The topic of being frugal is one that sends images of Ebenezer Scrooge through your mind and you run far away from the topic as possible – agree? It’s something that just doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Is it possible to be frugal and still enjoy life? First, let’s make sure we’re all clear on what frugality actually is. In today’s post I’ll give you my thoughts on balancing frugal living and happiness.
Frugal Living – Insights from Books
I’m definitely a bit of a geek. In doing a little research for this article I stumbled across the Google Ngram Viewer. It shows the usage of word phrases in books over a period of years. The chart below is for the phrase “frugal living”. I assume people write books about topics as long as people keep buying them. Apparently, it was a pretty hot topic until the mid 1940s. Since then it was on a pretty rapid decline until the mid 1990s. Since then there has been a little bit of a uptick, but I would say it’s definitely not what I would call mainstream yet. I guess for us that do care about being frugal, we’re living on the fringes… 🙂
Being Frugal – According to Warren Buffet
Being frugal actually has an undeserved negative connotation. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in instant gratification and the notion that we deserve more than we really can afford. Personal responsibility sometimes takes a back seat to what we want RIGHT NOW…..
According to Google, frugal is…
- sparing or economical with regard to money or food. – “he led a remarkably frugal existence”
- simple and plain and costing little. – “a frugal meal”
Okay… kind of boring. Google basically says eat ramen noodles and wear hand made, black and white clothes. Be boring and don’t do anything fun.
What does Warren Buffet have to say about frugality? This guy is worth $66.5 billion – why should we listen to what he has to say about frugality? For starters, he lives in the same house he bought in 1958. He is a self made billionaire and has enough money to pretty much do anything his mind can imagine, but has lived in the same modest house since 1958!
Although on a different scale than your everyday Joe, he definitely lives a modest, frugal lifestyle. Here’s some words of wisdom from him –
There are things money can’t buy. I don’t think standard of living equates with cost of living beyond a certain point. Good housing, good health, good food, good transport. There’s a point you start getting inverse correlation between wealth and quality of life. My life couldn’t be happier. In fact, it’d be worse if I had six or eight houses. So, I have everything I need to have, and I don’t need any more because it doesn’t make a difference after a point. When you get to 10 times or 100 times or 1,000 times, it doesn’t make a difference [in quality of life]. source
My interpretation of what he’s saying is – be content. You will reach a point where more things or “better” things want bring you more happiness. He lives this out in his life. As he said it – good housing, good health, good food, good transport. Notice, he didn’t say he always had to have the best.
We Paid Off $34,000 in 21 MONTHS!
Learn the same tools and processes we used to get out of debt and stay out.
What does this mean for you and me?
Are you living this out in your life? Trust me, being content is something that I struggle with pretty much every day. But Amy and I do try to be frugal in our lives. Good is good enough when it comes to “things”. Sometimes we do want better things though. Sometimes we buy the “better” things. But we do try to strike a balance. There’s nothing wrong with desiring nice things in your life, but don’t let those desires control your life. Establish your spending priorities, set a goal, save the money and go for it. As long as your spending decisions are appropriate with your current priorities then it’s okay. You will have to make some sacrifices along the way though. How big and how often these sacrifices are depends on where you are in your personal finance journey. You may have eat ramen noodles a few times if you’re digging out of debt. But if you’re making good progress and want to reward yourself then set a goal, save the money and go for it. Strike a balance.
Striking the frugal life balance in my life
Some recent examples in my life. We just bought a 2004 Suburban. We wanted something big enough to haul our family of 6 and pull our pop-up camper. We paid $11,500 for it in cash. We did this by putting aside $200 per month into our savings account. We eventually bumped that up to $400 per month. We saved until we had enough saved to make the purchase. It took a while. We had to be patient. It had just under 100,000 miles. Of course, we would LOVE to have a newer one, but we can’t justify the additional cost. To get one with only 75,000 miles the price doubled. We chose the one that was good enough. On the flip side, Amy and I are planning a trip for just us (no kids 🙂 ) in October. This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time. We’ve saved the money and will be paying cash for the trip. Of course, we’ll get the best deal we can, but we’re going to enjoy ourselves.
Be frugal with a purpose
If you’re struggling with the concept of living a frugal life then maybe you haven’t determined your why. Why are you striving to be frugal? What’s your end goal? You need a goal, something to work for. Having a purpose will keep you motivated when things get difficult.
Are you living a frugal life? What your purpose? Let me know in the comments below.