The Backlash Against Frugality

Recently, I read through Staying Frugal in the Age of the iPhone, an article on Yahoo! Finance by Anya Kamenetz (whose book, Generation Debt, I reviewed positively a while back). The article basically extols the virtues of frugality and spending less on items – none of the suggestions are particularly unusual and they match up well with the frugal topics I’ve talked about on here before.

What shocked me were many of the comments. Here are a few choice ones (out of the many, many negative ones):

Whatever…..get a clue. You are only young once.

It’s not marketing. It’s fact. You need to get an iPhone.

Used clothes? Are you kidding me? Maybe if you are living below the poverty belt.

I highly doubt she lives this way, which is why her articles are so bad. I can’t believe Yahoo! still keeps her on. She’s misinforming thousands of young people who think shes right. Please young professionals, listen to your parents, dont listen to Anya.

I love reading the crap that this misguided 26 year old girl writes. She preaches this garbage as if it’s actually a healthy way to live.

What’s the point in making money if you’re going to live your life like a miserable miser. All this money that you’re “saving”, what do you do with it? Take it to the grave?

It goes on and on and on like this.

So, why is there such an intense backlash against frugality? I have some guesses.

First, people see only the pieces that they’re uncomfortable with. Anya wrote about things like buying clothes at a second hand shop and getting rid of your television. These are rather strong steps that will save a lot of money, but they’re beyond the comfort level of a lot of people and thus when they read such advice, they throw the baby out with the bath water.

Second, consumerism plays a more powerful role in their lives than they think. Many, many people equate material goods with happiness. Why? My primary blame is marketing – it is extremely effective at tweaking our emotions, quite often making us feel inadequate in some way if we do not have the product. For example, the iPhone and other objects of technolust – a big part of the appeal of owning one is the idea that it makes you appear “cool” or part of some group that is a “cut above” for owning it. If it was truly about features and aesthetics, there are better choices than the iPhone out there – but none are marketed as well. Yet I’ve constantly witnessed people being quite happy with their iPhone, even though the only features they actually use are found on many far less expensive phones.

In particular, many people equate youth with spending money – they think that frugality is something that older people do. In actuality, this is just marketing, too – marketing directly targets younger people and shows them spending money and owning all sorts of material goods, specifically targeting those people who have discretionary income but haven’t really figured out a plan for their life yet.

Third, people who openly reject consumerism are seen as outcasts. It’s easy to look down upon someone for making choices outside of the norm, and it’s something that many people fall into. Most people have a deep internal need for acceptance, and by rejecting someone whose behaviors don’t match what is normal to them, it’s easy to feel accepted by a larger group.

Finally, most people don’t see frugality as a path to being rich. Being rich, to most people, means having a huge income, but as I’ve mentioned before, there are two guaranteed ways to improve your financial situation, and one of them is directly through frugality. I like to call this The Millionaire Next Door phenomenon – the average person thinks of a millionaire as being someone with a high income that spends a lot of money, when that’s actually just a myth perpetuated by pop culture.

What do these statements add up to? A person who preaches frugality is going to receive some backlash, for better or worse.

As for me, I’ve seen frugal living work incredible wonders in my personal financial life. Thanks to frugal choices and a big slowdown on consumerism, I now have money in the bank, no high interest outstanding debts, and I have a lot of plans for the future that I actually have a clear path toward. Frugality works, and I don’t really mind the backlash – I’ll keep talking about it.

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101 thoughts on “The Backlash Against Frugality

  1. Jenny says:

    While a well thought out post, I think you’re missing the much simpler explanation: internet comments on most sites are idiotic trolls. Youtube especially so,

    http://xkcd.com/202/

  2. Adam says:

    Did you hear that sound? That was the sound of every single one of those commentator’s credit cards melting down. I’m a young person and believe me, I’d much rather live a bit more simply now, get out of debt, and own a home in a few years than buy every fancy gadget that comes out and dress in nothing but designer clothes. These are the kinds of people who will live their entire lives under the yolk of debt. Good luck.

  3. Bobbe says:

    The response coments to frugality appear to be made by people who have never had to depend on themselves for anything…feeding, clothing or housing themselves. If they did, they would appreciate the effort it takes to earn them. I’d like to see them plunked down on a productive farm somewhere and told “here it it, all you need, but you have to do the work your self to get it.” I wonder how long they would last?

  4. guinness416 says:

    I’m not saying your points don’t have merit to them, but seriously, have you read comments on yahoo on other topics? It’s as though all the mouth-breathers of the world get together to have a party on one website.

  5. Johanna says:

    Why is there such a stigma in America on used clothing? In England, there are charity shops (thrift stores) on just about every corner, and they sell used clothes. A lot of them. The clothes are clean, they look new (I bet most of them had only been worn once or twice – probably less than any “new” clothes in any store with a fitting room), and they’re not gross. A lot of people shop there – to save money, to reduce waste, and to support the charities.

  6. Kevin says:

    I buy used clothes because it is cheap and I am recycling.

    It does not surprise me so many people don’t know how to create wealth. These are the people we need to make a lot of money. Let them lose their souls to consumerism. I’ll be counting my rewards.

  7. It’s all about living within one’s means. Some people (like those who provided the dim comments), live beyond their means and that’s why they need financial help in the first place.

  8. Wendy says:

    I was raised with the same attitude expressed by those people who commented on the Yahoo article you cited. Very sad, but true.

    I’m struggling, now, to change my attitude toward money so that my young children don’t end up in the kind of debt I was in when in my 20′s.

    My husband is just starting to “get it” that we don’t need to make MORE money. We just need to conserve and spend more wisely, what we have. There are millions of people, here in the US, who live very well on half what we make. We should be very comfortable AND have a huge savings. That we don’t is very sad.

  9. Amy says:

    To me its all about priorities which are different for each person. I would rather not have cable or fancy gadgets or clothes and save that money to put towards remodeling my kitchen. As a baker and a cook my kitchen is the most-used room in my home and is extremely valuable to me. Someone else who does not place a high priority on their kitchen would see that spending as ridiculous just as I think it is ridiculous to spend several hundred dollars on a phone. It’s all about your priorities.

  10. Docah says:

    While i can’t say i go around buying used clothing, i’ve noticed many of my friends frown at spending habits.

    Living life your own way is bound to make some people uncomfortable. Because it isn’t their way. The more ignorant and inconsiderate the person, the more likely you are to get a backlash from them. (imo, ymmv)

  11. plonkee says:

    Used clothing – call it vintage and people will flock to buy it.

    I haven’t noticed a backlash to frugality, I’m too busy trying to ignore the people telling me that the only way to get rich is to invest in property.

  12. I think what people need is a balance. I in no way advocate profligate spending, and I’m happy (and proud) to say that our only debt is our home mortgage. We use credit cards and we pay them off in full each month. We save, for short-term and retirement. And in the last couple of years, because we chose to move and change our work situations, we have a bit less income since I’m now self-employed (much more enjoyable than when I was a cube farmer, but not as lucrative). But every so often we splurge. I need to know that I can enjoy myself, and each of us has his/her own level of enjoyment, and that sometimes means not watching every dollar or dime. I just don’t do it often. I think to a lot of folks, frugality implies a constant bottom line focus to the exclusion of anything else. And that might be the reason for the backlash.

  13. Baggie says:

    Wow!! I can’t believe I’ve lived without an iPhone for this long!! Wait….I’m still breathing.

    What do you do with all that money you’re saving? Hmmmm…you can live off it when you lose your job because your boss doesn’t like your shoes or your company downsizes (like my DH getting laid off). Or maybe you can invest it in something that makes more money…like shares of Apple. Or if you just really can’t think of anything, you can send it to me. Or Trent….he has a donation button at the top of this blog.

  14. Minimum Wage says:

    Frugality won’t make you rich on a minimum wage income.

  15. Heather says:

    I have a friend who is having a baby and the dad refuses to let the baby wear hand me downs or second hand clothes. I told her to do it anyway because he will never know the difference. Children go through clothes way too fast to keep buying brand new stuff all of the time. And these people are just like that babys father, they have probably never gone into a goodwill and had a chance to see all of the great clothes you can buy, (especially if you go to one in a well to do area). They were probably raised this way and are just ignorant to all of the possiblities in this world.

  16. Amanda says:

    Here here! *applause* Great article, Trent.

  17. Mike says:

    I bought many jackets, slacks, shirts, jeans and shoes at a consignment store when I first started working in an office, and my wardrobe was quite nice. I’m proud of myself for it too, because after several years of living in my 600 sq. ft. cave-like apartment, driving a VERY used car, buying used clothes, cooking nearly every meal and camping instead of vacationing, I threw myself a party when I became 100% debt free. A couple of years later and I bought a house. And now I’m counting down the years until a fairly comfortable retirement. Used clothes?? Absolutely!

  18. MS says:

    Yahoo feedback is pretty harsh and generally low quality. The posts there attract flames the same way boxcars attract graffiti.

    Frugality is still something of a minority philosophy here in the states. I know that when I get on these blogs and see the posts and comments that reflect my views, it seems like we’re the mainstream, but the ads for the next edition of “pimp my sweet 16 cribs of the rich and famous” brings me back to reality.

  19. “Frugality won’t make you rich on a minimum wage income.”
    While this statement may be true, frugality CAN keep you out of poverty if you only make minimum wage! Frugality, no matter what your income, can stretch your dollars further and when combined with a working practical budget will make every dollar count so you can save up some cash and start investing. Keep preaching the frugal lifestyle, along with the idea of getting out of debt, Trent!

  20. Dave says:

    People shouldn’t look down on others for having different values, whether that value is frugality, or iPhones.

  21. Josh says:

    I agree with everything you said except that there are better phones than the iPhone.

  22. AP says:

    I’m all for frugality, but if people want to live a life beyond their means, let them. I am leasing a new car because I am sick and tired of used cars. To the extremely frugal this is a tsk tsk situation, but for me it’s necessary. I still lead a fairly frugal lifestyle, I make my own jam, I don’t have cable TV, but I also have my luxuries, I’ll buy new clothes (most of the time, the thrift shops here are awful and I am of average size, so i can’t wait for sales if I want new clohtes) and shoes (I don’t buy used shoes, it grosses me out), but I wait for sales for most things.

  23. A says:

    A lot of frugality preachers traffic in guilt. They phrase their “tips” as commands, rather than helpful suggestions, and this immediately puts the reader on the defensive (TDS is plenty guilty of this, as well).

    Some of your readers are going to come looking for ways to trim ALL excess spending from their budget, but most are looking for ways to cut corners so they CAN afford things like cable and new clothes. Little tips such as “make your own laundry detergent!” and the like will intrigue some readers, while alienating others. Many people aren’t interested in doing things like that, and resent the “you’ll never be rich if you (drink soda/pay someone else to fix your car/have a cellphone)” finger wagging that seems to accompany all frugality blogs/books/articles. When you make people feel guilty about their indulgences (or their common expenses), they will react negatively; is this really that surprising?

  24. Bobbe says:

    You know, reflecting further, perhaps we should be a little bit grateful to those with that kind of attitude. We get the benefit. They get rid of alot of really nice things they spent lots of money on with little wear and tear just because something new came out. That’s when I get to swoop in and buy something practically new for very little money. If everyone were frugal like me, there would not be as many opportunities to own things I would never consider paying anywhere near full price for.

  25. Ryan says:

    Great point Trent! Keep up the Great work, let these fools be parted with their money.

  26. Jen says:

    regarding the baby clothes. I buy all of my toddler’s clothes at a mother’s group used clothing sale that happens 2x/yr here. I’m sure there are similar things in other cities. Most clothes are in the $1 range, and for the amount of time he wears them, it’s totally worth it. We can aford a lot more clothes this way too, which allows me not to have to do laundry every day. I’ve also gotten books, toys, a potty, and one of those bags to put the car seat in when you fly. Never buy retail if you don’t have to.

  27. maxconfus says:

    Beyond repairing and upside down personal finance situation I agree with frugality even if its just for the sake of simple life, i.e. not having to endure hours on end of customer service hell because the thing you bought is now broke or whatever.

    Although, I have a question for the frugal crew. The entertainer 50 Cent is quite recently rich, just sold his stake in the vitamin water drink to Coke, or how about one of the richer people in America, Jon Bon Jovi(sp?), do you ever see these people without new cars/clothes/gadgets? Did they get to their current position by being frugal? I wonder if anyone knows.

    The answer may not matter but it’s one that I am curious what others think. I know for me that the rise of the p.f. blog over the past 24 months has given me a lot of good ideas to improve my own situation so I am glad for the frugality tips. On the up side, retail is the cornerstone of the U.S. economy and one of the reasons for this p.f. blog and others.

  28. ClickerTrainer says:

    It turns out some folks can buy new clothes, have a house, a car, and a tv, and still manage to stay well within their budget. The key is to HAVE a budget.

    I’m happy without world travel, or even local travel. I spend my money elsewhere. The point is, I’ve made my choices. You make yours. You don’t choose wisely, you’ll have debt. I think I’m choosing pretty wisely. I just haven’t written a book about it.

  29. Katie says:

    I’m exposed to people on a daily basis who equate their personal worth with the value of the possessions they own and even though it doesn’t agree with my belief system, it’s their money and they can spend it how they wish. My only gripe with people who spend more than they earn is the inevitable “I need to earn more” conversation – if they do something about it, great. If not, I’d just rather not hear about it and look at them quite differently after.

    As for me, I can’t wait to TRULY begin living a frugal lifestyle (no car, possibly no cable, cook at home, etc) as I can do some now, but not all parts.

    I may be an oddity but I’m a young professional working in marketing who “gets” the frugal aspect. Marketing is a powerful force but we’re not all succpetible ;)

  30. Jim Lippard says:

    Minimum Wage made the comment (as a commenter with this name seems to do frequently here and on other personal finance blogs) that “Frugality won’t make you rich on a minimum wage income.”

    What’s the point? It’s certainly not an argument *against* frugality–on minimum wage income, frugality is even *more* important. If the point is that some people don’t have income to become rich even while being frugal, why stop at minimum wage, rather than note that there are millions of people living on $1/day or less of income? And note that a few of those do become entrepreneurs and become rich, even in slums like Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, Dharavi, in Mumbai, India, and the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

  31. Susy says:

    These are probably the same people that all bought too huge of a house that they couldn’t really afford and are now blaming the lending industry for their woes!

  32. Tanya says:

    Another reason why people write such vehement comments…they are suffering from some seriously repressed guilt/stress. Deep down they know that their spending habits are bad for the world-at-large, their psyche, and their wallets so they lash out. I would be interested in finding out if any of those commenters aren’t in debt or have some retirement savings.

  33. rstlne says:

    Ah, but it’s people who save and invest who make money off of their consumerism. Would Apple be such a strong growth stock if everyone were frugal? So maybe it’s better to just leave them with their ways of excess.

    I buy used clothing too but mostly for costuming purposes because thrift stores are where you can find some really unusual stuff. For daily wear, I go to discount clothing stores. I’ve rarely been able to see what’s irregular about clothing that has been tagged “irregular” but it saves me 50% or more.

  34. George says:

    “I am leasing a new car because I am sick and tired of used cars. To the extremely frugal this is a tsk tsk situation, but for me it’s necessary.”

    A new car is not ‘necessary’. It’s a luxury, plain and simple. If you need transportation to get to and from work, that’s certainly a need, but transportation can be had quite easily without buying or leasing a brand new vehicle.

    The biggest lesson of frugality is to realize what is a “need” and what is a “want”. Transportation, clothing, and shelter are all “needs”, but within these categories there is a spectrum of choices, some of which are more “want” than “need”.

  35. Susan says:

    I think it’s the celebrity mentality that prevails in this country. Paris Hilton wears an item of over-priced clothing only once and supposedly then donates it to charity or ? So why should the kids who read such articles think that they should live any differently? The advertising monster in this country consumes us and then spits out the spending clones we’ve become.

  36. demetri says:

    Coming from a miserly 27 year old. We must all keep in mind that when we save and invest in companies we expect that money to grow. It will only grow when other people keep buying things. I say we let them buy everything they want and Ill make money off of it.

    Good article trent… like preaching to the choir… I should read some articles from someone I dont agree with to expand my mind- but its to easy to read your stuff.

  37. Sean says:

    As some people have already noticed, the comments on Yahoo aren’t really surprising, considering that we have to imagine that they come from average consumers, meaning that they haven’t really even considered the numbers or the future.

    That’s why most of them are on there just spouting of “common sense” that is more common than it is sense, like the idea that a TV is necessary, or that new cars are necessary, or that cars are necessary at all, for that matter. Real thinking can be applied to any of these things, but, in general, the problem is not that people are incapable of understanding personal finance, they are just unreceptive to anything that is different.

    Mouth breathers, indeed.

  38. Ms. Clear says:

    Living simply is counter cultural right now. So frankly, comments like that don’t surprise me.

  39. Andrew Stevens says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if someone has already mentioned it, but Trent forgot the most important reason why there is a backlash against frugality. Deep down, the people who made the comments know that Anya’s lifestyle is superior to their own and they have to find some way to prop back up their egos by rationalizing why they’re right (when they know they aren’t).

    Whenever I mention how I think it’s nuts to finance a car (especially when the people I’m speaking to make $200,000 per year or more), you can almost always see them scramble to justify the financing before they ever actually consider my arguments. It’s just human nature to get defensive when one perceives one’s lifestyle is under attack, especially if deep down you’re rather skeptical about it yourself.

  40. AP says:

    Re the comment about the car not being a necessity…

    I walk to work, I walk almost everywhere, actually, but I live in an area that is fairly isolated, I am far away from my family and as such

    I enjoy road trips (Not too frugal, but I am in Canada, airfare is prohibitive and it is MUCh cheaper to drive). I weighed the pros and cons of a used car vs a new car, and the new car with the warranty etc won out. I am able to buy it BECAUSE I was frugal and saving money. I will buy out the lease when it’s up, drive the car around for another 10 years and then retire it. Someone will buy it and drive it around some more

    FYI, i drove across the country in an old, old, car, i’ve been driving junkers for 15 years. I figure after that I’m allowed one luxury.

  41. Mai says:

    It probably is worth noting that the “used clothes” I usually get are from people who buy “new clothes” then get rid of them after one or two times wearing them.

  42. martha in mobile says:

    Every time someone says “I deserve a new (fill in the blank)” an advertising executive gets his wings.

  43. Matt says:

    When I mentioned compound interest once at work, a colleague responded that probably only 1 out of 20 people my age actually know what compound interest is. I don’t know if that’s true or not but it sure is scary if that’s even close.

    Sadly, the comments on the Yahoo site are probably more reflective of society as a whole because it is a general site whereas your site Trent is more targetted specifically towards people looking to improve their financial situation.

    You make a good point on the marketing to younger people. I think this is done because younger people are less likely to have had the life experience necessary to either a) know the true value of a dollar or b) know what is really important in life.

  44. Tim says:

    Anya’s hot..I’d do anything she told me to do, so that is why i haven’t bought an iphone…well, maybe not.

    man, that article got heaps of comments. having been in debt, i can only amuse myself in the negative comments. some people need to experience before they learn. others simply won’t learn. oh well.

  45. brent says:

    “Every time someone says “I deserve a new (fill in the blank)” an advertising executive gets his wings.”

    !!!!!

    That’s so FUNNY!!!!

  46. gotwood says:

    Regarding: “If it was truly about features and aesthetics, there are better choices than the iPhone out there – but none are marketed as well.”

    Woah. Just, woah. I know your article isn’t about the iPhone, per say, but you’re making some claims here as if they are fact. I’d counter that people are knowingly trading the feature sledge-hammer that is other smart phones, for the beautiful simplicity and aesthetics of the iPhone. Sure, the features i actually use are few, but i enjoy that they are executed with quiet perfection on the iPhone. My phone transcends utility to actually becoming one of the things about my day that i enjoy, and i’m choosing to pay the premium. Do not generalize that “it doesnt have x-y-z, so it must be the marketing filling in the gap.” In the case of the iPhone, the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

    Thanks for listening. I enjoy your site quite a bit.

  47. Matt says:

    I was reading some of the comments as well at that site. How about this one as an example of marketing manipulating someone (At least the poster acknowledges saving even though he fails to see how his emotions have been manipulated):

    “There was a Harley commercial a year back, I think, about a grandpa talking to his grandkids about buying a Harley and driving it with the wind in his haior and the freedom etc. etc. And his grandchildren excalim “Wow, grandpa. You had a Harley?” To which the old man, with that certain grin and sigh of regret said that he did not get a Harley because he used the money to fix the porch. At that point the kids left saying they would go to to see if grandma had better stories to tell (I bet you she didn’t)…. Anya, I don’t want to be that grandpa one day and, trust me, you do not want to be that grandma either. It does nto matter how much money you have if you do not have stories to tell. When you are that old those will be the things that matter. That said, I agree that people should not overspend or rake up credit card debt. However, ENJOY LIFE, GIRL. Put aside 10% of your pay check for retirement/emergency and have fun with the rest. If you do not respect yourself no one will respect you, so get what you deserve.”

  48. George says:

    “e the comment about the car not being a necessity…”

    Please note that I never said that a car wasn’t a necessity – transportation of some sort is a necessity for most people, and depending on your circumstance, the only alternative may be a car.

    My point was that a BRAND NEW car is never a necessity. Transportation by private vehicle can be had via reliable late-model cars rather than buying something brand new off the dealer’s lot.

    I find it really amazing that people think being frugal and enjoying life are mutually exclusive, when it’s usually the frugal people (as opposed to the materialists) that are most content.

  49. kman says:

    Frugality isn’t fun and there’s no immediate gratification and thus not as likely to appeal to people. Especially of those people believe it is their right to buy as much stuff as possible..

    My 2

  50. Lazy Man says:

    I’ve seen quite the opposite… people are embracing frugality. Maybe it’s because I live near San Francisco and there are a lot of environmentally conscious people here. However, it seems like many, many people are taking global warming seriously. This often leads to recycling and other frugal behaviors.

  51. Siena says:

    Sometimes, especially when you’re younger, it’s can be difficult to be the frugal one in light of peer pressure and teasing. I have found that if I say I am doing things for environmental reasons no one makes fun of me. It is much cooler to be labeled an environmentalist than a cheapie.

  52. Mrs. Micah says:

    I hate to say this, but a lot of online commenters are idiots. My husband got an article published and people wrote comments after (clearly) only reading the first few paragraphs. They told him he was an idiot, the site was an idiot for posting it, all kinds of stuff. Maybe a couple people who read it posted intelligent critiques. Lots of people also posted yelling at the others for being dumb and not reading.

    That said, I’m sure there’s a smart bunch reading TSD, but otherwise it’s a sad fact of the internet life. Being connected to everyone includes being connected to people who are, well, idiots. I’d use a gentler word if one applied.

    If frugality is being stingy with love, affection, and happiness, then it’s bad. But most of us who are trying to be frugal know better.

  53. db says:

    Here’s my reason for when I bought a brand new car: I deemed it safer because I knew the history of the car, and I also considered that I’d maintain the car and drive it for a long, long time.

    So far, maintenance on the car has been minimal. I’m 5 years into owning it and I expect to own it another 10 years or more. It’s a decision that has worked well for me. And yes, I own the car outright.

    There is NO ROOM for moral superiority around whether to buy a new or used car. Somebody’s got to buy it new if anybody is ever going to buy it used. A person buying a new car who doesn’t go into debt to do it — more power to them.

  54. Willow says:

    I wish I had been smart with money in my 20′s. I spent every penny I had on worthless junk. I married someone who spent even more than I did. I bought things on credit and thought it would never catch up with me. Sooner or later it does. I’m struggling hard now to cut back on expenses and pay off all my credit cards. I have nothing to show for all the time I worked. The good thing is my son is now in his 20′s, and he’s seen firsthand the effects of my bad money management, so he’s not having to learn the hard way.

  55. Fred says:

    gotwood,

    I’m glad you like your iPhone. I’m a cheapskate and never would get one, but I think they are amazing. Good for you. Enjoy it.

    By the way, it is “per se” not “per say.”

  56. Ang says:

    There’s a backlash because people don’t like it when others have different values. Basically, living frugally gives you more choices. If you live a frugal life and want to spend some of the money you save on a new car that’s up to you. The whole point of being frugal is to save money to give you the freedom to live the life YOU want. Frugality gives you choices so that your life isn’t determined by debt. Like having a choice to stay at home with your children or the choice to find a different job with no regard to the salary.
    If you have debt then you don’t have a choice.

  57. I think we live in an age of entitlement and instant gratification. People think that they deserve the best and that they shouldn’t have to wait for anything. It’s sad, really. In 40 years we’ll have a huge number of senior citizens with 52 inch televisions, who have to eat Top Ramen to survive.

  58. Mariette says:

    Lazy Man – places like San Francisco where there is a stronger awareness of ecological and global footprint issues do tend to have more people that are openminded about things like frugality and vintage is “cool” amongst a certain set, always has been. But everywhere has the trend fiends or those keeping up with the Joneses who blatantly consume. It’s part of human nature to want to be part of a group and not stand out too much. It’s unfortunate really since those people don’t realize that life is usually more interesting when you are willing to chart your own course.

  59. Angie says:

    In regards to maxconfus’s comment – i believe a lot of stars actually get items for free or are ‘silent’ endorsers of a particular product because if they are seen with it or photographed with it it then boosts the product’s popularity and sales because people want what stars have.

    I’m young – 23 – but believe there has to be a balance of saving and spending. For example, you should always ‘pay’ yourself first (ie put it in your savings acc for a rainy day), and you should also spend a bit on yourself (because everyone needs spoiling like to go watch a movie or something like that).

    Frugality might be a dirty word, because we want to have whatever we want. Some of us are used to getting what we want from our parents, but when it comes to the real world and we become more independent, we realise that perhaps getting what we want all the time instantly (ie instant gratification) isn’t the way to go.

  60. lockheed says:

    I’m completely debt free and managed to cut back on eating out this month. My new iPhone (which I got in trade) is only $20/mo more a month than my previous phone and that’s mainly accounted for by the data plan.

    Am I a bad person because I’m not making my own paper and chruning my own butter?

  61. Emily says:

    I go to a college that has a lot of kids whose idea of budgeting is running out of space on their mom’s and dad’s credit card and needing to call to get the balance paid off. Needless to say, it creates a slightly skewed idea of frugality. When I discovered dollar stores, Goodwill, and FreeCycle, I was ecstatic. All these great things for free or cheap! But my friends were horrified. Even to my cheapest friends FreeCycle is an utterly disgusting topic–they’re sure it’s the equivalent of dumpster diving. The items at dollar stores are automatically inferior–even if it’s just something like dish detergent–and the concept at finding something decent at a thrift store is beyond them. It is pretty sad and I have no idea how one changes that mindset. The more I shop there the more they’re convinced I’m a Scrooge rather than seeing something of value.

  62. Viv says:

    Buying used clothes a “strong” or radical idea? You’ve got to be kidding me – where I live it’s hip. I think these commenters are basically young and stupid…and they’ll learn in time.

  63. guinness416 says:

    *There is NO ROOM for moral superiority around whether to buy a new or used car*

    This comment from db bears repeating. And the same goes for technology and travel and gifts for grandkids and everything else.

  64. Todd says:

    Looks like I’m late seeing this.

    People who prefer to eat healthy get the same kind of backlash, if you didn’t notice. If we want to eat organic food that isn’t full of high fructose corn syrup, we’re suddenly weirdos or hippies. It’s ridiculous how much people think “their way” is the proper way of doing things without any kind of basis for comparison, as if being broke and fat is a fun way to spend your twenties.

  65. Katie says:

    My professor just had a second baby and she told me that she was just collecting baby clothes from her friends who she also might have given her first baby’s clothes a couple of years ago. Something must be replaced or some buttons fixed, but to buy everything new is just unnecessary. That’s how it can work in an educated middle class family. But I’m aware that not everyone wants that.

  66. maxconfus says:

    “In regards to maxconfus’s comment – i believe a lot of stars actually get items for free or are ’silent’ endorsers of a particular product because if they are seen with it or photographed with it it then boosts the product’s popularity and sales because people want what stars have.”

    Yes, in general, that is what happens. But for 50 Cent and Jon Bon Jovi, two people who have real money in bank accounts and can live off the interest, my question, in summary, was did these people get to where they are now by being frugal?

  67. Amanda says:

    The iPhone droids on here are hilarious. I wonder how much of their comment is actually their own thoughts, and how much comes straight from marketing gimmicks. It’s a hunk of metal and plastic, people, not a consciousness-altering experience.

    Anyway, some of the comments on the Yahoo site are frightening indeed. I wonder where these people are going to be when they’re 40. Probably like most of the members of my family – in debt to the tune of two years’ salary and saddled with a bunch of crap that has never made (and will never make) them happy. I really, honestly pity them.

  68. Michael says:

    We have a generation growing up that has watched their parents mismanage money, building bigger and bigger mountains of debt that they will never get out of. We have a generation that has never learned the slightest bit of economics (I believe a personal finance class should be mandatory for a high school diploma, and both micro- and macroeconomics should be required for any college degree). We have a generation that watches things like “My Super Sweet 16″ on MTV and learn that there’s nothing wrong with demanding everything from mommy and daddy.

    We have an economy that’s in good shape now. But we have a generation that, when things turn bad, will be knocking on the doors of the people who understand money, begging for food.

  69. Kristofer says:

    It’s too bad taht she is facing such ridicule, but it makes me happy to see how little minded a lot of the competition is out there. That just makes things easier for the rest of us. While they’re begging to hand out money, I’ll be the guy holding my hand out saying “It’s okay, I’ll take that off your hands.” then when I’m old I’ll be living it up!

  70. boomie says:

    You’ve failed to mention that the article received 3 and 1/2 stars and it has been rated ‘very good’, which means a lot of people who responded (almost 600) agreed with the article. Why are you concentrating on the few who didn’t?
    The majority of the respondents agreed with the frugality aspect.
    I’ve emailed the article to my 30ish DD. She wants an iPhone for Xmas. With a 2 year contract cost of almost $6000, I think she needs to rethink this.

  71. Daisy says:

    I’m part of the younger generation, and I can attest to how typical those responses were.

    A lot of people these days just don’t know how to save their money. I’m forever lending friends money for tuition and such (though they do pay me back as soon as they can) because they’ve spent it on things like computer games and clothes. This is the generation that plans a project, buys the materials, changes their minds, throws away the perfectly usable materials then buys new ones. This is the generation you talk to about saving who just look back at you like you’re speaking a foreign language.

    It’s pretty sad.

  72. Empress Juju says:

    “But for 50 Cent and Jon Bon Jovi, two people who have real money in bank accounts and can live off the interest, my question, in summary, was did these people get to where they are now by being frugal?”

    I haven’t actually met these men, but for many stars who came up from poor backgrounds they didn’t GET rich by being frugal, but they will STAY rich that way!

    At that level, “frugality” probably has nothing to do with thrift-store shopping, but it’s still about living within one’s means and investing for the future, rather than maxing oneself out on debt. They just have much larger playing field than most of us right now… for them, it might mean hiring a private jet as needed, rather than keeping one on standby, or buying three houses outright rather than mortgaging seven.

    If I were in their designer shoes, I would still practice these simple principles to avoid ending up on “The Surreal Life” later just to feed my babies!

  73. bofiz says:

    What these anti-frugality youngsters are really saying is that they like being slaves to “The Man”. Much as the whine about “The Man” they’re perfectly willing to hand him all their money thinking that they’re being cool.

  74. lockheed says:

    Well, you know the old saying, “opinions are —holes…”

    It’s all relative. I know plenty of people who are supposedly frugal, yet they still manage to buy ballet classes for their kid because omg their kid is talented!

    I quite enjoy being criticized for buying electronics by people who commute 45 minutes each way to work. After my 10 minute walk to my job (top-tier software company), I’ll gladly pause my iPhone long enough to ask how much you spend on gas each month.

  75. Eric says:

    Not sure I can pinpoint the reason why but, I think this is one of the better posts on this site Trent. And I’ve been reading since November 06. Nice work.

  76. icup says:

    Here’s one that happened to me when vacationing in LA:

    Me: (Noticing extreme number of cars with one person in them) Why don’t some of these people take public transportation. Wouldn’t that cut down on pollution and relieve pressure on personal budgets?
    Person I was staying with: You’re kidding, right? everyone knows that only Mexicans and people with literally no money take public transportation around here.
    Me: O…K… then.

  77. gotwood says:

    @Fred – Much obliged.

    @Amanda – Im going to go ahead and assume that “hilarious iPhone droid” comment is directed in my direction.

    Some background might be helpful. I make my living in technology, specifically interface design. When i feel it’s done right, and i do in the case of the iPhone, it happens to give me a “feeling”. Sorry if i articulate that as a conscious-altering experience, but i take exception to the assertion that i’m not thinking for myself. I’m sensitive that way.

  78. MossySF says:

    I’d say even for stars, frugality is a big factor. How many stars make it immediately after striking out? Almost none. During that time, they were not spending it up. They were living ultra-frugal lifestyles so they could dedicate themselves to their craft. Those who couldn’t live frugally had to give up on their dreams and get a real job.

    After they’ve made it, being frugal relative to their income is important because no star remains in the limelight forever. There are many of former stars now in dire straits because they could not readjust their livestyle. Hell, there are plenty of examples of stars who’ve declared bankruptcy WHILE they still in the public’s eye.

  79. !wanda says:

    @icup: Public transit around the LA area is terrible. When I was a college student in Pasadena, before I had a car, I would take a bus to see my doctor. One day, I went to the bus stop on time, waited for 45 minutes, and the bus never came. There was an old lady who had been waiting for an hour before I got there- no bus. After completely missing my appointment, I went home and poked around the internet to see if there were any announcements of delays or cancellations. Nothing. The bus didn’t show up, and I would have had no way to know beforehand. After that incident, I always borrowed a car whenever I needed to go somewhere in LA.
    Of course it’s a cycle that feeds on itself. The bus service is terrible, so no one who can afford a car uses the bus, so the city doesn’t pay for good public transit, so the service sucks even more.
    So, your friend didn’t articulate it well, but there are good reasons to not depend on the transit in LA.

  80. Baggie says:

    The discussino of celebrities and the like other people that have extremely high incomes brings up this…

    Frugality isn’t the same things to all people. If I’m 50cent and make $50mil a year, I don’t need to buy used clothes if I don’t want to…or a used car…or a small house. However I would have to avoid spending my $50mil in one year. Earning $50 mil & spending it all in one year is the same as earning $20k in a year and spending it all in one year.

    Frugality is not meant to be a drag and make life miserable. Life is here to be enjoyed, and to some people a new car, big house, designer purse, or new clothes helps them feel that life is enjoyable. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that buying these things with debt will make life enjoyable. If you have to buy these things with debt or spend more than you should, your heading towards disaster…look for other things that make life enjoyable without spending money. If you can buy these things AFTER you’ve met your savings and debt reductiong goals, then enjoy….you’ve earned. Like 50cent.

    Frugality can be fun. Why do people love sales & discounts? If I need a pair of shoes, I think it’s fun to hunt around to find the best bargain (yes I buy new ones). I think it fun to see the amount in my savings account go up every month because I don’t have a car payment & my car is paid off, and that money gets saved. I think it’s fun to plan what me & DH are going to do with that money to start our own business & not have to be employees anymore.

    Frugality is fun when you have a goal in mind and you keep that in front of you when you feel the pinch of not having instant gratification. If you don’t have high income and you want to be rich (= financially free = don’t need a job anymore), you have to be frugal. If you have high income and want to be rich, you still have to maintain control of frivolous spendings. Controlling your money instead of letting it control you will make the difference in whether or not you become rich.

  81. Amy says:

    “But for 50 Cent and Jon Bon Jovi, two people who have real money in bank accounts and can live off the interest, my question, in summary, was did these people get to where they are now by being frugal?”

    While I don’t know either of those men personally, I do know a number of people who are making their careers in the arts (mostly music and theater). All of them have gone through periods of living on ramen with five roommates in a terrible neighborhood so they could keep pursuing their passion, and all of them could have walked away from their dreams to do something much more lucrative. That’s being frugal.

    So yes, I strongly suspect that both of them got where they are today in part through frugality.

  82. disavow says:

    Part of the problem with Yahoo Finance is downright sexism. Just compare comments between Anya Kamenetz or Penelope Trunk vs. Ram Charan or David Bach. Pretty comparable writing abilities, but vastly different responses.

  83. Amanda says:

    Nope, the comment wasn’t directed at anyone in particular. Amazing how people get touchy, though, when their sacred cow is brought up for discussion.

    I’m an IT consultant and feel no need to get an iPhone or anything like it. That “feeling” you describe is an addiction no different than an addiction to food or gambling. Sorry, but there it is.

  84. vh says:

    “I am leasing a new car because I am sick and tired of used cars. To the extremely frugal this is a tsk tsk situation, but for me it’s necessary.”

    Is there something wrong with this? One good reason for frugality is to free up enough money to do exactly this kind of thing: being able to afford something you enjoy. It’s not all about distant goals; some of the goals can be right now.

    Seems to me if you can afford a car lease (or fill in the blank: designer purse, iPhone, vacation on the Riviera, dinner at McDonald’s) because you have your spending under control, then that purchase is one of the perqs of frugality.

    The comment on public transportation in LA is right on. Ditto lovely uptown Phoenix. My employer handed out free bus passes in attempt to get some of us to ditch the one-person-per-car commutes. So I tried it…. The 30-minute drive took two hours going to work and 2 hours 10 minutes coming home. During that time I was panhandled three times, hit up for a cigarette once, treated to a loud conversation between a mentally ill gentleman and his imaginary roommate, and let off the bus almost a mile from my office. About two days later, I learned that on the very morning I stood around waiting for the bus to go to work, a woman was abducted from my bus stop and raped.

    Sooo…. Sorry, folks: I won’t be riding the bus again. That has nothing to do with class and everything to do with service and safety.

  85. rocketc says:

    Money is a tool, a means to an end. People who refuse to use money wisely, have no goals in life.

  86. Steven says:

    “Yet I’ve constantly witnessed people being quite happy with their iPhone, even though the only features they actually use are found on many far less expensive phones.”

    Features like the touch-screen? :)

  87. jane says:

    My new favorit comment from the article “If the subprime credit crunch doesn’t kill us, enough people following Anya’s recommendations will definately plunge us into recession.”

    We must all spend mone to keep the economy going how I love this one.

  88. Amanda says:

    The problem with spending more money to keep the economy going is that no one (not even the government, which is spending it like water right now) can keep it up indefinitely, and the “help” you’re giving only makes the crash worse.

    I can’t blame people for thinking it, since they’ve been forced to swallow this drivel their entire lives, but it makes me sad.

  89. Banban says:

    Why is it that young people must spend a lot of money in order to be cool? It’s probably because of this whole “bling” mentality and celebrity
    culture, where kids want to look like Paris Hilton and live like a rockstar. We listen to hip-hop artists that throw money in the air, and we want to be like them.

    I find it pretty ironic that those who spend and “act rich” now will have some financial difficulties in the future.

    I’m all for living the good life, but only if you can afford it. Having a $45K car and making $30K might seem stupid. But here in Los Angeles, it’s quite the norm.

  90. Mary Stewart says:

    I was raised by frugal parents who experienced the depression. My father was the bread winner and my mom was always with us kids at home. We ate three square meals a day, wore hand-me-down clothes, rode in the backseat of an old ’54 Chevy as we went camping in the summer and deer hunting in the winter. We didn’t own a TV and the internet would have been described in a science fiction magazine, so we learned how to build our own toys and entertain ourselves. We used and reused things that would today be found in a land fill. As a result, imagination expanded our minds. We lived in New Mexico on land that was homesteaded by my Dad’s parents in the early 1900′s. Dad bought a house and had it moved to the land. It was rented to a little old lady who was on social security and her monthly rent covered the utilities, property tax and insurance on the house we lived in (debt free). Dad also worked for the Sante Fe Rail Road and by the time I entered Jr High, my parents had saved enough money to pay cash for a big house they had custom built in town. It was 1965, and we still rode in that ’54 Chevy, wore hand-me-downs and vacationed in tents and slept on cots. Dad kept buying rental property and by the time I was in high school had saved enough for all of us to go to college. I watched my dad go to work rain, snow, sleet or shine. My mom darned socks, replaced zippers and buttons, hemmed and sewed our clothes and never relied on Mc Donald’s (like the younger mothers) because she cooked everday, wasting absolutely nothing. The first time I ate in a restuarant was while in high school and it was a celebration. My parents taught me how to be frugal, take care of what I had and rely on my imagination. So when I got married, I tried to emulate their lessons. Instead, I was constantly berrated with, “You’re just like your Dad! You think that when you die, you’ll take it with you.” So now, in my senior years, I live in a house that’s been refinanced again and again so he could enjoy a new car and all the gagets … no retirement (that nest egg has been robbed, too) … and fear for tomorrow. All because I didn’t want to be called CHEAP (another word for frugal)!

  91. ladykemma2 says:

    these critical people are probably the ones who criticize my hubby and i for our now “paid for” house. at age 44. you wouldn’t believe how much flack we get for this.

  92. Leslie M-B says:

    The people who comment on Yahoo! Finance are prone to being troglodytes. Especially when they’re responding to articles by women, and in particular young women. Ever seen the comments Penelope Trunk gets, even on her best columns?

  93. Used clothes are icky? Tell THEM to get a life, and to save their comments until after they’ve had to provide for their own young children on a tight budget.

    I’ve linked.

  94. If I cared a lick for the opinions of the Yahoo commenters, I could always quell my worries by imagining the inevitable future in which I’m financially secure and they’re living on public assistance.

  95. Jim says:

    I have always been a relatively frugal person and worked in lower income jobs, choosing to be self reliant, buying tools instead of products, learning new skills. Now I ride a bicycle as my primary source of transportation.. even have a trailer I pull behind it to do my grocery shopping. Last year I used a total of 45 gallons of gas. I have no debt, no unfilled needs, do all of my own repairs and help my friends with theirs, and live on less than $13,000 a year. I am very healthy because I ride a bike everywhere. Of all of my friends I have by far the best life, the least stress, the fewest needs, the most free time and the most skills. My home is in perfect repair, I have made all of my furniture (was an upholsterer and a cabinet maker for most of my life)I am surrounded by my own creations, an amazingly rewarding thing to be able to say and my work is much admired by others. My lifestyle is rich, my impact is minimal. Frugality is so superior in every meaningful way it is indescribable. Consumerism, on the other hand, is unsustainable, devestating to the ecology, destructive to the economy, is devaluing our money, degrading to it’s victims and potentially fatal to all living things. I think I can do without the I-phone.

  96. Sam says:

    I can’t believe that some people are actually trying to argue in favor of “frivolously” spending money. I know that a lot of people live beyond their means, but I always just assumed (and I know what that does) one of two things: (A) either people don’t think about what they are doing when they buy stuff they can’t really afford, or (B) they allow their urge for instant gratification to overcome their common sense. (I typically find myself in the first category- I can make a lot of “mindless” purchases) I never thought that some people would actually try to argue (C)- that “frivolous living” is morally acceptable (besides advertisers). I hope that most people in financial chaos fall into categories (A) or (B). It’s bad enough to think that an entire generation in this country is living beyond their means, but category (C) thinkers put me in fear for the future of our country because we have lost our moral compass as a nation when they become the majority.

  97. Pam Munro says:

    There is a social stigma to being frugal – I know, I live in L.A. & for years had to “hide” my frugality or risk being seen as pathetic. I just didn’t tell people how I managed to be pretty well dressed with what I was making as a starving artiste. In fact, my designer thrift shop wardrobe was a social shield when I went out in public – let them guess at how much $ I was making! My suburban nieces and nephew looked down on the finds I came back with from their local thrift shop (aran-type sweater for $7?? & Parisian t-shirts?). They would be humiliated to buy anywhere other than the GAP or a dept. store – end result – they spend too much on crummy clothes! One wants to become s school teacher & I think will have an awakening on trying to live on her salary.

  98. Sean says:

    Funny that anyone would have anything negative to say about being frugal! All it takes is EXPERIENCE with being frugal to see that it’s common sense. By being frugal throughout our marriage, and especially frugal over the past year or so, my wife and I have been able to save enough money to carry us for a couple of years if we both were to lose our jobs in this recession. We haven’t suffered at all in doing so either. I recently got laid off from my job and I was able to breath easy. Even though we have never made “big bucks” by living frugally we were able to put aside money and food, little-by-little, just in case. And now we are glad we did. And you know what? We are so used to conserving, we will be able to get along without my paycheck AND without tapping into our savings for at least a year as long as my wife holds her job. Thanks to being frugal. People thought it was strange when we shut off the Cable and went to antenna TV a year ago. Now we are glad. We saved about $700 and spent less time mindlessly stairing at the tube. My advice, from EXPERIENCE, being frugal will keep you from going broke or hungry and it just MIGHT lead to you actually becoming rich. BE frugal.

  99. I think other posters have said it well… I just want to point out two recent purchases of non-essentials that have improved the enjoyment of life in my home… the Roomba and a new electric grill for the balcony (apt fire codes prohibit anything but electric). It’s so nice to have the floors actually clean (all the mopping and sweeping seemed to be a losing battle, and my bare feet were always dirty, grr!) with so little effort. Ahhhh! And it’s SOOOO nice to have a man-toy that encourages my husband to take on cooking, a task that has always fallen exclusively to me or Micky D’s. I love grills! And I will steadfastly remain willfully ignorant of how that grill works. :)

    That said, our credit cards are paid off, we each have a healthy amount in our retirement, we have a healthy amount in our emergency fund, and we have our normal operating expenses covered. Now that we got to that point (very hard to get there!) we can afford smallish luxuries like a Roomba and little balcony grill – and we really appreciate them. If you think you are entitled to every luxury as a basic right, you wouldn’t appreciate them, I suspect.

    Oh, and I agree that Yahoo is predominantly populated by mouth-breathers. Very useful if you want to know how to pop pimples or good brands of lip gloss, but not so useful for any kind of real information (including things that could be googled in about 3 seconds!).

  100. Steve in W MA says:

    Frugal people have clear financial priorities and have the sexiness of self-assurance and solvency all wrapped up in one.

  101. Steve in W MA says:

    “Dude…you are only young once. And, hopefully, only stupid once.”

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