The 4 Reactions to Frugality & Why Spending Can Only Take you so Far

There are four common reactions that I get when I preach frugality and the benefits harvested from a frugal lifestyle.

The first is excitement. Those who have been bitten by the frugality bug have an incredible connection to others who also have. There’s a synergy. A commonality. I think that comes from being in the small minority, but having similar goals to simplify, break free, and thrive. Consumption minimization without deprivation requires creativity and some hustle. It’s fun. And there’s a sharing of knowledge that can occur here that is really enlivening. Good stuff.

reactions to frugalityThe second is shock or astonishment. “You spend how little per month?! That’s crazy!”, “You sold your car and bike to work? Why?”. This reaction usually comes from those who just haven’t really been exposed to the ideas, as the virtues are definitely not trumpeted in the mainstream. Sometimes these conversations can be really fun because there is a curiosity and it can present a teaching/learning opportunity. Other times, it can seem like you are talking in a foreign language. You get weird looks. Sometimes some head nodding.

A third reaction comes in the form of minimization. This, on its own, usually comes in two forms. The first is the blow-off: “Well, that’s nice, but I could never do that. I have to have my (fill in the blank).” Other times, it surfaces as attempted humor. You know, the “you’re such a cheapskate” type jokes. Mostly harmless stuff and I play along, but often times the humor comes with a twist of spite. People make fun of things they don’t really understand or they feel a bit threatened by. Those with wasteful spending habits feel threatened by frugality because it turns the mirror on their wastefulness. But I guess I would prefer to have it directed towards me in the form of minimizing humor than the fourth and final reaction…

Angst. This comes out in the form of name calling or attempts to diminish ones self-worth. I’ve seen it directed towards others. I’ve actually had people tell me on this blog, on a number of occasions, that I must be miserable. That they feel sorry for me. That my way of living is not worth living.

My initial first response to this kind of negativity is bewilderment… I mean, if you don’t like the lifestyle concept of frugality, what are you doing following, reading, and commenting on a personal finance blog that espouses the virtues of frugality and reduced consumption on a weekly basis!?

Playing armchair psychologist, I assume that this kind of reaction is for one of two reasons:

  1. The person really does have a misconception that frugality = misery. Their belief is that if you are frugal (aka not someone who spends your money on whatever pops in your head as a potential “happiness-driving token”), you are not truly living life. Money is meant to be enjoyed through spending and if you aren’t spending it, you must have a miserable existence.
  2. The person has so identified with their spendy lifestyle that they take it personally that I’ve indirectly questioned it. Their response is a retaliation to try to make me feel bad or question my own lifestyle.

Do I ever take it personally? No. And my message back is this…

Spending will Only Take you So Far

I have already obtained 99.9% of the sustainable happiness/fulfillment that could be obtained from spending more money. I eat healthy, wonderful organic food. Brew wonderful brews. Drink wonderful drinks. Experience the entertainment I want to experience. Bike when I want to bike. Hike when I want to hike. Go on trips I want to go on. Have adequate means of getting where I want to go. A nice roof over my head. We have 3 awesome pets. What more stuff do we need? All of our basic needs and MUCH more are covered. More stuff cannot take me any further down the path to eternal bliss.

There is something that can take me further down that path: time ownership that financial independence can provide.

When you own your own time, it can open up doors that spending cannot: freedom of choice to pursue your interests and passions, learning more, exploring more, creating more, connecting more, contributing more, relaxing more, exercising more, and the personal growth and enjoyment that comes from all of the above. These things can take you further than more stuff ever could. And simply replacing more stuff with that hope and goal adds a ton of life energy and motivation.

So, please, don’t worry about me. And definitely don’t feel sorry for me either. And I hope that one day you might join me.

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