Updated on 10.15.11

Do Something Different

Trent Hamm

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

People often ask me why I seem to enjoy frugality so much. When I tell them the real reason, they usually don’t believe me.

The real reason is that I find doing the same thing over and over again boring. So, how does that relate to frugality?

Frugality, in a big way, opened my eyes to the overabundance of options available to me. Once I broke through that barrier of thinking that free things were inherently not all that much fun, the realm of possible activities became a lot wider.

I’ll use a simple example. Let’s say I wanted to have a delicious dinner and I was in the mood for something Italian. My first reaction would have been to go to a great Italian place in the Des Moines area like Centro. I’d inherently limit myself to the handful of the same upscale Italian restaurants in the area.

Now, if I have that impulse, I’ll often think about those restaurants, but I’ll also recognize that there are a lot of lesser-known and far less expensive family-owned restaurants in the area. I’ll also keep in mind that there’s a giant mountain of food ideas that I could make at home in my own kitchen, filling our house with delicious fragrances.

When you open yourself to the idea that it’s completely okay to cut back on your spending, the realm of possibilities opens wide for you.

I might look at clothes at a nice men’s clothing store, like I used to, but I’ll also look through the racks at Goodwill. I might peruse the new cars at a dealership when I think about replacing our Pilot in several years, but I’ll also check Craigslist and used places. I might buy a day pass at a gym, but I’ll also go walk and jog all over the place near where I live.

On the other hand, when I spent much more freely, I would often find myself doing the same handful of things over and over again. We’d go out to eat at the same handful of places. We’d shop at the same handful of stores. Everything was much more routine-oriented because we simply did what we thought people who had money were doing. We did what we thought was normal.

If “normal” involves spending money and doing the same things and going to the same places over and over again, I never want to be normal. I’d far rather be frugal and face a rainbow of options before me, ranging from going for a week without buying anything to sometimes splurging on something.

Every day is something different and new. There’s never a lack of something new to experience when you don’t immediately eliminate most of your options.

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  1. Troy says:

    This post is out in left field.

    Frugality doesn’t increase your options. It may force different options, but not more.

    In fact, it allows less options. Having money means you can spend it, or not spend it. Not having money only gives you the not, or shouldn’t, spend option.

    You state “Everything was much more routine-oriented because we simply did what we thought people who had money were doing.”

    That’s your problem…still now.

    First off, you didn’t have any money, so why did you care what those with money were doing, and why were you trying to emulate them. They weren’t the problem, you were.

    Second, When you have money, choices that involve spending have different and less severe repercussions than when you spend money you don’t have.

    But you know all this. It doesn’t really have anything to do with being frugal or not. It has to do with a narrow mindset which has permeated this blog and most of your posts.

    You can have lots of money and not care what others do with theirs.

    You can have lots of money and have lots of time to spend with your family.

    You can have lots of money and still be frugal.

    You can have lots of money and not be frugal, and still have lots of money.

    You don’t have to be poor, or frugal to somehow get it. You don’t need frugality to open your eyes or your choices.

    You simply need to use your mind.

    You find doing the same thing over and over again boring huh? Then change up your same thing over and over again posts.

  2. Ash says:

    Brilliant post! I have been embracing the frugal lifestyle for about a year now and like you find it all so exciting, and similar to you an opportunity to exercise creativity. I am living, because of pay cuts, with reduced money and instead of being dismayed, I find it a challenge, seeking out inexpensive recipes, cheaper means of transport and more economical entertainment vacations etc. Keep up the good work Trent. I love reading your articles and they brighten up my day and give me tons of encouragement.

  3. moom says:

    This explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Being frugal doesn’t give you more choices unless someone is really snobby and would never consider those cheap choices if they weren’t driven by frugality. I think you enjoy the challenge of enjoying yourself within the boundaries set by frugality.

  4. Valleycat1 says:

    Not considering the range of choices most of us are lucky enough to have is more due to complacency and laziness and expediency than whether we are being frugal.

  5. Susan says:

    I think you are correct in saying that we often look for solutions which involve money when truly what we need is something we already have or can obtain for no cost. It simply requires that we think creatively.

  6. joan says:

    Another post that makes me think, keep up the good work.

  7. deRuiter says:

    There are loads of frugal people who have lots of money. Read “The Millionaire next Door” for many examles of people who are rich and thrifty. This is a silly post! When Trent had money, he could have chosen to spend it better, to make the money go further, to spend less to get great results. Instread Trent limited his choices by refusing to explore other options.

  8. Gretchen says:

    I don’t understand why you enjoy shopping so much, even at this point and even if you don’t spend any money.

    This answer doesn’t make any sense to me.

  9. Riki says:

    Troy (#1) – Ditto.

  10. slccom says:

    How much are you driving that you are going to need to replace the brand-new Honda Pilot in a few years?

  11. Annie says:

    I think some people just don’t make enough money to not be frugal, they learn ways to save money and live with what they have. I think it’s great that you can still have a meaningufl life this way, i don’t think frugality makes you a better person than someone that spends money, they might have money to spend and they truly might enjoy whatever they are spending money on. I try not to look at someone and see if they are rich and that is why they eat out everynight and take nice vacations, thats their life and none of your business. I agree with Troy, frugality doesn’t increase your options. You have to increase your own options by working hard, getting rid of unnecessay debt, finding a career that you love doing and marketing yourself…just being frugal is not going to get you there.

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