Endurance Frugality: Staying The Course And Being A Winner
Frugality can be fun and help you sleep peacefully, knowing that you are not in debt (or at least that your assets are starting to outnumber your liabilities), building an emergency fund, saving for major purchases, and investing for the future.
But don’t be fooled: as frugal days turn into frugal years and frugal decades, bag lunches can be become boring; smallish houses, confining; thrift shop clothing, unfashionable. And though you may not care what people think of your “voluntary simplicity,” it can become tiresome to always live outside of an acquisition-oriented, size-counts-the-most social norm.
“Why don’t I just get frugal friends?” you might wonder. It’s true that I know people who tout The Millionaire Next Door as a model for living. But they see their frugality as smart and wealth-building; others' minimalist living as a pitiful, paltry, and desperate attempt to avoid foreclosure.
Call me shallow but while I don’t care if people think I’m poor, I certainly don’t want them thinking I’m stupid. It’s taken me years to figure out ways to look smart, be cool, and remain true to my frugal roots. Here are my tips on gaining the psychological edge needed for endurance frugality:
1) Don’t let frugality inhibit your ambition.
Just because you can live on less doesn’t mean that you have to make less money. While money or the opportunity to earn more doesn’t need to drive every career and life decision, getting better at what you do, making greater and greater contributions to your employer or community, building a reputation for excellence, setting and meeting aggressive goals are worthy apart from a merit raise or bonus.
2) Take excellent care of yourself.
Being frugal should not be hazardous to your well-being but rather improve your mental outlook and physical health. Cooking at home, a frugality mainstay, is typically less expensive and healthier than the often high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sodium meals from restaurants so you are already a few paces ahead. But don’t stop there: make sure you get regular health screenings (physicals, blood work, and cancer checks) and push the exercise as much as possible to control weight, and build stamina and strength. People tend to admire those who are positive, energetic, and fit.
3) Go on adventures.
Adventures allow you to 1) have pure fun and 2) give you intriguing stories to tell, further separating you from things-based social status. Whether a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail or a theater- and museum-hopping visit to London, if your experience involves what you love, do it; who doesn’t respect someone who dares to live his/her dreams?
4) Take excellent care of things you own.
Being neither materialistic nor visually attuned to artistic details made it difficult for me to understand the value that society took on appearances. But I finally realized that stewardship should be aligned with ownership, which meant taking care of my possessions: polishing my shoes; getting machines repaired; clearing up water stains; and replacing dented vinyl floors. Making overdue renovations to my home in the past few years made me understand that I can afford nice things though not necessarily super-sized ones of everything. Friends and guests are charmed at fine finishes, not just large structures.
5) Stay on top of technology.
You don’t have to be an early adopter but years of eschewing new technology can make you seem like a dinosaur or worse, just plain slow to grasp new things. And if you associate exclusively with frugal fanatics who do not have cool electronics, then a primary source of instruction (your friends) is not available. Let your friends show you their gadgets and learn how to use the latest features so you keep up to date and conserve cash.
6) Become an expert in something.
If you don’t already have an expertise, get one. You might become the go-to person and community educator on rock climbing, rabbit breeding, or astronomy, for example. Your depth of knowledge and extreme interest in an unusual topic may brand you as eccentric but no one will ever think of you as stupid.
7) Forgive yourself for frugal lapses.
Stay upbeat even when you take a frugal misstep or just feel like paying for convenience. You may not lead in every stretch of the race but you’ll be a winner of the frugal marathon.
8) Be nice to the wealthy.
There are people who can reside in 3,000+ sq. ft. homes, drive upscale cars, take luxury vacations and give to charity, build wealth, enjoy honorable lives. They have much in common with the frugal: they want to be admired for who they are rather than their net worth. Make friends and don’t worry about spending differences.
Frugality is more than saving a few pennies and becoming debt-free, it's about pursuing your dreams and not someone else's idea of success.