Recently, I was sitting around a fire drinking a beer with my best friend and the topic of early retirement fueled by a frugal lifestyle came up. He doesn’t know this blog exists, and he doesn’t know that my wife and I are on this bad-ass journey. I was testing the waters and began to talk about the awesome community of people trying to retire early by living frugal lifestyles. His response of, “Oh God that sounds terrible! Who wants to live like that forever?” got me thinking.
Why is a frugal lifestyle viewed with such disgust?
To most people outside of the FI community, living a frugal lifestyle looks like a life of deprivation and suffering.
Eating beans and rice every day, going outside to use the outhouse, and wearing the same underwear for a week at time.
Hell, a few short years ago, I would have agreed.
The stigma that surrounds frugality needs to be discussed, and looky here… I have a place to talk about it!
In my opinion a frugal life is the opposite of deprivation. Frugality opens up so many doors and increases your appreciation for everything.
The shitty part is that it took me 30 years to figure that out. Thankfully a single crazy year of budgeting opened my eyes for good!
The “We Work Hard” Mentality
My wife and I never really lived an extravagant lifestyle, but we certainly spent a lot of money on random shi…stuff over the years.
If there was something we wanted, we bought or financed it. It didn’t matter what it was, and for the most part… it didn’t matter how much it cost.
If a want popped into our heads, we would drop some “we work hard” rationalization on each other and go satisfy that want.
Rationalization works in a funny way … 0% interest for 72 months? Honey, quick get the car keys! I HAVE to spend that $22,000 now!
That irrational spending accounted for +/- $2,900 a month!! It’s embarrassing to even share that but, do you wanna know what the worst part is? Aside from our debt, I don’t even know what we spent that money on! It was mindless spending fueled by childish wants.
Deprivation isn’t Frugality
First off, what is deprivation? In order to say being frugal isn’t deprivation, we should probably look that definition up…
Here it is (drum roll) Deprivation is defined as: the damaging lack of material benefits considered to be basic necessities in a society. The DAMAGING lack of material benefits…
A damaging lack of material benefits around the basic necessities of life is a hell of a lot different than financing $2000 at Cabelas because my childish brain thinks I deserve it.
Treat Yo Self…
We live in a world where I can spend money I don’t actually have. Think about that for a minute… I can actually spend large amounts of money…that I don’t have.
Not only is it possible, it’s normal and encouraged! Maybe this is why I had such a distorted view on frugality.
The thought of controlling my impulses and being responsible with my money is now considered to super weird.
If you don’t believe me, go shopping with a friend or family member and tell them you don’t want to buy that random $10 thing because it’s not in your budget. See how that conversation goes… They’re going to look at you like you have 10 heads.
What is Frugal, really?
Frugal, in my opinion, means a couple different things.
For starters, it’s being mindful of my spending, it’s appreciating what I already have, and separating wants from needs. Can I still have things I “want”? YES! I absolutely can have the things that I want.
Actually, I can have anything I want! It just requires budgeting and planning.
An amazing side-effect of being frugal is that I realized that most of things I “wanted” weren’t really that important to me.
I’m typically being impulsive or compensating for some other emotion I’m dealing with. I started to appreciate the things I had, and if I did buy something… you better believe I appreciated the hell out of it!
How Frugal Are We?
Well, we stopped buying new phones, we canceled all of our credit cards, we save 60% of our take home pay, our vehicles are 7 & 8 years old with 116,000 and 154,000 miles, we stopped eating out weekly, we shop around every 6 months for a new car insurance plan, I work to lower our bills constantly, and we have taken 1 vacation in 5 years (only after becoming debt-free)… among many other things.
Once we paid off the last of that $109,000 debt we swore we’d never go back to living that way. We actually like this lifestyle now (Gasp). Now, we enjoy what we already own and look forward to just sitting together on the porch swing talking as the sunsets…
The frugal lifestyle has helped us appreciate those small beautiful moments.
Being frugal taught me that every purchase is actually paid for twice. Once with money and once with my time.
I’m working toward spending the best parts of the best years of my life with my wife and best friend, not in corporate America waiting for the weekend.
After paying off the last of our debt, we had big plans of loosening up the budget and adding in “fun money”…
It’s been over 9 months, and we still haven’t done it! Like I said before, if we really want something, we budget for it and make it happen. We just don’t seem to want as much now, and that’s a wonderful thing!
What are your thoughts on being Frugal? Has it helped or hurt you? Comment below!