Frugality is often a complex concept to understand let alone conquer. When I first started dating Ray in college and began encouraging him to adopt my frugal lifestyle in order to save money and meet his goals, he confessed he felt like he was being ‘cheap’ and often wondered how friends and other people would respond to his actions. I remember always brushing his unnecessary worries off as I recited my favorite response: “Who cares about other people and what they think!”
My textbook line of defense about my frugality was put to the test when a good friend of mine came over to visit me a few months back. We used to spend a lot of time together before I moved out of my mom’s house and our sons became great friends but when I moved away, we kind of drifted apart.
Nevertheless I was excited to have her over and since there weren’t any good events or activities going on that night, I just planned a nice chill evening at my house. I cooked some delicious parmesan tilapia for dinner and began to make some homemade pumpkin muffins for dessert (this was late October or early November and I was still in my pumpkin phase). Everything was going great, then she started acting a little turned off. “Why don’t you have your heat on? I guess I should’ve brought my extra blanket.” she said.
“It hasn’t been that cold lately to turn it on so I’d rather wait. Plus no one is really home in the daytime and I cook every night so the heat from the oven warms up the place pretty nice. But I guess I could turn it on tonight it you’re really cold,” I responded. (Mind you this was in OCTOBER, it didn’t start getting really cold where I live until around Thanksgiving and we didn’t get our first big snow until after Christmas.)
My friend gave me a confused look and sort of shook her head, but I just brushed it off and moved right along. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of tension in the air as she showed disapproval toward the things I did and the way I did them. When we started watching a movie, she did a double take when I started making popcorn on the stove (this was pre-popcorn air popper, oh how it’s changed my life). “Why don’t you just buy it? That’s what I do. I don’t have time to be tied down doing all that.” It’s kind of funny and a bit silly now that I’m looking back, but yes I turned someone off by making popcorn a different way.
Other little instances occurred during the night that made me wonder how others perceived my frugality and if it made them uncomfortable. Did my friends think I was being weird, cheap or worse trying to act better than them? What did my friends really think about my new frugal lifestyle and more important, did I even care?
Frugal vs. Cheap
Being frugal is often confused with being cheap, and being cheap is often looked down upon in today’s society. No wonder why people get turned away from adopting a frugal lifestyle in order to better themselves. While cheap and frugal people both like to save money, there are MAJOR differences between the two.
Being cheap involves focusing solely on price instead of value. Cheap friends may not fly out to a wedding due to the price involved when a frugal friend may try to cut the cost of travel by using frequent flier miles or credit card reward points.
Being frugal is all about utilizing your resources, budgeting strategically and spending consciously. It’s about realizing the bigger picture of how your finances affect your life and future and not being afraid to take actions toward cutting your expenses without compromising quality or the welfare of others. With that being said, it’s clear to see why your friends who aren’t too knowledgeable about the two may mistake your frugality for pure cheapness.
The Truth Is, I’ve Changed
I’m definitely not the same person I was three or four years ago. I no longer live rent free with my parents and eat out multiple times every week. I don’t spend money just for the sake of spending it.
I’ve been to college and back; And I’ve certainly got the loans to prove it. I’ve been through hard times financially where I had to somehow make ends meet making only $500 a month at my part time job. I’ve experienced the setbacks of not having an emergency fund when my checking account went negative and I’ve had those humiliating days where I had to search through the couch for spare change for gas or walk around the parking lot of my apartment in hopes of finding a quarter on the ground just so I could wash my clothes.
I’ve had a debt epiphany. When I finally landed my first ‘big girl job’ with a better income, I chose not to sink into lifestyle inflation.
I enjoy creating my monthly budget and setting financial goals for myself. I watch my bank accounts like a hawk every day and I try to give every dollar I earn a purpose. I’m addicted to cutting my monthly expenses without compromising my quality of life and I’m certainly not sorry or ashamed of the person I’ve become.
Having a Diverse Mixture of Friends
I have to say I’m truly not bothered by my friend’s response to my frugality but I did learn a lot from it. I’m not trying to write this to bash people or glorify my lifestyle but sometimes I get fed up being labeled as the weird person or the one who’s too uptight about their money.
I’m proud of my frugal habits and I’m happy with the way I live. I also understand that when you have a particular goal set, everyone is not going to understand or accept it completely and that’s okay too.
It would be partially untrue to say I didn’t care about my friend’s opinions about me because I respect and care about all of them dearly but I respect my lifestyle choice and my financial goals more.
I don’t necessarily agree 100% with the some of the things my friends do but I like having a mixture of friends including: some who understand frugal vs. cheap and take interest in optimizing their resources in order to spend consciously and others not so much. I have friends who I can talk to about sales, saving and stockpiling and other friends I can talk to about parenting along with those girlfriends I can experience some guiltless retail therapy with.
What do your friends think about your frugal ways and how do you respond?
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