Today’s post comes to us from Mrs. Picky Pincher, the blogger and resident klutz at www.pickypinchers.com. She writes about her journey paying off $225,000 of debt while living like a queen. Read her great post and then click on over to see all the great frugal living, debt paying, super saving information on her site.
I remember it happened one year after our financial overhaul. Mr. Picky Pincher and I visited my dad and stepmom for a weekend and we were driving to see their new home.
We just bought a home ourselves, so my stepmom asked about the financing. Here’s where I let the frugal cat out of the bag—oops. I revealed the modest purchase price of our home ($145,000) but that we planned to pay it off in eight years.
Cue record-scratching sound.
Her eyes grew wide as saucers as she fired off questions, finding it impossible how a twenty-something could pay off a home so quickly. “We live on Mr. Picky Pincher’s income and save all of my income,” I explained.
“So, what, are you living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ramen noodles?” she quipped.
“No, we live quite well,” I replied, quickly changing the subject to something nice like puppies and kittens.
After you transition to a frugal lifestyle, casual conversation is a minefield, especially with people who live differently from you. My conversations inevitably always end with accusations that I surely must sleep in a cardboard box and wear rags. Frugality is viewed as a sacrificial, deprived form of living for people who can’t bear to part with their carefully-pinched pennies.
If you saw me you’d know I eat extremely well (I have the thighs to prove it), dress in the latest fashions, and keep up with the newest Netflix craze. I live an extravagant lifestyle by all accounts, but I still save over 50% of my income each year.
Here’s why I don’t think my new lifestyle is a sacrifice.
Why Frugal Living Isn’t A Sacrifice
I can be happy and fulfilled with less stuff
Who said owning more crap makes us happy?
I have no idea where this concept came from, but it’s misguided. As long as your base human needs are met, happiness and material wealth aren’t associated whatsoever.
My family jokes that I’m deprived because I don’t have a Keurig, the newest TV, or the fastest car. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with these things, but I’ve rejected them to save money. I don’t need extra clutter hanging around and slipping $5 notes out of my wallet every day.
I don’t want more possessions because I don’t need them. They don’t make me happy. I’m more content to apply my money towards things that matter, like retiring early, helping others, and spending time with family.
As a recovered shopaholic, this wasn’t an easy lesson to learn. After plenty of stumbles and crying over gallons of ice cream, I’ve learned the difference between wants and needs. But it’s made me see that saying no to material possessions isn’t a sacrifice; it’s about knowing what I want out of life and actually acting on those desires.
I don’t ‘deserve’ anything
I’ll be the first to admit I fall of the frugal wagon every now and then. It’s usually when I fall prey to the evil word “deserve.”
“Oh man, I’ve had a hard day. I deserve a tall glass of champagne.”
“Good grief, we saved so much money last month! We deserve a nice dinner to celebrate.”
“I got a promotion at work! I deserve a new manicure.”
A lot of people would do these things without batting an eye. Something good or bad happened, so treat yo’self, right? You deserve something nice, right?
No, I don’t think we deserve anything in this life.
I don’t deserve something because I had a bad day and I don’t deserve something for doing a good job. It’s not a sacrifice to forgo the nail salon because I don’t feel entitled to a reward in the first place. I’m all for little treats now and then, but I don’t approach them from the angle of deserving something.
I still fall into this line of thinking every now and then (nobody’s perfect), but I just have to remember that I don’t deserve treats for being an adult every day. Once I realized life didn’t owe me anything, it was easy to see that unnecessary treats cut into my budget. If anything, I sacrificed my future freedom and stability for the sake of some French tips.
I’m not the problem
Our buying culture has definitely changed with the times. Back in the 1940s or so, my level of consumption would be seen as obscene! But by today’s standards I don’t buy nearly enough.
I’ve decided to do my own thang and not worry about other people. But people who regularly consume non-essentials view the decision to go against the flow as unnatural and deprived. If I’m not like them, surely I must be suffering. Surely I wouldn’t limit myself on material pleasures unless I were truly destitute. But nope, I’m actually totally fine and building my net worth by the day, thanks to smart saving and prioritizing debt payoff.
It’s taken some adjusting, but I’ve realized that my choice to live frugally isn’t the problem: it’s other people’s misguided perception of what ‘frugal’ actually means. It’s the decision to live more simply and really think about your money and your life.
The Bottom Line
I believe frugality looks different for everyone. There’s no right way to be frugal and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to saving money. But I argue that living beneath your means (whatever that looks like for you) isn’t a sacrifice. It’s about exercising judgment on your money instead of mindlessly pumping it into systems designed to take your money. If you feel like you’re sacrificing something by being frugal, consider shifting your mentality or reconsider the items you cut from your budget in the first place. Looking back on my life, I find myself thinking, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?!” That’s how frugal living should feel.
Being frugal isn’t about sacrifice. It’s about creating a comfortable life while stretching the limits of your money’s capabilities.