Being frugal is not good or bad. It’s a personal choice. For some people, frugality makes them feel rich and free. For others, it makes them feel poor and trapped.
You’re probably here because you’re interested in being a frugal person, but you want a little more information. Or maybe you’ve already started saving money, and you’re wondering if all the sacrifice is worth it.
As you try to live a more frugal life, at some point, you will start to doubt yourself. You’ll wonder why you’re trying to save money. What’s the point of all this, anyway? And you’re right to ask this. Frugal living is not all benefits; there are downsides too. So let’s explore the good and bad sides of frugality.
Benefits of frugal living
For most people, their biggest source of stress is money. And this doesn’t mean wishing they had more of it but not being able to pay for things they’ve already bought. Yes, we’re talking about debt. There’s no worse feeling than lying awake at night worrying about credit card debt, your insanely high mortgage, or whether you can afford that next private school tuition payment.
Frugal people bypass this entirely. If something isn’t within their means, they don’t have it—no fancy shoes, but also no late-night panic sessions.
The ability to deal with the unexpected
It is so easy to get caught off guard by big expenses you weren’t saving for. Frugal living helps you build your savings, so you can pay for those things that pop up without going into debt.
Frugality=gratitude. It doesn’t always make sense, but it’s almost always true. Everyone is familiar with the idea of spoiled children who get everything they want and appreciate none of it. Even the concept of a spoiled teenager makes sense to us. It’s hard to accept, but adults are no different.
If you spend money like it’s unlimited, your brain starts to expect more and more material things. Nothing is special anymore, and you don’t appreciate things that most would consider luxuries. You’re officially spoiled.
When you live frugally, you appreciate things more as they come. An out-of-season orange? Delightful. Trip to the park? An amazing break. You are that sweet little kid that adults actually like to be around. Not spoiled.
Possible early retirement
If you make enough money that you can save a lot over time by living frugally, you have the opportunity to save enough for financial freedom. The F.I.R.E. movement is all about saving money during your younger years so you can retire early. To do this, you need to save at least a million dollars to live off the interest long term. Depending on your income, it may be impossible to save this in your 30s and 40s. If you don’t have a high income, frugality can’t make you rich. But if you do and feel like you are just wasting it, you can turn discretionary income into a chance at early retirement.
Even if you don’t want to retire early, there are still (obviously) many reasons to save money. If you choose to live below your means, you have more money. You can save it, invest it, buy real estate, whatever you want. This can add up to wealth that you can leave to your children or watch it grow.
Downsides to frugal living
Missing out on experiences
Now, of course, there’s a reason that it’s hard to save money.
It’s because spending money is fun and money can buy you great things. It is hard to decide not to take your children on vacation because you are living frugally. Investing is not as fun as travel, country club memberships, and concerts.
Feeling like an outsider among friends and family.
Usually, adults make friends with people from work or people they are related to. This means that you can typically afford the same lifestyle, and everyone is (generally) in the same financial boat. If one of you stops spending like the others, things get weird.
Everyone is going out to dinner at that new restaurant downtown. But you’re not. Your friends think it would be fun for every family to rent a beach house and go on vacation at the same time. But you say no.
See the problem?
And if you tell people you are trying to save money because you want to invest more and live frugally, prepare for everyone to be annoyed. They are likely to feel judged and think that you are full of yourself.
Embarrassing yourself or (especially) your children
Frugl may think an old beat-up car is perfectly fine, or even something to be proud of. But let’s be honest, most people will think it’s embarrassing.
Your kids probably won’t appreciate that you’re focused on saving money when they feel like they have the worst clothes of anyone they know.
You might see this as character building for them, and maybe it is. But it’s still a part of this lifestyle you need to consider.
If you make every single decision based on what will save you money, there will be times you make the wrong choice. Cheap food is often low quality. Hiring the cheapest people to get a job done is almost always a mistake. Spending more money often (maybe always) gets you something better quality. Sometimes, that’s very important.
Deciding what’s right for you
So… now what? Does this mean you should be a frugal person or not?
Of course, only you can decide. Does reading about financial freedom make it seem like an adventure, one that you would happy to make sacrifices for? Or does the idea of skipping vacations make you feel deprived?
Sometimes, we have no choice and have to rein in our spending. But sometimes, frugal living is a choice that can we accept or reject. There is nothing wrong, really, with wanting to spend a lot of money if you can afford it.
Try cutting your spending drastically and embrace the frugal live for a month or so. If you hate it, go buy some designer clothes with all that cash you saved.