I’m frugal, I swear.

December 18, 2009 · 18 comments

Screen shot 2009-12-17 at Dec 17, 2009, 11.14.55 PMI got out of my 2007 Toyota Scion TC, walked in to my apartment, made a call on my iPhone, checked my email on my Macbook, opened up the box to my brand new Digital SLR camera, and then thought to myself “Holy crap, am I a hypocrite?” How can I possibly preach frugality, when I own some rather expensive items? I’m sitting here typing this, on my 22″ external monitor, desperately trying to figure out a way to reconcile my possessions with my frugality.

And then it hit me… it’s because I’m frugal that I can own these nice things! We get caught up in the mentality that, to be truly frugal, one must save every dollar they earn and avoid nice things at all cost. Wait, that’s not what frugality is about, at least for me it’s not. For me, frugality is a commitment to manage money wisely, and have fun doing it.

I can afford to spend more money in some areas because I minimize costs in other areas. I keep a tight budget on expenses that most people (not you) tend to spend more frivolously on. I don’t drink alcohol, so that automatically saves me $20-$200 a month less than most other people my age. I still wear clothes that I’ve had since college. I try to eat out no more than once a week. I don’t go clubbin (Girl Ninja would not approve). And I only shower once a week to save water….just kidding….kind of.

Sure I may own some Apple products, drive a car with less than 30K miles, and have two computer monitors, but the beauty of frugality is that it’s expressed differently for each person. It’s about living within your means, not avoiding luxuries.

Indications you may not be frugal and you are just a straight up reckless spender…

1) You put “dining out” expenses on a growing credit card balance

2) You buy things you don’t want or need, simply because it was on sale.

3) You own multiple DVDs you have never taken out of their wrapping (I know some of you are guilty of this).

4) Your name starts with a “C” and rhymes with bongress.

We all tend to make assumptions about others based off our observations. Heck, I’m guilty of it, but I hope a few nice possessions wont disqualify me from joining Club Frugal. What kind of frugal dude/dudette are you? Are you the I’m-so-cheap-I-won’t-have-any-fun frugal? The I-like-to-monitor-my-spending frugal? Or the I’m-not-really-frugal-but-I-like-to-pretend-that-I-am person?

{ 18 comments }

1 Ken

I would have to say my wife is 'IF THERE'S NO COUPON I'M NOT BUYING IT' FRUGAL..GETS ON MY NREVES AT TIMES BUT AT LEAST SHE'S TRYING TO CUT CORNERS.

2 Allen

I like #4 above!

3 Larry

Frugality does not necessarily mean not buying stuff or only buying cheap stuff. Buying better quality, more expensive stuff may in the long run save you more and provide more satisfaction than buying the cheap stuff. I am sitting here typing this on a Sony VAIO that I bought for $2000 in late 2004. It is still a more powerful machine than any my company has bought for its workers, and in five years I've put perhaps $125 into it when the two DVD drives failed.

4 tom

Dang it… Larry beat me to it! You have all quality stuff, and that's what matters.

5 tom

It's less frugal to buy cheap crap and replace it a lot. I don't know how many times I've made that mistake.

Macs are expensive, but they rarely break down and are fast as hell, unlike my computer!

6 Investing Newbie

I think I'm the I'm-Not-Frugal-But-I-End-Up-Being-Frugal-Anyway dudette. I think that qualifies me as passively frugal. I don't go out of my way to scrimp and save, but I end up doing because its whats natural. I have fun, but I keep my MONIES in order. LOL.

7 @missalphawrites

I love Goodwill and Big Lots and I don't care who knows it. With that said, nothing compares to a high quality piece of clothing or a full-warranty on a car so that you don't have to worry about it anymore.

8 Jared

Hi Debt Ninja… I'm a big fan of the "Bad Money Advice" blog and recently became aware of your site in his "A Rational Limit to Saving" article. I've been reading through some of your archives and am quite enjoying your writing style.

I would have to say that I'm a "Don't buy most things that aren't food" kind of frugal person. I do spend money on other things, of course: rent, insurance, utilities, etc. However, that's not the same to me as "shopping." Whenever I'm purchasing a non-recurring service that's not food, I ask myself "Do I really need this?" Usually the answer is no, and I don't. Sometimes I do, and that's fine, but overall I don't buy all that much. I think the last time I bought new clothes was upwards of a year ago, I visit the library instead of buying books, I don't buy (or otherwise illegally obtain) music, I don't spend over $100 without first consulting my husband, etc. I'm probably too miserly if anything.

9 MattyIce

I am not frugal enough, which is part of my problem. But I will say that I do not get caught up in buying the cheaper things because they are on sale. I would much rather spend a little more on a nicer quality item, then buy a deal. My frugality runs into trouble when I am browsing and I start impulse shopping. Buying in the moment is where I can lose control.

10 Forest

I'm with you (again). I'm a I-like-to-monitor-my-spending frugal person, but I think I used to be a I’m-so-cheap-I-won’t-have-any-fun frugal person and guess what, it wasn't very fun!

11 WellHeeled

I don't know if I'm frugal. But I've never really like the sound of the word much – I guess I've been turned off by too many extreme frugality lifestyles. I guess I'm the use-frugality-as-tool-but-its-not-my-goal type. :) http://www.wellheeledblog.com/2009/12/18/am-i-fru

12 JFW

We max out our yearly 401(k), Roth contributions; and have set aside enough in a reserve account. With that in mind, I am comfortable spending up to the limit of our remaining disposable income. We have our house and rentals so we are not planning for major purchases. Back up plans are tapping the reserve account, or taking a temporary raise from reduced retirement contributions.

Spend the hell out of the rest :)

13 Abigail

I consider myself pretty frugal, but I don't have anything against nice stuff. I only have a problem with buying too much nice stuff (ie, far more than you need) and buying on a whim.

My husband is more of a consumer than I am, but we've been able to keep it somewhat in check, budget-wise. We got his PSP with rewards programs. Our old Xbox 360 (bought in conjunction with his parents for a Christmas gift one year) was dying, so we took up the Wal-Mart deal of $199 plus a $100 Wal-Mart gift card, which we then used to buy groceries at Sam's Club.

We shop for jeans and such at outlet malls, so he can get the brands he likes but for only $20.

I think what's nice about our relationship is that we're good influences on each other. I rein in his spending and have taught him over the years to not buy everything he sees (ADD is a bitch in that department); but he has also gotten me to loosen up a little and not always live for the future. Sometimes, it's okay to splurge a little on an important purchase. (After a mere 3 years of begging, he got me to okay a punching bag and stand. Not only is it helping him get out frustration and energy, I'm being taught some good defense moves and getting a bit of a workout.)

We're providing balance to each other, which I'm finally realizing is the true heart of frugality.

14 The Asian Pear

I'm a Use coupons/give OK but not great/monitor spending/reuse-reduce kinda frugal girl.
I don't see why people have to treat the word Frugal like it's a bad word. Or even the word Cheap. I spend money on things I deem as worth of value. But I won't spend things that should only be worth $50 but priced at $200 due to a mark-up. I'm not made of money. I live within my resources. And if that makes me frugal, so be it. I'm proud to be so. I even wrote a I AM FRUGAL rant of it on my blog last month.

15 Linh

I am I-like-to-monitor-my-spending frugal :)

Which DSLR did you get?

16 PunchDebt

Rebel XSi. I’m a rookie so it should treat me nicely :)

17 Linh

Let us know how it goes! I'm still wanting a DSLR but holding off until I am 100% certain about it!

18 Financial Samurai

Dang, those are all some nice things you got there! I'mm wishing i can get a canon eos dslr, but feel bad paying $500 for it.

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