with this. Any ideas?
Sounds like you need some new friends.
Love, love, love this article…and just got lost in some of your others. (And I learned a new word – panoply!) Thanks for sharing and modeling what choosing a frugal lifestyle can achieve.
This article is perfect. I am a long-time reader who has been dramatically influenced by this blog. I have a question, I’d love for anyone to put in their two-cents (is that the phrase?). Thinking about frugality long term, do you think it is okay to buy things you see now at SUPER LOW PRICES (think free or 1 dollar) that you might not use for 5-10-15 years? An example would be baby or child items, house related items, things for a lifestyle you are not yet living, etc.
No. The opportunity cost of the dollar thar cant be invested and the investment of space to hold it kill the savings. I will buy up to a year, two at a stretch, and not for lifestyle things but things that I know I’ll eventually need period. For example if I find a nice pair of shoes at 80% off that is a couple sizes toof big for one of my kids or a similar discount on blinds that will go up in a bedroom that hasn’t been demoed yet but is next on the list.
Amazing, freaking article. Of all, learning to stop caring about what your friends think is the hardest. I struggle with it at times still but you hit the nail on the head. If they are your true friends, they will respect your lifestyle choice of frugal living. But one point I want to make on that is that we as frugalists need to respect their life decision of spending even if we don’t agree with it. If we want everyone’s respect for our choices, then we must give the respect back. In the end, all that matters is you are happy and are living the lifestyle that you want. Thanks again for the GREAT read!
Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods! What an amazing article. I’m newly embracing frugality in my life and your blog is my MAIN source of inspiration! I’ve started challenging everything I would buy, and I instead ask myself if I need it in my life (can do without it), or if I can make it myself and save the rest.
One small example happened just yesterday – We moved last week to a smaller apartment and got different internet. With friends coming over a lot at our new house, I wanted to make a cute sign that explains the internet network and password. I saw such cute ones on Etsy and Pinterest! But they were being SOLD for $5-20 dollars each for a glorified word document that you still had to print and frame! So I just chose a few cute free fonts in Word, designed and printed it myself at work on copy paper, and put it in a fabulous little 4×6 frame I already had at home. Boom! Free, and 90% as cute, at 0% the cost. “Old Me” would have bought that $10 printable in a heartbeat. But I’m so glad I did it myself – I feel freed and more accomplished. Thanks for changing my views!!
I truly have only one friend who understands the frugal philosophy at all. With other people I just no longer discuss my actions, as they can feel threatened and try to persuade me to be more like them. Apart from with that one friend, I just carry out my actions and offer no explanation at all. The only trouble is it can get lonely.
We lived very frugal lives in our 20’s (a time when our peers were living up the DINK lifestyle), and people often gave us sideways looks. But we were happy with our choices then. And now that we are financial independent and can be “work optional”, we we are THRILLED we made all those frugal choices. I look back on every home cooked meal and brown bag lunch with pure joy because of where they took us. We are taking a year off of work to spend more time with our kids. And we just got home from a 6 week road trip. Sorry, but eating more Chinese take out 10 years ago just can’t compare!
One of the things I like most about your blog is the judgment-free approach you take to many themes. However, there was something you wrote in this post that came across to me as a bit snarky, and since the point is an important one, I am wondering if there is some alternative language that could be suggested.
You wrote that one way to answer people who express concern that you’re somehow depriving your children of something is to say:
“Thank you for expressing your concern. However, we’ve chosen to raise our child(ren) with a certain set of values and those values do not include extravagant gifts/parties/vacations/ponies.”
I think that if I heard this, I would feel like I was being told that your values are better than my values because I’m extravagant and you’re not. No doubt you didn’t mean to sound like you’re judging me (standing in for the speaker), but that’s how it can come across.
I like to think that if someone asked me a question like this (very hypothetical, since I have cats, not kids), the dialogue might go like this instead:
Me: I appreciate your concern. Is there something you have noticed that makes you think that our approach to spending is having a negative impact on Jasper?
Bystander: Well, my daughter Andie mentioned yesterday that the kids at school made fun of Jasper because he didn’t participate in the monthly “hot dog” day. Every other kid in the class bought hot dogs and a drink but Jasper ate his packed lunch instead, and some of the kids asked if he was too poor to buy a hot dog. Andie said that Jasper looked like he was about to cry, and that Andie has also seen some kids picking on Jasper because he’s clearly wearing hand-me-down clothes instead of new clothes.
Me: Wow – it’s really helpful for me to hear this story and I’m glad you brought it to my attention. I will try to find out from Jasper how he feels about situations like this at school. We have talked to him before about our values and spending choices and he seems to understand and be ok with our approach – but I can imagine that he can sometimes feel different when he’s with his peers and dealing with being laughed at.
Me: Do you think there’s anything you or I could do to deal better with this situation?
Bystander: Well, I’m going to talk to Andie about it and encourage her to speak up in school if she sees people picking on Jasper, or any other child, for being different.
Me: And I’m going to talk to Jasper and see if we can help him come up with answers he feels comfortable with to deal with situations where kids are inclined to tease him because of our family’s spending habits.”
Well – that was very long-winded, but hopefully you’ll understand my suggestion. We can’t always have the perfect conversation when someone seems to criticize us for our choices or values. But if we avoid judgment-laden words (like “extravagant”) and sincerely ask questions of the people who seem to be criticizing us, we might learn something useful – and build common ground with others.
I don’t care what others think, but the issue seems to be costs “put on you” such as people buying you expensive birthday gifts (that you don’t want) and feel you have to reciprocate, being a groomsmen/bridesmaid where the married couple chooses the most expensive dress/suits events + wedding gifts etc… how do you get around this? My boyfriend has been a groomsman 3 times already and it’s financially exhausting… and our family keeps calling us “cheap” if we don’t want to give lavish gifts for nieces and nephews. That’s the hardest part 🙁 Our friends get it, our families don’t.. how do you guys deal with this?
Oh gosh I feel you on this one! We once got lumped with nearly $1200 worth of expenses from me being a bridesmaid in a friends wedding. Ridiculous! Now we simply say we cannot afford it (which leads to the ‘oh poor you’ thing) We actively opted out of receiving birthday and Christmas gifts. For those relatives who insisted we created a Kris Kringle and set the amount low.
I loved this article! We practiced extreme frugalism when my first child was born and I got everything from pity to scorn for the way we (happily) lived. It was a tough adjustment made tougher by none of our loved ones trying to understand. BUT I was able to stay home everyday with my child (and have another!), pay down all of our debts, furnish an entire house, buy a second car (a necessity where we live unfortunately) and both my husband and I were able to go back to school to retrain in things that interested us. I love love love reading your blog! It’s like my daily insipiration now!
So nice to know we aren’t the only ones who don’t dig lavish gift giving. Each birthday in our extended family is celebrated with a big gift and dinner out at a restaurant – although the last one we managed to negotiate a home cooked meal with all the family. And you know what? Everyone had a much better and more relaxed time without spending much at all.
This article was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you so much for writing it! I found it liberating, and I appreciate how your approach to frugality stems from a desire to live a better life (not just to amass money). In this respect, you admit that if being frugal doesn’t bring you happiness, you might reconsider it. As you write: “However, if your frugality makes you a miserable, bitter, angry person, it might be time to reassess your spending priorities.” Love that!
I’ve rejected so many social gatherings because I save over 50% of my income into my 401k to max it out then I will lower that next year because it will be over the limit allowed for 2017. With that said, it still doesn’t feel good when I say no to social events and people get disappointed or judge me.. It’s still hard to find that “feeling good” from within when everyone else is hating you for it. I still never get sucked into their spending habits but it’s been tough..
I just accept what my goals are, who I am, and how frugal I should be because I know doing these things would take me to reaching my financial goals. I know it may take time, but I have to accept it wholeheartedly so that it can boost confidence in myself to do more.
Wow, I have bookmarked this for OH to read. He is slowly, slowly coming round, but it’s taking work. Until we had his friends over a couple of times, and a couple of them expressed gratitude at the hospitality and not having to fork out for the pub, he didn’t believe he could even see them without £40 in his back pocket!
I love your first photo, because that’s exactly my idea of a great night! To the commenter who expressed regret at rejecting expensive social invitations: I tend to say “I’m sorry, I can’t come to that, that’s not where my financial priorities lie right now, but we’d love to have you over for dinner on X weekend”. BBQs, walks, having people over for a glass of wine in front of the fire, BYO picnics at the park. You don’t need to be spendy to be sociable 🙂
I found things got less awkward with turning things down when I changed my language from “I can’t afford that” or “that is too expensive” to “that’s not in my budget”. It just shifts perception. And with regard to friends that like to go out: write them into your budget. Set aside the money to go out, just less frequently. And if you can, restrict what you personal spend (nurse the same drink all night). I understand when I socialize differently from my friends and they don’t WANT to change that the compromise is on me. There is nothing wrong with changing with who and how you hang out as you grow and change, but if you value the friendships sometimes compromise is necessary.
As a child I spent summers with my Nana. She was one of the most frugal/thrifty people I’ve known (one thing I base this on is garbage – hers was picked up once a month (40+ years ago), and she would have ONE grocery bag full); she re-used everything at least three different ways , often more – this is NOT an exaggeration. Some of my most treasured gifts from her were the garage sale finds she gave me. Number 1 was my almost complete set of Nancy Drews, which I would re-read every summer from 7 to 13. Prior to receiving these books I had never heard of Nancy Drew, so even though they were used; they were completely new to me. I still have a garage sale teddy bear that I received one summer, everytime I see this bear it reminds me of the warm weather, garden picked raspberries, blackberries and tomatoes, spending time with my Nana (who at the time was my idol), and feeling safe and loved in the world. These are only two gifts I received, but they demonstrate how ‘new’, ‘store bought’ and/or ‘expensive’ do not equal a great/memorable gift or a happier childhood. Oh and btw, summers were spent in Victoria BC and I lived in San Francisco – so it can’t be said I ‘didn’t know any better’ or what I was ‘missing’.
Had an encounter on the internet yesterday that made me come back and re-read this article! Where I live, recycling depots exist quite sparsely, it’s not totally standard and there are central depots that offer it, along with a place to take garden refuse and building waste, one close to where we are, luckily. This is a free service, part of the general rates and taxes we pay (and we get precious little for these rates and taxes, but that’s by the by). Anyway, there are various (very laudable and quite inexpensive) recycling services in our area and I used to use one, but then realised that despite it being inexpensive – which it was – it was a pain having to remember to have everything ready by a moveable time on a specific morning, and occasionally the person didn’t come for whatever reason… and it was costing me the equivalent of a few dollars each month. Why did I not simply, when driving past or close to the depot, or needing to get rid of garden refuse, simply not take it myself? Not a special, petrol-wasting trip you understand, just as and when. Inevitably we’re going that way a couple of times each month at least, so…
No reason at all! So I cancelled my service and that was that. Then on our local forum someone was asking about free recycling and the lady who runs the business popped up and advertised her service (fine). I commented and said that the depot is open 7 days a week and is free.
WELL. A deluge of disparaging ”who has time and petrol to waste having to sort through when xyz does it SO CHEAP” and other quite pointed ”you’re a cheapskate and stupid” remarks followed and it occurred to me; people are very mean about frugality, especially ”small” savings, such as what I’d estimate would be around $5-6 per month. But why spend it if, for zero extra cost and just a very small tweak to habit, you don’t need to? No sorting is needed, the depot is open all the time, I can go when it suits (never make a special trip, always try and organise my driving around errands to align economically), so…
But people don’t like it, it makes them feel superior to spend their money, for whatever reason. Each to their own… I am proudly frugal, and will spend lavishly and generously on important things, on the people I love, on the things we truly need and / or which absolutely improve our lives and happiness. No question. Meanness is horrible, but thrift, and sensible frugality, that’s the winning mindset!
I just discovered your blog this weekend, and I love it. You have already inspired me to make so many important choices. Coincidentally enough, today I spotted in the New York Times an article about making your spending reflect your values (link below for anyone interested). I think you guys have already mastered this one. 🙂
Mrs. frugalwoods I must say this is by far your best post ever. You hit a lot of the sweet spots most are truly afraid to embrace. As you see I’m a bit behind in your deluge of posts. I’ve been following you from the beginning and as you’ve stated time and time again, I’m creating my own path with your immense help. I can say from a beginners point of view as long as your gut feels right, then your on your way to frugality. I won’t run on, but felt the urge to put this post out there. So, thank you for what your doing, it’s greatly appreciated!!
You’ve lived in semi-rural Kansas?!! I’m a Kansas native and now live near Manhattan, KS.
I’m a new follower. Found you earlier this month and I’m not quite sure how. I do enjoy your blog and your Instagram feed. Your homestead is beautiful. Love all the scenery you share on IG.
This is a great post. It really resonated with me. Whatever our choices in life, it is our life, and it is our choice.
I found this post gets to the heart of things, not just a frugal life-style. When I decided to lose weight, (after some middle aged spread had set in) goodness me, how my new slimmer waist-line upset some folk.
You have a brilliant blog !
Another fantastic and thought-provoking article. I was reading an article by blogger pretend to be poor, I agree there is so much pressure to spend money in our society. I enjoy reading your articles because you and your husband are so comfortable in your own skins. I also appreciate that you shared the photo of your furniture. Purchasing anything brand new seems like a silly expense when there is so much abundance in our thrift stores. Participating in your Frugal program is helping me to rethink my spending. The other day I asked for a rain check at the grocery store and I got one! Curious what your thoughts are on some of the apps that claim to give back money for shopping.
love this article wish could read about it about 25 years ago I would be able to retire early bc I love to shop please help to stop
This really resonates with me. My mother-in-law is the worst when it comes to spoiling my kids with gifts. She thinks that her love is best expressed through giving presents, but now my 4 year old expects gifts every time he sees her! She just gave my baby a mountain of gifts for her first birthday and got almost equal amounts for the 4 year old for “big brother presents” which is absolutely ridiculous if you ask me. It derails my efforts to make gifts a special treat!