Frugality Is Not Depravity

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.

In the long run

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.

If I truly want to treat myself, it is with the gift of time, not money.

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.

Bittersweet departure

Frugality is not depravity - why we don't feel like we're missing out by not spending money

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.

Over to you

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?

12 Comments on “Frugality Is Not Depravity

  1. I guess I don’t have the “oh you’re depriving yourself” conversations with people often because I follow up with “oh I don’t have a tv/microwave/fill in the blank” with the confidence and explanation that it isn’t important. People who know us well at all know we are doing well (if just for the fact of early home ownership), so they don’t seem to question the little things. That and my husband and I just laugh it off as us being cheap as f*ck and people just expect it of us ?

    • That’s a good point. We don’t normally get a lot of comments about it in our daily lives, but every time we visit family – they are astonished! You’d think we lived on gruel the way some of them are reacting! 😛

  2. We don’t have a tv or a microwave and I never thought of that as frugal. I thought of that as some leftover 1990s alternative culture thing I forgot to grow out of. I think the point is really about happiness spending not spending. For example, if your passion was eating out, then it wouldn’t be wasteful or frivolous. I just wrote around today how I have major guilt with buy a new mattress and the confusion that creates inside me. I def thinking f%ck those that judge how you want to live; you don’t have to justify yourself, but its the living the intentional life that is important not what (or what not) you decide to buy and do.

    • I definitely know your guilt in buying new things, especially pricy ones! I am currently contemplating buying an electric bike, and recognise what you describe. There are all these advantages to health, freedom of movement, time and transportability, and yet…

      Intentional living is the goal!

  3. I never got when someone said ‘You deserve it, you have to live a little’. I hardly ever hear that anymore. I think I’ve surrounded myself with like minded people over time. It’s not to say that all my friends are into or not into the same things.

    I’ve never enjoyed shopping for clothes or malls. I don’t get when people utter the words shopping+fun+excitment of brand names all in one sentence. I do enjoy clothes that are creative and interesting. And I mostly find those, when I have to replace an item, by going directly to shops my husband recommends (he has an eye for this stuff). That doesn’t mean all my friends aren’t interested in fashion. Actually one of my closest friend is totally into fashion. But she’s creative about it, doesn’t spend a ton of money and even personalizes some pieces. The common thread is spending consciously on what’s important to her and the creative approach she takes.

    All that to say, when I hear someone say ‘you have to live a little’, what I’m hearing is that the other person hasn’t clued in that what’s important and fun to them isn’t to you. They have tunnel vision and haven’t taken a second to step back and look through your eyes. I do want to point out this is different than someone being so passionate about something and wanting to share their joy and excitement they experience about it.

    • It is such a strange thing to say, isn’t it? “You deserve it”, you deserve what, to live paycheck to paycheck or to live in perpetual dread for financial ruin?

      I hear you on the clothes front. I do not find it enjoyable. Especially since I insist on trying to find sustainable/ethical brands if shopping for new. The good thing about being an adult is that if you manage to stay the same size, you don’t have to shop as often though! I still have some pieces from high school hanging around in my drawers.

  4. 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


    Also, so jealous you have vegan Ben&Jerry’s ice creams!

    • Haha, yes – it’s great. We had to wait for two years before it finally made its way over the Atlantic and to Norway! 😀

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