If you’ve been a frugal monster for any considerable length of time, you might have experienced something along the lines of the following encounter:
Them “So, found any good restaurants lately?”
Me “To be honest, we only really go to restaurants when we have guests, so I wouldn’t know.”
Them – A look of utter astonishment and bewilderment, couldn’t possibly know how to continue the conversation.
I can’t count how many attempted conversations have just fizzed out and died when people ask me something and I relay that we don’t really know much about it, because we don’t spend much money on it.
“But you have to live a little!” is often the answer we get in return. Treat yourself, living life, letting your hair down.
The truth is, we are able to do all that and more, without spending precious investing power and future house funds (AKA money).
Because frugality is not depravity. Especially not if the alternative is buying more and thrashing the planet even faster.
I won’t fill this post with talk about priorities and financial security. You’ve heard me talk about all that ad nauseum before. But let me just quickly reiterate: To me, knowing I have money in the bank to pay for the next few months of expenses provide much more peace of mind and lasting joy than any splurge the “treat yourself” choir would like me to indulge in, from lattes and café trips to games, books and office stationary.
But to say we never treat ourselves would be a blatant lie. Just this last 2 week vacation we’ve splurged on no less than all three of the new vegan Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavours, to try and compare them all. It was absolutely extravagant and decadent, made even better by sharing with family.
But if we bought it every other week? It would quickly become ordinary. We would succumb to hedonic adaptation and feel deprived if circumstance rendered us unable to get our bi-monthly ice cream fix.
In short, treating ourselves more often does not make us happier. It is just fleeting, superficial flash of joy and it fades fast.
Being frugal makes me happy.
There, I said it.
Feeling happy with our used couch means I don’t have to waste time pouring over interior magazines. I don’t spend mental energy worrying over mismatching curtains. I have space leftover in my brain to enjoy the present, spend time with friends and write.
Plus there is less clutter, which is a big bonus for me. We are not zero-waste by half, but I greatly admire their efforts and we do our best to reduce our contribution to landfill waste.
What about restaurants then? Both Mr. E. and I enjoy good food. But to be honest? Restaurants are usually crowded, noisy places. Once in a while it’s worth it, but the majority of the time I’d rather enjoy a quiet, homemade meal at home.
Looking for clothes in fast fashion shops makes me stressed and is avoided, full stop. Goodwill and secondhand shops are the only kind we frequent, occasionally online if we are looking for anything in particular. Even then I get difficult, looking not only for a style and size I would wear, but whether or not it is made of natural fibers.
The truth is, spending money adds no happiness to my life. I have been looking for clothes lately, because I want a simple work wardrobe that I can put on like a uniform and not have to think about it in the morning.
The bigger splurge we indulge in is to spend time and energy in good company, with good friends, spending time in nature, or watching things grow in the garden.
Those things don’t cost a lot of money. It’s just a bus ticket here, some food or a cake there. At this point, frugality is simply the way of life we chose which provides us the most joy and purpose. Added bonus: It doesn’t fill our bins or donation bags to the brim.
And time is something I can only earn for myself by saving money and tearing myself away from employer dependency.
I don’t want to “treat myself” to minor bursts of dopamine, because I am working on treating myself to the biggest splurge of all: freedom.
Our short time here in my inlaws cabin in Sweden has been really enjoyable. It has been enjoyable to the point where it actually brings on a bout of sadness.
Because a life like this is the life we want, but we have to leave this rural, peaceful landscape and return to civilization, stress and employment.
It is bittersweet, but it is necessary. At least we know exactly what we are working for, and we can return here to remind ourselves, until we find our forever home and have established online income streams.
With frugality, we are buying back our time, piece by piece. To me, that is the exact opposite of depravity.
How do you view frugality? It it joyful or a necessary evil?
Is it a habit to such an extent that you don’t even think about it any more, or do you feel an internal struggle to keep yourself on the frugal path?