Updated on 09.17.14

Frugal Living: The Perception Problem

Trent Hamm

In the comments of my recent review of You’re So Money, partgypsy left a very interesting comment:

My sister lusts after those kind of items, and spends all her disposable (and some non-disposable) income on clothes. She seeing eventually owning a home, or retirement as being out of her reach, but she can still buy some designer item which to her = success. There is almost this feeling of scarcity, well, I better buy this, because I might not have the money for it later, and besides this makes me happy and I might never be able to retire besides I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. The items are tied to happiness, fun, glamour, while life as seen in your money or your life is seen as a gulag-like abhorrent existence. It is too far to jump from there to here.

This comment, in one swoop, picks up several of the image problems that frugal living has. Let’s look at some of them.

The Perception: Frugality is boring and the opposite of fun.
In that comment above, the phrase “while life as seen in Your Money or Your Life is seen as a gulag-like abhorrent existence” really stuck out at me, clearly delivering the sentiment that frugality is simply not fun.

I understand where the idea comes from. If you make a big list of frugal tactics and a big list of things to do where money is no object, the list of things to do where money is no object will appear to be more fun. What’s more fun: a camping trip to a state park or a trip to the Bahamas? What’s more fun: a fuel-efficient Honda or a Lexus? It’s pretty obvious which list will have the fun factor when you look at it just on the surface.

The Reality: If “fun” requires you to spend a lot of money and accumulate debt, is it really fun?
But it’s extremely superficial to just look at the surface. There’s much more to a purchase than just the excitement of getting that neat new item. As I wrote a while back, the total experience of a purchase involves not just the high of going on that trip or getting that nifty new gadget, but it also involves the realization that maybe you’re not getting as much value from that item as you might have thought, as well as that awful feeling in your gut when you get the credit card bill in the mail.

Frugality isn’t about cheap. It’s about maximizing value for the buck. If my wife can buy a $50 handbag and get 70% of the enjoyment and quality out of it than someone who buys a $3,000 handbag, she’ll do it. That leaves her $2,950 to do whatever she wants – save it for something big in the future, perhaps? That $2,950 can make a big difference when buying a car, for example.

The Perception: Frugality is all about living in the future instead of the present.
When you’re being cheap, you’re trying to scrape a few more pennies off the table to hoard in your pocket for the future. Why not live for today and spend big? After all, as the comment above says, “besides I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.” If you spend every day scrimping and saving, it won’t do you much good at all if you die young.

I see this sentiment echoed a lot in my peers. Shiny new cars, a bag full of brand new golf clubs, exquisite home furnishings – they have it “all.” Quite often, I’m jealous of it. I’d like to have that bag full of shiny golf clubs. I’d like to have some nifty gadgets. Undeniably, there’s a fun factor there.

The Reality: Frugality is all about living in the present instead of the future.
But then I look at a slightly bigger picture. Instead of having those golf clubs, I can sleep well at night without debt hanging over my head. Instead of having some of those nifty gadgets, I can afford to travel to visit friends and family without skipping a beat. Instead of having the snappiest clothes, I don’t have to have a lump in my throat every time I hear about retirement.

Frugality isn’t about denying yourself every pleasure. It’s about having good sense. It’s about realizing that buying a $3,000 handbag means that you have $3,000 less to spend on something else that’s important. It’s about realizing that when you buy something on your credit card, you’ll have some sleepless nights knowing a huge debt is breathing down your neck.

To me, frugality is simply peace of mind. I never feel guilty about anything I spend, and I never get a sick feeling in my stomach when a credit card bill comes in the mail. I have the freedom to do most of the things I want to do and have the sense to realize that some things simply don’t have enough “bang for the buck.” It’s also a realization that little choices, those that shave a little bit off the top here and there without any change in quality, are the ones that give you all the freedom you could ever want. Frugality is about the life you want today: do you want an expensive handbag stuffed with monster credit card bills, or a similar but far less expensive bag without any debt bills at all?

The Perception: A “big” expense like a house is out of reach, so why bother reaching for it?
When I first started seriously thinking about a house purchase, I was completely stunned at the numbers I was coming up with. More than a thousand dollars a month in house payments? Are you kidding me? I couldn’t help but think of all of the stuff I would have to give up for that, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Thus, for years I convinced myself that a house was really out of reach for me, and with that settled, I was free to bust out the cash to buy golf clubs and iPods and Magic: the Gathering cards and all sorts of other things. That “big” expense was simply out of reach, so why even bother to try for it when there’s so much fun stuff to be had?

The Reality: A “big” expense like a house is only out of reach if you want it to be out of reach.
What I chose not to see then is that I could have easily been enjoying most of that stuff while also building a financial foundation for myself. I could have just purchased better “bang for the buck” golf clubs and put that extra wad of cash up for a house down payment while still enjoying golf. I could have bought just one iPod and enjoyed it. I could have not demanded a room with a view overlooking Hyde Park for six days while on our honeymoon in London, but still enjoyed a great honeymoon in the United Kingdom with her. Instead of running to the bookstore to buy every book I wanted, I could have stopped by the library and just checked some of them out.

Just a handful of changes like these – ones that wouldn’t affect my life much at all – and I would have had my down payment years earlier. These big things are reachable – telling yourself that they’re not is just an excuse to enjoy little tchotchkes right now instead of a big dream down the road.

The Perception: Saving a dollar here and a dollar there gets you nowhere.
I often get ridiculed when I post lists of specific frugality tips. “I’m not wasting my time just to save $2,” I’ll hear.

$2 on the surface isn’t much money at all. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the real expenses in life, so why should one ever bother to worry about it? Focus on the hundred dollar bills and the one dollar bills will follow, many people believe.

The Reality: Saving a dollar here and a dollar there is the surest way to getting rich.
I don’t believe that at all. If I can save $2 with a minute’s effort, I’ll do it every time. Why? That minute is spent earning a wage of $120 an hour after taxes. If you could repeat that minute over and over again over a year’s worth of work, you’d earn $249,600 after taxes. That, to me, is a minute worth spending.

That one individual tip that saves you $2 won’t do the trick, but a dozen tips like it begin to make a difference. If you start following them by the dozen, doing things like installing more energy efficient lighting and a programmable thermostat, writing a grocery list and using a good coupon strategy and sticking to both, or buying items in bulk to save cash over the long haul, you find yourself saving that $2 again and again and again.

Soon, that $2 becomes $100, then that $100 becomes a paid-off credit card. Even better, all along the way these tactics don’t force you to make a major lifestyle change. Buying toothpaste in bulk doesn’t mean you stop traveling. Installing a programmable thermostat doesn’t mean you have to give up dressing fashionably.

It juts means that you’re letting $2 here and $2 there add up to something much bigger.

Frugality has an image problem, but it’s only an image problem if you look at it from only one angle. If you look at the bigger picture, frugality lets you have your cake and eat it, too.

It’s just a matter of what you choose to see.

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  1. Claire says:

    Great post. I feel like a lot of my friends view my frugality as something that they wouldn’t want to have to do. (I’m a year younger than you Trent, also with two small kids.) It’s true – in order to save money the right way (for retirement, emergencies, etc) we do have to be frugal in our daily lives. But I look at them, and I know they make a lot more money than we do, and they still have money problems. It just makes me wonder – why is that better than what I do? So I have to spend a bit more time to save money – I bake our own bread, make hummus, etc – but if that means I can go to sleep at night without debt weighing me down, and that I feel a sense of hope for our future…it’s worth it.

  2. Dave says:

    I was recently car shopping, and did not choose the more expensive model that I would have preferred. A friend chided me for it, since I could have easily afforded it. I replied with the fact that I CAN afford nice things because I often choose not to purchase them. Frugality is about choice, not sacrifice.

  3. michael says:

    “What’s more fun: a camping trip to a state park or a trip to the Bahamas?”

    As an avid backpacker and scuba diver, I would say that they are equally fun — but a week for 2 in the Grand Canyon is about $500, while a week in the Caribbean (never been to Bahamas) is $3000.

    My solution: I go scuba diving less often than I go backpacking!

  4. kz says:

    “What’s more fun: a camping trip to a state park or a trip to the Bahamas? What’s more fun: a fuel-efficient Honda or a Lexus? It’s pretty obvious which list will have the fun factor when you look at it just on the surface.”

    I find this very funny – to me, the more fun option happens to be the opposite of what you assume in the post. And this was true even before I became as frugal as I am now. It’s not that I don’t understand what you’re saying, because I know a lot of people like this, but I guess it’s just one more sign that I was born to be frugal!

  5. Carrie says:

    I was thinking the same think as kz. I don’t understand what the big deal is about cars (and I work in the auto industry!). Give me something reliable that gets me from Point A to Point B and I’m happy. I’m a Honda Civic kind of girl.

  6. Carlos says:

    Hey Trent-

    A few thoughts…

    (1) Tech Blogger Jeremy Zawodny tried to read Your Money or Your Life, and couldn’t get through it. You may find his comments interesting: http://jeremy.zawodny.com/blog/archives/001568.html.

    (2) The trick is to pile up a mountain of money that reaches the sun :-) Absolutely every penny counts. For most people, that means spending (a lot) less. Start doing free/inexpensive outdoor things (walking, bike riding), and stop buying things. Try it for a month; the savings will amaze you.

    (3) Comment #2 is on point. Frugality is about negotiating from a position of strength (which requires incredible will-power and discipline). When my wife and I were in the market to buy her ring, I walked out of a number of jewelers, since they didn’t have *exactly* what we were seeking (both from a price and merchandise perspective). They occasionally followed us outside, offering better pricing, since we were willing to say “no” to them, and *not* willing accept something “close”.

    (4) I’ve bought exactly three things (other than the house) in my adult life that (in retrospect) were worth the money:

    (a) A Garmin GPS, purchased in the year 2000. I paid $1300 for it, use it every day, and am no where close to needing a replacement for it.

    (b) A ring for the Mrs. It look us nearly 5 months to find the ring she wanted (pink diamond) at a price lower than our house cost :-) She loves it, and, it’s truly made her very happy. It’s been a lot of years, and she smiles every time she puts it on her finger. Happy wife = happy life.

    (c) A moutain bike for $800 (13 years ago). I get my money’s worth every year. Maintenance is relatively inexpensive, and it’s provided over a thousand hours of entertainment (and fitness).

    Think about what purchases have been worthwhile; my guess is that they’re few and far between.

    The less you buy, the less you want to buy. I believe the converse is also true (e.g. the more your buy, the more you want to buy)…

  7. Stephanie says:

    I honestly don’t care how people spend their money until it starts impacting me as a taxpayer. If someone can’t purchase a house because they like having the latest fashions or tech gadgets, good for them. I just don’t want to pay for their stupidity when they file for bankruptcy or need welfare because they forgot to save their money for unexpected hard times.

    I will be frugal for myself and not care about what others think nor should they care about what I do in my life to be frugal.

    Live and let live… just don’t expect for the frugal to subsidize the non-frugals.

  8. Julie says:

    I think this is an interesting post. I find that many people’s perceptions of frugality are that either you have to be that way because of your income or that you are just cheap, as opposed to just wanting to stay out of debt or saving up for something. Then, if something is said to change that perception, a totally different opinion or perception is formed.

    We are pretty frugal with our money, not overly so, but I do budget/plan a lot and we don’t buy something unless we’ve researched it and saved up for it. We go overseas to visit family every year, which gets expensive, so we forego many other “luxuries” in order to do this (while also saving for emergencies, retirement, and staying out of debt). While some of our friends think we are very frugal and smart with money, others who only really know about our trips overseas and not our daily lives, think we are wealthy (far from the truth).

    Oh, and I’m with Carrie on the car thing….I don’t get it either. Personally I’d rather just take public transport so I can read while I’m getting somewhere. Way less stress.

  9. DJ says:

    I get what you’re saying, I really do, but the fact of the matter is, frugality is safety and comfort and responsibility. Doing exactly what you want, whenever you want with no responsibilities is fun. No one can deny that (well, no one with an imagination.) The problem is, it’s not sensible, practical or feasible for 90% of America. By spending however much they want, people live in the fantasy that they can have or do whatever they want. The truth is they can’t. Frugality means being an adult, really. Which is, admittedly, NOT FUN! But it is empowering. And I think that’s important.

  10. Shanel Yang says:

    I think “living frugal” is often mistakenly viewed by the general public as “living poor.” I wonder what can be done to educate the public about the difference? It’s an important distinction, but a hard one to teach, especially to young people.

    Look how long and hard various well-meaning groups have tried to educate people on the dangers of smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating to surprisingly little effect! It’s not going to be easy for Americans to equate the frugal life with the good life, but blogs like this one are definitely fighting the good fight! Thanks!

  11. AK says:

    What an interesting post!

    I think one of the main reasons that frugality has a less “glam” image than that $3000 handbag is that no one is spending copious amounts of money advertising frugality. Clearly, no one is paying Giselle to pose half-naked next to a bucket of homemade laundry detergent.

    In my opinion, advertising directly shapes our ideas of what is fun or boring. There is nothing inherently more fun about a Lexus than a used Civic (mine goes pretty fast :) ), but large companies want us to perceive that by simply having a Lexus, we will have more fun / be more fun people. Sure it’s a “nicer” car, but after driving it for a month, the Lexus will inevitablely become just as mundane to you as the Civic.

    For me, as cheesey as this sounds, frugality is about learning to value things that are not advertised, like time with friends and family, home-cooked meals, the beauty of an aging piece of furniture, etc.

  12. !wanda says:

    A lot of your post assumes that being in debt is intrinsically stressful. That’s probably true of anyone who reads your blog, but I bet at least some of the people do get deep in debt and even have to default don’t get stressed about their debts.

  13. Faculties says:

    Instead of “living frugal,” I think we should term it “having money.” Because that’s what it is.

    And where did I read the wise line about saving $1? Maybe here, maybe on some other website. Anyway, it said, “You can save $1000 one time or you can save $1 a thousand times.” Meaning chances to save $1000 don’t come along very often, but chances to save $1 come along every day. Every time I get the $9.95 meal instead of the $10.95 meal, or turn off lights I’m not using, I think, “There’s a little bit more toward my $1000.”

  14. Emily H. says:

    The grains of truth behind these perceptions are the reasons I can’t get behind taking every single opportunity to save a dollar or two. It makes me feel poor; it makes me feel deprived; it’s no fun.

    It works a lot better for me to take out enough from each paycheck for my 401(k), enough for my emergency fund, enough for my house-down-payment fund – and figure out how to have as much fun as possible on what’s left over. Which definitely doesn’t involve Coach handbags, on my salary, but does involve the occasional frappuccino and new comic book.

  15. bleh bleh says:

    I am frugal, and could not seem to care less what others think about it. It works for me, and I assume whatever they do works for them.

  16. KJ says:

    Great post, Mister Trent.

    Regarding frugal choices: I often use Amy Dacyczyn’s Cost Per Wow concept — is a $70 pair of jeans _ten times_ more wow-inducing than the $7 I bought at the thrift store, which are honestly super-cute and fit very nearly as well?

    This logic also means that I shop the farmer’s markets for gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. Sometimes spending a _little_ extra is worth every penny. :-)

  17. Crystal says:

    Living frugally can be fun! We need to correct the image problem. Check out my new blog on frugal living: http://livingthefrugallife.com/

    Thanks Trent!

  18. BonzoGal says:

    Dave @ #2- when you say “frugality is a choice”, you hit the nail on the head. I don’t feel like I’m suffering when I’m frugal, because I CHOOSE to be frugal. I feel more in control of my destiny when I choose the way my hard-earned paycheck moves me me the life I really want.

    Great post, Trent!

  19. Valerie says:

    Great article! I often struggle with the whole concept of “live for today”. When it’s an issue for me, I often think of a quote Suze Orman said once. She basically said that if you *don’t* plan for your future, stay out of debt, etc. you should be so lucky as to get hit by that bus!

  20. Kathy says:

    The best is when a clerk at a high end store (Coach) makes a comment about the nice classic Coach purse you are still carrying.

    I view buying that coach purse as a very frugal and wise decision considering I have had it for 11 years now and it looks great when you shine it up.

  21. A.M.B. A. says:

    In general, one needs MATURITY and SELF WORTH to embrace the frugal/have money lifestyle. Once you have delayed gratification AND no need for others’ approval set, frugality makes sense (and cents). This may happen when you’re 20, 30, 40, 50, or never. If you’re lucky, you had it in you as a kid/teen.

  22. Kate says:

    People really pay $3,000 for a handbag? Wow….

  23. I think that partgypsy’s sister is trying to fill a void.

  24. Andy says:

    AMEN, TRENT! I am willing to sacrafice a lot of things including gadegets, luxary cars, luxary vacations etc., for a piece of mind and my house. Not worrying about money and sitting on my back patio enjoying a beautiful evening with my beautiful wife-to-be are both worth millions and millions to me.

  25. Sara says:

    I’m trying very hard to think of a way to convince people in an acquisitive/label-oriented stage of life that being frugal isn’t lame. And I’m not coming up with a single realistic one.

    I think that person has to be able to fully envision themselves in an entirely different life to change their money values. And just seeing someone else living frugally isn’t enough for most. Perhaps the best we can do is provide a decent example to build on for if/when they seek a change.

    In the meantime, I think frugal folk should worry less about how they’re perceived. As long as you’re happy in your choices, it’s easier to love our more materialistic sisters for all their cool qualities than getting annoyed with them or how they view us (speaking from experience with that).

  26. Joe says:

    Reminds me of this quote by David Ogilvy “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife” lol
    When will women start realizing that frugal is sexy ??

  27. Mike R says:

    “I’m not wasting my time just to save $2,”
    Reminds me of the parable of the Talents, how we deal with the little things says alot about how we will deal with the big things. We get $1000 or $2 our attitudes and habits don’t magically change because of the amount

  28. Sounds like partgypsy’s sister has seen Sex in the City too many times. I saw it, but then again I have no lust for shoes. I would imagine it would be hard for women (and some men) to watch with all that couture going on every 10 seconds.

    I think frugality is inspiring and creative. It’s way more interesting figuring out how to find designer duds at rock bottom prices than actually going out and paying full price. Same with airfare, travel, and entertainment. I’ve been on 4 trips this year and haven’t had to pay for any of them by combining business with pleasure.

  29. Russ says:

    I’m with Stephanie on this as I too don’t care what other people do with their money as long as it doesn’t affect me. The sad thing is more and more the spendthrift’s lifestyle is affecting me. Their irresponsibility and huge numbers have the government coming to me for more and more money to help them out.

    I’ve never really solved the problem of the ant and the grasshopper. Just what does the ant who worked all year say to the starving grasshopper who played all and what happens when there are too many grasshoppers and not enough ants?

  30. Ranga says:

    Stephanie: That’s a bold comment you posted. I agree with you, esp on the bankruptcy, welfare issues.

    Trent: I have been waiting for such an article for a long time. Although I am unperturbed by people’s reactions on my frugality, I felt many do not have the right perception on frugality. I trust this article will make them think.

  31. Todd says:

    We need a shift in our images of what the ideal life is. I’ve always valued simplicity, and I never quite understood the whole concept of glamour and grotesque extravagance that seems to represent a “normal” life these days.

    Remember the opening of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood? Yeah, I’m that old. When I was a kid in the seventies, I absolutely loved that little model village and I imagined living in a little house just like Mr. Rogers’ house and having neighbors drop by and show me neat things. A few weeks ago my kids happened to see the show on PBS, and I said, “Let’s watch this.” Immediately, at the opening, they said, horrified, “He lives in that dumpy little house?! That’s not a very good neighborhood, is it?”

    I was crushed. Then I realized that all of the images they see of “normal” American people on most of their Nickelodeon-variety kids’ programs depict families living in huge houses with unlimited spending money and an endless life of going to malls, restaurants, movie theaters, and other commercial hangouts. My kids can’t even begin to fathom the appeal of a simple little life in a small house with homemade toys and a speedy delivery guy bringing them the mail to their door. It might as well be Mars to them. Sometimes I wish we’d never bought this house and moved to this “nice” suburban neighborhood because of the “quality” schools. Boy, do I feel like a failure as a parent!

  32. danielle says:

    we live frugally so we can spend $$ on what means the most to our family. I’m happy to drive a car w/ a book value under $2k and some rust in order to have:

    -good wine
    -good food
    -amazing experiences

    my parents did the same for me growing up and I will NEVER forget the vacations and amazing dinners, etc, but the “stuff”- no way! I have no clue what they got me for my 12th b-day but sure as heck remember we went to Bermuda that year!!!

  33. Bonnie says:

    Trent I must say that your blog is extremely well written, and I really enjoy reading your posts.

    I am fortunate to have had an older sil that introduced me to the wonderful world of yard sales and thrift stores in my early 20’s. I still got into debt but slipping into frugal living was a lot easier than I first thought it would be. I also loved the challenge of doing a monthly budget and still do. I’m a nerd as Dave would say. I never looked back but I do spend some money on stuff but just not very big items rarely. My inlaws are very frugal so I am still learning a lot from them.

    The other big money saver for us is to delay gratification. What I do is force myself to save for that bigger ticket item. We have the money to buy most of them now but by making ourselves wait the the desire to buy it usually fades. My husband wanted a 32″ Sony HDTV with our stimulus check money. We decided back then we would wait. Well by the time we got the money, he didn’t care anymore and now doesn’t want it. We just bought a nice Sanyo 32″ flatscreen (it’s the big square older kind) about 3 years ago for $235 on sale. It has a gorgeous picture so he agreed the tv isn’t necessary. We are still buying a laptop near Christmas this year. I prefer to wait until I can snag one at a great price. I have my money saved so that want will not fade but we have the patience to wait for the great deal.

  34. Lurker Carl says:

    Frugal is an image problem when you make it into one. The spendthrifts are too preoccupied with their bills to pay much attention.

    Those business suits that cost $10 each at Goodwill look just as nice as when the orginal owner paid $300 each for them. A late model automobile that cost 50% less than the brand new one won’t affect neighborhood property values one little bit. Your kids won’t love you any less if you bought them a huge box of toys for $5 at a yard sale. No one will suspect your Carribean cruise was 80% below retail. A big vegetable garden in your back yard won’t raise eyebrows because you share a bit of the harvest as you process the bounty into that deep freeze. The neighbors don’t know you make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener, repair torn zippers, or glue loose soles back onto your shoes. And they are probably jealous if you’re handy around the house.

    No one really cares whether or not if you have cable TV with all the premium channels or an iPhone with every feature active or any of the latest gadgets or gizmos. Unless you’re rendering lard for another batch of soap on your front porch or caught salvaging food from the grocery store dumpster, few people will know that you’re frugal unless you tell them.

    And it’s nice to maintain a similar lifestyle in both good times and bad because you have been living well below your means anyway. Especially in retirement!

  35. Lisa says:

    wanda is right that the sister in this actual scenario does NOT get a lump in her throat or remain sleepless at night with worry like most of us. Since she is using some “non-disposable” income, I assume she is carrying credit card debt.

    What might motivate the sister to get out of debt and stay out is totaling the amount of interest she is paying banks each month. Then she can ask herself what she would have LIKED to have spent that money on. For myself, $800 going to interest in one month would equal airfare to Europe every month. At $450/month I would tell myself, ‘that is money I could have spent on a leather coat Every Month.’ My suggestion is to think about the money going to the bank in interest as money the sister could have spent on even more cool stuff for herself (though after finally getting out of consumer debt she then may have the desire to stay out).

    That approach is what worked for me. I even had a graph showing how, month by month, the amount I was paying in interest to banks was going down. I just had to run the calculations to see how many months till I was debt free. In other words, it helped motivate me to get that MAD feeling that the banks were getting a lot of my money each month and to see those numbers each month.

  36. tightwadfan says:

    When I look at my spendthrift acquaintances I think it is so true some part of them doesn’t expect to live very long. They do seem to feel that they should have instant gratification, because they could die tomorrow.

    I used to try to pass on financial advice, I thought that others were making financial mistakes out of ignorance, as I had. But after watching my advice go in one ear and out the other, now I think that maybe there are some people who are open to living within their means, and others who will always see delayed gratification as a “gulag”. These people may need to hit rock bottom before they will change.

    As for the idea that these people aren’t stressed by their debt, most of the people i know who are in debt spend extraordinary amounts of time juggling their debt – calling the phone company or utility company or the landlord to get an extension, looking for new credit cards with lower rates, applying for home equity loans, trying to get approved on that new car loan, etc. It takes up a lot of their time and there is always a period of anxiety as they wait for approval on a new form of credit.

  37. Fiona says:

    In a brand meeting last week, my colleagues and I were discussing whether we would like our company (a financial services provider) to be regarded as ‘resourceful’. I supported the proposal – surely our customers and shareholders would be comforted to know we are careful with their funds and don’t spend needlessly. One colleague, however, was vehemently opposed – to him, resourceful meant cheap and cheap meant eating unpalatable leftovers and saving string and didn’t marry up with the image of strength, stability and ‘can do’ that we both want our company to project. Before readers conclude my colleague is a crazy spendthrift with a bad case of consumer fetishism, I must say that he is an older man now enjoying the rewards of years of hard graft in a high paying industry and a well-advised savings and investment plan. He shares his material and other resources generously with family, friends, workmates and the community. He is a lovely guy. Given his age and what I know of his upbringing, I speculate that he equates resourcefulness with the hand me down shoes and darned pants he wore in childhood and what looks, from our relatively well off modern view, like poverty. As his present situation demonstrates, he and I agree about the wisdom of husbanding resources now to enjoy a comfortable future. But his early experiences of scarcity have left him convinced that resourceful is not how he wants others to see him.

  38. Rob says:

    I was recently quite dismayed to discover that because I have saved all my life, lived frugally, driven modest used cars, live in a modest home, that I am not significantly penalized with college financial aid. I just filled out the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) form for several Universities, and on average, I will be required to pay roughly $13K per year more than someone with the exact same income, but no savings. Someone who has chosen to buy new cars, eat out every night, lived for today only, and manage to invest and save nothing, will get an additional $65K in college free aid. I have a high income (my wife and I earn approx. $120K together. But we are penalized and will actually pay $65K more for college than the same income couple who live in a $700K house, drive new cars…..and haven’t put away a dime. Both of us in our mid 40s. Something is seriously wrong with that. Doing the right thing with regard to finances screws you when it comes time for financial aid. I’d love to see your comments on this subject in a future article. Thanks,


  39. kellykelly says:

    The image problem comes from the way many frugal people live their frugality “out loud.”

    You may think the neighbors don’t have to know you make your own detergent, etc., but I think most people who are “into” frugality can’t help themselves. They have to talk about it.

    And it’s boring.

    And unless you are very articulate, it will either confuse or turn off the listener.

    I’ll take a stab at an example. Years ago, out to lunch with my friend. She was fussing and fussing over whether or not to get cheese on her burger for an extra 30 cents.

    Yet, as I sat there watching her have her frugrality existential crisis meltdown, I was thinking about the 10 cans of $8 (each!) high-end hair spray she had at home.

    Watching this display of the frugal lifestyle was a huge turnoff.

    It’s like people on a diet. Go out to eat with them — you hear aout “I was good today because I didn’t have bread” Or “a carrot is worth 3 points” or “I really want the pasta but I had noodles two days ago …”

    I mean it all looks very stressful and boring.

    If the frugal movement wants to recruit more followers, the leaders or the PR people (authors/speakers) etc. need to follow the AA philosophy of “attraction, not promotion.”

    Speaking of AA, the frugal movement could learn a lot from all he slogans AA uses, from “HALT” to all the others. Where are the quick little sayings that express the BENEFITS of frugality?

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

  40. Michiko says:

    Being frugal is not easy. It does take effort, however minor,on the part of the consumer. And like Trent said, being a spendthrift can be a lot of fun. That said, I wouldn’t trade the feeling of accomplishment I feel when I look at my savings for a day of shopping.

    Ultimately, fruguality has opened my eyes to see that I have more control than I originally thought. And oh what a feeling that is!

  41. Carrie says:

    I think kellykelly hit the nail on the head. A lot of people who preach frugality come across as just being cheap and not having any fun. It’s as if they don’t balance the present AND the future. Too often, “frugal” people sound like they know the price of everything and the value of nothing. I used to be on the “cheap” side of the spectrum to the detriment of my personal relationships and mental health. Now that I’ve loosened the purse strings a bit (while still saving 40% of my gross income), I feel like I’ve hit a nice balance where I can enjoy splurges without feeling guilty. I’m willing to forego a fancy car, which doesn’t matter to me, for other nice things that I DO love. I feel that frugality should be about maximizing VALUE for your dollar (I love the “cost-per-wow” mindset). It is possible to be frugal and still live luxuriously. A dinner of pasta, grilled chicken, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a glass of red wine made at home watching the sunset beats any restaurant dinner, and it’s still frugal. Foregoing junk purchases makes it more likely that your home will look like those serene, uncluttered spaces you see in magazines. A few well-made, classic pieces of clothing paired with funky accessories from flea markets exudes quirky style with more personality than any dress-by-numbers magazine spread. Playing with my band at a bar is much more fun than being in the audience buying overpriced drinks (and I get my drinks for free!). Now that I’ve hit a balance, I don’t feel like my life is missing anything. More importantly, I demonstrate to others that being frugal can mean living MORE. As kellykelly said, “attraction, not promotion.” Make frugality look attractive, and people will follow.

  42. Trent,

    You’ll want to check out this article from “The American Interest” on specific challenges to a culture of thrift in the U.S. http://www.the-american-interest.com/ai2/article.cfm?Id=458&MId=20 It’s great. David Brooks summarizes the article in his NY Times column today. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/10/opinion/10brooks.html

  43. kellykelly says:

    Trent, one more thing …

    You write:

    “I never feel guilty about anything I spend … ”

    A week or two ago, you posted about meeting some goal and, as planned, buying some $50 game to reward yourself.

    Then you admitted that you had buyer’s remorse, ie, guilt.

    THAT is a huge disincentive for following frugality. The fact that, so easily, it can become a lifestyle where the only “peace” (absence of guilt and stress) is at the deprivation end of the continuum.

    Sure, I’ll sew my socks and grow my own food and reuse coffee filters so I can go to the Bahamas.

    Then the whole time I’m at the Bahamas I get to feel “guilty” or “irresponsible” or “spendthrifty” for spending such a huge wad of money, even if I get a discounted trip.

    I think it is a rare, rare person who has the emotional control to allow themselves to get excited BOTH by saving money and spending it.

    My friend was very obese. He actually went into the hospital to lose the weight (this was back before all the weight loss surgeries were common). Once out of the hospital, he continued to lose weight, following a very structured eating plan.

    A year later, I saw him. He had gained a lot back. He told me IT WASN’T WORTH IT. Having to live that way, watching every single morsel every single hour of his life, was just not worth it.

    You know what? I got it. I totally understood what he meant. And I think the same applies to many people around the issue of money.

    Thought this was worth adding to the discussion.

  44. My.cold.dead.hands says:

    I think that kellykelly has a good point. Frugality seems to miss many of the appeals of living in the now, when there is no reason for that as well as the fact that your day-to-day life becomes one of meticulously running the numbers for even the most ordinary activities. I’m frugal and until you have done these things for a while they ARE a pain. It feels better to spend money without having to account for every move.

    Most frugal people explain their lifestyle with lofty but very obscure goals that can infact be derailed. “I’ll retire comfortably”, “I’ll have my mortgage paid off in 8 years”, “My kids college will be paid for” are all great goals, but compared to a fancy car TODAY or a flat screen TV TODAY they are still very abstract.

    I think that people would see frugal living differently if they saw concrete short term gains like “I brown bagged it for 6 months and bought my flat screen with the money I saved” or we did without cable for a year and took a cool vacation to the carribean. Those are the things that hit home and they still can be done within one’s current stage of life.

  45. kellykelly says:

    And it is not just about the fancy car or big screen tv.

    I would just LOVE to have air conditioning.

    Or have my plumbing fixed in the basement so I could use my washing machine again (I am tired of going to the laundromat.)

    I would really love to have a new computer chair. This one makes my neck hurt, and the seat cushion is ripped. It makes me FEEL POOR to sit in this chair.

    But I have decided that the AC, the washing machine, and the chair are luxuries.

    I am choosing to put AC, WM and Chair money toward other things or experiences.

    That is also frugality. In fact, I would guess that my examples are much more the rule for people who intentionally spend on X rather than on Y. It is about the mundane stuff of life costs more than the fancy TVs and cars.

  46. Bay says:

    “Frugality isn’t about denying yourself every pleasure. It’s about having good sense.”

    This is key for my frugality philosophy. My husband is not on board with anything that denies him certain pleasures (the daily energy drink, ew, certain new toys, etc.) But since I search for the best deals, coupon, and live as frugal as possible we are able to afford those things and not spiral into debt. I think having good sense is key. If someone starts their frugal mindset with extremism, it is also not likely to last!

  47. Ed Webb says:

    David Brooks in today’s NYT is in your corner, it seems:

    I often disagree with Brooks, but I can’t fault anything here, apart from is failure to identify the advertising industry as a specific and significant contributor to this problem.

  48. Caroline says:

    Don’t EVER stop telling us about your frugal ways – I’ve gotten some good ideas from you!

  49. favoritenephew says:

    It’s interesting to imagine what America would be like if a critical mass of people adopted frugality in their lives. The lead story on Washingtonpost.com today discusses how consumers are changing their driving and spending habits in the face of $4 gas. There’s a quote about economists fearing a drop in consumer spending and how this will “drag on the economy”. What’s your take Trent? Would a newly frugal American public drag down the economy? I’d like to think that a frugal American public would move towards well-made, long-lasting consumer goods (Trent’s knives, for instance). Of course, frugality’s image problem still has to be overcome but high fuel prices seem to be causing rapid changes in people’s behavior.

  50. partgypsy says:

    To interject I hope that I didn’t make out my sister to be too one-dimensional. To give you a backdrop she got a scholarship and went to art school but dropped out before completing her degree. For a time was able to support herself with artistic activities, initially selling paintings at both group and a solo shows, and by doing faux finishing, mural work for commercial, business places. Although I feel she is very talented she is not at all business minded; although she would have a windfall some months, wouldn’t save it for lean months, and did nothing to sustain or generate new business. I feel she is very talented, but never developed a strong work ethic of showing up to work on time, etc. (this may be in part because she was so talented and in school smart, she got away with lax habits which don’t work so well in the real world). At some point she decided that it is too difficult to make a living doing art, so now works in the restaurant business. She makes ok money, but is clearly not happy, so uses her money to “reward” herself. So yes there are issues there.

    To her credit when she was an artist she actually lived extremely simply and didn’t care about money at all. In retrospect she also got very little support and actual negative feedback from our family when she was doing the art thing, rather than encouraging her to try to make a go of it. She doesn’t have credit card debt (but she does spend all the money she does have). The only debt she has is a couple long standing medical bills from when she didn’t have health insurance. So it’s complicated. I feel for her because in an alternate world she would still be doing her art, happy, but that’s not where she’s at. When she is doing artistic activities she seems truly happy, but feels she can never get back to the level she was at previously while holding down a full time job, just has to figure out what kind of job to try to get that she hates the least.

  51. Doug says:

    kellykelly makes interesting points. Frugality comes in different forms for different people (no surprise there). I consider myself frugal: I save 20% of my income and put an extra $500/mo on my mortgage. But I wouldn’t be without AC, WM and Chair. The choices we make depend on one’s circumstances, one’s perspective, and one’s goals. I save money so that we can take a two-week vacation each year. I look for good value in accommodations and we eat reasonably well, and I don’t feel guilty about spending the money. My point is that the scale of frugality has a wide range, and is not one size fits all. $3,000 handbag? My wife’s leather bag has served her for 10 years, including a trip to a harness (horse) shop to repair the strap ($3). I still wear a suit that I bought for a wedding 35 years ago. I resole dress shoes. I drive a Focus, my wife has a Corolla. But give up the A/C? Not me, but more power to kellykelly!

  52. OneLoveTwoAccounts says:

    So, here is a problem I see (and, frankly, struggle with myself) in the frugal community. Since we all have different things/experiences that are of high value to us, people are often “judged out” of frugality before they can give it a real chance.
    Here’s what I mean: I imagine if the only think I posted here was that I had a $6k credit card bill this month I’d be chided to the point where I’d have no interest in communicating with this community ever again. If I was asked what that was spend on and said 3 plane tickets and a hotel (to Finland, for those who are curious), I’m sure I’d be informed it wasn’t the frugal or responsible choice and that I could have gotten a much better deal for a vacation, or I could have waited and not put it on a cc, etc. If I were a “first time frugaler” that would make me feel that frugality is a fringe group determined to live in deprivation and reject anyone who doesn’t want to Submerge into that practice COMPLETELY (that’s the part I struggle with, I willingly wait & save for some things, but I have a hard time brown-bagging when I already have solid retirement funds, great credit, a low mortgage, and still have the money left over… – oh, and I don’t feel the need to run screaming from my job, which seems to be a big motivator for people here).
    So my point is this, many people get bad feelings about frugality because the first frugal they meet probably tells them what they “should be doing better” in their life to not waste money. There may be areas where this person would cut back, but not the ones the frugal person pushed, and so not wanting to here more “I can do it better” talk, they walk away forever.
    OH, and before my comment goes off in the wrong direction because people can’t resist; the $6K is already in the bank to pay the cc, there is a specific reason we’re going to Finland THIS YEAR, and every dime I ever save is put in the bank with fantasies of world travel, so I AM living the frugality we discuss.

  53. Steven says:

    A reporter once asked Warren Buffett why he didn’t buy expensive suits. His reply: “Even an expensive suit would look cheap on me.”

    Yes, it is all about perception.

  54. Ro says:

    Very good post and very interesting comments!

  55. Linda says:

    I don’t usually agree with David Brooks’ political opinions, but his column on the economic problems of this country was right on the mark. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/10/opinion/10brooks.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

    What happened to frugality?

  56. luvleftovers says:

    “I was recently quite dismayed to discover that because I have saved all my life, lived frugally, driven modest used cars, live in a modest home, that I am not significantly penalized with college financial aid. I just filled out the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) form for several Universities, and on average, I will be required to pay roughly $13K per year more than someone with the exact same income, but no savings. Someone who has chosen to buy new cars, eat out every night, lived for today only, and manage to invest and save nothing, will get an additional $65K in college free aid. I have a high income (my wife and I earn approx. $120K together. But we are penalized and will actually pay $65K more for college than the same income couple who live in a $700K house, drive new cars…..and haven’t put away a dime. Both of us in our mid 40s. Something is seriously wrong with that. Doing the right thing with regard to finances screws you when it comes time for financial aid. I’d love to see your comments on this subject in a future article. Thanks,


    Rob @ 6:17 am June 10th, 2008 (comment #38)”

    Is this free aid or a loan? I find it hard to believe that it would be ‘free’. I had no cash, no car, no property or house while I went to school, but could only get loans as I ‘made too much money’ to get grants. I really don’t make a lot of money. I’ll be paying back these loans forever!

  57. Jen says:

    I’m sure that kellykelly has already considered this, but….

    If the chair causes you pain, it could damage your health as well.

    If the plumbing is broken, it could cause damage to your home.

    Both situations are painful and expensive.

    (No comment on the A/C. :-) I live without it in Chicago.)

  58. Jesica says:

    It’s possible to LOOK and FEEL glamourous while still saving a good amount of money. It’s all about choices.

    I’m 22, I’m a clothing designer. I have expensive handbags and lust after pricey objects… it’s my career to sell amazingly expensive clothing to people! Frugality doesn’t exactly go with the territory but I make it work.

    I don’t buy cheap things, but what I do buy is quality and will stay around for years and years. I have absolutly no debt, live in a roommate situation, have started playing “the grocery game”, put away 10% of my income in a Roth 401k, and just opened a Vanguard mutual fund acct to save up for a home in the future. I also worked my way through school to totally pay it off in full.

    You just have to pick and choose what is important to you vs. what you are willing to cut costs on. Clothing is important to me, so I save up to splurge. My dog is important to me, I’d never hesitate to spend on vet bills. Housing is important to me, so I sacrifice in the short term to save up for a home. Food I’m willing to be cheap with, so I clip coupons and eat the same meals week after week to cut costs. I never spend on electronic gadgets and instead of buying a new car to replace my crappy one I’m taking the bus to work.

    And by starting all of this investing at age 21, I’ve set myself up so that I’ll never really have to sacrifice much to save… compound interest will do all the hard work for me.

  59. Chiara says:

    Great comments here! I totally agree that the point of any “proselytizing” we do to the frugal ways (if asked, right?) should emphasize how individual it can be. I think a lot of people continue living unconsciously in spendthrift ways because it seems so *hard* to figure out how to be frugal. And then specific examples can sound awful to different ears – I like the challenge of super-coupon strategies and getting free drugstore stuff with rebates, etc, but that might sound like a huge drag to someone else. But then the idea of making my own laundry soap sounds like a big mess that I have no interest in.
    Really I think frugality is starting with the big basics, i.e., don’t buy a house or car (or designer handbag) that you can’t afford, and the rest is a combination of necessity and interest.

  60. Kari says:

    OneLoveTwoAccounts (#52) Have a WONDERFUL time in Finland! I lived there for many, many years & don’t regret a day. It is a wonderful place that I have very fond memories of & would go back in a heartbeat if the opportunity should come along.

  61. OneLoveTwoAccounts says:

    Thanks Kari (#60) Specifically, we’re going to Lahti: anything that is “not to miss”?

  62. Keith says:

    Frugality to me is rarely paying full retail for anything.

    Price takes a back seat to quality and value in whatever I buy. I will spend extra money on just about anything to get better quality and value. If it is the $3,000 designer handbag, as long as the quality is good and I get it for much less than $3,000 (say $2,400), then it may hold great value, especially if it lasts for many years.

    How can I get the $3,000 handbag for $2,400? Look on Craigslist and similar sites. I have approached people on the street or in my office with items I want and offered them a price I want to pay, even if the item is not for sale. This is actually the best way I have found to get the best deals…offering to buy something I desire from someone, even if it is not for sale.

    If I am unable to get a mark-down from full retail, I either forego the purchase, or I ask for additional items to sweeten the deal and make it a better value for me.

    By waiting for the deal I want, I find many incredible deals. Also, by purchasing for less than retail, I always seem to have money ready when I want or need to buy something.

  63. Keith says:

    I think people often confuse Frugality and Miserly. They are very different animals.

    A miser is a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts. The term derives from the Latin miser, meaning “poor” or “wretched,” comparable to the modern word “miserable”.

    Frugality is the practice of

    acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner, and
    resourcefully using already owned economic goods and services, to
    achieve a longer term goal.[1]
    Contents [hide]
    1 Strategies for frugality
    2 Philosophy
    2.1 References
    3 See also
    4 External links

    [edit] Strategies for frugality
    Common strategies of frugality include the reduction of waste, curbing costly habits, suppressing instant gratification by means of fiscal self-restraint, seeking efficiency, avoiding traps, defying expensive social norms, embracing free (as in gratis) options, using barter, and staying well-informed about local circumstances and both market and product/service realities.

  64. oneofnine says:

    I can’t help but remember the recent post regarding a clothesline (one of the most frugal choices I’ve ever made) and the supposed associations with poverty. I still find it incredible that such a frugal method for saving money was decried as a representation of the supremely poor.

    Obviously everyone has their own perceptions and makes choices based on their own values, but since when did line-drying clothes become so odiously unfashionable, even for those who consider themselves “frugal?” Emphasizing the “$2 plus $2 plus $2” in which increase exponentially over time, while disregarding a viable money-saving that could save $20-$50 a month in energy costs, leads me to coin a new phrase for this attitude: “the frugal snob.”

  65. Mike says:

    I echo Keith (comment #62) on the quality over price sentiment, except I’d like to give a more practical example. I’m a 21, nearly 22-year old college student with no credit debt (but a fair amount of loan debt) and I still recognize that the higher price tag is worth it in certain cases. If I can buy a $25 t-shirt that is stylish, will not shrink or fade in the wash, and will remain comfortable, I will always choose it over a $10 t-shirt that might be useless to me in 6 months because it’ll be faded/uncomfortable.

    I also agree with another point put forth by Carlos in comment #6 – why buy something less than what you want if any other purchase will simply leave you with regret? I’m a closet audiophile – I’d rather spend $200 on quality Senn or Grado headphones than some $50 Sonys or JVCs from Target. Similarly, when I have some disposable income at dinner time, I’d rather buy a $15 pizza, provided it’s delicious and fills me up, than a $7 pizza that will leave me dissatisfied and hungry. Naturally, moderation is key – the former situation or derivative thereof only presents itself about once a year in my life; the latter, only about once a month.

    I think that this ideal is carried, in small part, by the consumerist hoi polloi. How many people do you know of that buy store brand soda over Coke or Pepsi products? Probably not too many, even though the store brand, 99% of the time, offers a much lower ppu.

  66. cv says:

    Trent, one little detail of your post just made me feel better about my own financial situation, and that’s the fact that you balked for years at house payments of $1000/month. I’ve always thought of home ownership as something that would have to wait until at least my mid-30’s (I’m 26 now), but I needed the reminder that that’s the tradeoff for living in a city – rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is usually $1300 – $1500. If houses could be had for less than $1500/month in this area, I would have become a homeowner long ago!

  67. Mrs. Micah says:

    Like religion and politics, I think frugality is very much about the way people approach it and talk about it. A perfectly decent religion can be quite unpopular if people focus on certain parts of it.

    The main place where frugality goes wrong is when people don’t focus on enjoying themselves and expend far too much energy over saving money. Hence the thoughts about it being focused on the future, or cheap. You can enjoy free community activities without focusing on them being free. I patronize my library all the time (especially now that I work there) but my brain doesn’t say “Oh hey, this is free.” It’s just that when a book comes out I look for it there. Or if I see one for sale I suggest to myself that I should check the library.

  68. !wanda says:

    @Rob: Look at it from another perspective: you’re not the consumer of the good (right?); your child is. The child of the spendthrifts didn’t chose his parents or their attitudes towards saving and money. Is it fair to penalize a child $65k for having irresponsible parents, or parents with costly medical bills, or parents who tried to finance a home business and failed?

    The college financial aid system is not fair. Given that schools only have a limited amount of money to go towards financial aid, no system could be fair for everyone.

  69. Jim says:

    An interesting aspect of “frugality” and “living for tomorrow”, is that in many ways, frequent spending is a sign of deeper, underlying problems. Many people hide pain, depression, or other similar problems by buying something that they subconsciously think will make them feel better now. But in reality, solving these problems, and ending up smarter with money (and more frugal, of course) means that you can really enjoy the present more. Realizing this in my own life was a major breakthrough.

  70. I really liked this post. In fact, I even linked to it: http://joyoffrugalliving.blogspot.com/2008/06/link-to-good-article-frugalitys.html

    You can’t enjoy being frugal until you see it for what it really is.


  71. nuveena says:

    Interesting comments. I was criticized by someone for not being frugal enough because my husband is currently enrolled in Weight Watchers, and the fee isn’t exactly cheap. This person felt that since I was now frugal, we were supposed to be eating macaroni and cheese all the time. I don’t feel that I should have to defend my husband being in WW as not being frugal. Like it’s been said in this post, frugality is about living for tomorrow and thinking of the bigger picture. As I said to the person who was critical of me, Weight Watchers is cheaper than cancer and diabetes and the value of my husband’s improved health pays off in so many more ways than the money I’d save buy eating macaroni and cheese all the time. I also view our gym membership in the same way. Both of us being in shape and being healthy is the payoff and it affects so many other aspects of our lives that the gym membership is worth the money we spend on it. (But we go to an affordable gym that does not require we sign a contract.)

    On the flip side, my car was totaled in a car accident about six weeks ago, and I get funny looks from others because we decided that we were not going to over extend ourselves and have a second car payment when we couldn’t afford it. Instead, we took the money I got from my insurance company for my car and used it to pay down the loan on our other vehicle. When our stimulus check comes, we’ll probably put that towards our van, too. Hopefully, after that, we’ll have the van paid off by the fall (which would be nine months sooner than what the original loan was for). But then I get funny looks because we also decided to save up as much as possible first using the money that was our van payment and finance as little as possible on a new car.

    Being frugal is about the value of what you are doing as much as it’s about the money you are actually saving. Being frugal is about the bigger picture and about the future and what works for you. Being frugal is not about deprivation and not having fun. You have to find what works the best for you and has value for you and do it.

    Too many people confuse being frugal with being cheap and miserly and I think that’s a huge part of the perception problem.

    I dry off my razor blades after I use them to make them last longer. Some people may view this as being cheap. Given how much a pack of refill cartridges cost, I don’t see it as being cheap. I see it as being frugal. I see it as saving at least one hundred dollars a year on razor blades and using that one hundred dollars towards something else. I buy the Venus razors, which is probably not very frugal of me, and would cause copious amounts of scorn and derision heaped upon me by the frugal proselytizers because I’m not using the cheap 10 cent disposables. The cheap disposables give me some pretty nasty razor burn and that is not worth the money I’d be saving by using them. Because of this, I still buy the 14 dollar four pack and dry them off and not leave them in the shower to make the blades last longer. I’ve had the same blade on my razor for seven weeks and it still works as well as it did when first took it out of the package.

  72. kellykelly says:


    I like the way you wrote that post. I use Venus too, by the way.

    Isn’t it ironic that we can be criticized by the frugal and nonfrugal?

  73. Todd says:

    I loved the response Dean Ornish gave in one of his diet books. To paraphrase him: Doctors are always telling people what they should do now to feel better someday far in the future. That approach never works. A diet will only work if it makes you feel better NOW, and also happens to be good for you in the long run. Well-prepared natural foods can taste great and be great for you. If not, you will never, ever keep it up for any length of time, no matter how enthusiastic you are initially.

    I saw this idea proven recently: A friend of mine recently lost most of his possessions in a fire. He told me that he grieved for a few days and made plans for “buying back all that stuff.” But he said he woke up one morning a week after the fire and suddenly realized that he felt a lot better, a lot lighter, as if he’d lost a lot of weight. He said, “I realized I don’t need 90% of that stuff,” and told me he’s looking forward to a much simpler life than the one he’d gradually bought into over the past ten or twenty years. I have to admit that he seems happier than he ever has as long as I’ve known him.

  74. Carmen says:

    I think a lot of the perception (& reality) regarding frugality depends on whether it is out of choice or necessity.

    For those people who cannot afford to live otherwise and rely upon buying the cheapest of absolutely everything, going without many things and scrimping and scraping to make ends meet, frugality is often no fun at all. And the reality is often cheap, low quality and miserly. Many families/people live in this way. But not nearly as many people who should be of course!:)

    For those with the view that frugality is about the bigger picture, thinking longer term, searching out the best deals and prioritising where to spend one’s money, then of course frugality can be fun. But it can also have varying moments of being cheap, as in when one buys the cheapest x so they can splurge on y.

    Nuveena – anyone who knows how long their razor blade has lasted (not ‘about seven weeks’, but ‘seven weeks’) is most definitely frugal! Very true about your WW viewpoint. I must be off to the gym myself now …..

  75. JReed says:

    I agree with kellykelly…but it is boring to be with anyone who incessantly demands an audience for whatever they are into at the moment. “Look At Me, I’m so frugal, or so on a diet, or so into yoga, or so into being a stay at home mom or dad, or so very vegetarian. Inevitably the conversation becomes spiked with condecension. Phrases pop up such as you amuse me or you sadden me because we aren’t on the same page regarding their new lifestyle decisions. My closest friends are those that run their lives, I run mine and we get together and just enjoy each other…no audience necessary.

  76. guinness416 says:

    Great posts JReed and kellykelly. You said what I was going to, much better than I can – the other thing frugal people (and I am one, for the most part) can do is not make assumptions and sneering judgements about their neighbours, colleagues, family members. Which is practically the raison d’etre of some moneyblogs. That’s ugly no matter what the state of your finances.

  77. Kathleen says:

    Re: Image problem.
    I live frugally. I live in the United States. My frugality is patriotic (reducing our household’s dependence on oil) and my frugality is good for the environment (freecycling, recycling etc etc.)
    I am really not swayed by other’s thoughts. To each his own. I’m improving my own little world:)

  78. Michelle says:

    “Frugality has an image problem, but it’s only an image problem if you look at it from only one angle.”

    Funny you should write that, Trent. You yourself have posted that you have not put up a clothesline in your yard to take advantage of free drying, because of ‘what will the neighbors think?’ I find that a sad commentary on your neighbors and yourself, really.

    Never mind that it’s a frugal choice, it’s also an extremely green choice. I should think that the green effects would offset any small negativity on the part of your neighbors and yourself.

    You claim to be all for CFL’s, nevermind the cleanup difficulties. You claim to not be bothered by driving an old(er) truck, and walking, and growing your own garden. Why would you let others dictate whether you run out a clothesline?

  79. John F says:

    @ Rob

    I understand where you’re coming from with the college financial aid bit, but it’s worth noting that the same system will in fact make any intelligent child with no family resources much better able to attend the college of their choice. The system supports those that do not have the resources to support themselves because we value education as a society (which is good), but has no view as to how they came to be in that state.

    It seems unlikely that income doesn’t come into play at all, and I imagine someone with your resources but half your income would likely receive more aid as well (though this is unverified). In as much as you rely on either income or wealth to determine financial aid, there are benefits and downsides to each. Think of someone with high income but terrible spending habits (and thereby no wealth), but also of the person with a large inheritance but is lazy and never bothers to earn a dime or contribute to society (and thereby has no income). The more you rely one way or the other, the more one of those two examples will be able to manipulate the system, but either way, the productive person with no resources to get a good job (yet) will still benefit, which is the goal.

  80. Kay says:

    My sister-in-law enjoyed the frugal life, found joy in her children and family and was pleased to ‘score’ great deals on everyday needs. And, she abruptly recently died at 31. Her family is far better prepared and is coping relatively well (considering 2 very small children, etc.) in part because she made having some extra resources a priority. My brother has observed that it would be absolute hell to be paying for a funeral with monthly payments and will even be able to stay on track saving for the kids’ educations as she had wanted them to obtain educations without loans. As hard as it is, this experience has opened my eyes to planning ahead and that frugality can make it as easy as possible for the family, whatever the circumstances…

  81. marci says:

    Years of frugal living (by choice) and you don’t even have to think about it – it just comes as natural as breathing. My friends would laugh at my choices once in awhile, but at the same time were envious that my house and car were paid off and that I could afford to do WHATEVER I chose to do, and write a check for it when I did it, without reluctance. I long ago quit worrying about what other people think. My friends know me as I am and accept the same – and no, I don’t preach about frugality unless they ask for help :) But ya gotta admit, just my way of living sets an example for them.

  82. steve says:

    Whether other people decide to be frugal or whatever they decide to do with their money is only important to me if I have a close personal relationship with them where our finances somehow affect each other.

    Otherwise, I am perfectly happy to let people spend what they will. Somebody needs to throw cash around to make certain businesses exist, and as long as it’s someone else and I get a piece of the change, that’s fine with me.

    If everyone bought 10 year old cars or kept their cars for the 20 to even 30 years they will (easily) last my 10 year old car would have been a lot more expensive than it was. So I guess I’m glad that some have different priorities than me financially and with their spending.

  83. steve says:

    @ nuveena

    rinse your razor blades, dry them, then put them blade side down in a little container of mineral oil. That will keep the blades going for an amazing amount of time, because it will prevent corrosion on the edge of the blade, which is what actually causes razor blades to lose their sharpness far before mere use (cutting hair) would. You might save even more than $100 a year if you do it this way.

    I bet wd 40 would do a bang up job too, come to think of it, because it was designed to stop rust. (WD-40 means Water Displacement formula #40,as the 40th attempt was the one that worked and they stuck with. It was designed for the Apollo rocket program.

    However wd40 might me a bit more toxic than mere mineral oil

  84. steve says:

    Authentic frugality is the same thing as good life management and is inherently satisfying.

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