Saturday, January 8, 2011

LIving Richly In Retirement-Frugality Isn't Deprivation

As we enter the new year, the blogosphere and the Internet in general are full of discussions about finances, money goals, extreme frugality, trimming expenses and the like. this is not to say that these topics don't come up regularly, just that tends to be a time when we look more deeply at the subject. This, coupled with some various discussions I've seen and heard, have led me to wonder about how some folks approach frugality. In the last few weeks it seems I've heard a plethora of phrases such as, "I can't buy that because I'm frugal" or "I'm frugal so I don't do (enter what you don't do here)" or "I don't want to be frugal, I want to enjoy myself!".

This is when I want to yell that frugality is not necessarily about deprivation.  It is about making good money choices and living a life the way you wish.  Most of us make choices and set priorities every day of our lives, and I speak here not just about money.  Rare is the person who can have everything in life. Most of us manage to be happy and live fulfilling lives in spite of these enforced choices.  Sometimes we have better lives because we've had to assign priorities.

  • Frugality is about having what I truly want, not about all the things I cannot or will not have.  Even on an extreme fixed income I manage to do those things which are important to me and give me joy. In my case that's road tripping the us, quilting, photography, spending time with friends and many other things. In exchange for the ability to do that, I don't spend money on other things I might have in the past, that's true.  But giving up those things are not emotionally or financially painful, as long as I am able to do the things that truly give me joy. That's the part that people miss.  The fact that I cannot buy a hardback book or a fast food meal on a whim are minor inconveniences compared to all the things that I can do.
  • Frugality is about creativity. I've said more than once that we are all creative, not just people who are "artists" or "crafty".  Extreme frugality requires coming up with creative solutions on regular occasions. It's a game when I look for original ideas to decorate for a dinner party or a holiday using only things that are already in my home. Anyone can take the kids to Chuck E Cheese, but it takes more effort to plan a birthday party at home that wows and costs less than half of the budget (thinking of the Lego party and Lego cake). Sometimes using your creative side may take longer than the five minutes to go out and buy the alternative.  But in the end you'll take more pride in your originality.
  • Frugality is, for the most part about being mindful.  About 90 percent of my frugal efforts are also things that are "green," for lack of a better term. Frugality is about wise use of resources. When I keep my errands to one day a week, I not only save gas, but I help the environment.  When I choose reusable food storage rather than throw away bags, the same is true.  Because I've moved to cooking from scratch as well as eliminating fast food, I've helped save the earth as well as my pocketbook.  Lest I sound as through I am taking the high road, many of these decisions were made based on finances-but the end result is that they are environmentally sound as well.
  • Everyone can and should use their frugal efforts toward different goals.  The fact that someone gets pedicures, goes to an occasional restaurant, buys a new item instead of a used one,has cable TV, or enjoys an occasional trip may not in and of itself make them "not really frugal".  We all spend our limited amount of money on different priorities. As long as it evens out in the long run, spending on specific item or type of item is neither "frugal" nor "unfrugal".
  • Frugality is sometimes about adventure, about stepping outside the box.  It's about taking risks, finding new ways to do things, and finding cheaper and alternative ways to all the things you love.
I'm the first to admit that having frugally prioritize all the time can be an adjustment, especially for those who have never had to do so before. But a frugal life can be rich and joyous.  Most of the time, deprivation is a matter of attitude.


  1. It is true. My husband and I are forced to be extremely frugal right at this time but soon we may have a lot of wiggle room (thank God) but we have decided that what we have learned over the past year in our forced frugality is not wasted. We will be better by choice with out money and what we spend it on. Every day we learn a new lesson on how to enjoy life on little or no money. We found we didn't die if we couldn't go on a date to our favorite place once a week. We plan to keep the majority of our changed lifestyle if he get to go back to work next month and use the extra money to pay off our house, build up our savings, and fix a few things that need fixing. It has been amazing what a change in finance has opened our eyes too. Just like you.

  2. We are frugal- choosing when and where to spend money. We might take a trip to a crazy place- but stay in a lower class hotel to save money. I won't eat in the hotel, but a bed is a bed (especially if you bring your own sheets).
    We travel to see our kids every three months. When we are with them we see movies, go to games and sometimes catch a play. We never do any of these things "at home". We would rather be frugal here and have the money later.

  3. Your post reminded me of a quote from Sarah Ban Breathnach: "Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend."

  4. If you are open to having a guest blog poster please reply and let me know. I will provide you with unique content for your blog, thanks.


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