I admit that I am a frugal guy. In 2015, I discovered a blogger named Mr. Money Mustache, whose financial blog changed my world (and the world of many, many other people). He helped give my innate frugality a cause: to save and invest money in order to build financial freedom.
See, when I was a kid, I was just frugal. It seemed I had no choice. We didn’t spend much because, well, we didn’t have much. It was an unpleasant cycle: a feeling of lack motivating a resistance to spending. Or was it a resistance to spending motivating a feeling of lack? Probably both. Frugality felt like cheapness and lack.
Yes, it sucked.
However, even as a kid I could get excited about saving, or at least about saving on expenses. I remember cutting coupons for my mom to use at the grocery store. Upon reading Mr. Money Mustache I realized the potential of being powerfully frugal. Now I see it as access to financial empowerment. The idea of being smart with our money so that we can save and invest a good portion clicked for me even more than oodles of business training* I received from various business mentors along the way.
In the spirit of “empowered frugality,” here are some “frugal hacks” that my wife and I use all the time that are making a difference for our financial well-being:
- Planning our grocery shopping trips. We make a list together, checking the pantry to see what we need. We go to Costco and discount grocery stores like Winco and Dollar Tree. These trips lead to significant savings while not diminishing the quality of what we buy.
- Eating at home. We both like having a full pantry, and we make full use of it at home. This works for our diets, as well as our wallets. Incidentally, it has also helped me become a proficient home chef.
- Limiting our driving. Happily, we both like being at home much of the time. We go out frequently and by choice. But in our day-to-day lifestyle, we are often perfectly happy staying home.
- Working from home. Sure, we both have gigs sometimes that take us out of the house, but they are usually for only a few hours at a time. This makes our work lives quite simple while also being economical.
I cherish the benefits to being frugal, yet that doesn’t mean we don’t spend money on things that matter to us. My wife helps me with this, as she is naturally more inclined to spend on quality professional tools or ways to make our present more enjoyable. In this way, I agree with Ramit Sethi of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” Sethi encourages people to spend richly on things that matter to them, and be miserly in areas that don’t matter to them.
Here are areas in which we regularly spend on things that matter to us:
- going to the movies/ home entertainment
- personal well-being activities for me: going to the cafe, running, blogging
- our creativity
- our businesses
- personal empowerment and growth experiences, such as seeing Abraham-Hicks last weekend.
- our happiness at home and the health of our relationship
- tithing, for example to our local library and food bank
I like to think I am more in balance now about frugality, about saving and spending, about planning for the future and appreciating the present. I like to think I’m living the mantra of empowered frugality: it’s okay to resist spending if it helps you build a higher quality life for yourself and your family in the present and in the future.
*With the notable exception of the training that helped me started my piano teaching business. That worked out well.