Lessons in Frugality From "The Walking Dead"

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” isn’t your usual weeknight television fare. The cable series, adapted from the best-selling graphic novels of the same name, is known for its twisting plots, intense zombie (“walker”) action sequences, mind-blowingly realistic (and gory) zombie makeup, and complicated character relationships. It explores the life of former sheriff Rick Grimes, who woke up from a coma and found himself trapped in a post-apocalyptic world filled with walking corpses.

In a world where the size of your weapon is more important than the size of your wallet, it may seem strange to discuss how “The Walking Dead” teaches frugality. However, there are some helpful tidbits scattered throughout the series (MAJOR SPOILERS ALERT). Let’s…walk…through them. (See also: 21 Personal Finance Lessons From Harry Potter)

Be Realistic About Your Financial Situation

Redneck-turned-crossbow-expert Daryl Dixon, in response to one of the farm kids wanting a gun in episode 205, says: “People in hell want slurpees.”

What he means by this is that we all want things we can’t have. Time wasted chasing costly, impulsive buys would be better spent carefully planning and budgeting in small increments in order to make a big purchase in the future.

Conserve Resources…

Without a steady supply of anything — be it gas, food, hot water, firewood — Rick and the group are forced to take an extreme stance on conservation of their available resources. After all, it’s a matter of life and death for them, particularly in the season one finale, where the Center for Disease Control building blows up after it runs out of fuel (as a mechanism to prevent deadly diseases from escaping the center). Then there’s the issue of guns, which Rick tells the group to avoid using at all costs (to preserve their ammo supply and to avoid drawing more attention to themselves).

Although most of us in the real world don’t have to worry about running out of basic supplies such as food or water, conserving our resources is still a great way to cut down on spending. Whether it’s buying food in bulk and cooking huge meals in order to have lots of leftovers or driving less (and riding a bike) to cut back on your transportation budget, every little thing makes a difference.

…But Don’t Be Too Stingy

In a season three episode, the town of Woodbury has a party. The governor had told his assistant, Milton, to use the coolers so the townspeople can have cold drinks during the festivities — a request that Milton says is a waste of valuable resources. However, in this post-apocalyptic society, people need something to celebrate and being stingy with every one of their resources is almost too frugal.

Similarly, there ought to be balance between your frugal habits and knowing when to splurge a little. Even if you’re saving up for the down payment on a car or house, it’s okay to go out to dinner or even take a day trip to give yourself time to relax at the end of weeks of nonstop effort toward reaching your financial goal.

Moderation is Key

A balance between conservation and minor splurges is the best way to maintain your finances. Like the survivors sharing a rare bottle of wine to celebrate their new safe home at the CDC, indulging in luxuries sporadically and settling for less (or, “living below your means”) the rest of the time will improve your financial situation and keep you on track to stay within your budget.

Although the world of “The Walking Dead” is quite unlike the real world, its lessons in frugality ring true for many of us.

What about you, “Walking Dead” fans? Have you noticed any interesting frugal-related things from the show?

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