Frugality: Welcome Challenge or Only a Chore?

As a kid, it was my job to pull the weeds in our embarrassingly overgrown backyard. No, my parents didn't believe in doing or paying for yard work. They had children, after all.

I hated pulling weeds, especially during the hot and humid Texas summers, so I did what anyone in my position would've done: I decided it was my little brother's job. But, being four, my little brother scoffed at my authority. I had to be creative, so I convinced him pulling weeds was a game. The more weeds he pulled, the more he, uh, “won.”

Sneaky KristinThe little knucklehead fell for it, and before I knew it, he was in the backyard–toiling, sweating and having the time of his life. Pretty soon, I didn't even have to ask; he just wanted to go play his “game.” What I perceived to be miserable, he thought was a blast.

Lately I've realized that I've sort of done the same thing with frugality. To many people, frugality is not fun. It's boring and limiting and headache-inducing. Living a frugal life was never something that sounded appealing to me, either. It was never something I thought I would voluntarily do–maybe because, growing up, my family had no choice but to be frugal. Actually, we didn't call it frugal; we called it poor.

But at some point, I seem to have tricked myself into enjoying it. Don't get me wrong; I still very much have to be careful with my spending. But I now perceive thriftiness as something fun, enjoyable, and dare I say–exciting? Okay, maybe exciting is pushing it. The point is, I don't see my frugality having an expiration date, because it's truly become a hobby for me.

First, here are some ways I've been enjoying frugality–pulling the weeds, if you will.

Frugality and Romance: An Unlikely Duo
When it comes to topics couples argue about, money tops the list. So there's no denying that frugality can be a romance buzzkill. Unavoidable, yes, but a buzzkill nonetheless. But I have a fun way to use it to my relationship's advantage.

Every now and then, my boyfriend and I will make a weekend outing to the mall or some other shopping mecca–a flea market, maybe–and we'll play a little game. We'll agree to go pick out a gift for each other that's less than five dollars. We split up, hunt, and then meet back up later, when we surprise each other with the small but sweet, inexpensive present. Sometimes it's a gag gift, and we get a laugh out of it. Yes, it's silly and simple, but it's still a pretty romantic way to spend some time. The activity forces you to think about the other person–things they like, their hobbies, etc.–so it's a great way to remember the little things you love about your partner. It also helps you to reconnect, if even just a little. And it's fun! And even though you are doing something inexpensive, the focus is not on frugality; it's about being romantic and having a good time.

It also makes an otherwise boring place kind of fun.

The Snowball Effect
When traveling, my boyfriend and I once decided to have a drink at a swanky bar, having no idea it was happy hour. We ended up ordering some fancy food, along with our drinks, and we walked out of the door for less than twenty dollars. That savings gave me an even better buzz than the wine I'd just guzzled down. During the rest of the trip, I was intent on beating that amount. I never really did, but I had a good time trying. Like my little brother, I'd managed to turned a chore into something fun. (Maybe I'm crazy, but the money-saving meals seemed to taste a little better, too.) Sometimes stumbling into frugal behavior is such a nice surprise, it inspires you to keep being frugal–if only to get that savings buzz back!

My Savings Is Better Than Your Savings
I know you're not supposed to keep up with the Joneses, but I do–with my savings, at least. A competitive friend of mine always claims he can get better grocery deals than I can. So we often compare the savings amounts at the bottom of our grocery store receipts. Some pals play Words With Friends; we play “Frugality with Friends.” (Or something like that. I also play Words With Friends, by the way.)

It's all in good fun, especially if you like crunching numbers and stuff, and, oh right–I happen to be saving money in the meantime!

My Rich Boss Loved Frugality So Much, He Got a Second Job
Okay, this one isn't about me. It's about someone I used to work for who happened to be quite thrifty. During college, I was an assistant to a small business owner–let's call him Horatio. Horatio was rich. He was undoubtedly on a high, six-figure income, but he still drove a beat up old Ford and didn't care a whit for country club memberships, name brands, or anything of the sort. We've all heard the story about the millionaire who didn't behave like a millionaire–well, that was Horatio.

Anyway, even though he was loaded, Horatio decided he wanted to have a second business. He started an eBay store, reselling stuff he found at government auctions. He raked in a small second income doing this, but it wasn't like he needed the money. It was just fun for him–not the work, really, but seeing the rise in value of something he was selling in those online auctions–he really dug that. I should mention, Horatio was also incredibly generous, so I don't think it was an obsession with greed that was motivating him.

I used to consider frugality a lifestyle, but lately, it's become a hobby, too. It's no longer a chore, or something I merely have to do–it's a game, something I also enjoy doing. Surely if I've “tricked” myself into thinking thriftiness is fun, others can, too. I suppose part of the trick is using frugality to appeal to things you already enjoy–romance or competition, for example. This way, instead of dreading it, it becomes something you look forward to.

How Long Will You Stick With Your Frugality?
I've been told the key to accumulating wealth is to live below your means, but what does that mean for those of us who prefer to have a low-key lifestyle?

For those of you who are already having fun with frugality, when will you give it up? Certainly I would find it silly if my brother were still pulling weeds for fun, but I'm just not sure if I'll ever abandon thriftiness, regardless of my financial status.

Is frugality something you plan on sticking with for the rest of your life–or as your GRS journey ends, do you plan on giving it up (and then living it up)?

More about...Frugality, Psychology

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Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
7 years ago

I don’t really focus on frugality, I just spend my money on what matters most to me. The problem with the game mindset is when you get sick of a game you normally quit where as my method of just spending on what matters most to me may change but I’ll just keep the same goal in mind. The game mindset can be a great way to get started with frugality, but modest frugality should be a way of life. Extreme frugality is totally different though… I avoid that.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

Agreed! I think many people associate frugality with sacrifice and hardship rather than prudence — which is a shame.

I find it odd that some people think conscious spending is a hardship. To me, it’s freeing.

AZ Joe
AZ Joe
7 years ago

I think this is a great article! To me, frugality is not a game, it is a hobby. I consciously made it one of my hobbies over 20 years ago and continue to engage in it even though I no longer “HAVE” to continue. Many people I know keep and do hobbies their whole life. That is my plan. It has paid off financially, in lifestyle and in life satisfaction.

Sam
Sam
7 years ago

For us frugality means avoiding lifestyle inflation. We live a good life. We are frugal in some areas, our home (many of our friends are in the process of upgrading to McMansions), our cars (we drive paid for cars, we only buy used), but splurge in others, 5 star hotels when on vacation, an antique car (which was actually cheap but its not like we needed a third car), entertainment, etc. Our goal, from year to year is to try and keep our spending flat. So as costs creep up we need to get creative to bring them down or… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty.com
7 years ago

I choose to be frugal in some areas so that I can splurge on others. I don’t see this ever changing. It’s just how I am!

I won’t pay $30 for a new shirt but I will pay thousands of dollars to travel somewhere and it won’t bother me one bit.

Lmoot
Lmoot
7 years ago

This is me to a “T”. I don’t even know if I can call myself frugal. I think I would describe this as conscious, or mindful spending…there is a difference. I know for a fact several of my purchases are not frugal. I spend more money on certain things than my peers: solid and design furniture, experiences, travelling, hobbies. But on the other hand I have: – no cable – pay-as-you-go phone – 8 year old laptop as my only computer – used 9 year old car I bought 3 years ago and paid off within months – very little… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  Lmoot

I totally agree! I splurge on things that are important to me and ignore the rest. I work hard for my income so I don’t want to waste it on items that don’t enrich my life or make me or my kids happy in some way! I also agree that it confuses people sometimes. I used to get questions like “How come you couldn’t go out to dinner last week but you have money to go on vacation next month?” Thankfully, I think my friends and family are starting to understand my philosophy more and this leads to fewer awkward… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago

I can look at a guy forgoing air conditioning (in Florida!) and say, “wow, he really wanted to go on that trip!”, and I can put myself in his shoes and think what I’d do – No question, I’d take the A/C over the trip! (Although probably not a newer car). But it can be hurtful to people to know a vacation is more important to you than spending time with them at a restaurant. Obviously vacation is often more important, but then I think you need to be clear. i.e. “I can’t go to dinner I’m saving for my… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty.com
7 years ago

I totally disagree. If someone truly wanted to spend time with me, it shouldn’t have to be somewhere where spending money is required. We all have houses. Let’s watch a movie and eat some popcorn. I spend and allocate my hard earned income based on my values, wants, and needs. When someone invites me on a outing that requires money being spent, sometimes I go and sometimes I don’t. If I spent my money according to what other people wanted all the time, I would be broke. I budget $500 per month on groceries and eating out. If I am… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago

We also have to be careful not to come across as snooty, stuck-up, holier than thou because you chose not to spend money on XYZ. Just because you can roast your home and be just fine doesn’t mean other people can or should. When it comes to going out, I have to keep a balance. On one hand, its better to entertain at home where you can eat, drink, play games and watch movies for far less than going on. On the other hand I work from home and spend the majority at home. Sometimes the last place I need… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty.com
7 years ago

If I come across as snooty for not going to eat with someone, then they probably wouldn’t be a good friend anyways. “Just because you can roast your home and be just fine doesn’t mean other people can or should.” It goes both ways. Just because someone wants to go to Benihana and drop $100 on dinner doesn’t mean that they should insist their friends do the same. I try to be considerate of others when I ask if they want to hang out. I try to give options between going out or staying in because I don’t want people… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty.com
7 years ago
Reply to  Lmoot

I completely disagree with you. If someone wants to spend time with someone else, why do you have to do it at a restaurant or somewhere where spending money is required? We all have houses. Let’s get together and watch and movie and eat some popcorn. Spending time together shouldn’t require everyone spending money. Family/friends invite me to dinner and other spendy places frequently. Sometimes I go and sometimes I don’t. If someone chose to have hurt feelings because I didn’t want to spend money that particular day, I would consider it their problem- not mine. I earn my income… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty.com
7 years ago

I only meant to post that once!!!!!

=)

Lisa
Lisa
7 years ago

Great article! I think frugality is something my partner and I are pretty committed to for the long haul. For us, a big part of it is tied to environmentalism and avoiding consumerist habits. I feel good about packing some snacks from home and going for a hike and a swim near our house, and it’s also really cheap entertainment. I like making my own hair rinse out of baking soda, and it’s cheaper than drugstore shampoo. I think I’ll keep a lot of these sorts of practices even once I’m out of debt, because they align with my values.… Read more »

Steven
Steven
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

I think a lot of people look at frugality and focus on the “sacrifices” and decide it’s not worth it. What most people don’t consider is that frugal hobbies aren’t just cheap but also a lot of fun and good for the mind, body and soul. Being out in nature, hanging out at the lake, going on a hike…what better ways to enjoy life!? I think if more people were to focus on what they gain instead of what they’re “losing,” more people would embrace frugality.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

I think the title of this post is very telling. Many people tend to view frugality like they do a weight loss diet — something that’s only temporary until they meet a specific goal. Frugality isn’t a challenge or a chore to me — it’s just a way of life. I’m not saying that to brag, I just think it’s easier to be a conscious spender when your goal has always been to live below your means. When you see frugality as something “other” or outside of yourself, of course it’s going to be a game or a hardship. We… Read more »

Laura
Laura
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

“Frugality doesn’t have to mean doing things or buying things as cheaply as possible – it means being smart with your money and avoiding waste.” I find this helpful, because based on that definition I actually am frugal overall. But it’s undeniably a chore because being frugal isn’t helping me become financially independent or spend my money on other things I want – it’s keeping my family from going completely under. I’m not choosing to pack my lunch instead of eating out (which I would vastly prefer) in order to later have freedom or a trip or other pricey purchase.… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Enlightening points! Tim Sullivan also had an awesome quote in his piece from yesterday:

“Frugality isn’t always about finding the cheapest option, but rather bringing as much consciousness to your spending as possible.”

That, along with the comments, have made me realize there’s a difference between frugality and finding a good deal (or saving money). Using the diet analogy, it’s what counting calories is to healthy eating: definitely a part of it, but not what it’s all about.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Laura

@Laura — it drove me crazy when the recession hit and frugality became “trendy”. The things people gave up so they could save for a trip or pay off credit card debt were things I did without out of necessity. It felt people were saying “look how much I can save living like you when I earn a lot more than you!” I’m glad you pointed out that for many people, being thrifty is a necessity. I think those habits can often stick with us, though, and make it easier to for us to get a bit ahead when we’re… Read more »

Adult student
Adult student
7 years ago

These examples of frugality are more of “how can I spend less when I’m already spending” than “how can I not spend at all”…how do you make something into a game when it’s, say, “my friends are ordering pizza right now but I know I should just watch them eat and have leftovers at home later because i can’t afford to eat out on a whim,” or “looks like I can’t afford to attend my cousin’s out of state wedding this summer”?

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
7 years ago

When I have to pass things up at the store because I can’t afford it, I try and think about what I’m gaining instead of what I’m losing. I’m gaining some savings, one less thing to upkeep, one less thing to make sure no one steals, one less thing to have to fix when it gets broke….

P.S. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being frugal, I like trash-picking too much!

Jason @ WSL
Jason @ WSL
7 years ago

I believe that over time frugality becomes a new normal, for us at least. I hope our income will go up over time and considering we’re rather content with the life we live I don’t see many things changing. The only thing that may change is adding a few dollars to monthly spending amounts and taking a yearly vacation (or two small trips).

Frugality is tough as you get started but over time it just becomes part of your life.

Bella
Bella
7 years ago

This was a nice article – well written. BTW – I still like pulling weeds – it’s not foolish – I just like the sense of satisfaction of a well groomed garden that I didn’t pay someone to maintain.

stellamarina
stellamarina
7 years ago
Reply to  Bella

Pulling weeds in the early evening is a form of meditation for me. Very theraputic.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  Bella

And there are so few problems in life that one can simply pull up by the roots! OF course, you need to start by watering well first.

When my father was dying I spent a lot of time out there. And a lot of tears.

Josh @ Live Well Simply
Josh @ Live Well Simply
7 years ago

Frugality doesn’t have to be boring. Just focus on the things you really want out of life and learn to cut the fat on the rest. Simple.

Mrs PoP
Mrs PoP
7 years ago

For me being frugal isn’t really an active decision most of the time – it’s like being vegetarian. It’s been a part of my life for so long that it’s just who I am. Barring some major life changes that I can’t anticipate, I don’t see frugality (or spending with sense as I like to call it) going anywhere anytime soon.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Mrs PoP

This post has me thinking about the impact of labeling ourselves or others as “frugal”. I can’t eat dairy, so dairy-free cooking is the norm for me. It’s only when I’m in someone’s home or I have guests that I really think about it. People think I’m deprived, but I don’t feel that way (well, most of the time!) My “frugal” habits are the same. It’s always been the norm for me to pack lunch, cook at home, buy used furniture, etc. It surprises me when people see these habits as sacrifice or “less than”. What’s “normal”, “frugal” and “sacrifice”… Read more »

Jim
Jim
7 years ago

Frugality and splurging is a balanced journey slightly tipped on the side of caution.

Paula
Paula
7 years ago

Good article and one that made me think. Our lifestyle is frugal and my husband taught me to be that way. I used to be careful with $ but he taught me how to not spend except for needs. This is my second marriage and we wed when we were both over fifty. We have accumulated substantial wealth since we got married and are quite comfortable in this lousy economy. I want a more updated kitchen and master bathroom but it doesn’t make sense now. It just isn’t cost effective to make this investment in the current housing market. So,… Read more »

DD
DD
7 years ago
Reply to  Paula

Unless you are considering selling your home in the very near future, the state of the economy really doesn’t need to impact your decision to renovate. If you aren’t worried about recouping the investment in the near future, then investing in improvements you will get to enjoy for many years is perfectly reasonable. In addition, due to the state of the economy, you may be able to negotiate some deals on the work/materials as retailers and contractors compete for the reduced dollars being spent on renovations. When you have cash saved and are ready to spend in a down economy,… Read more »

Susan
Susan
7 years ago

Wonderful post Kristin, particularly the way frugality becomes a game and makes it more interesting. I’m old compared to everyone else on this site and I just have one thing to say, Never give up on being frugal, it will serve you well as life throws you some zingers and it will. 🙂

MelodyO
MelodyO
7 years ago

Excellent post! Being someone’s little sister, I know how older siblings can be – I’m just surprised you didn’t make him stop pulling weeds because he was enjoying it too much. :0D Every once in a while I let myself splurge on something that’s definitely a want rather than a need, and invariably it gives me so much anxiety that I regret buying it afterwards. So in that regard, my frugality goes so deep that I never have to worry about falling off the wagon in the future. No matter how rich I get, I’m always going to get a… Read more »

Quest
Quest
7 years ago

I have lived both sides of the coin, both the six figure income and the spending and hoarding that went with it, and now a more minimalistic and frugal way of life and, honestly, I prefer frugality. I never want to have to get rid of tons of stuff again or live with the after effects of overspending.

Andy
Andy
7 years ago

Friends of mine always make fun of me for being “cheap” which is funny to me because I spend thousands of dollars a month. I spend $2000 a month on buying back my financial freedom from the student loan companies. I spend hundreds more on securing my financial freedom with retirement and emergency savings. What they see as cheap because I scoff at the idea of spending tons of money on shoes, clothes, luxury cars, more house than I have any use whatsoever for, and knick nacks to fill my house, I see as the price for me being able… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Andy

“What they see as cheap because I scoff at the idea of spending tons of money on shoes, clothes, luxury cars, more house than I have any use whatsoever for, and knick nacks to fill my house.” Who do you hang out with? I’m honestly not asking this to be snarky. I am actually curious. I don’t know very many people who would mock or openly criticize someone for not buying a luxury car with heated seats. And we have friends who are physicians or other high level professionals. Are you hanging out with multi-millionaires? Or are you exaggerating? Sometimes… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

You’d be surprised… we have a friend who makes fun of us for getting the most basic car model. Anytime we give him a ride, he laughs about the lack of power windows and locks. It’s kind of annoying, but I’d rather not explain our financial strategies to him, since he’s clearly not interested. And this is someone who doesn’t own a car, spending 2 hours a day on public transit to get to his call center job. Nothing wrong with public transit (I still use it sometimes) or working at a job that’s not high paying (I’m in the… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

This may sound mean, but any friend of mine that makes fun of my car while I’m giving them a ride can just walk or take the bus. I will pull over to the side of the road and won’t move until they are out of my car.

Patti
Patti
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

I don’t have a car and I don’t knock my friends and family choice of cars when they are giving me a ride! That’s a little nuts.

AMW
AMW
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Yes, you’d be surprised….most of the ridicule for me are family members. “How could you use coupons, people will think you’re poor?” “Why are you depriving your children from going out to dinner?” “What kind of parent makes their kids pay for their own cell phone and car?” “Isn’t it embarrasing to drive a 10 year old van?” “Why would you bother building a house that is only 2000 squre feet?” “How can you save for retirement when you never go on a family vacation?” Now you can’t pick your family the way you pick your friends! I do treat… Read more »

Crystal
Crystal
7 years ago

I’m a little like you – it is fun to try to find the best deal on something I was going to buy anyway. So yes, frugality for me is fun. But I also splurge when I want something and there isn’t a fantastic deal available, so my personal frugality has its limitations. 🙂

Divyesh Dave
Divyesh Dave
7 years ago

My version of frugality is buying assets for “50 cents on the dollar”. This is how wealthy people got wealthy in the first place.

The same concept can be applied to buying groceries i.e. buy 1, get 1 free.

MelodyO
MelodyO
7 years ago
Reply to  Divyesh Dave

Conversation with my teenager:

Her: My BFF says we should buy the new WII-U because we’re rich.

Me: We’re rich because we don’t buy the new WII-U.

PS We’re not rich, but we’re trying to get there!

AnnW
AnnW
7 years ago
Reply to  MelodyO

Exactly. I remember having only one TV and no VHS well into the 90’s. The people who buy the latest appliances and electronics are often the people who have the lowest assets. “Rich” is relative. I find comfort in the fact that I can probably buy anything I want, but I don’t want anything else. Some people, usually relatives, seem to think that because we can “afford” it, we should give them money, extra cars, etc. One of the families on the yahoo series of spending in America is in financial trouble. He has no job. She wears jeans to… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  AnnW

I loved it once when this guy bought a used bed frame from me on Craigslist. He drove up in a newish BMW and was thrilled about getting a deal on a frame. He said, “These things are expensive!”

I don’t know his story, but I like to think he was someone who valued great cars but was willing to make the effort to save money on other things. Isn’t that what conscious spending is all about?

Carla
Carla
7 years ago
Reply to  AnnW

“How could you drive up to a yard sale in a Mercedes?”

Why not? I’ve purchased some of my best, most beautiful items from yard sales.

CouponDad
CouponDad
7 years ago

Its a mixed bag, I’ve been frugal going on for 20 plus years, I’m 40. I don’t think I would be a spendthrift if I was worth millions, but some of my habits would drop by the wayside. Its a lot of actual work being super frugal. I spend about 10 hours a week couponing, on top of reviewing sales and finding ways to stack coupons, with store coupons and sales to get most of my stuff for anywhere from 70-100% off. I also try to apply this to any shopping I do online but its tougher, I just go… Read more »

Teresa
Teresa
7 years ago

One summer my boyfriend and I had the most fun ever using our Entertainment book coupons for every date night. We’d flip the book open and try a new restaurant or mini golf place, as long as we had a coupon for it. It ended up being quite the adventure as some places were closed when we got there or some places we pulled up to we really had to summon up the courage to go in! We keep our Entertainment coupon book in the car all the time because nothing is as fun unless you’re using a coupon!

DD
DD
7 years ago
Reply to  Teresa

I love those coupon books. Our daughter’s school sells them every fall as a fundraiser. I like to support the school, but don’t want to sacrifice my budget plans in the process. The solution for us is to only use coupons for things I would have bought anyway. The first year I was only hoping to recoup the cost of the book, but discovered that with a little planning we could save substantial amounts in the course of a year. This past weekend my son bought a winter jacket – savings $25+the tax on it. Next I had my oil… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

If you have to desperately play games with yourself in order to convince yourself that taking your medicine is fun, you’re deluded and in denial.

In the words of an immortal New Yorker cartoon: “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Andrew,

You missed the point. She isn’t “desperate”, she’s having a great time.

Anne
Anne
7 years ago

It’s so ingrained in me I don’t even think of it as practicing frugality. Even as a very young person I knew that if I could get some necessity cheaper then I had more money for something I wanted. Why wouldn’t you do that? It’s a no brainer.

Now that I’m retired, anytime my husband and I save $5 on something we high five each other and say “that’s a beer on our next cruise” or we’re two feet closer to Russia.

It’s not so much practicing frugality as winning at life.

Marisa
Marisa
7 years ago

Great article, and I feel we’re kindred spirits. I’ve often said that even if I *could* afford a spree at J. Crew and *could* pay full price for everything, I just wouldn’t be able to do it. I’d much rather find stuff for a bargain/half off/practically free at a thrift store or consignment shop. For me, it’s the thrill of the chase, and “beating” the price other people paid. It’s definitely a game for me, and one I like to win.

Donny @ Extreme Money Saving
Donny @ Extreme Money Saving
7 years ago

I really like the article! It does a great job of demonstrating the virtues and fun of frugality rather than the sacrifices that most people falsely associate frugality with. Real frugality is about doing something because you want to, not because you have to. If you have to do it, it’s more of a matter of survival. The less than $5 gift is really cute! It truly is the experience that counts, not the amount. The flea market is a fine choice for the $5 frugality game indeed. You can really test your frugality there in a number of ways.… Read more »

fl librarian
fl librarian
7 years ago

When we started our debt snowball a couple of years ago, I thought we would only have to be frugal until our debt was paid off and then we’d be able to relax. I’m very pleased that we finally paid off our debt in June (except our mortgage), but am now realizing that if we loosen up our budget, our savings won’t grow fast enough to accomplish our mid- and long-term goals. It’s a bittersweet victory. Continuing to be as frugal as possible will be necessary/important for a long time.

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago

I enjoyed this article. As to whether we’ll continue being frugal … it’s not really possible to know what our lifestyle will be like in the future. We can only guess. The goal, of course, is that we will be able to continue to spend approximately as much as we do now on fun and quality of life. So much of our current budget is tied up in the cost of living and working in Los Angeles … our monthly income needs are going to plummet when we stop working full-time in this city and move away. Our “frugality” here… Read more »

Kayla
Kayla
7 years ago

Haha, I think frugality is fun, too! Last Christmas, I got (awesome) presents for three of my friends for under $20. I felt so accomplished. I still can’t wait until this Christmas–I’m hoping to do even better.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago

When I don’t want to spend money, I just don’t spend money. I’d never go to the mall and try to spend only $5 (I’d pretty much just never go to the mall if I could avoid it). I’d much rather sit on my deck and drink a beer for $1.50 than try to go to bars for under $20. I have a sort of “go big or go home” spending strategy, and it’s how I pay for things like yachting in Greece (which we did in 2010), or brand new cars (I bought my wife a new Subaru Outback… Read more »

Laura
Laura
7 years ago

“I bring home roughly $8900/month after taxes and deductions and such.”

🙂 Will you adopt me? 🙂

Carla
Carla
7 years ago

Tyler,

Though I like your thinking on the matter, and I know you’re speaking only of yourself, not everyone (especially me) will ever get close to bringing home $8900/month. Ever. Maybe not even half of that.

So those $5 trinkets and “staycations” will be the best many of us, maybe not on GRS, but in general can do.

DD
DD
7 years ago
Reply to  Carla

I agree everyone’s financial situation is different but there are still valid lessons to learn. Neither of us makes minimum wage or a CEOs salary, but we can still learn lessons from both groups of people. Suggestions on cutting expenses or spending wisely, maximizing savings and tax strategies, finding fun and free/cheap entertainment and travel, etc. When we first married I was still in university and my husband was in his second year of his first real job making a tiny salary. Now a couple of decades later we bring home $9800/mth which sounds unbelieveable to me considering how we… Read more »

EMH
EMH
7 years ago

Sorry, this is not related to the article – what company did you use to charter the yacht in Greece? My husband and I are looking to charter a boat but since neither of us feel comfortable sailing it ourselves, I want to find a crew but not sure where to start. Thanks!

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago
Reply to  EMH

We did a bareboat charter and I sailed the boat myself, so our experience probably doesn’t really help you (but we rented the boat from SunSail).

Alea
Alea
7 years ago

Awesome article. Frugality is a life choice. It is for me. There comes a time in a person’s life where you hit the proverbial crossroad and you have to choose. Be frugal or be in debtor’s prison for the rest of your life. Once I paid off the debt, I never stopped “paying” as in paying myself. It’s the same feeling I had when I lost weight after college. I was thin, but in my head I was still a fatty. I have never had as much money as I have now, but my brain still thinks I am poor.… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago

Love this article! I tend to think of budgeting and frugality not in terms of what I can’t have, and more in terms of a tool to make the things I want possible. Just another way of thinking of conscious spending. As someone who was an English major for, oh, 12 years or so, I never thought I’d be a geek about spreadsheets and numbers. However, in my current job I manage hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of funds, and once I mastered the formulas going into the spreadsheet, it was only natural to start making my own. Then… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
7 years ago

I’ll dissent from the “frugality is fun” crowd. I don’t find it fun. It is a lot of work (as someone said) and it requires mental energy and planning that I’d rather channel to something else. Plus I like luxury vacations, good meals out and nice clothes, shoes and handbags. Being frugal isn’t hellish and I do it because I have to do it. But given a choice and unlimited cash, I wouldn’t be frugal. Maybe frugality is like exercise. Some people do it because they love it and always have, some start off not liking it but learn to… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Jessica, I totally agree!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

That’s a good way of looking at it!

I find some frugal habits are a way of life that I wouldn’t change while others could go out the window. I’d still be careful with my grocery budget because I hate wasting food (that’s just silly.) Would I hire someone to clean my apartment if I could afford it? Oh yes!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago

Hilarious anecdote. That trick worked most famously for Tom Sawyer’s whitewashing of a fence– and he even made a profit for letting others play. A few random thoughts on the subject: 1) The gamification of goal achievement is a proven strategy for a lot of people. Games are designed to give you small dopamine releases and keep you hooked. Whatever works, yes? 2) I like some computer games, but I hate those where you have to craft & sell a bunch of stupid items because they feel like a job where you’re not getting paid. Boooring! But they do keep… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Post-script: copypasta from Tom Sayer, chapter 2, which I just found. I had forgotten just how much profit he made! And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles,part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob,… Read more »

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

It sounds like you think any goal setting is gamification. Not sure that is true. One is not “tricking” oneself, just choosing from among a number of desired goals.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

That book sounds intriguing, El Nerdo, and something non “nerds” could probably get a lot out of, too. Would love to read your GRS take on that!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristin Wong

Maybe I should look at the money-making wisdom of Tom Sawyer instead. The more times I read that quote the more hilarious I find it. I read that book in Spanish when I was a kid but in English it’s so much better.

But yeah Chris Hardwick’s book is alright. He talks about his lost years as a drunk, overcoming all manners of self-destructive behavior, and channeling his nerd talents to rake in the dough. I’ll put it on my GTD I guess.

KSR
KSR
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Nerdo, you could write about anything and garner adoration. I’d like to read about it. I see it as a leap that the token economy of old has taken on this technological super highway to apps, avatars, and online competition whether it be in regard to working out, losing weight, or saving money (or any other accountability function in the new age of social media). Personally, I’m not motivated by competitive sport or finance of any kind with others and certainly not myself nor am I on Facebook and I don’t know why I’d ever wanna or have a reason… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  KSR

LOL, don’t know about the “adoration” part, but I’m sure I garner a lot of hate (I have that “special charm” that often makes people furious without any intention of my part). (Nerdo: “Oh, look, the Emperor has no clothes.” Emperor: “Arrest and kill that man!” /Nerdo flees. ) Anyway, Hardwick actually speaks of being sucked in by computer games and earning only misery in real life. These days he AVOIDS games, much like a recovering addict, and channels that obsessive streak into other pursuits instead. As a result, he does all kinds of interesting stuff and sleeps in a… Read more »

Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
7 years ago

Hehe, I did something very similar to my sister when we were little. I got her to tidy up our room by telling her she was Cinderella and I was an ugly stepsister!

I was frugal to get out of a little debt I’d built up as a student in the UK, but since I cleared that I have still been living well within my (miniscule) means, saving an Emergency Fund and for various expenses (travel, moving costs, gifts etc).

Frugal is fun! 🙂

Michelle
Michelle
7 years ago

This article reminds me of a vacation my husband and I took when we were newly married. We decided to try and spend an average of only $20/day after housing and airfare were taken care of. We were in Scotland for a little over a month, so a lot of the appeal was simply being in Edinburgh and walking the streets. In the end, we managed to stay on target – though it was a bit of a challenge. We ended up turning it into a game, which made it quite a bit of fun though too.

Kathleen @ Frugal Portland
Kathleen @ Frugal Portland
7 years ago

i don’t think my frugal habits will ever change. I like to cook, I like to shop at Goodwill, I like my life a lot. Will I live in a basement apartment forever? HIGHLY unlikely.

Deborah
Deborah
7 years ago

While never a spendthrift, I got seriously into frugality while attending college in my 40’s. Little money and a 13 year old vehicle made for very tight finances. It was during this time that I became a thrift-store shopper. A fellow student showed me how to find quality clothing that looked good and wore well. 15 years later I’m in a much better financial state, but I still shop thrift and consignment stores for most of my clothing and a fair percentage of other household items and furniture. I enjoy giving an older piece of quality furniture a new lease… Read more »

K @ Get Worth
K @ Get Worth
7 years ago

I look at frugality in spending the same as frugality with eating. To me it is all about getting my money/calories worth. I try to eat and spend healthy most of the time but every now and then I reward myself with a vacation and a sundae.

stellamarina
stellamarina
7 years ago

Somehow this article reminds me of my parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents. If they were driving cross country they would never have even considered stopping to eat at a restaurant or fast food place along the way. Instead they always packed a picnic basket with flasks of tea, sandwiches, boiled eggs, etc. I think most would see it as being very frugal but I think they enjoyed their roadside picnics more than if they had stopped at McDs on the way.

Maddie
Maddie
7 years ago

The game concept is great! I almost think that any spending chart slightly functions as a game for me (how have I progressed over time — can I continue to do well or better?). I love being frugal, but I think my level of frugality ebbs and flows depending on my number of commitments. I’m currently a traditional undergrad student who works 15-20 hours per week in addition to full-time class. During times of easy classes/low stress, I always pack my own lunch, plan ahead for events and commitments in order to get clothes or supplies as cheap as possible,… Read more »

Cassi
Cassi
7 years ago

I’ve always enjoyed turning boring tasks into games. Recently, I realized that I don’t do anything over the summer unless I make a list, so I started making a to-do list, with everything I need to do. The more tasks I accomplish, the more I… “win.” Silly, but it makes me do what I plan. Also, I love the idea of $5 gifts. Sounds fun!

SB @One Cent at a Time
SB @One Cent at a Time
7 years ago

There’s no denying that materials make us happy. We try to accumulate wealth to spend on things we cherish. Even with frugality, you will spend. Today or tomorrow, thing A or thing B.

When you are spending anyway then how it can be chore? spending on repaying debt interest is a pain and spending that money on other thing is many times more enjoying.

The moment we realize this, we will not feel frugality as chore.

Angie
Angie
7 years ago

Great post, and it mirrors exacly what I have been going through over the past 7 months as I have started my 20% down on a home savings journey as a single gal in a HCOLA. 18 months of frugality isn’t sustainable without a shift in midset that makes you enjoy it… and I’ve done things (such as going car free) that I would have never considered at the start of this journey!)I enjoy challenging myself to see how much I can save each month while still having fun, and I’m enjoying all the positive impacts this is having on… Read more »

Sara
Sara
7 years ago

I just like frugality in general. I like the way it makes me creative. And it gives me goals to shoot for. I have been thinking, though, that lately I hit the wall when it comes to being creatively frugal. I have what I need, I still put money in the bank each month, I don’t have any debt, and I already have a house down payment saved and a frugal retirement already financed. Getting kind of boring because there it is no longer a challenge, but I really have little desire to upgrade my lifestyle in any way except… Read more »

Charlotte@EverythingFinance
7 years ago

Being frugal has just become a way of life. It makes a splurge fun.

AJ
AJ
7 years ago

I LOVE being frugal. I didn’t really grow up frugal as my family were financially comfortable but my mum and nan always love a bargain and I have definitely followed in their footsteps. I don’t know what it is exactly about being frugal. Is it the fun of finding that bargain, being imaginitive with gifts and other items, enjoying the simple life or seeing the bank balance go up? Nothing beats it.

Patti
Patti
7 years ago

I wholeheartedly agree with this article. I enjoy frugality and consider it a game. I love running experiments to see how much one thing costs vs the other and I enjoy doing the math when I wonder whether something really is a cost savings. That said, I also agree with several of the other comments in that while I enjoy being frugal overall, I also have areas where I choose what I will enjoy the most or find the most meaning with rather than the lowest cost choice. My favorite cost savings are those areas where it makes my life… Read more »

John
John
7 years ago

Hi you have links broken in
https://www.getrichslowly.org/guide-to-money/archive/

I can’t see any of the beginner guide on finance. I hope these get fixed

Adam
Adam
7 years ago

Great Post! Fun challenge! think of it as a chore and it nothing will happen to your spending habits.

Mary @Gresham Wealth Management
Mary @Gresham Wealth Management
7 years ago

I think if you focus on your frugality and have to constantly think about it, it will be much tougher. I feel like im at the stage where I just get on with it without thinking.

Love the idea of making it fun though and the idea of finding a gift for less than $5 is a brilliant idea.

Thanks for sharing!

– Mary

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