Reader Suggestions: Defending Your Frugality Without Sounding Defensive
Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions!
Why don’t you ever spend money? Aren’t you miserable being so frugal all the time? You deserve to treat yourself! A little bit of debt is no big deal–just put it on your credit card, you’ll feel happier if you own it! Buy it new, you can afford it, why would you get it from a garage sale?!? How much money do you need saved up?!
I’m going to wager that many of you have heard these or similar anti-frugal, pro-consumption quips lobbed in your frugal direction. I know I have. Even though I devote inordinate space on the internet to explaining that our frugality is a lifelong choice, one that brings us tremendous contentment, that has allowed us to achieve our dreams, and that we consider our life luxurious, I know there are doubters. And haters. And that is OK!
I’m not here to evangelize the transformative powers of frugality, the ability it has to improve nearly every aspect of your life, and the ways in which our materialistic culture makes us profoundly unhappy (ok maybe I am a little bit… ). But I am here to support all of you on your own journey through frugality and sage financial management. No one has ever regretted managing their money wisely and no one has ever wished they had less dough in their savings account. Full stop.
Just because you know these universal truths doesn’t mean that your best friend/mom/brother/colleague understands why you bring your lunch to work everyday, eschew new furniture, and refuse to drop $40 on a night out at the movie theatre* (full disclosure: I haven’t been inside of a movie theatre for more than a decade so I actually have no clue what you pay for the ‘privilege’ of sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers watching something that may or may not be good and that you can’t pause if you need to use the restroom… ).
So what’s a happy frugal person to do? How do you go about your simplified, stress-free, debt-free (or on the way to debt-free), peaceful frugal existence while barraged by well-meaning spendy folks, without sounding defensive and/or like the crazed frugal evangelist you truly are?
We all want to get along, live and let live, and the magic of frugality and financial independence just ain’t for everyone. But if it is for you, if you’ve unlocked the revelatory path of living outside of the over-spending norm, you might be in search of a few strategies for explaining and defending your lifestyle.
I’ve tackled this topic a few times in the past, most notably in How To Build Confidence In Your Frugality and Maintaining Friendships And Frugality. Today, however, you’re in for a veritable compendium of tactics for deflecting rude or probing queries about your frugality. I’ve polled the best resource I know–the readers of Frugalwoods–and compiled some of their results below. For the full conversation, check out our Facebook page.
How Frugalwoods Readers Defend Their Frugality
Mim advised, “I always share absolute enthusiasm with them about how and where I am saving. Several relatives have switched to having a ROKU this year vs cable TV. My Mom was paying $300 a month and now she pays $20. All she had to do was consider how much she would save in a year and she was as excited as I was.” Sidenote: if you too would like to watch free/cheap TV, here’s a post for you.
Carlos keeps it short and sweet, “I prefer to spend my money and my time on things that really bring me happiness.” Perfection!
Sara wrote, “I usually frame the conversation to be about how boring I am that I’d prefer to have a pile of money around when an unexpected expense comes up (such as an emergency vet visit this week).”
Lori said, “I tell them I like to vacation more than buying stuff.”
Erin shared, “Specifically related to electronics (cell phone, tv, etc) I have had grown adults make fun of what I have because it is an ‘old’ model or style. I simply say ‘I don’t replace items that still work.’ They seem to quiet down with that practical response.”
Elizabeth commented, “The main thing I do when I say no to getting a coffee or eating out, is explain what I’m doing instead – the larger goal. If I just say ‘no thanks,’ they’ll be more likely to pressure me. But if I say, ‘No thanks, I’m…hoping to retire by the time I’m 40,’ or whatever, then it starts a totally different conversation entirely, ha! They are way more interested and respectful of that reason and they know that I’m not just blowing them off. I also often suggest other frugal activities like a hike, or I’ll go WITH them to coffee but not get one myself. It’s their company I like, not the extra ‘stuff’.”
Gillian says, “I’m happy to say if I can’t afford to buy or do something – best to be honest I’ve found. Not embarrassed with trying to live frugally. Some folk may laugh (and they have) at my regular purchase of reduced price food items, (near their sell-by date); but I tell them that shopping this way hasn’t killed me yet and I have saved loads of money at the end of the day. They can’t argue with that.”
Joann shared three of her responses:
- “I’m a late adopter of technology so they can get the bugs out. Give it 10 or so years and I can get it for free.”
- She’ll explain that, since she’s an engineer, “it’s more efficient to minimize waste and time. [The] less stuff you have, the less you have to maintain.”
- And her favorite is, “I’m just lazy and would rather not have to maintain a lifestyle like ‘the Joneses.'”
Laurie said, “I usually say, ‘travel is so important to us we spend as little as possible on ___.’ The only people who really comment on our frugality are my parents.” She said she then gets responses like, ‘Wow! You were able to go to Southeast Asia for two weeks and pay for everything in cash!’ etc. I think it’s hard for them to see we have different priorities.”
Linda relayed, “Depends on what I’m invited to do… if it’s a once a year event, I budget for it…. if it’s just a spur of a moment, I say no… I believe that living frugal is a matter of attitude, emotional strength to do what is right for you, so you can live your life as you wish… one has to overcome peer pressure, [the] sooner you can the better [off] you’ll be :).”
Nancy shared, “I let people know there are ways to live a great life on a small income or do what is important to you by cutting back on the unimportant .” Couldn’t have said it better myself!
April put it succinctly, “I just tell them I’m a grown woman, and I can do whatever I want.” Sounds good to me!
Mary shared that she has brought her family around to appreciating her frugality, “My family loves my frugal ways as they benefit from it with goodies from goodwill and bags of personal items paid for with coupons. They have started to give me a wish list of items for me to get them on my frugal hunts.”
Melissa said, “It depends on the nature of the interaction. Sometimes, people are coming at you from a place of judgment and will criticize your choices no matter what reasons you provide. In those cases, I feel it’s best to gracefully divert the conversation. If people are genuinely interested in and open to hearing about my perspective, however, I will usually say something like, ‘I’m frugal because I just don’t want the expensive things most people want (new cars, fancy vacations, etc.), and I don’t see the point in spending money on stuff I have no interest in just to be like everybody else or to impress people. That’s not what I’m about.'”
Jessica wrote, “I say, its all about choice. I choose X over Y. Funny, I rarely get comments about my frugality–more comments on the things I chose to splurge on–like camping or hiking gear or trips (as in I WISH I COULD AFFORD THAT). When I explain they can, they tune me out about the time I get to ‘I don’t have cable tv.'”
Hart shared, “My life now speaks for itself. People always asked why we did without or made fun of what I did have. Now my home is paid for and my car too. Everyone always wants to know how but the simple facts were explained a long time ago. I refuse to pay 150.00 a month for cable, cell phones and other luxury items. Sadly I know someone whose life continues to go downhill. No heat, no car and now needs a new roof desperately. They just don’t get that the phones, cable and cigarettes could have provided them with everything they needed in the last few years. As for me, I already have a new roof fund started for that someday purchase.”
Jennifer gives people a very specific answer, “…the more money I save, the more I can spend on horse shows. People believe it and accept it, and although its partially true, the rest I am socking away for early retirement, no one questions it.”
Semira explained, “I’m just honest and say ‘no thank you’ to coffee or ‘I don’t want to do that’ to something like an expensive concert and suggest something else (free boat trip anyone?). I’m pretty blunt so my friends seem to be used to it . They all know of my longterm FIRE plans and haven’t questioned it. It might also help that they see my pictures of going to exotic places (what I like spending money on) so they can see what saving a little on a lot of things allows me to do.”
Mallory and Rachel both say they tell people that certain expenses just aren’t a priority for them and that they choose not to spend their money in that way.
Mandie responds with, “”I’m just really conscious about the trade off between time and money.”
Cara says, “When I have to turn down an invitation but don’t want the person thinking I don’t want to hang out I keep it simple. I’ll say ‘that’s not in the budget, want to do x instead?’ We are a single income family so my friends understand .”
Marion shared that, “I’m old enough that I don’t explain and really don’t care how others react. Those who know me also know what the deal is.”
Terry employs a practical approach, “I explain that with each expenditure I make, I ask myself: ‘How many hours do I have to work for a jerk in order to have that thing?’ People shut right up.”
Jeremy says, “I explain it as a game because everyone loves games. I approach budgeting like golf. Can I make par? Can I improve my handicap? And unlike other games, there is a genuine prize at the end of the month.” Clever!
Be Confident In Your Choices
That is a fabulously diverse number of methods and approaches for explaining (or not) and justifying (or not) your frugal life choices to other people who question your lifestyle. At the end of the day, however, your life is your own. How you live it is entirely at your discretion. Because in the end? No one is going to care how you lived your life except for YOU.
Don’t live for other people and don’t make yourself miserable trying to cram your unique personality into the prescribed boxes of our consumer-focused society. Know that your choices are valid and have merit. Be confident in your frugality and you will reap the legions of benefits that a financially secure life delivers.
If you’d like some additional support and inspiration for living a life of sustainable, joyful frugality, join me for my Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which we’re taking as a group during the month of July 2017. Join over 16,400 fellow frugal acolytes who’ve taken the Challenge and saved thousands–if not hundreds of thousands–of dollars. For more information on my free 31-day money revamp, check out this post.
How do you explain your frugality? What types of responses work best for you?
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