Why being frugal is offensive

I’m not sure why it so offends me but it does. Being overly concerned with the price of things can let money rule your life. I associate being stingy with being mean and I can think of no nastier form of punishment than being forced to spend my life comparison shopping.

I can afford to have this attitude.

But that’s a relatively new development — for many years I could not afford this attitude. Literally. Enter, a state of continual debt.

I’m very interested in both generousity and frugality — are they opposite? Not really, but sort of. I’m convinced these are approaches to money that we inherit, but do they simply reflect how we’re raised (and whether we chose to rebel against or adopt the ways of our parents)? What if they reflect a deeper ancestral tendency?

My assignment this week is to examine my profound dislike of frugality. I’ve long believed I developed this allergy during my early adolescence where a lack of money became the dominant theme within our household and that I (over)reacted by refusing, point blank, to ever allow modest differentials in costs to drive how I spent money.

But any story you tell yourself over and over is likely to be just a version of the truth. There are other explnations that might equally explain why I resent frugality in a manner reminiscent of a petulant teen.

And so my assignment this week is to consider the advice of frugal do-gooders and to see ask whether I can disentangle what just might be a pointlessly expensive attitude to maintain.

7 thoughts on “Why being frugal is offensive

  1. This is an interesting question. I myself am (relatively) frugal, mostly because I don’t have a whole lot of choice at the moment… that said, it’s quite a lot of effort to be properly frugal and I can’t be bothered to be extreme about it. I wonder if the key is to learn from frugality and take lessons from it without embracing it wholly: things like limiting food wastage, for example, and delayed gratification are pretty good things… but things like buying nice food where you can treating yourself and others to little pleasures are good things too. Like with most things, perhaps what we need is balance.

    1. Ah the ever elusive B word! Yes, I quite agree. What am wondering / hoping in connection with this assignment is whether there are frugal methods that might appeal to me which would make my less frugal habits more affordable. For example, I most seriously need a more affordable hairdresser and I’d be delighted to trim “fixed” costs such as the gas bill! And maybe there are other savings that would please rather than antagonise me. Delayed gratification is definitely something am building back into my life (eg no impulse spend) and finding pleasurable.

      1. In a way, with the no-impulse-spend assignment, you’ve already started on the quest for more frugal methods. I like the distinction between ‘frugal methods’ and ‘frugal habits’, by the way – more of a change in attitude than a change in behaviour.

  2. I don’t think of myself as a frugal person, but when I am being frugal — taking the bus instead of a taxi, making sure I use up all the food before it goes bad, turning off the heat before going to bed to save gas — it usually feels good, and not mean at all. I’m not sure why that is; it’s certainly not how I was raised, if anything my parents can be kind of wasteful… Intellectually I don’t think you can make a blanket moral statement about frugality: It’s good when it has good effects like conserving the environment or keeping you bank balance alive, but it’s bad when it has bad effects like making your life miserable or keeping you from donating to charity.

    1. HI! thanks for your comment. Your comment made me stop and think about how some of my habits are inherently frugal — like saving electricty and gas by turnings things off and I wouldn’t even think twice about them. Whereas other things — notably specific luxuries like eating out and buying expensive creams and lotions and haircuts are anything but frugal. When I think about what I really mean about living more frugally I guess I’m thinking about all that advice out there about how/where/when to get bargains and how to trim costs off everything you can think of … It’s the mindset of frguality that bothers and the amount of hours I’d have to put into that which stresses me out and makes me begin to feel miserable about watching pennies. It’s a mindset that triggers memories of only have a few pennies in the first place and therefore being forced to watch over the carefully (though this is metaphoric, we always had more than just a few pennies). In a way you comment has hit the nail on the head in that I want to re-think areas where I am not frugal to see if there aren’t other savings that would make me feel good/less wasteful (like turning off the lights) rather than stressed (like bargain hunting for bedsheets.)

  3. Our dad’s frugality had it’s ultimate expression in his beater cars. Now, all of his daughters are driving cars that they bought new. :p

    1. Ha ha! Now that you are a proud parent you’ll have a chance to see which habits she adopts vs which ones she rebels against!

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