Frugal habits take many flavors, kind of like ice cream. There is the do it yourself (DIY) approach which focuses on making your own clothes, doing your own home and car repairs, even making your own laundry detergent. There is the bargain hunter approach which wield coupons, shopper club cards, and weekly sales like some kind of a money saving Navy Seal. Then there is the haggle and negotiate approach, which emphasizes debating the price of everything, even a box of corn flakes, if it it will save you money.
There is always a frugal habit to fit your personality, you just have to find it. But oddly, I’ve only had the misfortune of running across two basic frugalist archetypes during my journeys across the internet.
Frugalists, people who practice frugal habits, seem to appear (at least online) in one of two basic flavors. Kind of like ice cream, if ice cream only came in chocolate and vanilla. First there are those who were reluctantly forced into frugality. “Well crap, I need to pay off these credit cards, better find a way to cut back.” Then there are the philosophers who spend their time espousing frugality as a path to happiness. “My minimalist lifestyle brings me unbounded happiness as I am free from material want. And the fact that I’m helping the Earth by not raping it’s resources gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Kind of like I swallowed a kitten.” Yes, that was sarcasm. I’m rather good at it.
As should be evident from the title of this post, I don’t connect with or agree with either of these kinds of frugalists.
First off, we need to get something straight. Frugality is absolutely essential if you want to achieve financial independence. So you’re going to have to suck it up and get used to it, especially if you want to pull off financial independence in a relatively short period of time.
Why These Archetypes Don’t Fit Me (and may not fit you either)
I’m not forced to be frugal. Back in my grad student days, I was. But not now. I make more than enough money to buy whatever I want, whenever I want. iPad? No problem. Luxury sedan? No problem. A round for the house? I got you covered. But yet, I don’t actually buy all this crap.
I’m not going to tell you about how not consuming has somehow made me happier. Honestly, it hasn’t. I like having things. I like buying things. And expensive and trendy things provide me with much needed social status. I’m not going to pontificate about how my lifestyle is saving the planet. I don’t really care that much about global warming, peak oil, or whatever eco-issue I’m supposed to be ‘aware’ of this year. Yes, that was more sarcasm. I certainly don’t make my lifestyle choices based around them. But yet, I still make a point to save and invest my money, rather than buy crap.
I’m not even an early retirement aspirant. I like my job. I like my boss. I could do this for 30 more years. But yet, I’m hell bent on achieving financial independence. In order to do that I need to save money, which by default indicates that I must avoid buying crap.
Frugality is a Tool to Achieve My Objective
My primary financial objective is to achieve financial independence, sooner rather than later. Since I don’t have unlimited income, I need to find ways to free up more cash so that I can direct it towards my brokerage account. That’s it in a nutshell. I made a choice to aggressively work towards financial independence. And in order to do that, I need to break out the frugality. If I made a different choice, such as trying to retire at 65 like everyone else, I could be a lot less frugal and live it up a lot more. Only time will tell if my choice was a wise one.
Frugal Habits and Me
Let’s finish this post in the same fashion that we began it, with a discussion of frugal habits. I’m not much of DIY person. The things I’m good at doing tend to be highly academic and scientific. I’m not so great with house or car repairs. And anything remotely crafty is going to wind up as an unmitigated disaster. I bargain hunt when I can, but bargain hunting it’s not my thing. I really hate going to three different grocery stores just to save a few bucks per week. I’m not a haggler either, although I’ve had some success trying to negotiate prices in the past. And I’ve had some failures. Overall, I find it too stressful.
So then, what kind of frugal habit do I have? My focus is on the deliberate and conscious allocation of my money towards things I care about and away from things that are less meaningful to me. The profit from this arbitrage is what makes it’s way into my brokerage account. I’ll talk more about my philosophy in future posts. So stay tuned.
Readers: What frugal habits fit your personality? Do you consider yourself forced into frugality or do you have more of a philosophical take on your frugal lifestyle?