The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference

– Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Every single day of our lives, we make choices that open some doors and close other ones.

We spend $40 on an evening out. It opens a social door, but it closes a door to a game of golf this weekend.

We focus on debt freedom. It opens a door to better monthly cash flow, but it closes the door to a lot of short term opportunities.

We have children. It opens the door to parenthood, but it closes the door on a lot of paths in life.

Many of the biggest choices we make in our lives close a lot of them. The choice to get married (or not). The choice to have children (or not). The choice to chase a certain career path. The choice to leave college. Yes, sometimes those choices open a lot of other doors for us, but often, our regret is mired in the doors that we’ve closed.

I believe in frugality because I believe it’s a door opener. The less you spend, the more free you are to choose the career path you want or to choose the lifestyle you want. It frees you from the constraints of indebtedness and teaches you life skills that you can apply no matter what you’re doing.

I’m frugal because I want fewer bills. I’m frugal because I want the ability to change my career path without having to worry as much about paying for everything. I’m frugal because I don’t want to be chained to a desk all day.

It might be that others find my goals and aspirations boring. My goal is to eventually move to the country and be as self-sufficient as possible so I can spend my later years doing volunteer work. I’d like to spend my later years helping severely disadvantaged children, a la charities like Jump for Joel, in whatever form that may take, whether it’s actually in Africa or other places helping the children or helping with fundraising here. Along that path, I want to be present for my children when they need me, and that doesn’t involve a job that ties me to my cell phone or requires me to constantly travel.

My ability to get there is paved with frugality. Every dime less that I spend is a dime closer to that goal. It’s closer to a paid-off mortgage. It’s closer to buying that country house, where I can raise chickens and goats and have a giant vegetable garden and a cellar to winterize what we save. It’s closer to being able to spend a lot of my time helping out such charitable groups.

I think everyone has a dream or two deep down inside of them that they’d love to take on. I’m sure your dream is an awesome one, one that makes you excited whenever you think about it, and it’s something that makes other life options seem really boring. That’s what you should be shooting for, regardless of what exactly that goal is. It’s a big giant life-affirming goal, and you should be chasing it with all your might.

Almost every dream is served by being frugal.

Why not just earn more? That’s certainly a big part of the equation as well. However, “earning more” is not something you can just turn on and off like a light switch. Earning more is often inherently tied to the individual talents and skill sets of the person involved, and paths to great earning success are as different as the snowflakes on a winter night.

Frugality, on the other hand, is universal. We all eat. We all need a roof over our heads. We all need clothes. There are ways to spend less in each of those areas, things that almost everyone can do. Plus, regardless of what happens to my income, I know that spending less will always help me out.

The goal is not to be cheap. The goal is to take where we’re at now and put us on a path that leads us to where we want to be, wherever that is.

Whatever you dream of, you inch closer to that every time you make the frugal choice.

That choice is up to you. Are you going to take the road less travelled?

Trent Hamm

Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.