Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Frugal?

The conversation sticks out boldly in my memory,  Recently married, my husband and I stopped in at the home of his extended family.  Out on the back porch we joined the conversation, fast moving among the large family and its various friends of the family.  Somehow or other the topic migrated to eating out.  My comment about saving money by cooking at home is faded, but the response from another is not.  "Why are you two so frugal?"  Blogging does not allow me to capture the tone of the question, but let's just say frugal as akin to a shunned four-letter word.

Having complete the endurance and transformation of a law school education, I immediately responded with three points on why we were frugal.  Those points -- I cannot recall them so much -- later became the basis of The Upside of Frugal blog.  The feeling I remember, one of being on the defensive, one being attacked or ridiculed because my husband and I opted to be prudent with our spending.  To this day, it puzzles me why my frugal spending habits can bother other people so much. I will never know.

Why are we on the frugal path?  That answer depends -- again, a byproduct of my legal education.  In the past it was to pay off a mountain of student debt.  Other times, mere habit.  I grew up poor -- really poor.  My mother was a machine operator in a plastics factory, my father was a disabled construction worker who tried to make ends meet buying and selling used cars -- frugal was a way of life, not a choice.

Today?  In a word -- Freedom!  Being frugal makes a dual self-employed family possible.  I operate my own small, solo legal office writing wills and administering probate.  My husband, an electronics engineer, freelances and builds a business designing and building circuit boards.  Self-employment brings a lot of freedom, but also the need to buy your own health insurance and fund retirement.  But we love it, we love the freedom of steering our work in the direction we want, no questions asked.

Today is Halloween and the lights at my office are off.  I too the day off -- no one to ask or seek approval from.  I will be able to watch our 4k daughter in her costume parade at school.  She will leave school early, where we'll join her brother's Fall Party at the school up the road.  After -- we'll be carving pumpkins, roasting pumpkin seeds, and knocking on a few doors in our lovely (and warm) Big Cat costumes from Savers.  Why am I frugal?  It means I get quality time with my kids -- when I want, how I want, no approval needed.  Thinking back to that summer conversation about restaurants, I wonder if that person would change his tone hearing my current reason?

That is me.  What is your story?  Why the frugal path for you?  Is it permanent, temporary?  Leave comment and share if you like.


  1. As a fellow frugalite, I have also gotten a similar reaction from time to time when some frugal lifestyle choice of mine has come up for discussion amongst family or friends. It's never made much sense to me, either, but I think maybe some people react to the choice to live a frugal lifestyle with disapproval bordering on horror out of a sense of their own insecurity. Maybe they feel judged by our ability to shrug off the typical American consumer lifestyle, and lash out in response. I think it maybe comes from a sensitive spot deep inside - maybe they know they're not saving as much as they should, or that they're sacrificing time with their family to chase the consumption-fuelled American dream. And it's easier to deal with that insecurity when everyone else around them is in the same boat because it suggests that it's right or normal to live at the very edge of one's means. When they see someone who is willing to row to the tempo of a different coxswain, it makes them deeply uncomfortable. And one way of dealing with that discomfort is by lashing out. Just a thought.

    1. Jamie -- Very articulate comment, and one that was in my mind as well. It reminds me of people's reactions when you turn down a drink (I am a lawyer living in Wisconsin - big drinking profession in a big drinking State) or pass on a piece of cake at a party. Some folks are really offended. I always wondered if it came from their insecurity. Thanks for the comment, and for reading!!!

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