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Frugality is not one size fits all. It’s something more. It’s a mindset used to be conscious of spending and priorities.
Every person’s financial journey comes to a point where they put more emphasis on either saving more or spending more. These two opposing perspectives are not mutually exclusive. Frugality isn’t something that has to be tossed aside in favor of making more money. They can co-exist.
Throughout my varying levels of frugality (broke college student frugal, entry level salary frugal, all encompassing general broke-ness 🙂 ) there have been critics about my level of frugality. Every step of the way. Some were simple joking around while many were bitter comments on my lifestyle.
My car squeaked as I pulled into the driveway to park. Along with the periodic squeaking, my car would do a series of beeps when I turned the ignition off.
Why don’t you just get a new car already? You have a job, stop being cheap.
My older brother looked in disdain at the car. Like others, he keep insisting I needed to get rid of my 12-year old car with 190,000 miles and go ahead and get a new car. Not another used car, not a pre-owned car, but a ~new~ car.
You want to buy a new car because then you know everything is brand new and you don’t have to worry about constant repairs.
This was mentioned to me over and over by several people. Buying a new car was a “good” buy, they said, because it was reliable and making the monthly payments would help my credit score.
Being a person who focused on the “making more” approach, the thought of getting a new, better car started to creep up.
Why not get a new car? If I focus on making more money then I will be able to afford a car payment. A new car would be more reliable…
BOOM. Lifestyle inflation.
My frugal mindset quickly snapped in. I didn’t want to buy a new car. My 12-year old, 190K+ mile car was running fine. There was the repair I would have to do ever so often but the repair costs didn’t come close to what I would have been spending on a monthly car payment.
At the time, I was working my first full-time job out of university. With lots of student loans and an entry level salary to boot. I didn’t want more debt. I didn’t want to buy a new car because it was “the right” thing to do. I didn’t want to have a more costly “nice” apartment, mindlessly go to the movies every two weeks because “it was something to do” and charge $12 drinks to my credit card. I didn’t want any of that.
I want to pay off my student loan debt in a timely manner and focus on the writing and design projects I did in my free time.
During my first year out of college, several things weren’t a priority to me:
- Going to the movies
- buying a new, “nicer” car
- getting a ~cool~ apartment that took 40% of my pay
- Mindless hookups and hangouts
- “get together” lunches and dinners
- extravagant vacations
- and many more…
Frugality stems from deciding what you really value and want in life. For me? I wanted to be debt-free. I didn’t want to buy a new $29,000 vehicle and have payments hanging over my head for six years. Student loan debt was not something I wanted to carry around with me throughout my twenties.
I wanted to live a life on my terms. Working a job I enjoyed, being debt-free and having time during the weeknights to work on my writing and design projects. Weekends being able to be used for adventuring and being active, both physically and creatively.
Although, as many know, building your ideal life can take time. So frugality helped me implement strategies to get there.
For over a year after college, I lived without a massive rent payment, didn’t go to the movies or get drinks or brunch constantly, and I aimed to live a more simple life.
I would come home from my job, exhausted, then got to work on my passion projects. Every month I saved a good chunk of my income, threw it towards debt repayment, some towards retirement and some towards my emergency fund.
All the while, family and various people kept commenting on why I wouldn’t buy this or do that. I nodded my head politely and went on my way.
One day, an opportunity presented itself: moving to Southeast Asia, Thailand to be exact, to teach English.
Leaving my full-time job, moving to Thailand and teaching English for a monthly salary of about $850 USD? It seemed crazy, until I looked at my current situation and saw it could actually work.
Due to my frugal ways in the months leading up to leaving the U.S., I was in a good financial standing to take the plunge.
I didn’t have a car payment, wasn’t bound by an apartment lease, and I hadn’t succumbed to lifestyle inflation after graduating university. With steady progress made on my student loan debt, a moderate amount of savings. and not a lot of personal possessions, I was able to quit my job, move abroad and experience a new lifestyle.
People are different. They have different personalities, goals, and lifestyles. So why does frugality still carry this stereotype of being cheap and missing out on fun?
I didn’t clip coupons, reuse paper towels or do any of the other extreme measures people often associate with frugality. I made it work for me.
Following the various personal finance advice of cutting lattes, cable didn’t entirely fit for me. Neither did the opposing advice of “don’t focus on spending less, but making more”.
If I had focused on making more while ignoring the spending less, I would probably be sitting here with a hefty car payment to my name.
Frugality helped me understand the importance of being money conscious. It helped me understand how delayed gratification can sometimes be a good thing.
The debate between spending less and being frugal or instead focusing on making more money is a hollow. It assumes money management is about following rules. It isn’t.
[tweetthis]Money management isn’t about following rules, it’s behavioral. [/tweetthis]
I’ll never stop telling people to be frugal. If you are not conscious with your spending, do you think making more money is the ultimate answer? It most likely isn’t.
If money management were as easy as just following what financial experts said, then everyone would be great with following a budget and saving 10%, 20%, or 30% of their income. Making more money would be the key towards solving our money woes.
Making more money does have it’s place. It’s easier to put more towards retirement, save 50% of your income, and ramp up your emergency fund when you’re making $60K versus $30K.
However, it’s not the be-all answer (check out #26 on Broke Millennial’s post). Being frugal, no matter how much or how little you earn, is important. [tweetthis]Frugality targets behavior and willpower, big components to understand on the path towards financial confidence.[/tweetthis]
Everyone should be frugal in some aspect. It doesn’t have to involve obsessively clipping coupons, reusing paper towels or living without toilet paper. It’s flexible.
Frugality is adjustable. Make it fit your lifestyle.
Do you practice frugality? How have you analyzed your behaviors and habits towards money management? Let me know!
Colin // RebelwithaPlan
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