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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Frugality: Is it Fun?

I wrote a followup to my post on selling excess clothing on Tradesy. I received a rather horrified comment from Shelley to the effect that all this "in and out" made her head spin. She seemed to marvel that I found it fun.

But I do. So does at least one other blogger--Frugalshrink--who is doing similar things not because she has to, but because she likes to.

My family of 4 spends less than $1000 a year on clothing (not all is 2nd hand). I still treat both my 20something kids in this department because I have the time to do it. It is a major component of my frugal practice.

The other component is killer grocery shopping, sans coupons, but keeping an eye out and stocking up. This must work because I occasionally have to institute a "shopping fast" in this area and use up the stuff in my freezer. I mentioned in a blog comment the other day that my family has always spent well under the food stamp budget--not that I even knew what that budget was till recently.

My Partner in Frugality--Mr FS--would break out in hives doing my above fun activities (though he sometimes accompanies me on walks to a nearby grocery store). His frugal practices involve doing all the yard work and fixing whatever can be fixed. 

There are zillions of ways to be frugal. Read The Tightwad Gazette for ideas. Or check out the relevant chapter in Your Money of Your Life

My parents were pretty frugal when I was growing up (and my parents were self-employed for many years, which necessitates careful budgeting). They pretty much stopped when they moved to a fun golf community in Florida (at the exact ages of me and Mr FS!!!). I guess frugality wasn't fun for them.

I'm kind of curious to see how I may change in the frugal department when I retire. In graduate school (talk about stressful days!) I was frugal by necessity. Now, I am frugal by choice. That is the greatest luxury as far as I'm concerned. I don't think I would do it if it weren't fun.

Do my frugal adventures sound like fun to you or do they evoke "the horror! the horror!"? Do YOU think frugality can be fun?


The Frugal Shrink said...

Yes, yes, yes!!! I could not agree more. Like you, in my grad school days it was by necessity but now is by hobby. I genuinely enjoy all of the little frugal things that I do, reselling included. Truly one of my favorite hobbies is figuring out how to live well on less. :)

dotsybabe said...

I don't think of frugality as "fun" or "not fun" but as a way of life. I try to get value for money and I work very hard for my $$ so I don't want to waste them needlessly. But I don't go to extremes, like re-using coffee filters or stuff like that. I take advantage of great resources like the public library, free days at museums, coupons or loyalty rewards for necessities like hair cuts and so forth. Anyone can waste money -- it's saving it that is the hard part.

Atlantic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Yes! I do think frugal is fun, but like you, it is a choice for me and not a necessity. What I find fun is tracking spending and saving, setting and meeting goals, trying to outdo my previous records, getting good deals and eliminating waste. I also like having stats, such as being able to compare last year's bills to this year's. Plus, it feels more practical to me than spending the same amount of time on, say, baseball stats!

Juhli said...

I also find many frugal activities enjoyable and fortunately no longer a necessity. I am frugal in some areas so I can spend freely in others. For us it is spending on gifts and travel (mostly to visit family). I am finding that I enjoy thrift shopping now that I have found a few stores that carry nice items.

Gam Kau said...

In one day, having discussed the price of bacon with my mother and the price of chicken with my son, I'm pretty certain frugality runs in our genes. :)
We are very fortunate as frugality has always been an option, not a requirement. I find it interesting that frugal habits seem very hard to change. I know countless examples of wealthy people who remain frugal.
I'm not sure I remain frugal because it is fun, or if it is because I am so content. Probably both!

Swissy said...

I cannot change my frugal some regards, that is. Like clothing and food and all manner of life's little necessities. But when it comes to my house, that's another matter. Just finished a major renovation that made this the place to stay forever or almost forever. We didn't stint on construction, although we were very careful shoppers for accessories. But to your question: I do think frugality is fun! I don't mind the time spent on cooking creatively and inexpensively. I like thrift shopping better than any other kind. So yes!

Atlantic said...

Such an interesting question.

For many long student and training years I was frugal by necessity but definitely made it work.

But even then there were things I bought that no one could consider frugal--fountain pens, antiques (although at very good prices), superb stereo. Now I am not forced to be frugal but I have a strong sense of what something is worth to me (and cannot bring myself to pay more than I feel it merits).

Clothes--virtually all thrifted as I absolutely love the random joy and unexpected finds and I am not in dire need of any particular item so serendipity can rule. And clothes are just not worth retail prices to me, especially when I can get better things for so much less. The rare occasions I spend real money, I find it lessens the enjoyment. Though I'm fine with buying things I value that I cannot get thrifted: smartwool tights, Ibex jacket (though I prefer a sale).

Food--wild smoked salmon, imported cheeses, good bread and excellent coffee don't make up for my love of ethnic food price-wise, so not exactly frugal there.

Furniture/home--have scored some wonderful deals on craigslist etc but also paid very real money for classic sofa and chairs that I will keep forever--down and mohair and hand tied springs. And a French chandelier from the 1920s....

And not frugal at all when it comes to travel or buying art or handmade items especially if buying from the artist.

Do I love the hunt? absolutely !

Duchesse said...

Frugal is fun if the frugal person finds it so. And it's clear you do! You give frugality a lot of pizazz.

Like Atlantic, I enjoy bargain hunting but make a distinction between bargain hunting and frugality. Some bargain hunters do it to spend elsewhere or save, and some justify their endless consumption by saying "it was such a good deal".

Sometimes frugality can be fun for the practitioner but comes across as cheap and embarrassing to observers. While generally I admire frugality, especially the value of not depleting resources, I can't endorse all of its subsets.

lagatta à montréal said...

In general I'm frugal, and being an artist and freelancer means that a degree of boho frugality is part of the deal.

However, cheapskate though I may be, your clothing budget for four adult people is utterly unfathomable to me. I don't shop for recreation, and there are some very nice charity shop and church bazaar items in my wardrobe.

But a key difference is climate. Winter is expensive. You need good boots, and they are hard to find cheap, or second-hand. The same applies to more than one coat - a heavy one for the worst of winter, and a lighter one like you might have for your coldest weather. I also seek out real woollen sweaters: the quality of cashmere I can afford is a sore disappointment, so I opt for warm, non-bulky merino. But it is never "cheap" except for one pullover I found at a charity shop - during a half-price event there!

And some people need more expensive undergarments, shoes etc. Not because they are fashionistas.

I like living in a little flat, making most of my own food, riding my bicycle everywhere except when there is too much snow. But I do crave good quality clothing.

Duchesse said...

@ lagatta: re clothing costs, yes, climate considerations are one of the factors. And, I find in our city you simply do not find the things in thrifts that Frugal does, e.g., Eileen Fisher, Chloe, St. John, Burberry. In Montréal, I've been surprised by the worn condition and datedness of items sold in supposed "high end consignment". I think women here wear things longer, and do not have quite the enthusiasm for turning over their wardrobes that some of Frugal's neighbours do.

Revanche said...

I love frugality as a habit, even if it originally sprang from necessity. I'm not nearly as good at it as you are with the thrifting and so forth but I'm pretty good at other forms of frugality. And it's just good policy, I think, in a lot of cases, to reuse and try to avoid waste.

Mariann said...

Apparently I do find your frugal adventures fun because I truly enjoy reading your blog!

Duchesse said...

Been thinking... frugality is an approach to living, and if someone has certain related attitudes (for example, "loves the hunt"), she can make frugality fun. I've seen frugal people who are having fun and those who are not. I also think it matters if it is chosen, and if it is not.

lagatta à montréal said...

I agree with Duchesse; I've been hoping to find a good winter coat second-hand, and am utterly discouraged.

Yesterday I thought I'd found a lovely cashmere-lambswool coat in a subtle deep red, but it didn't fit at all. Not too small or too large, just wrong, and a very dated fit with overly padded shoulders (which were not at all evident on the rack: it looked very chic). Not worth having altered, as everything was wrong except the fabric and colour.

tess said...

Yes, definitely I definitely think it it is fun and clever to be frugal, like buying parmesan rinds for $2 per pound (thank you FS) or finding a silk bed jacket for a $1. Less fun to be subjected to desperate measures like wearing hand-me-downs from a plump cousin when one is reed thin or taking a bath in used bathwater behind 2 little brothers.

GeckoHiker said...

Frugality is fun because it is an interest for me. I've long passed the stage of my life where I have to be frugal. I just enjoy making a game out of torturing Lincoln a bit--as in "pinching pennies".

Today I'm making laundry soap and dishwashing soap. Then I'll alter a few thrift store garments I found, for a few dollars, that will be fabulous for my Alaska cruise. I'll be the only woman with a gorgeous cocktail dress that cost only $4.

This is why I do it! To be able to enjoy travel and to be in control of where my money goes. And to enjoy the hunt for items that I need for a particular purpose.

Atlantic said...

lagatte-- if thrift shops are not turning up winter coats, try ebay. Not the same rock bottom prices but you could definitely get a very good (and stylish) coat for a fraction of the retail price.

Frugalscholar--this post has made me my shock and (?) horror that I am actually not frugal. And there I was thinking I was the epitome of frugal. I am attuned to value and conscious of waste, which I abhor, but once I had to put my habits down on paper (virtual paper if you will) I had to conclude that most reasonable people would vote me off Frugal Island.

On a different note, did you read the NYTimes review of Marie Kando's book on decluttering? boils down to one question to ask as you hold a possession in your hand "does this spark joy"? if not, you thank it and release it back into the wild. Somehow I have found that very helpful (imagine mad tear around house as I thank piles of clothes for their kind service to my life and wish them all the best). She also advocates diving in and doing a massive decluttering and getting it over with, otherwise one spends one's life decluttering. This rings true for me. What about you?

And verring quite off topic altogether and risking taking up too much space in the comment section, can I recommend Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century? I was interested to read it but from the vantage point of being 1/3 way through I must say I was not expecting it to be as well and engagingly written as it is. Very accessible and very interesting. Can I please be a French intellectual in my next life?

Thank you for a very enjoyable and thought-provoking blog.

Anonymous said...

We noted a while back that frugal challenges are fun when we don't have to do them, but not so much when we kinda-sorta-do.

In terms of general frugality stuff-- I agree with previous commenters who say a lot of stuff is just a way of life. I don't get pleasure or displeasure from not wasting food, I just don't waste food. (Probably because it feels immoral to waste it because my dad was a depression baby, and it's second nature for the same reason.)

Frugal Scholar said...

@FS--Soul sisters, as always. Love reading your blog.
@dotsybabe--oops. I reuse coffee filters sometimes. I used to be more extreme than I am now, but I still engage in practices that I WILL NOT DIVULGE on this blog!
@exacting--Sadly, I don't keep track of anything. But I think the frugality is "paying off."
@Juhli--Yes, good thrift stores are a joy. Bad ones are so depressing. I am lucky.
@GK--My kids and i have similar conversations. My mother finds them very embarrassing--though she didn't used to.
@Swissy--i keep meaning to spend some money on a remodel,,,but the process seems so daunting. I have a truly skanky bathub.
@Atlantic--i wish I could see your beautiful furniture! I've never seen anything that nice here.
@Duchesse-Thanks for the pizzazz comment. Sometimes i get mired in frugal insanity.
@Lagatta--Wow--thanks for the comment. I always love your comments on Duchesse's blog. Coats and boots--those are the very item my daughter just bought new for her return trip to Serbia. Seldom do nice ones show up at thrift shops--unless you happen upon something in the middle of the summer. I find tons of wool sweaters here. If I ever visit Montreal again, I'll bring you a care package.
@tess--Do you live near Eataly??? So jealous. I am about out of the parmesan rinds. I have loved having them around.
@revanche--Nice to hear from you. I would guess that SF thrift stores are picked over by zillions of competitive shoppers.
@Lagatta--I only buy a few new things a year. Most of what I get here is $3 or less. I think I must live in a very wasteful area.
@Atlantic--I just ordered that book from OF COURSE the library. Thanks for the recommendation.
@Nicole/Maggie--Yeah. I've kind of not gotten over grad school poverty and fear of unemployment. I am working on it....30 years later.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Geckohiker--Would love to see that dress. Ever since I read that one needs only 1/4 of the "recommended laundry detergent amount"--I've stopped thinking about making the detergent.
@Mariann--Thanks! I always like to read frugality blogs, but--alas--many have disappeared. Would love some recommendations.

GeckoHiker said...

@FrugalScholar Ah, but I only use 1/4 of the recommended amount of my homemade laundry soap. LOL

Frugal Scholar said...

@Geckohiker--I knew you would say that! Double frugality.

tess said...

I work near Eataly. The first time I went was like falling down a rabbit hole. I literally could not find my way out, I finally found an elevator, but that took me to a dark place, their restaurant, a person guided me back up, and I had to find my way down another way, could not find the cash register...felt pretty incompetent, low blood sugar not withstanding. The second time was less disorienting. Going back again today. I can pick up some rinds to send to you if you like.

tess said...

2 other frugal blogs I enjoy are pennilessparenting and frugalqueen.