Is it possible to be too frugal? I recently quoted Amy D, or rather paraphrased her, since her books do not have the best indexing system. She opined that asking if one can be too frugal is like asking if one can be too happy.
But a comment from sallymandy, proprietress of one of the most thoughtful and beautifully written blogs out there, presented a somewhat different view:
But I do think one can be "too frugal."
Amy D used to be the heroine of my life, but eventually I felt I was living and looking like a bag lady because everything came from a yard sale.
I think it's all about balancing values. While I certainly value frugality, I also value aesthetics, and some things that money CAN buy.
Because of my personality, "frugality" can easily become a way to beat myself over the head with an attitude of "you don't deserve anything good in your life." I can become a harsh taskmaster.
Lately it's been helpful to "invest" small amounts on beauty to counteract the effect of the recession on our family (my husband's job was dependent on the stock market and is now gone completely). Three dollars on some flowers make me way happier doing the work I have to do for money. Things like that.
So, a journey to the dark side. Indeed, I agree that Amy may have been too frugal, her pathological tendencies exceeding even mine. I once read an article where she explained that $0.25 was her top price for a yard sale shirt. I imagined various scenarios in which Amy encountered a Chanel shirt at a yard sale marked $0.35. NO. Ditto for a beautiful embroidered masterpiece. NO. Amy was a boundary setter and, unlike me, she stayed within her self-prescribed territory. I think that, in addition to being a parent to 6 kids, Amy's mission was to show that extreme frugality was possible: in a sense, she sacrificed herself for the greater good. She was her own artwork. And I am sure she was happy.
But there is a potential for anorexia in this self-denial. I bought the book How to Get Out of Debt, Stay out of Debt, and Live Prosperously at (surprise!) a thrift shop because I thought it would enable me to give even better advice to my many un-frugal friends. Well! Much to my surprise, Miss Know-It-All (me) found herself in the book.
At thirty-five, Peggy wasn't carrying a large debt . . .But she'd been in debt most of her adult life. she was living in a tidy studio apartment. Her possessions were shabby. She bought most of her clothes second-hand. Yet she had a master's degree in English and had taught at a university in her early twenties while she studied for a doctorate. She was an intelligent woman, but she had little belief in herself and no sense of self-worth. She left the university and drifted from job to job in a downward spiral . .
This is what I would have become if I hadn't finished my dissertation, gotten a job, and met and married Mr. FS. Note that only the first one was entirely within my control. So my horror at this picture of my "double" is very like the sentiments voiced above by sallymandy. Check out the blue kimono blog on my list to the right for more of sallymandy's fabulous writing (not all dark!).
OK, time to leave the dark side and return to a cheery, can-do attitude. Dear Readers, how do you keep yourself from succumbing to too-frugal tendencies?