Updated on 09.15.14

What a Frugality Expert Is – And Why I’m Not One

Trent Hamm

About a month ago, Lola stunned me with this comment, and it’s taken me a while to figure out how to respond to it:

Anyway, Trent can spend as much as he wants on food. My point is that a frugality expert should spend much less than average – especially when he recommends coupons, gardening, and making homemade things (diapers, bread, etc) to keep costs down.

I disagree with her entire argument, actually, because I don’t agree that spending the minimum at all times is frugality – it’s cheapness. Frugality is about getting the maximum value for your dollar while living squarely within your means, and I find that a loaf of homemade bread gives me much more value for the dollar than a loaf of bread from the store, for one example.

Expert Ability by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr!But what disturbed me most of all was the use of the phrase “frugality expert” in relation to me.

On this site, I write about the mistakes and choices I make all the time. I don’t communicate perfectly with others, including my wife. I sometimes spend more than I should and get tempted to buy more books than I need. I choose to buy more expensive products sometimes, such as free range chickens and organic milk, which raises my food bill. I change my mind about long term plans more often than I could. I’ve often been afraid of trying new things with my money and sometimes get locked down in analysis paralysis. And that doesn’t even touch on the absurd number of money mistakes I made in my teen, college, and early adult years.

Whenever I do mess up, I spend some time thinking about it. What can I learn from that mistake? How can I share that mistake with others so that they learn something from it, too?

At the same time, I read a lot about personal finance and I try a lot of different things. I make my own laundry detergent. I bake bread. I try cost-comparisons between fast food and home cooking.

And I write about all of it. I write about the facts I find in books, the things I try myself, the things I succeed at, and the things I fail at. I write about the occasional great idea I have, and I also share the very niche-oriented ideas I sometimes have that don’t really apply to many people. I talk about what I think and feel and I try very hard to encourage others to take what I’ve figured out and go beyond it.

None of this makes me an expert. Because I’m not one.

It would be very easy for me to claim that I was a frugality or personal finance expert. I’d simply stop writing about the real situations in my life and start writing lists of tips. I’d never talk about my mistakes, only my successes. And I’d be presenting a front to you guys that isn’t the truth of how I live my own life or how you live yours.

If that’s the kind of “expert” you want, go elsewhere. You’re not going to find that kind of “expertise” here.

That’s not to say I don’t find a lot to learn in a well-researched list of frugality tips, but that doesn’t imply to me that the person is a “frugality expert.” It just means the person has discovered useful tips worth sharing. I can’t see how they live – all I can see is the result of some research and creative thought, and that could come from a billionaire just as easy as it could come from a minimum wage worker.

What’s my actual definition of a frugality expert? The biggest one that pops into my mind is my parents. I’ve watched them stretch a paycheck far and wide since I was a baby, using countless little creative ideas to keep a roof over our heads and to make some wonderful childhood memories for me. I’ve watched them make very hard choices, and I’ve watched them make meals out of whatever food they could find. My father taught me how to grow my own food and catch even more. My mother taught me how to sew on a button and hem a pair of jeans. But if I were to call either one of them a frugality “expert,” they’d laugh at me. They’d point to the mistakes they’ve made in life and the times when they spent money they shouldn’t have.

In other words, the experts on frugality are the people that practice it as often as they can. They’re the people shopping at Fareway and Aldi. They’re the people going through clothes at the Goodwill Store. They’re the people who drive a truck more than ten years old but have a strong-paying job. They’re the people that you’ll see at the free community concerts each week. Frankly, they’re the people down the block from you. But they’re not perfect, either – they’re just seeking a life of financial stability and happiness.

Just like you and me.

If you want someone to simply list the solutions for you every day, The Simple Dollar isn’t the place for you. But if you want someone who actually is living through this stuff, figuring out their money, dealing with the issues that money interjects into life, and trying to figure out how to be a better person along the way, then you’re at the right place.

But please don’t call me a frugality expert. Or at least hold off for thirty years or so, until I’ve accumulated as much wisdom as my parents.

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  1. Rocky says:

    Well said, Trent

  2. Nick says:

    Very well said. There is frugality, then there is being cheap. Life is too short to strap yourself on every little thing. Being able to cook a healthy, affordable and tasty meal is a great thing. I don’t make a ton of money and don’t splurge often, but I enjoy a nice steak here and there or a dinner that costs a little more. You never know when your last day will be, live it up a little!

  3. FMF says:

    I like to think of myself as a “net worth expert.” ;-)

  4. Valerie says:

    Great article! I actually *like* to hear about the mistakes people have made so that I and everyone else can learn from them! I have a hard time with some of the blogs devoted to frugality since I end up feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with some of the unrealistic advice, experiences, budgets, etc.

  5. MKL says:

    Trent, it’s the personal insights that make your experiences worthwhile reading and the pros and cons you have personally experienced. Yeah, it’s great when people have ideals and optimum recommendations, but it means a lot more to see someone who is actually *doing* what they recommend, and is willing to ay “OK, I hit a rough patch here, and it’s helped give me additional insight”. That’s valuable, and it’s sorely lacking in so many places. So please, feel free to *not* be a frugality expert, but please keep writing about your hit and miss reality. Not only is it informative, it’s also entertaining :).

  6. Mo Money says:

    Good post! We can all learn from others mistakes. It takes a humble person to admit their mistakes and then to publish them.

  7. Marcin says:

    Frugal people are people who have money but don’t spend it on $5 stabucks or the newest gadgets that come out like the IPhone or buy the newest cloths. They look for oportunities to maximize their moneys worth. Others look at it as being cheap. Then you wake up in a crisis and say o im going bankrupt or pay off that $2000 with a 20% credit card intrest rate. Credit cards pay you to use their card but most people are to lazy to take the benefits instead they gather late payments and intrest rates.

  8. David says:

    Trent: I couldn’t help but think of Socrates as I read your post, and recalled this quote attributed to him:

    “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Socrates

    I think we can all agree to refrain from referring to you as a frugality expert…if you can consent to keep sharing your naivete with us.

  9. I think of myself as investment expert; among mortals, not professionals.

    I’m an amatuer frugal type, I cut corners when I can. But can I give up my DVR and digital cable? Did I buy a $12,000 car that is sufficient? No and No.

    Well written Trent. Do you know of any sites that focus on frugality?

  10. Trent, the most telling point in all of your posts is your transparency. You have the courage to own up to your mistakes and the willingness to look at ways to do it better the next time. I think the reason readers are drawn to you is because you present yourself as a regular guy, just like the rest of us. Once you find a better way, you are unselfish in sharing it with us. For myself, I am glad you do not pass yourself off as an expert and just give us a list of tips. Your personification of situations helps us on both a financial and a personal development level. You’re a class guy, just keep writing in your style. It is sad that someone like Lola sees the need to attack and label you.

  11. John Rogers says:

    Hi Brent,

    If you’re into food (and enjoy making meals and drinking nice wine) then you can’t bring personal finance into the picture. You don’t buy organic meat or nice olive oil and good bread and try to fit it into your bottom line. If you’re financial house is in order, then eating well (at home!) shouldn’t make you feel quilty. This is the European way, where in most large European cities families save money on fancy electronics, big cars, etc. but eat 100x bette than the average American.

  12. April says:

    Experts are a bore. The most successful, useful blogs are written by real people who don’t pretend to be perfect.

    Maybe people like Lola want to cut corners on their food bill. Maybe they have to due to income. But if you have the money and you choose to spend it to eat as nutritious and eco-friendly as possible, it’s your choice. Trent shouldn’t change the way he eats just to be under some magical “average” so that people who read his blog will be satisfied. Please, people.

    Buying organic and local might be more expensive, but it’s the true cost of food. It’s better for you, for the environment, and for the local economy, and I’d rather cancel Netflix and other extras if it means eating well. Personal finance isn’t always about saving a buck, sometimes it’s about using your money to support things in which you believe.

  13. Lola says:

    Sorry, Trent, I didn’t mean to insult you by calling you a frugality expert. I was just criticizing that one post about your spending 770 a month on food, because that does seem very high. And that post was strange, because right after you said you spent the national average, you included tips on how to spend less. And, by reading the comments, I noticed that many of your readers already spend less. So that makes us all frugality experts, or none of us are wise enough to deserve that title?
    Another thing is that I never assumed that an expert – in any field – makes no mistakes. That’s your assumption, not mine. We all make mistakes all the time.
    I like your blog, read it often, and am not looking for solutions. I believe it’s great to read about other people’s experiences with money (and not only yours, but all your readers’ as well). I also think you could communicate more with your readers. Every time there’s any disagreement (as in the drying clothes controversy), you act surprised and defensive. It’s just my feedback as a constant reader and commenter, if you allow me.

  14. Ray says:

    Meh. I’m all for being frugal, saving a lot, and being smart to get the most value out of your money, but competing to see who spend the least amount of money on food and even assigning some status (“expert”) to someone who’s supposed to spend the least, like Lola did, is just silly.

    For me, it’s clear. Let’s say I spend 30% of my income every month. Let’s say this is 3000 dollars (just as an example!!!). Obviously it’s smart to be frugal and get the most value out of this 3000 dollars.

    But my focus is not on pushing down that 3000 more and more to become 2500, 2000, 1500… and so on. Instead, it’s on pushing up my income. Let’s say I can increase my income to 15000, then I can spend more, say 4000, and still actually save more.

  15. Kevin says:

    Exactly why I read your site, you don’t pass off the same recycled “tips” the other people do. (Like every February or March when the same list of “tax tips” come out in the press.) You can tell your writing is from the heart and from experience.

  16. Crispy says:

    In all my time reading TSD I’ve never known Trent to be anything other than an average guy who publicly admits in his postings that he does not claim to know it all.

    The difference between cheap, frugal, and financially responsible:

    * The 99c menus at the fast-food joints are ‘cheap’.

    * Buying day-old bread is ‘frugal’.

    * Making your own bread, because it brings you joy and is something you are proud to share with your loved ones, is financially responsible. (Even if it costs more than a loaf at the store.)

  17. Debbie M says:

    It’s often difficult to find someone sharing frugality hints that will help you if you’re already pretty frugal yourself. And even if a person has lots of great ideas in one area, they may have little of value to you in another area because they have different priorities.

    Most people who are considered frugal don’t get as frugal as possible in all areas. They save as much money as possible in some areas to free up money for other areas where they want to be able to spend more than the minimum.

    Even Amy Dacyczyn, often considered a true frugality expert, focused her frugality in the areas of clothing, food, and entertainment so that she could have extra money to spend on a big house and having lots of kids and so they could afford to have only one parent working.

    (Lola might want to check out other sources such as Dacyczyn’s _Tightwad Gazette_ and Hillbilly Housewife for more ideas on frugality with food.)


    I’m inclined to think that no American who hasn’t lived through a depression of some kind (The Great one or a family or personal one) is a real expert on frugality. On the other hand, I’m also inclined to think that people who bring their own snacks to work instead of buying them from a machine and who never pay interest on credit cards are frugality experts compared to the average American.

  18. Susan says:

    I’m relatively new to your site, but have enjoyed reading what you write. I welcome your honesty and thanks for sharing your experiences.

  19. BonzoGal says:

    Right on, Trent! I’m always astonished at the commenters who rip into you. This is a blog, and the guy writing it is giving us his POV- for free, no less. Disagreement is fine, but it’d be nice if people were polite and respectful in doing so!

  20. April says:

    No kidding, BonzoGal. It’s okay to criticize Trent, but if he responds, he’s being defensive?

  21. Well Trent, I think the reason that we read your blog (or the reason that I do anyway) is because you’re not an expert. Your extremely knowledgeable, but I like that you admit mistakes sometimes, and I like that we can all learn from it.

    Thanks for always being honest with your readers. If you weren’t your site wouldn’t be half as interesting.

  22. typome says:

    I actually thought Lola’s comments were polite and respectful, and certainly entitled to voice her comments in the “comments” section. No need to admonish her for what she thinks or be defensive. And I say this while still disagreeing with her comment (that pf bloggers should spend less than average; some things are just more important to people, such as quality food).

  23. Dadtopics says:

    Great article, 5 years ago I would be interested in this stuff. Now I as a young father I totally relate to the idea of being frugal. Frugality is a relative term and can mean many things to different people. For me, it is holistic approach to life. Money is usually a big factor but there are also social, lifestyle and environmental factors to incorporate. Beware of “experts”, they don’t always see the big picture.

  24. BigMike says:


    This is the best thing you have written so far! I got the impression that people thought you were “The Expert” on this stuff. Like they can’t use the google themselves!

    The reference to your parents was a classic life example. I am finally starting to see why my parents were so frugal when I was growing up.
    Both being retired now I see the point of saving much more than I currently have been. Somewhere along the lines I lost sight of things as my paycheck grew. Being a DINC, probably didn’t help matters, as I had even more money and no real responsibilities. Take out food three nights in a row, what the heck! $17 for a pizza, sure, why not?

  25. Sunshine says:

    That’s a good analogy/example Crispy (#15).

    I guess that puts me in the cheap category – love me some Wendy’s and McD’s on the cheap!

  26. Troy says:

    I missed something.

    Lola gave her opinion. Seemd fairly tame to me. I don’t necessarrily agree with it, but still. You are then “stunned” by her comment. Why? Because she called you a frugality expert?

    You write full time a personal finance blog called the SIMPLE dollar that is a top 10 personal finance blog in the world. You have millions of page views. You have 276 posts on frugality alone in the past 3 years. It is your third largest category so it is fair to assume it is a major focus of this blog.

    Thats pretty close to an expert in my opinion. Closer than most people. Why does that offend you.

    Expert, authority, contributor, student, fan, proponent. These are all compliments in my opinion

    She is also right in her comments here. She never mentioned or implied anything regarding not making mistakes. You did in this post.

    With that being said, your best posts by far are the ones describing your mistakes, your bad luck, your breakdowns, issues, conflicts, uneasiness and indecisiveness and how you deal with each.

  27. Bridget says:

    I agree with #19. I’ve followed this column for only a few weeks, but I don’t get what’s frugal about Trent. He’s spent a heck of a lot of money on his farming this year and weekly food bills. I don’t get what he’s frugal about – just saves money well-ish.

    I’m unsubscribing.

  28. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “He’s spent a heck of a lot of money on his farming this year”

    Huh? I’m not a farmer. I have a small garden, but haven’t spent hardly anything on it other than buying some seeds at the start of the year – we make our own compost, for instance, and don’t spray pesticides (as weeding is cheaper and more environmentally friendly). I think we spent $8 on chicken wire to keep out some rabbits.

    I think you’re thinking of another blog and have juxtaposed it with this one.

  29. I don’t see anything stunning about Lola’s comment. She doesn’t say that you have to spend the bare minimum on food. It seems reasonable to me to expect that if a blogger gives advice on how to spend less on food than they should actually be spending less on food.

    Many PF bloggers seem to get overly defensive if there is the slightest disagreement with them. If anyone wants to call me a frugal expert I won’t get offended.

  30. Sara says:

    I wouldn’t be reading this blog, or recommending it to others if it wasn’t for the fact that its more about living by your values, and getting the most fulfillment for your money. I mean really. I have no desire to scrape by and eliminate all the things I love from my life in the name of saving a few pennies. I am more than willing however to get the same thing, or something better for less financial output.

  31. Lisa says:

    Again, “price” and “money” mean different things to different people. Neo-classical economics only considered the price tag on the item. The economics that Trent often mentions, but not always, also considers the price of health, time, local jobs, feeling good about himself, being kinder to the environment, etc.

  32. Eve says:

    Trent, you seem to constantly push yourself to try new things, which is great. Your efforts toward creating a healthy personal financial life are extraordinary, at least compared to what little I do in my own life. You’ve read far more books on personal finance, made more lifestyle changes, etc. And what are you getting for this?

    Whenever you post hard data, it seems about comparable to where I am, lackadaisical old me, not even close to where a hardcore frugal-lifer is. I don’t say this to criticize. You seem to be happy with what you’re doing; it seems to be working for you.

    But when we start making new efforts to be more frugal (whether clipping coupons, cooking from scratch more, whatever it may be), we all want to see results. And when we make extraordinary efforts, really pushing ourselves beyond our individual comfort zone – wherever that is for each person, we want to see extraordinary results. It may be the uncertain economic times: many of us are putting forth more effort, yet not really getting ahead…at best, maybe treading water. It is frustrating. We shouldn’t take it out on you, though.

  33. kim says:

    A cheap person cuts corners blindly with the sole desired outcome of spending as little csah as humanly possible.

    A frugal person has defined their life priorities and creates a spending plan that reflects those priorities. A frugal person does not subscribe to the notion of “a standard of living”, rather each area of spending is granted a spending plan based on importance. To a spendthrift who maintains an equal outflow of cash in all areas, a frugal person looks cheap because he or she is spending (in an observed category) that is far below what the spendthrift would expect for the frugal persons income level.

    I love it when people scratch their heads when I talk about my fabulous trips. They can’t understand how I can afford to travel when I buy clothes at Goodwill, rent a modest house, and drive a 12 year old car.

  34. Matt says:

    I agree with you on frugality, Trent. With all the deals and purchases I make, everyone calls me a cheapskate, but then they’ll go out and buy the same thing I did for twice the price or, worse, either buy something cheaper (and by “cheaper” I mean “more cheaply made”) or just don’t buy it at all because they can’t afford it. It’s by what I do.. constantly looking for deals that pertain to me, and taking the initiative to go get it, that makes me a very good shopper, and I’ve saved tons of money doing so. I find being called “cheap” offensive, because 1.) I’m not; and 2.) I don’t like ignorant people :)

    So it’s good you vented about the post. You mention time and again that you are not an expert, and this is not a financial blog, it’s simply a blog. I was one of your commenters who was also shocked at how much you spent on food, but the bottomline is that you can save while being happy with what you do. It’s good you clarified that in your post. Thumbs up!

  35. So I would ask your critic, then what would Trent be saving all his money for, if not for things he enjoys and makes his family healthier.

    I actually criticized one of your articles in the past because you were pro eating ramen, because I think it is a bad health choice and there fore not frugal.

    I think that your choices to feed your children healthy and wholesome food is very frugal because it likely means you will have less medical bills–and let me tell you time off from work and medical bills are a lot more than a few extra dollars at the grocers. I also think that you save money to meet your goals, and one of your goals is eating well!

    I would not criticize someone if they specifically told me, I am cutting back on World of Warcraft subscriptions so I can take my girlfriend out to eat more often. That person is saving money to meet a goal. And I commend them for adjusting their budget instead of taking out more credit.

  36. Shay Jansen says:

    Well Done Trent…. There is a fine line between being frugal and being cheap…You have shown us what it is like to be frugal (everyone idear is diffrent on what frugal is) and maintain a level of lifestyle, we are comfortable with.

    You teach us that what you earn is enough…you just have to figure out the best way to use it. You have shown us the satisfaction in making your own bread…Yes it may be better value then buying a loaf from a supermarket but in the end you have the memories of making your own bread and the satisfaction of knowing that you creatd it with you own hands. That has got to make it taste 1000 time better then any store brought loaf. (my kids and I thank you)

    Like all of us you are human and humans do err. But hey that is the real world after all none of us are perfect!

    Keep up the fantastic work I love your blog and I can’t wait to read it everyday!

    Shay (Australia)

  37. Sandra says:

    I’ve never thought of Trent as an “expert”–just a normal guy trying to help others learn while he is also learning AND I’m thankful for that!

    HAH! I knew it–I told all of you last month–Trent is just a regular ole guy—one you wouldn’t pay any attention to at the grocery store–he prpbably reads the magazines while waiting in line the same way I do. I put them back as soon as the lady is ready for me..I look at it as free reading since they never have enough help. How else will I find out what is going on with Britney Spears? :) Lets all be thankful Trent doesn’t do Hollywood!

  38. Saranoya says:

    I understand and largely agree with everything you said in your post, Trent.
    However, I think I also understand where the confusion is coming from concering your expenses on food. You clip coupons, you grow your own food, you keep the number of meals you eat outside your own house to an absolute minimum, you choose the foods you eat on the principle of “more nutritional value for less money” (I ‘m thinking of your recurring references to beans as an incredibly cheap way to produce a healthily filling meal here), … There are probably even more things that you do in the name of frugality, but which I am forgetting here. And even if some of those savings are balanced out by other choices you make on the food front (like your preference for organic milk), one would still not expect you to end up spending just as much as any ‘average’ American family.
    At least, that ‘s not what I had expected. I suspect a lot of people here hadn ‘t expected it.

    However, the fact that some of us were surprised by the amount of money you apparently spend on food every month, does not have to mean that your blog should suddenly be considered less relevant. I think those who do consider it as such are the people who either confuse frugality with stinginess, or who forget that a frugal lifestyle can be achieved in much the same way regardless of income. (Of course, there are extremes on both sides of the income scale where that does not necessarily hold true, but even taking those into account, the point remains generally valid).

    Maybe the surprise about your current food budget on the part of your audience, stems from the fact that you spent significantly more than ‘average’ on food before you started to become more aware of your spending. Or maybe the kind of choices you make – some resulting in savings, and some not – truly do balance each other out in the end.

    But whatever the case may be, I think most of us here can agree that the value of your writings does not hinge upon the exact number of dollars you spend feeding your family each month. What matters is that you are AWARE of the exact amount of dollars you spend, and that you make conscious choices on where your money should go. At least for me, getting some insight into why you value some things more than others, and more importantly, getting some pointers on how to figure out which things I personally value most (and plan my finances accordingly), is far more important than knowing whether or not you ‘re the king of stinginess.

    So by all means, keep doing what you ‘re doing, please! There ‘s enough of us out there who don ‘t care about the numbers, as long as the story behind them resonates.

  39. mjukr says:

    If you want a Frugality Expert, have I got the blogger for you:


    This guy has a $75/month food budget. He and his DW just moved into an RV together to halve their already ridiculously low monthly budget.

    If frugal inspiration is what you’re after, that’s where you’ll find it.

    Full Disclosure: I have nothing to do with the above site other than being a devoted fan of the author’s writing.

  40. Sally says:

    Again, cheap vs. frugal. Some people are just unwilling to get it. Being frugal is making informed choices – not just buying anything/anywhere. It is usually about waste not/want not. I might purchase the store name pasta and then also purchase the high end vodka. Informed choices. The pasta is usually covered with a yummy homemade sauce. The vodka – it can stand alone. I buy my vehicles used, but my lipgloss is from Sephora or a department store.

  41. Misty says:

    I love your blog and since I start working, it has brightened up my last hour of the workday. Honestly, how many people live everyday as cheap as possible? Oftentimes, you lose out on things that bring you joy and you only live life once. For example, I cut coupons and challenge myself to find the best deal possible- but I like going out to eat with my family because we get uninterrupted time together (my husband works a shift schedule and we have a 10 month old- so dinners are often eaten in shifts at home!) I also like your description of “analysis paralysis” as I find myself frequently doing this- then I ask myself- Is it worth it? Most of the time the answer is no…and I move on. :)

  42. hippykidz says:

    Whoa! Your’re not an expert….? Whew that’s good I never really thought about it before but I tend to shy away from the “experts” offering finacial and or frugal advice. The cynic in me is just invisioning the book title, “How get Rich quick” inside reads… write a book on how to get rich quick. A large part of the reason I stick around The Simple Dollar is your approach of relaying experiences. Often times it is in the way I can see it paralled with my life that the connection really hits home.
    “the experts on frugality are the people that practice it as often as they can” That feels a little better rolling off the tongue but I still think I’d rather have what you offer here everyday, Good Practical Advice from someone who “survived” it. Thanks Trent. You’re no “expert” please stay that way.

  43. guinness416 says:

    Yeah, mjukr, earlyretirementextreme is a rock star.

  44. Anthrodiva says:

    Hmmm, he’s mentioned wine. When I used to drink (and smoke, gasp) even cheap, ‘er, ‘value priced’ wines, I could easily add anywhere from $75-150 more a month averaging just a bottle every other day.

  45. Lisa says:

    I think money is such an emotional topic. I pride myself on being frugal, but don’t mind spending money on my adult children sometimes. I also know that a Corona is cheap when bought at a grocery store, but sometimes is nicer when shared at a restaurant with friends and some good shrimp. Its all about living well and not putting ourselves into miserable debt.
    Trent, I love your honest posts. You make us feel like we can do it without being miserable misers.

  46. Faculties says:

    Trent, I’m a loyal follower of this blog, and appreciate your posts on a variety of topics. But the one thing that I think could be a bit different is that you tend to get defensive when you see a comment as criticism. I don’t think you give your best advice at those times. And of course, part of learning to handle money well is being willing to examine where you might improve things.

    Peace Family,

    Someone above mentioned that this was the best post you’ve written so far. While I wouldn’t know that for sure, I definitely feel the power that comes through what you’ve put down.

    I feel the same way about my own spiritual work at my website. One of the psychological blocks is “I’m not an expert” – but deep down, I know it’s all love because who says you have to be to produce something valuable and share it with the world.

    I’m working on my first book, and plan on putting a disclaimer somewhere saying the same truth in principle.

    Rather than try to become experts, the world should learn to share it’s passions honestly, without the masks.



  48. Ryan McLean says:

    I like what you said. I like the fact that you don’t have to be ‘cheap’ to be frugal

  49. BigMike says:

    Maybe there food bill is high, because they eat more! I find, when I am home over the weekends, I tend to cook and eat more. During the work week, I am limited by my time and accessibility to food.

  50. Karen M says:

    I re-read the post in question, and all the comments, and I think there was no reason to single out Lola. Many people had the same comment.
    Also, many people noted the difference between “cheap” and “frugal,” although there was no reference to them for support. This does seem a little bit defensive.

    I don’t believe that Lola’s comment was meant to stun, but to merely throw her opinion in the ring. I didn’t realize the comment section was meant only for people who agree with the post. (But maybe all the comments are not even read, as indicated by the Bible quoting contest a couple of comment sections ago.)

  51. Jess says:

    Very well said Trent. Thank you for reminding me that we’re all human. It makes me feel less bad for the spurges that I do, not because they’re frugal but because they make me happy. Tracking every penny drives me nuts so I don’t do it. Budgetting makes me feel in control of MY money so I do it.

    As JD says: Do what works for you!

  52. Rob in Madrid says:

    It’s comments like that, that make the blog interesting.

  53. Nienke says:

    I can’t say I would feel as offended if I were you, Trent. Off course, using the term “frugality expert” is not the nicest way of making your point, but what follows seems to me like someone who just has another point of view on the subject (she even underlines it by saying ‘My point is’). Nobody has the right definition of frugality (or on things like good parenting), so it is only natural certain people will feel different about it (or maybe even stress over it).
    Shake it off, and continue with this great blog!

  54. Beatriz says:

    I think we’re all about to become “frugality experts” soon in this economy! Whether we like it or not!

    I think Lola’s explanation of her comment was very gracious.

  55. Kris says:

    I do have to agree with others that I don’t think Lola’s comment was meant to be as harsh as it came across. I also don’t think that Trent’s response was meant to be as defensive as it came across.

    One of the problems with posting to the web is that an innocuous statement can easily be misconstrued. Without body language to cue us in on the real intentions of the speaker (or writer), it’s easy to take offense where none was intended.

    I love the idea of debating the term “frugality expert.” It obviously means different things to different people. It’s certainly an interesting discussion.

  56. Sally says:

    At what point do you become an expert? And how would you classify yourself if you are not an expert. It seems like you would know more on the subject than a lot of people.

  57. Savvy Frugality says:

    Eh. There is no law that says you have to dumpster dive for your clothing and eat stuff you bought from the dented-can sale to be considered frugal. So you spend more on food than some people, but I’ll bet you spend less than others. Personally, I spend about $500 a month on food for a family of three, and some people may think that is a lot.

    Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you have to tell people you are an expert or that you are famous, you’re probably not. If someone else says it, it’s probably so.

  58. After reading the posts by Lola, I interpreted as her stating her opinion on you living up to the image created by herself as you being an “expert” or “authority” in all things frugality and personal finance.

    It’s kind of an interesting situation when bloggers who did this solely to track their own progress who gain a following (38,798 for your case at the time I’m writing this) and turn “pro” then humbly shying away from “expert” or “authority status”.

    You affect TENS OF THOUSANDS of people in helping steer their financial situation towards financial freedom through the progress and knowledge that you’ve made and attained (and continually make) as well as your insights on how to attain financial freedom.

    The fact of the matter is, you ARE viewed as an authority/expert because people will perceive you as one through all the knowledge and experienced you’ve attained through the years of writing on The Simple Dollar blog.

    I’m curious to find out what your thoughts are on your the authority that your loyal readership has given to you.

    From my understanding there is no concrete way of becoming an “frugality expert” and everyone’s view what is and what’s not varies widely. But when people perceive you as one, do you shrug it off and give a whole new definition to what one is?

    – Will

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