Responses to a few recent posts got me ruminating on this topic, so I thought I’d throw some thoughts into a blog post.
Let’s jump in, shall we?
We are all making choices with our money every day.
And those choices will vary from person to person.
These choices don’t necessarily make one person frugal and one person not frugal.
Rather, these decisions show us where our priorities lie.
And priorities vary from person to person, as they should. Everyone’s life situation, preferences, and values are different, and the monetary choices they make will be different too.
Why does this matter?
Well, it’s relevant because it affects how we view other people’s choices. And we in the frugal community can sometimes get a little bit…judgy.
If we think our priorities are the ones that are right, then we’ll look down our noses at people whose spending priorities are different than our own.
But really, what we should hope for other people is that they will make spending decisions that reflect their priorities, even if those priorities are different than ours.
Remember Amy Dacyzyn of The Tightwad Gazette? I recall her pointing out that there was nothing frugal about owning a large home and having six kids and two dogs.
(Having a small home with no kids and no pets would be far more frugal.)
But those things mattered to her, so she sacrificed in other areas to make the home/kids/dogs happen.
Take my friend Katy and me.
Katy is arguably more frugal than me in hundreds of ways. She’d never buy a pair of jeans from Stitch Fix, she eats beans on a regular basis, she buys almost everything second-hand, and so on.
But she’s doing a lot of that so she can cash-flow her two sons’ college room and board, which is a huge expense.
On the other hand, we never have beans for dinner, I buy plenty of stuff new (Amazon Prime, I love you!), and I do own this pair of $68 Stitch Fix jeans.
But my kids are starting out their college careers in high school with half-price tuition. And they plan to get their associates at the community college, while living at home, before transferring to a four year school.
Does this mean I’m frugal, and Katy’s not? Or that Katy’s frugal and I’m not?
Should Katy be horrified about my jeans? Should I be horrified about Katy’s college bills?
Nope. We’re both trying to make the best financial decisions that we can, given our family situations and priorities.
I think the point of frugality is this: to save money on the things that don’t matter to us, so that we can spend on the things that do.
No one can tell us how that should look, because only we know what our priorities are.
Maybe you’ll live in a tiny home but spend money on travel.
Maybe you’ll eat beans so that you can buy more shoes.
Maybe you’ll drive an old car, but have 5 dogs.
Maybe you won’t renovate your kitchen, but you will buy local meat.
It’s easy to think that what we choose to spend money on is just prioritized spending, but that what other people spend money on is a sign of poor money management.
And it’s easy to forget that while we’re criticizing others, we are probably spending money on something that other people would view as unwise/a splurge/pricey, etc.
(I know, because I’m guilty of it!)
But what helps me is to remember that when someone makes a different choice than I do, it’s not necessarily a wrong or inferior choice.
It might just be different.
P.S. I need to note that poverty-level living is not full of choices. When you don’t have enough to live on, you have to save every penny, no matter what your priorities are. So, just know I’m not addressing that here; rather, I’m addressing those of us who have the privilege of making monetary choices.