Celebrating Frugal Role Models

Saving money and controlling your spending can be hard. Really hard. I've been consciously managing my money and getting out of debt for a couple of years now, and I still struggle with it every day.

Some days I'm a recyclin', reusin', thrifty rock star. Other days I splurge on take-out just because I'm too frazzled to go to the grocery store. It's a balancing act. I'm making forward progress on my debt and living within my means, but there are plenty of little slip ups along the way.

Real-life role models
I wrote recently about the importance of using clear financial goals to stay on track. Another powerful motivator for me is peer pressure. I tend to spend money like my friends do, so I try to seek out friends who spend (and save) money the way I want to.

We can't all have a real millionaire next door like J.D. does. Most of us don't have one person in our lives who is a single shining example of simple living. So I seek out a variety of frugal role models. No one person does everything exactly the way that's best for me, but if I look around I can get frugal inspiration from many of my friends and family.

When I want to get new clothes, for example, I don't go to the mall. I host a clothing swap or visit the Salvation Army with my friend Johanna, who is extremely savvy about thrift store shopping. I know if I go with her, I'll spend $20 at most and walk out with a bag of clothes that will win me plenty of compliments when I wear them. I've learned to avoid shopping with friends who prefer to cruise through new clothing stores. In fact, most of my close friends are frugal converts who get their clothes second-hand like I do.

While Johanna is my go-to girl for clothes shopping, I can't model my travel plans after hers. She can afford some pretty awesome travel, and that's where she chooses to spend her money. I love to travel, too, but to do it at all I need to do it on the cheap. Since I'm usually traveling with my kids, my primary role model for thrifty travel is my mom.

She traveled a lot with me and my sister as children, and watching her do it taught me how to save money doing it myself. We pack our own food from home rather than buying overpriced junk at the airport, for example, because that's how Mom did it. I've become an expert at scouring for deals on plane tickets. When we travel, we nearly always stay with family and friends rather than in hotels. We spend our time connecting with the loved ones we're visiting, or taking advantage of the free sights and experiences a new city has to offer. We use libraries and discount passes to get access to all kinds of great stuff.

Perhaps the closest person in my life to the perfectly frugal, “millionaire next door” type is my friend Sarah. She's far from a millionaire, but she's a great role model. She's been an inspiration to me since we were teenagers. She's always lived on a low income, as a graduate student and then as an adjunct professor. She's managed to stay almost entirely out of debt while living close to, or even below, the poverty line. She does it the old-fashioned way: by tracking her spending, staying connected to her goals and values, and spending less than she earns. She took on a little debt when she became a mom, and she's diligently paying that off.

One of the best things about Sarah is that she's not afraid to say, “I can't afford that.” This is an invaluable trick for navigating social situations. It can be hard to pass up a dinner out or a concert when all your friends are going. Sometimes it seems rude to turn down an invitation to go out for cocktails. I've been known to overspend under social pressure. Sarah sticks to her budget, and will quite cheerfully say, “Sorry, I can't afford to go out this week. Let's have a picnic instead.” She's always ready with suggestions for free or low-cost fun.

Online inspiration
Another great source for frugal inspiration is books and blogs like this one. In addition to the other great writers on GRS, I love reading:

These writers bring a personal perspective to their blog posts that makes me feel like I'm talking to a friend. A smart, frugal friend who cares deeply about conserving resources. Personal resources like spare change and global resources like fossil fuels. These blogs inspire me to make small, specific changes in my life all the time, and they also keep me focused on the big picture.

All these role models serve an important function for me: They show me what's possible in my own life, and make me feel like I'm part of a community of people who do these things, not a lone saver in the consumer sea. Saving isn't sexy. It's much more fun to go shopping, gather with friends at a swank cocktail bar or book a winter cruise. Connecting with people, in real life and online, who are choosing a simple, frugal life makes it easier to make and sustain those choices myself.

I think a lot of us tend to live similarly to those around us. No matter how much we may try to eschew it, we subconsciously keep up with the Joneses. The trick is to encourage simplicity and frugality by cultivating close relationships with people who are living the way we want to live, and spending the way we want to spend.

Who are your financial heroes? Who has inspired you along the path to frugal living, or helped you stay focused on your goals? How do financial role models influence you?

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Smith
Smith
9 years ago

The wealthiest man in the history of mankind: John D. Rockefeller. Amassed an inflation-adjusted wealth of $663.4 billion. If we define frugal as living on a very small portion of your income and wealth, he was always frugal.

Though the key with frugality is that if you master it in your teens and twenties, to others you may appear quite affluent even though you are still living on a small portion of what you have.

Raghu Bilhana
Raghu Bilhana
9 years ago


Mine are

Leo Babauta from zenhabits.net
Jacob from EarlyRetirementExtreme.com

Really great inspirational spirits.

Clint
Clint
9 years ago
Reply to  Raghu Bilhana

I stopped reading Leo when he removed the comments section. I used to love hearing what other people had to say about the same topic, just as I do here.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago
Reply to  Clint

Eventually he’ll have to remove the entire blog to show how great he is at being a minimalist.

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago

just choked on my drink

juno
juno
9 years ago

for the first time you made me laugh!

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago

Sierra submitted this post a couple of weeks ago, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I was thinking about it yesterday while running errands, in fact, and I decided to list my financial role models. Here’s who I came up with: * My real millionaire next door. This 72-year-old retired shop teacher has done a lot of things right. Frugality is ingrained in him (in fact, I’d go so far as to say he’s cheap rather than frugal a lot of the time), and he’s been careful to save as much as possible. For the… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Awwww!

Diane
Diane
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Hey JD,
I’ve heard rumblings lately about WB’s tendency to decimate healthcare coverage for workers of the companies he buys/owns. Any truth or is this just Internet BS? How would one go about researching this? Anyone out there with real life experience?

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Diane

There’s a blog with a bunch of articles all together about WB. Google “everything warren buffett” and it will come up. I don’t know if it will have what you’re looking for, but might be a good place to start.

J.D. Pohlman
J.D. Pohlman
9 years ago

I don’t have the close friends who live frugally, so I get my inspiration from reading blogs like the ones you mentioned, and listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast a few times a week. Those two things help keep me motivated, and YNAB (www.youneedabudget.com) helps me allocate where my money is spent. Without that combination, I’d be spending like crazy!

Erica
Erica
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Pohlman

I don’t have any close friends who are frugal, either. Frequently I keep hearing myself saying “I wish that Get Rich Slowly or The Simple Dollar would create Meet-up Groups or some other way for frugal/thrifty/non-consumer people to meet up with each other in the real world in their geographic areas” What do you think? I’ve searched for those terms on Meet-Up but don’t find anything in my area (and only very limited things far away, like coupon swaps or clothing swaps, not what I’m looking for). Would you want to start up something so the readers here could connect… Read more »

Kate
Kate
9 years ago
Reply to  Erica

Hi Erica: It’s so interesting to hear you suggest meet ups. Some girlfriends and I started a Women’s Saving Club in October of last year so we can be role models to each other. We learn from each other and keep one another accountable to financial goals and frugality. If you want to start your own, you can visit our site. http://www.WomensSavingClub.com

Erica
Erica
9 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Hi Kate, I took a look at your site and how to start a savings club, but my problem is that I don’t know anyone who wants to be frugal! My friends are pretty spendy. I wouldn’t be comfortable contacting acquaintances or strangers to ask them to be frugal with me.

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
9 years ago

My mother is definitely my frugal hero. She has never made more than $40K and has been able to accomplish so many things, including owning her own home, purchasing a new car every 5-7 years, and having modest savings. Growing up I never knew lack -not because there wasn’t any but because she instilled in me the value of delaying gratification, and budgeting. Another incidental observation, I think it’s premature to assume just because someone has a big flat screen television, iPad, or took a luxurious indulgent vacation that they are not winning with money or are mindless consumers. That’s… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
9 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

Agreed! I don’t think there’s a frugal versus spendthrift dichotomy. I see it as a continuum and most of us are somewhere in the middle. Many people I know are frugal in some areas so they can spend in others.

I’ve stopped worrying about whether the “frugal” label applies to me or not. I simply want to be a good steward of what I’ve got, and sometimes that means breaking a few frugal rules.

Coley
Coley
9 years ago

“She’s managed to stay almost entirely out of debt while living close to, or even below, the poverty line.” People who live close to or below the poverty line are not ideal role models for those aspire to “Get Rich,” slowly or otherwise. This blog is fun, but contrary to its titular purpose, there seems to be more and more focus not on achieving wealth, but finding happiness being poor. Yes, yes, I know. Living below your means is the path to wealth. I wholeheartedly agree. Ideally, though, the means below which one wants to live should be a little… Read more »

Lauren @ Pineapple Pizza
Lauren @ Pineapple Pizza
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

Why, though, Coley? I chose a profession that won’t pay me much, but will make me immensely happy. Unless I find an independently wealthy significant other, I probably won’t ever be so myself, even though I DO save a good chunk of my money. Yet, I still want to save, travel the world, and have a decent standard of living. Maybe thrift stores aren’t for everyone, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy with less and living within meager means. If you don’t like that concept, don’t read those posts. And let’s not forget that “rich” doesn’t… Read more »

Coley
Coley
9 years ago

Lauren,

There’s absolutely nothing at all wrong with what you’re advocating. I just think it’s overplayed on here. I’m asking for some more balance.

For some, like you, being rich means realizing fulfillment with a modest amount of resources.

For others, believe it or not, it does mean having a lot of money–some of which can be used to buy nice, new, expensive, luxurious things.

Almost eveyone on here will say “Sure, either is fine,” but in reality, the great majority of the profiled stories are about people who have chosen the former category.

getagrip
getagrip
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

I tend to agree with Coley in that I’ve been seeing a lot of recent posts in the personal finance blog community promoting not just being frugal, but serious minimalism. I guess it may come from so many folks having lost jobs or working for less and questioning what they’re working for in the first place. Essentially the last post on the extreme retirement is about cutting everything to the bone so you can achieve financial independance earlier, but then continue with that financial independance by continuing to live with everything cut to the bone rather than any indication that… Read more »

jessie
jessie
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

I’m inclined to agree that there are some common trends in PF blogs right now, many of which have been touched on (either discussed or reinforced) here. Like the “college is a waste of money” trend, the “minimalism” and “rich is more than money” trends are getting a lot of play, I think, because really, there is little that’s new under the PF sun. However, we can always talk about new things we can make or do ourselves, and people will always have a college success/horror story they’re dying to share (or a how my wedding was so cheap story,… Read more »

Mary H
Mary H
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

To me the important takeaway from the line you quoted is that she managed to stay mostly out of debt even though her income was low, not that she lives close or below the poverty line.

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago
Reply to  Mary H

I agree with you on the lines focus Mary, but I should point out that with lack of available credit to those below the poverty line (thanks likely to ruining credit scores in the past) it’s not those below the poverty line that would have massive debt to being with. My parents don’t have any debt because they can’t get credit. That’s not necessarily something to praise about people.

Also I agree the focus has been so strong lately on thrift store shopping. What’s next, we’ll be taught how to make our own powdered hot chocolate? Oh wait…

Karla
Karla
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

Hear! Hear!

As someone who has had to live below the poverty line (wasn’t doing it to save money. There was NO money) all this perceived glamorization of frugal living sometimes pushes me over the edge.

Lauren @ Pineapple Pizza
Lauren @ Pineapple Pizza
9 years ago
Reply to  Karla

Karla, I currently live below the poverty line, and I personally appreciate learning new ways to stretch my dollar. I don’t know about glamorizing being poor, but I do think the common idea is to use resources wisely, know where your money is going, and to not be wasteful. Those things serve people of every income level well, even if they don’t manifest in the same behaviors at every income level.

Kevin M
Kevin M
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

“People who live close to or below the poverty line are not ideal role models for those aspire to “Get Rich,” slowly or otherwise.”

Perhaps some people’s definition of getting rich has nothing to do with money. Clearly yours does, to each their own.

Coley
Coley
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin M

Exactly, and that’s why we’re pointing out that the blog seems to be growing more and more narrowly focused on one demographic.

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

What I’ve always liked about GRS is that JD espouses his Balanced Money formula, which allows for spending on wants as well as needs. While I can appreciate “Gazelle-focus” for people that are working to get out of debt, and I think there’s room to examine various strategies for extreme frugalism especially when trying to reduce debt, I agree with Coley that there’s been almost an over-focus on how to cut down to as bare bones an existence as possible. I don’t think it’s shameful to learn how to include wants into one’s financial life, and I like to hear… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

I do sometimes get that elitist sense here as well Coley. I’ll often get the vibe that wanting anything – other than travel or some other experience – is bad. Skydiving in Rio = good, watching a game in your outdoor backyard bar while some neighbors swim in your inground pool = bad. But I think it’s primarily the demographic that reads this blog. My guess is most folks here are either young and/or childless (or maybe their kids have all grown and left the nest). As a 45 y.o. mother of five, I don’t fit in with most of… Read more »

Jaime B
Jaime B
9 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

What’s funny MO5 is that a lot of the philosophies behind these trends dovetail quite nicely into “watching a game in your outdoor backyard bar while some neighbors swim in your inground pool.” Many might quibble that it’s “excess” to spend the money on an outdoor bar and inground pool, but the effect is nothing they can dispute. You’re spending quality time at home, with your family and friends, enjoying your investment in your home rather than mindless, expensive entertainment elsewhere. 🙂 It’s all a matter of degree, priorities and means. In the above example, you used STUFF to create… Read more »

Dan
Dan
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

Ok… Haven’t quite reached financial independence (still have to work for the man for awhile, and have an atrocious amount of student loan debt). But you know what? My wife and I recently took a luxury 6-week vacation to SE Asia. The trip cost in the low five figures, all said and done. Yes, I know that on these blogs people trumpet travel as a “good” way to spend money so that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Well, guess what? I probably blew that all to smithereens. The wife and I flew business class, stayed at 5* resorts or… Read more »

Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate
Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

I have a nice big house in a fantastic neighborhood, great cars in the driveway and am tighter with my money than anyone else I know.

If you came to my house, you would assume that my husband and I are wealthy, yet everything in the house came from Goodwill or a garage sale.

I am both extremely frugal and living the high life.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

Valerie
Valerie
9 years ago

Yay – a kindred spirit!! Wish we were neighbors… it would be great fun having someone around with similar interests and lifestyle.

aproustian
aproustian
9 years ago

My family are my role models. Growing up in an environment where saving and frugality was the norm certainly made the transition into adulthood and responsibility of my own money easier. I made some mistakes, but now especially I have my twin sister as a role model. We’re in (not surprising) similar stages right now, and it’s fantastic to have support as I try to reach my goals.

Laura in Atlanta
Laura in Atlanta
9 years ago

“Sometimes it seems rude to turn down an invitation to go out for cocktails. I’ve been known to overspend under social pressure.” I learned long ago that my friends could really care less about what I buy to drink when we go out. I have bought a soda for $3 and nursed that through the evening and no one cares. If asked (which is rare) about why I’m not drinking, I tell my friends, “I am, I’m having a Coke!” Same thing with dinner – I can go out with them, and while they order appetizers, drinks and full meals,… Read more »

Laura in Cancun
Laura in Cancun
9 years ago

I do the same thing… some of our friends love to go out to nightclubs.

While they’re paying for bottles of vodka and whisky, I just buy 2 – 3 sodas or waters. I only spend $5, and nobody cares or notices.

But even if you do choose to buy a cocktail or two, there’s no reason to feel guilty about it.

partgypsy
partgypsy
9 years ago

As I said in a post to previous topic, One of my financial role models is the family of 4 we know, younger than us who have a paid off beautiful house, rental property, and flexible living situation. They have a new truck and have a cute little Airstream. Most vacations are camping but they also in the last year went skiing, visited Mexico, and France (they do it on the cheap by visiting people they know or as part of their job). They were able to accomplish this by living very frugally. We have mutual friends who used to… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

We’ve got some friends who made a different choice than we did after college– entering the work force rather than going to graduate school. They live a life we’d love to live… recently put 40% down on a small house in the SF bay area, cutting down their work hours to part-time after having a child. It’s nice to think that we could still do that eventually if things don’t work out with what we’re doing now.

Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate
Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate
9 years ago

Sierra, This post made me cry, and that was before you listed me as a frugal role model. Lovely post, thanks! Katy Wolk-Stanley “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” P.S. Some of my frugal role models are: Kristen at The Frugal girl http://thefrugalgirl.com And my mother, who when we were dirt poor in high school was not ashamed to pull things out of a dumpster to sell in the classified ads. I remember taking old carpet from a dumpster outside the downtown Meier & Frank, bringing it home, renting a rug shampooer and then… Read more »

Adam P
Adam P
9 years ago

Heh. I have sort of “anti-role models” or “Reverse Role Models”. Does that count? My parents earned huge sums of money but never saved and lived above their means. Growing up I felt like I was on a roller coaster: one year we would be wealthy (9 acre yard rented house in Westchester County with live in housekeeper) and the next we’d be poor (car repossessed, credit collectors calling, tiny house). Both my parents, divorced when I was three years old, have been through massive ups and downs in their finances because they don’t put money away or live within… Read more »

Stacie
Stacie
9 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

I’m in the same sort of situation (though not as extreme). I told myself I wasn’t going to be in debt like my parents, especially my mother who is facing tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt and who lost her house a few years ago. I love her, but I always told myself that I won’t let my life be as chained by debt as her life is. So I’m only 5 months out of college (paid for myself through scholarships, graduated early) and saving over 50% of my paycheck, but I still have money to spend… Read more »

Bridget
Bridget
9 years ago

The Frugal Girl is a favorite!
Amy Dcz… (Tightwad Gazette)
No Impact Man
My sister

Pamela
Pamela
9 years ago

Although I don’t agree with my parents on much, they really influenced my work and spending habits. When I was a child, my dad worked three jobs while going to college to get his Bachelor’s degree in accounting. My mom stayed home with me and my sister but cleaned one of the offices my dad worked at on Saturdays. Mom sewed most of our clothing and kept a huge garden that provided most of our vegetables for the year thanks to freezing and canning. While my dad was working his way through school, they bought their first home. Eventually, they… Read more »

No Debt MBA
No Debt MBA
9 years ago

My dad is a big frugal role model for me. Neither he nor my mom had big salaries, but they have very nice retirement savings, put their kids through college, and have a mostly paid off house and rental property. All possible because my dad is serious about saving and knows how to pinch and stretch a penny until it cries.

D
D
9 years ago

My younger sister is my role model. She is very artistic and she makes most of the gifts she gives – usually painting or sewing. Much of the art on my walls I’ve received from her over the years and many of the things I wear or use are things she’s made for me. She taught me about freecycling and thrift store shopping. She took me secondhand clothing shopping and taught me to try on things I liked rather than what I believed would look good on me. I broadened my style that way. She cooks frugally from scratch and… Read more »

retirebyforty
retirebyforty
9 years ago

That’s great that your friend is frugal, but I wouldn’t count her as the “millionaire next door” type. The book advocate frugality as well as earning more money. If she is making very little money then she simply isn’t and won’t ever be the “millionaire next door.”

Coley
Coley
9 years ago
Reply to  retirebyforty

Bingo. Honestly, you shouldn’t have to look very hard to find people who don’t have any money. They’re all over the place, in fact. And, yes, many of them are happy, but that doesn’t really make them inspiring.

It’s notable when a wealthy person chooses to live far below their means. Poor people who don’t spend much money are a dime a dozen.

Janice
Janice
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

So when 5% of the population who are wealthy live at or below their means, it becomes notable? Call me crazy, but when you can afford to live within your means, it’s, uh, much easier to do. Poor people living within their means is an oxymoron these days, just look at the number of bankruptcies, foreclosures and amount of credit card debt. However, what I think you might be trying to say is, that it would be interesting to hear from some higher income people who live within their means and how they got to be successful, what they do… Read more »

Tanya
Tanya
9 years ago

Sierra, you are so right about choosing friends carefully who share your values. This is critical, in matters of money and everything else. I heard a pastor once talk about “the power of next.” Who you are close to and who you let get close to you will dramatically influence your life. Everyone knows this is true for kids, but it is equally – or even more so – important for adults. Good for you for choosing friends who encourage your efforts toward a debt-free, financially sound life.

Terese
Terese
9 years ago

My role model is my mother-in-law. She was always a creative force and very content with her frugal lifestyle. She and dad never made much but were able to raise four children and lead the life they wanted to. When she died last year she left an estate in the low six figures. All the while living on Social Security for the last thirteen years of her life. The money was a fantastic legacy but her example was even a greater one. She will be greatly missed.

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

I don’t have any financial role models. If I *had* to pick, I’d say my dad comes closest — he’s taught me (and followed) some good financial practices over the years. I like that when we take vacations together, we can talk frankly about what we can both afford and pick something that works for everybody. However, although my parents have managed to stay out of debt and live frugally, they haven’t been able to accumulate any wealth. IMHO, they “get by” just fine, but I’m striving for more than that. My ultimate goal is to reach financial freedom (not… Read more »

Kevin M
Kevin M
9 years ago

I don’t really have any role models, other than my Grandparents who have lived in the same house for 50+ years and raised 3 kids on very middle class wages – barber and bank teller. Other than that, like Adam P said above, I use my old self as sort of an anti-hero/role model. In my early 20s, once I got a “good job”, I started doing my best to become a Good American Consumer (TM) but soon realized buying all that crap and getting into debt doing it wasn’t making me happy. After that I started to figure out… Read more »

Justin
Justin
9 years ago

Warren Buffet is a great example of frugality, a modest house and car, spends time watching college football instead of blowing money in casinos or other extravagant pass times, etc… He’s a good example for a lot of us.

Becky
Becky
9 years ago

My frugal role models are far and away my parents. I grew up beleiving we were poor. “Why don’t we have cable like the other kids?” I would ask. “We can’t afford it.” “Why can’t I have Guess jeans?” The answer was always, “We can’t afford it.” I found out recently (I am 30 yrs old) that my parents bought their first house in San Jose when real estate was booming, paid for that house in cash, made a huge profit when they sold it and moved to TN, and subsequently NEVER had a mortgage. For my entire childhood, they… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell children “We can’t afford it,” especially if it’s not true. When my children were small, I would just tell them “No” without explanation. As they grew older, I would explain to them why certain things were not a good use of money, and why we were spending our money elsewhere, or why we would wait to see if we could get a better deal. I never said we couldn’t afford something; I said that we were making different choices. I taught them delayed gratification. It amuses me to overhear my teenage… Read more »

Dan
Dan
9 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

“I never said we couldn’t afford something; I said that we were making different choices.” I’m actually struggling with that now. My wife and I don’t have kids (and probably won’t) but I struggle with that a bit when it comes to family. Most of my wife’s family is of less means than we are. The one exception is her sister, whose husband does quite well financially and has been quite generous to the family. What my wife’s family doesn’t really grasp is that we are just starting out in our careers, and we have our own financial goals. We… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
9 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

I agree too 🙂 My parents weren’t afraid to say no. Once we got old enough, they got us used to making choices. For example, occasionally we would get new books from school book orders. We learned we had a certain amount to spend, and that could mean a couple of smaller books or one bigger book. (As we got older, the lessons got more sophisticated.) We knew there were things other people could afford that we couldn’t, but I think that was tempered with my parents’ volunteerism and donations — we understood that there were people who had a… Read more »

Sherry
Sherry
9 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

We have 5 kids, and have found that they usually accept it when we tell them “sorry it’s not in the budget.” When we do bring them somewhere to spend some money, like the used book store, we will give them a set amount. And they have gotten really good at getting the most bang for their buck. I don’t mean just by shear numbers of how many books they can get, but whether they can get the books they are really interested in. They also do this with their own money for the most part now. My youngest, 9,… Read more »

Dan
Dan
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

Heh. For me it was the exact opposite. I *knew* for a fact that my parents were broke, but they wouldn’t admit it. (They weren’t in denial either — they didn’t spend what they didn’t have.) It was sort of obvious when the only vacations we would take would be camping and visiting my grandparents. It was further obvious when I would get reduced lunch prices or even free lunch (happened one year) or when they only cars we would ever get were hand me downs from my grandparents. We lived in the upper-midwest where outdoor activities were common. Did… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

i still remember the day my mom took me with her to buy her first new car – and then paid for it with a personal check. Whoa.

She was paying my college tuition at the same time, too. And there were a whole litany of things we couldn’t afford – some people only mean “i don’t have that much cash to my name” but other people mean “once I put the right amount toward what I think is important, there’s not enough left for that.”

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

My parents were like that too. We went without a LOT of things growing up, but my college education was paid for and they always bought cars with cash (and drove them until they got too expensive to repair).

angelika
angelika
9 years ago
Reply to  Becky

Your parents are awesome! The only thing- I think it’s important to teach children about money. My parents were great with money too but I don’t remember ONE conversation about it in my entire life. I have small children (5 and 7 years old) and I explain them why we are buying (or more often not) something.

becky
becky
9 years ago
Reply to  angelika

Now that I’ve been on my own for a while, I do wish they had been more open about their finances and the choices they were making. The extent of my financial education from my father was, “credit cards are a loan from the bank that you must pay off every month, no exceptions.” Thankfully, I must be related to them, because I’ve always been interested in PF and saving money, and have just taught myself everything they didn’t teach me. @marsha – My father also told me once that they had thumb scanners at the front gates at disney… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
9 years ago

I grew up very VERY frugally – my parents would probably see Early Retirement Extreme as a spendthrift. I had to stop reading that blog and TSD because a) I wasn’t learning anything new to me and b) that way of life did not make me feel fulfilled. YMMV.

So I’ve had to learn from balanced and moderate bloggers like:
Nicole, Retired Syd, J.D. here when he gets all spendy.

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

Aww, Jacq, I totally look up to you too! I love the work-life balance you’ve got now and how you think about these things.

I wish I could transplant what you do to my FIL (who is also an accountant). He’d be so much happier.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago

Coley has hit on one of the problems that GRS faces: Writing for different audiences. My goal is to provide useful info to a variety of people. Some people are just starting out. Others, including me, are further along. How do we cater to everyone? We can’t, obviously. But what I’ve elected to do is bring in different writers with different focuses. Donna writes a lot about frugality. So does Sierra. Frugality is an important part of personal finance. Robert and I tend to write about other topics — Robert about how to invest, and me about conscious spending. It… Read more »

Ash
Ash
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

If you’re taking requests ( 🙂 ) I’d like to put in one about seeing a bit more conscious spending in action for people just getting started (first major car purchase, first house, major remodel, going to grad school, etc.) I think that the time spent, the thought process, and the possible “buyer’s remorse” down the line would be interesting.

Coley
Coley
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Robert’s articles are great–very educational and informative. I do enjoy hearing about the frugality side of things, even the extreme side like yesterday, although I still like to poke fun at it. But sometimes, it’d be nice to hear about the other end, too. I can promise you that there are plenty of wealthy people who are living well below their means and are living luxurious lives. Not all of them are evil or in debt or morally bankrupt. It’d be fascinating to hear from someone who lives in a $5M mansion and drives a $150k car–what it’s like, how… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Coley

Coley wrote: No offense, JD, but your examples of “conscious spending”—a used Mini Cooper, a gym membership, some furniture and a collection of comic books—while certainly interesting and thought provoking under the scrutiny of your own philosophical examinations—is not otherwise all that fascinating. Well, they’re fascinating to me. To me, this stuff is luxury, you know? And I guess that’s what I’m trying to stress: Each of us is different. Each of us has unique strengths and goals and weaknesses. I’m finding that this journey is all about using my strengths to meet my goals (comics, Mini, Timbers tickets) while… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Yeah, most millionaires are dull. But I did hear that Dave Ramsey just built a gorgeous new home (paid for with cash, natch).

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Part of the problem is that people who don’t have a lot of money are a lot more motivated to write articles on the internet for pay than rich people are.

If you don’t have a lot of money, you are likely to be interested in saving money, living cheaply etc which is why you tend to see a lot more frugal posts here and elsewhere compared to the opposite (whatever that is).

Tee
Tee
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Thank you Coley for your comments… I would also like to read more about people who achieved success. I like the topics in this blog, but can’t always read it daily and much of it is about topics that I already do well in (conscious spending, living frugally, etc). What I am trying to improve is my investing skills, and just now spotted JD’s update back in April about diversification. That is a really interesting article — in my perspective — and I just requested the Bogleheads book from the library. JD, we’re the same age and I’m looking to… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago

I don’t know that I had any financial role models. My parents and inlaws never had debt, but they also never had enough money for anything other than the very barest of necessities – think the extreme early retirement guy of yesterday.

They definitely taught us that we don’t NEED much of anything. However, growing up that way, a middle class lifestyle was definitely something to which DH and I aspired.

Dan
Dan
9 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

“However, growing up that way, a middle class lifestyle was definitely something to which DH and I aspired.” See my comment #55 above for a few details — I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment. I knew from a young age that I wanted a better lifestyle than what I had growing up — and now that I’m in a position to make it happen, I think my mom actually resents it. Not too long ago, I mentioned that I thought we were poor growing up, and my mom got *really* defensive and said that because we had clothes on our… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago

We hear often about frugal children who are reacting to their parents’ intemperate lives. I’d be very interested to hear about spendthrift children of frugal parents (having been one!).

Just because people want to instill certain value-such as frugality-in their children doesn’t mean that they will succeed. I think that the sanctimony that can overwhelm these PF blogs at times blinds people to this possibility.

Janice
Janice
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

That would be me. My parents were depression era children and when they died there were so few possessions that it only took a few hours to clean out the house. But I was never denied anything i wanted, not spoiled so much as not denied. But mostly what I got were experienes, not things. Piano lessons, books, concerts, camp, like that. Not clothes, or spending money. Please. Fast forward to my young adult years and the rock and roll 60’s and I just kind of figured like everyone else who lived with that depression era mentality of their parents… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

My husband and I grew up with parents who didn’t have much money, but also were extremely thrifty, being green way before it was cool. To this day, my mother will reuse the bag that bread comes in. On those rare occasions she uses a paper towel, she’ll cut it in half and will still reuse that half, letting it dry out on the counter or over the faucet of the sink. When we were first on our own as young singles buried in student loans, we resisted that thriftiness, and we had the credit card debt to show for… Read more »

Jennifer Lissette
Jennifer Lissette
9 years ago

My grandma is my frugal hero, without a doubt. She was always full of these nuggets of wisdom that she’d spout out at any time. “First you pay the mortgage, then you pay the electricity, everything else is just gravy.” “One credit card is all anybody needs.” “Every woman should have an IRA.” “No teenager needs $50 a week.” I could go on, but you get the idea. She spent less than she earned, shopped the sales (she helped me come home from a department store with a garbage bag size bag of clothes for $30), and retired early despite… Read more »

chris
chris
9 years ago

I think my role models are my parents. My dad is also a 72 year old retired, millionair shop teacher.

My neighbor and her 1993 Lumina that keeps on trucking.

On of my uncles that is both frugal and very entrupenurial.

kms98kms
kms98kms
9 years ago

My sister is my role model, she has never had debt and has lived frugally her whole life. She is frugal to the point of cheap on things that she doesn’t care about (no TV, all the furniture in her house is from craigslist or the equivalent as she lives overseas) but she and her husband spend money on the things that are important to them (and they pay in cash – or credit and pay it off immediately) like traveling to the countries that are near where she lives now. Saving enough money to pay in cash for a… Read more »

Sustainable PF
Sustainable PF
9 years ago

Hands down my financial/frugal role model is my Mom. I detailed our story here: http://sustainablepersonalfinance.com/mom-knows-best-financial-advice-by-example/

I learned so very much from observing my Mom’s frugal and financially responsible habits.

Melissa @ MangoMoney
Melissa @ MangoMoney
9 years ago
Reply to  Sustainable PF

I agree! Go Mom 🙂 I even made an animation about the money power of moms. It’s not just about being frugal and smart, it’s being the CFO their families.

http://blog.mangomoney.com/money/thanks-for-handling-the-money-mom

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
9 years ago

I don’t really have financial role models. My parents did alright. They maintained a middle-class lifestyle, but they didn’t try to teach me much, they didn’t save a lot, and as far as I could tell, a lot of their financial decisions were a bit puzzling. For instance, my dad would complain if we wasted paper towels, and then he’d go out and spend $600 on giant marine batteries for…. some project (not a boat, he didn’t have one of those) that never got done. Those batteries have been sitting behind my parents house in a crate for like 10… Read more »

AP
AP
9 years ago

My situation was similar to yours. My parents never talked to me much about money but they fought about it a lot. The one thing I got loud and clear from both of them was how much they valued their TIME. My dad taught and he had summers home with me growing up. My mom never worked more than part-time because she didn’t want to be there that long, even when her work was begging her to come in full-time. She stayed home with me until I started kindergarten. My mom taught me frugality and my dad taught me how… Read more »

Frugal Living
Frugal Living
9 years ago

I use myself as a role model to motivate myself to save money on the things that I need and don’t need

Dee
Dee
9 years ago
Reply to  Frugal Living

Your website link is just ads for more junk….

KarenJ
KarenJ
9 years ago

I AM the frugal role model. I am known as the “go to” girl when anyone is looking for coupons or how to get something for less. I proudly show off my consignment store clothes and yard sale finds, and most of my friends know that while we save up the funds to go on at least one nice vacation a year, we give up concerts and other outings with our friends until our debts are paid off. That’s why I read blogs like this – to keep me motivated. While my husband has no desire to spend money at… Read more »

CEE
CEE
9 years ago

What an interesting thread! Posts and threads like this one continue to reinforce how ‘personal’ personal finance is. It is the amalgamation of the influence of one’s upbringing, the pressures exerted by society (media, friends, family, etc.) coupled with one’s goals and the determination which fuel their fulfillment. I can certainly understand why there are so many different requests for posts ranging from frugal living to rich living and every combination in-between. I was probably raised pretty close to the poverty line most all my life. But my mom (divorced thrice) always worked hard to see that we had what… Read more »

connley landers
connley landers
9 years ago

My inspiration for frugality was Thoreau in Walden where he said to “simplify, simplify.” As a nutritionist, I challenged my readers to eat on less than two dollars a day for sixty days. I tried it myself and did it for $ 1.87 per day and learned that,“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago

I’m glad you found inspiration in Thoreau, but he was really a bit of a fraud. Most people think he went off into the wilderness and lived off of berries–which is very far from the truth. Walden Pond is a nice 20-minute stroll from Concord Center, and old Henry used to walk into town every time he felt like cadging a free meal from Ralph Waldo Emerson (which was often). He also left his clothes there for the Emerson’s washerwoman to get clean. He was well known for being an exasperating moocher who seldom even bothered to thank other people… Read more »

CEE
CEE
9 years ago

“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

Did you mean to write dispensable rather than “indispensable”?

Tara
Tara
9 years ago

I was another of those people who grew up with thrifty, responsible parents who ended up as a spendthrift. I’m not sure why or how, but I was addicted to spending and credit cards for many years. I still don’t consider myself cured, but I have at least gotten out of debt and intend never to go there again. I am saving a ton of money but I still get derailed a few times a year with unintended splurges when temptation gets the better of me. So my role models are my parents – always paid cash, saved a lot,… Read more »

Pat Chiappa
Pat Chiappa
9 years ago

I stand behind this – frugality is just common sense smart.
Don’t we all feel a little dopey if we spend too much on something?
I like being smart, it feels good.

So for me, frugal it is.

Melissa @ MangoMoney
Melissa @ MangoMoney
9 years ago

My sister is my financial role model; She is so tenacious about getting the best prices, saving money where it counts, but allowing oneself small liberties. She is frugal when it’s uncool, and splurges only when it makes absolute sense (and cents.) What I love is that so many people cite their mother as one of their money role models. I work for a blog and we just made a video about the power and influence women have on our spending habits. Here’s the link, for all of you that listed your mother as inspiration 🙂
http://blog.mangomoney.com/money/thanks-for-handling-the-money-mom

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