You: walking around town wearing hand-me-downs, sipping coffee from a thermos you brought from home, running a debt-free hand through your home haircut, wondering if there are others like you in this world of seemingly endless consumption.
Me: other frugal person, catching your eye, noting your home-sourced thermos, digging your not-off-the-rack outfit, wondering if you’re a kindred spirit.
The dilemma: how to spot a fellow frugal in the wild without being horrifically awkward? How to become best garage sale gal pals without seeming like a total weirdo?
Plenty of us blend into the dominant consumer culture with our used cars and packed lunches. We nod along as co-workers lament their credit card debt and extol their brand new kitchen cabinets in the same breath. We don’t contribute to these conversations because we don’t want to isolate, we don’t want to be rude. We remain silent and choke back our unsolicited financial advice.
We go home to our cozy, within-our-means homes, eat our cooked-from-scratch dinners and consider that perhaps we really are the only ones who live this way. Maybe we really are frugal weirdos destined to conceal our true financial identity forever.
Unfortunately, we have no covert frugal hand signals or bumper stickers* to identify each other and so you might not, at first blush, realize just how many frugal minimalists populate your neighborhood or town.
But since I have the distinct and strange advantage of being recognized in public (always while I’m doing something embarrassing and/or my kids are rolling on the floor screaming), I happen to know that there are A LOT of like-minded, fiscally-prudent, frugal-for-fun folks in the world. So let me connect you with each other. Let me be your virtual matchmaker. To aid in this identification effort, I bring you a (semi-satirical) guide on spotting frugal friends and what to do if you find one.
Note to self: idea for future revenue? Nah, no one would buy them.
10 Tips For Spotting a Fellow Frugal in The Wild
1) They bring their lunch to work. Every day.
This is an excellent harbinger of frugality. Many a conversation can be instigated in the office kitchenette while you take turns heating up your leftovers and filling your thermoses with free office coffee. This is an easy entry point for frugal-adjacent conversations that needn’t be graceless.
Sample conversation starters: “I love how much money I save by bringing my lunch every day!” or “I can’t believe how much the cafeteria charges for a sandwich!” or “Hey, what do you think about low-fee total market index funds?”
Like I said, you can commence a totally natural, not at all weird conversation around your shared passion for leftovers.
2) Walk around town and periodically drop change behind you.
If anyone starts following you and picking up your dropped dimes, you just might be in the presence of a fellow frugal.
3) Take note of a friend’s enthusiasm for potlucks versus restaurant meals.
Identify friends and acquaintances who seem excited at the prospect of a potluck and disappointed at the prospect of dining out. Invite them over for a potluck and further the conversation with leading questions such as, “So, how much would you say you save of your net income every month?” or “How big is YOUR emergency fund?” This will not seem like prying at all.
4) Conspicuously leave dryer lint in plain view in your home/office.
Strategically site a lump of dryer lint in a conspicuous location in your home. Invite a friend over. Engineer a reason to leave them alone with your dryer lint. See if they take it. If so? Definitely a frugal weirdo. If not? They still might be a frugal weirdo and therefore know the value of dryer lint and don’t want to steal a precious resource from you.
Since this test is inconclusive, utilize the odd presence of a lump of lint to start a conversation along the lines of: “Isn’t it amazing how many uses there are for dryer lint?!”
5) Their car is at least 10 years old. Or, it’s a bike.
Cars (or their absence) can be an accurate bellwether of one’s frugality, particularly if the mileage is high, the car is well-maintained and the driver makes comments such as “I plan to drive this car into the ground!” or “I love being frugal!” Or the car is, in fact, a bicycle. You know, for example.
6) You invite them to go yard sale-ing with you and they accept your invitation.
Yard sale-ing (as a verb) is a favorite frugal past-time and provides an organic reason to broach the topic of money. You are, after all, trying to find deals on other people’s used stuff.
7) Barter and trade becomes your currency.
Whether swapping tools or cutting each other’s hair, barter and trade is a way to a frugal person’s heart. Next time you need something–be it a goat to mow your lawn or the next size up in boots for your kid–check with friends to see if they have a goat/boots to lend.
Next time you clear out your closet, offer the discards to friends and see who bites. In both giving and receiving, I find frugal friends dialed into this sharing, community-oriented mentality. My friends and I are forever handing down and up and around, which keeps the flow of goods fluid and the need to buy new minimal.
8) They seem suspiciously un-stressed about money.
The frugal among us know they don’t need to worry about money. They have plenty in the bank, they don’t need much to live on, and they’re debt-free.
Money doesn’t rule their lives and they’re not focused on constantly acquiring more. They’re content and comfortable with the wise financial decisions they’ve made and the options this freedom provides to them.
9) You could swear they’re wearing a dress you saw during your most recent trip to Goodwill.
You just KNOW it’s the same dress and you just KNOW they got it second-hand. Sidle up and share that your outfit is from the thrift store.
Compliment their outfit and hope they offer up the Goodwill detail. Or just ask.
10) They email you a link to this article.
That’s a surefire way to know you’ve got a frugal friend.
Disclaimer: This is intended for entertainment purposes only. I am not a comedy professional and will not be held responsible for lost dimes, the exploitation of dryer lint, and/or awkward co-worker/acquaintance interactions.