Why Be Frugal? One Word: Options.
Frugality gives you options. I’ve long thought this and I’ve seen it come to fruition in my own life many times. I figured I couldn’t be the only one so I polled our amazing Frugalwoods Facebook group to find out exactly what options frugality has facilitated for all of you fine frugal people. Turns out? Quite a few of you had stories to share and we’ll get to them in a moment. But first, I feel the need to
be a windbag pontificate.
No matter how much or how little money you make, no matter where you live, no matter your family size, no matter what your longterm goals are, no matter what your net worth is, and no matter how much you love or hate your job–frugality can deliver tremendous benefits to your life. When you have money in the bank–and aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck–you have options in how to deploy your two most precious resources: time and money.
Conversely, when you’re in debt or spending right up to your means, you don’t have any option except to keep working–and probably harder and longer–no matter what else might happen in your life. Having a new baby and want to take extra time off? Too bad. Parent enduring a health crisis and you want to take six months off to care for them? Too bad. Just got word your friends are sailing around the world next year and invited you to join them? Too bad, you have to work.
The less money you need in order to enjoy your version of the good life and the more money you have saved up, the more freedom you have to pursue the life you want. Without the burden of debt or the incessant call of consumerism or the pressure to keep up with the standards and expectations of other people, you can craft a life that you enjoy living every single day.
But I Love My Job And Will Never Quit!!
Frugality isn’t necessarily about retiring early or even quitting your job at all–it’s about knowing that your financial security isn’t inextricably linked to your paycheck. If you were to unexpectedly lose your job, or need a new roof, or your dog got sick, you’d have the financial wherewithal to manage these crises without going into debt, thanks to frugality.
Financial independence isn’t about whether or not you enjoy your job–it’s about how reliant upon it you are.
And on the positive side, if you realize you want to follow a dream that’s low (or no) paying–frugality can enable that. Frugality is insuring yourself for every iteration of life–the good and the bad. Even if you think you’ll work forever and never get fired and never get sick, frugality gives you a level of financial stability that translates into life stability.
Knowing that Mr. FW and I can provide for our family’s needs irrespective of whether or not we ever earn another dollar is one of the more peace-inspiring bits of knowledge I carry with me on a daily basis. Frugality is a beautiful and continuous cycle: the less you spend, the more you save, and the more you save, the less you need to earn because the less you spend… you see where I’m going with this.
But I Don’t Even Know What My Longterm Goal Is!!
And that’s perfectly fine! You don’t need to have a concrete 20-year plan mapped out before embarking on a financially prudent course. Because whatever it is you decide you want to do with your life–be it teaching yoga or running a wild animal sanctuary or building apps that assist the visually impaired–having money in the bank is usually the first step.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I didn’t know what we wanted to do with our lives until we were 30 years old. But luckily, we’d been saving over half of our take-home pay for 8 years at that point, so we were in a good position to launch our dream of moving to a homestead in the woods.
If we’d instead been throwing away that money on new cars, dinners out, fancy clothes (or clothes at all), concerts, and snazzy rental apartments? I’d be writing a very different story right now and I certainly wouldn’t be early retired to a homestead on 66 acres.
Planning ahead for the future doesn’t necessitate knowing what that future’s going to be. Mr. FW and I don’t know exactly where we’ll be in the future–probably still here on our homestead–but if we were to change our minds? We’ll have the financial ability to do so.
When you spend everything you make–or save a paltry amount–you’re limiting the options you’ll have in the future. Life has this uncanny way of throwing unbelievable opportunities and challenges in our path.
While we can’t possibly be prepared for everything, one thing we absolutely can be prepared for is the knowledge that financial stability makes everything easier. No one has ever said, “gosh, if only I’d spent more money on lattes and manicures in my 20s instead of saving for retirement.” I can pretty much guarantee that.
Joyful frugality–which is what I advocate–embraces and encompasses everything that’s most important to you. It’s not about deprivation, it’s about spending only on what matters, which in turn causes you to structure a life that’s absent the hectic distractions of consumerism. When you’re living a life that brings you fulfillment and peace, your frugality is about what you’re gaining, not about what you’re giving up.
Frugality Gives Everyone Options
Ok, enough from me. I polled the Frugalwoods Facebook group to find out exactly what options frugality has given to all of you, and I’m delighted to report that your answers were equal parts diverse and wonderful.
I couldn’t include everyone’s response here, but you can read the full rundown on Facebook.
Here’s what frugality has done for just a few Frugalwoods readers:
Ann, who has been married for 50 years, shared that she and her husband are now comfortably retired, that both of her kids graduated from college without debt, and that their primary residence–as well as two rental properties and a vacation home–are all entirely paid off. And they have a hefty investment portfolio. The best part? Their income was never more than $40K a year. The power of frugality indeed!
Naomi was able to buy a car and a trailer with cash in order to travel the country while working remotely.
Jeremy retired at 33 and has been traveling ever since!
Glenna reports that she was able to pay cash for her children’s college educations, weddings, and used cars.
Carol says that lifelong frugality allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom to her six children and that they are all productive and independent young people now, thanks in large part to the frugal lessons of their upbringing.
Kellie has been able to pursue her dream of living abroad in different countries, while working remotely, thanks to her frugality.
Laura’s frugality enabled her to become a stay-at-home parent to her medically fragile child.
Rebecca’s husband was able to quit his corporate job and pursue his dream of becoming a luthier (specifically, he makes guitars).
Lindsey will be transitioning from being the primary breadwinner to being a stay-at-home parent to her three kiddos.
Michelle says that thanks to her “Ninja Tightwaddery + Minimalism” she was able to raise her family on one part-time income!
Katie will be able to afford allergy shots for her severe allergies thanks to the Health Spending Account she’s been saving into.
Maria saved up enough for two down payments on two different rental properties. The properties are cash flowing, she receives great tax benefits, and the rent is paying down the principal and then some!
Christine says, “I was able to give up a job that was making me unhappy knowing we could manage on one income easily until I found another one. Working for me is a choice, not a necessity and that is a lovely place to be. Frugality gives you options, not restrictions.” Well said!
Nicki reports that, “Living frugally allowed me to take a generous company package, followed by 1.5 years off to chill and build a side gig. I’m now back at regular work, but have plans to save more, allowing for both my husband and I to be part-time self-employed in our early 40s.”
Johanna says that frugality gives her, “Freedom from worry when a car engine light comes on or any other unexpected bill comes up.”
Lizzie shared that, “My husband and I are expecting our first child in July and because we have saved so much, we can afford for me to take an extended unpaid maternity leave! My employer agreed to hold my position for an extra 2 months beyond our standard policy (for a total of 5 months).”
Julie was able to, “retire early, live in a nice house and pursue gardening, volunteering, and other things I love to do.”
Heather says that she and her family have been able to endure three layoffs in four years without stress or touching their savings.
Amy says, “I was able to quit my job a few years ago to help care for my mom after she had a stroke. Six months after her stroke, I decided to return to school to become a speech-language pathologist. I am graduating in two weeks!” Congrats, Amy!
Carolanne was able to quit her job and fulfill her lifelong ambition of going to art school. Now she paints, teaches art, works in a gallery, runs a B&B from her home, and takes care of her grandsons several days a week.
Julie was able to pay cash for her brother-in-law’s funeral after he unexpectedly died at age 30. This is a tragic circumstance, but Julie certainly eased the burden for her family through her ability to foot the bill.
Dana reports, “I was able to quit my stressful job, take two months completely off to relax, then do a long, thoughtful job search rather than jump into the next company that offered me a paycheck. As a result, I’m currently working in a job that’s a fantastic fit for me, and that probably pays more than the job I would have gotten if I’d been desperate for money. So I’m probably earning more now because of my previous frugality!”
Ellen says that, “instead of spending 10+ years paying off my $135,000 student loans, we did it in 5!”
Becca writes, “Living more frugally has allowed me to apprentice with a piano tuner full time. This has helped my realize that this is what I want to do as a career, which is a nice feeling.”
Fernanda was able to quit her job and now works from home part-time while watching her baby daughter.
Dayna shared that, “I think the best things about frugality are not putting the pressure on my husband to have to make a ton of money and work long hours to provide for our wants and needs. It is a simpler life. Less bills to pay, less companies to deal with, less expenses, less time spent shopping, and cooking. Basic meals, clothes, possessions, activities, clutter, stress, etc. Not a lot of time or energy running the rat race, trying to keep up with the Jones’s, and trying to impress others.”
Annemarie says, “We are now able to homeschool our two kids because I could leave my job. Our entire family is happier and more fulfilled than I thought possible.”
Rhiannon was able to move to Spain for six months!
Morgan was able to quit a toxic work environment without a new job lined up (although she did find a new one pretty quickly). She says she’s “grateful that I was able to put my personal mental health and conscience above a paycheck, even without a backup plan.”
Carissa reports, “My husband and I are still in the start-up phase of our small organic farm. Even though our income is very low, living frugally has allowed us to purchase our own 40 acre farm, save for retirement, pay off my student loans early, and spend ~4-6 weeks/year traveling.”
Kristi says that frugality enables her family to live in a great school district in a high cost of living area and allowed her to work part-time in order to stay home with her 4-month-old twins.
Bonnie’s frugality allowed her to send her son to college without debt; quit her job at 39 to stay home and take care of her daughter during a major health crisis; and now, she stays home to provide full-time daycare to her granddaughters.
Beneficial At Any Level
Thank you to everyone who shared their story! From retiring early to changing careers to living in Spain to homeschooling kiddos to traveling full-time to paying for funerals, frugality yields tremendous options.
It’s also true that you don’t have to save 75% of your income in order to experience some of these benefits. Maybe extreme frugality is not for you. Maybe you are not interested in retiring early and investing reams of money. But, frugality can help you out wherever you are on the spectrum. Saving even 10% or 15% of your income to pay off debt, create a comfortable emergency fund, and contribute to an investment account is a wonderful way to start building longterm wealth. There’s a lot in life we can’t control, but what we spend is largely within our control. Give yourself the gift of freedom from worry over your finances.
Our consumer culture makes it so easy to fritter away money on ultimately meaningless junk that we don’t actually need. When we’re at the whims of marketers and advertisements, we’re not in control. How to use our money is being dictated to us. I prefer to dictate to my money.
Not spending takes more effort at first and it’s a conscious choice, but then after awhile, it becomes the easiest thing in the world… No more shopping, no more browsing online stores, no more worrying about what to buy next, which gives me a lot more time for doing things I actually enjoy and that make me happy: yoga, hiking, playing with my daughter, beating Mr. FW at Scrabble (he’ll win one day, I’m sure 😉 ), and drinking wine by our woodstove in the evenings.
I’m no longer beholden to how I think I should use my money–I’m immune to advertisements that tell me my hair is too long, my pants too dated, my face too makeup-less, and my car too old. It no longer matters to me because I’m in a position of power. A position of being able to say no and to instead prioritize my true needs and my true wants.
Don’t let your spending prevent you from doing what you want with your life. Rather, let frugality sculpt the life you crave.
What options has frugality provided for you?
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