In the comments on a recent post about peer pressure, I mentioned a quote that I’d edited from the original draft. (I write a lot of stuff that doesn’t make it into final articles. It’s as if there should be “bonus features” for GRS, like on DVDs.)

Anyhow, I re-read John T. Reed’s Succeeding recently, and was struck by this passage, which does an excellent job of encapsulating my current philosophy on frugality. Reed writes:

[Frugality] is a necessary evil early in your adult life — like getting an education. Most people are never frugal and, as a result, never rich either. A few people are rich as a result of frugality, but they never stop being frugal, so what’s the point? They live like poor people their whole lives.

The correct approach is to start out frugal when you first go out on your own, then gradually shift to an enjoy-life mode where you live up to your means.

Note that Reed never says to live beyond your means. You live below them until you’re established. Once things are running smoothly, it’s okay to spend on the things and experiences that make you happy.

I’m reminded of my own love of comic books. I used to buy comics, even when I couldn’t afford them. I went into debt and was unhappy. As I worked to overcome my debt, I cut my comic book habit. Now that I’m out of debt and building wealth, I’ve allowed myself to begin buying comic books again. This makes me happy — and as long as I’m not spending beyond my means, everything’s okay.

What do you think? Is frugality a means to an end? Or is it an end in and of itself? Is frugality a necessary evil — or is it a way of life?

Note: By coincidence, Trent at The Simple Dollar just posted an article breaking down the numbers on why frugality works. And just to be clear: I think frugality is an important part of personal finance, not matter which stage you’re in. But as I’ll discuss on Monday, balance is important.

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