I probably read 200 blog posts a week that reference frugality. How to save on groceries. How to make your own laundry detergent. How to reuse everything from old sweaters to rotten carrots. And while I’m always amazed by the ways people find to save money, I’m not a frugal person.
I’m a pack-a-day smoker. An avid purchaser of gadgets. A spendaholic in remission. None of these qualities are synonymous with frugality.
Do I turn in my PF blogger card now, or should I wait for it to be taken by brute force?
There’s nothing WRONG with being frugal. In fact, if you’re struggling with debt, it probably wouldn’t hurt to look at a few ways to hold onto more money. I’m in debt and it definitely wouldn’t hurt me! Personally, though, frugality isn’t high on my priority list; tightwad financial planning takes a great deal of dedication and determination.
I do frugal things! Sometimes!
I don’t consider myself frugal, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done frugal things. When I shop (rare for me these days), I shop sales. I also buy cheaper clothing in general – no more Banana Republic for me when Old Navy is so much more affordable.
I have also managed to cut my restaurant spending tremendously in the past few months, using a goofy point system I made up myself. This has had a huge impact on my finances. In the spring, I was spending anywhere from $150-$250 a month dining out. In September, I spent $61.
After some aggravation with my cable service last month, I decided to cut off my cable. The cost to keep my internet access is $65 a month, a savings of $50 from the $115 I was paying before. And as a bonus, a glitch in Comcast’s system (which they are aware of but can’t fix without rebuilding the infrastructure in my area) allowed me to keep ALL my cable channels! Basically, I saved $50 a month and didn’t even give up anything.
Frugal? Or just less wasteful?
When I look at the three examples I just listed, none of those things really strike me as being frugal. I mean, technically they are, but not really. None of those things involved a lot of sacrifice on my part – I just cut back on some of the stupid spending that sucked my bank account dry every month.
If I was really going to be frugal, I wouldn’t set foot in Old Navy – I’d be shopping yard sales, friends’ closets, and consignment stores. (I do all those things, though not regularly enough to count.) I wouldn’t go to restaurants; I would stretch a tiny food budget to make multiple homecooked meals throughout the week. And I wouldn’t have cable OR internet at home. That’s what I think of when I think “frugal.”
“Frugal” conjures bad images in my head.
Despite the fact that I know how to be frugal, I still can’t get into frugality as a lifestyle like many people do.
I know I could save $10 a year or so by unplugging my TV when it’s not in use. I could save probably $80 a year if I made my own laundry detergent. And I might save a gallon of gas a month by driving 5 MPH slower on my way to work. (I totally made up all these numbers, by the way.)
When I think of being frugal, though, I have this mental picture of a little bitty hamster running on a human-sized treadmill. It seems SO POINTLESS to put forth all that effort for savings that don’t really amount to much. For me, the time it takes to shave a bar of soap with a cheese grater (necessary for making laundry detergent) or make a pillow out of an old sweatshirt could be better spent doing something else.
I can’t help it – I feel like all that stuff is a waste of time. For me, anyway.
If I can save $50 or $100 a month, I’m all for it. But the piddly stuff that saves a few dollars here and there? I can’t make myself do it.
Defending frugality, even though I don’t love it.
There’s one big reason why I’ve never jumped on the frugal bandwagon – I’ve never had to.
I don’t believe people are born pinching every penny. Usually, those habits form out of necessity – growing up on a very limited budget, for example. A job loss. A death in the family. Being raised by frugal parents (or very irresponsible parents, in some cases).
Look, I’m fortunate to be able to pay my bills, pay down my debt, and have a lot of the things I want. I know many people who can’t say that. Could I turn minimalist/frugal and pay off my debt even faster? You bet I could. But I’m not willing to do that unless there’s no other way to make it. And I’m grateful to have that choice.
Families who struggle financially – truly struggle, not just because they do stupid stuff like I
did do – don’t latch on to frugality because it’s trendy. They do it because it’s NECESSARY. And there are stories all over the internet of people who have achieved amazing things by drastically cutting their spending. I may run screaming from the word “frugal” in my own life, but that’s because I’m spoiled. Even when I talk about being broke, I try to remember that there are people who would love to be as “broke” as I am.
I mentioned before how many blog posts I see about ways to be frugal. I may not choose to apply that knowledge in my own life, but I read every single one of those posts and file the information for future reference.
Why? Because I could easily find myself in a situation where frugality ISN’T a choice someday. And I never let myself forget that, no matter how much I hope it never happens.
What do YOU think?
Are you a frugal person? Or, like me, do you cringe every time you hear the word? How do you think your ideas about being frugal (or un-frugal) developed?