Frugality Is a Lifestyle That You Might Be Doing Wrong

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Frugal isn’t just an activity or adjective!

But frugal living just doesn’t sound as cool as being an all-black turtleneck wearing minimalist…nor is frugality marketed to the masses with much finesse. Understandable 🙂 there’s no profit in selling frugality, ha!

But I do question why frugality isn’t considered a lifestyle in a definitive sense.

I kind of have a theory though: it’s because sometimes people don’t get it, can’t do it, get too caught up, or do it wrong.

It’s so pointless to micro-measure frugality too. That’s why I stopped doing the frugal win and frugal fail posts. I slowly realized that they were counterproductive to the main message I was trying to vibe out.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with frugal posts! I like reading Tread Lightly, Retire Early’s frugal friday series personally because it’s a diary peek into her life.)

But I do feel bad when other frugal blogger pals like Gen Y Money, Laurie 3-Year, Ms. FAF among lots of others (even my readers!) say on their expense report and such that they didn’t curb their spending on so-and-so category while douchebag Lily from The Frugal Gene is spending half that somehow etc. burn the witch.

(OK, no one said ‘burn the witch’ but I presume that was not far off hahaha.)

Related: How Much Money Does Our Brand of Frugality Save? (Spoiler: $56,000+/Year)

I hate it when good, smart, money-savvy people beat themselves up for not being frugal when they’re already living the frugal lifestyle to their comfort level, harnessing a great mindset in abundance, and saving a great portion of their income already.

Why crumple up on yourself up! Cheer on goddammit – you already got this!!!

Related: 3 Signs When Being Frugal Doesn’t Work & What To Do About It

It shouldn’t be a $ race to the bottom in the first place.

Plus it’s probably better for the economy if there are less frugal freaks thanks to the way our haphazardous economy is set up 🙂

Being frugal should be an overreaching, all-compassing mindset and spirit first and foremost.


You Could Be Doing It Wrong

If there is NO financial danger and good money is being made, frugality is a total lifestyle choice.

You have upgraded from my parent’s brand of “frugality” which can be described more like…uhhhmmmmm POORER THAN DIRT. 😛

It was mandatory for them and I don’t consider that frugality. There’s no better word for it besides…SURVIVAL, pure and simple. Most people are frugal as a need rather than lifestyle.

Let’s not sugar coat it, I can school y’all on that.

Related: Being Frugal is Easier When You’re Young & Healthy

But if you make good money, choose to live frugally, then you’re us! Be the authentic frugal loving freaks like me and hubby! Ayyyy 🙂

If living frugal STOPS being fun YET you continue doing it then you’re doing it wrong. Like really wrong. And It needs to stop.

Save the financial recommended standard of 20% – meet your target saving goals…and go out to enjoy the day for god sakes.

That’s why frugality should be labeled and emphasized as a lifestyle CHOICE and then wrapped in a more positive way.

It’s totally OK to do trade-offs. If you cost cut across the board for the sake of saving money and only money then you’re asking for a baaaad time.

It’s like trying to live like any other lifestyle, minimalist, socialite, Hollywood celebrity etc. – if you’re not enjoying living that lifestyle...then why the heck do it?

Frugality doesn’t have to be so depressing. Frugality should be treated more like a lifestyle; something you aspire to and always a work-in-progress. No healthy lifestyle should be used to beat themselves up. Contentment is key.

Plus micro-managing frugal living is not going to save much money. You are going to burn out. It’s just pointless, pointless guilt.

Related: Is Budgeting Depressing? Then You Should Read This

Those 30-day no-spend challenges – (I did one before) – are more or less another form of yo-yo dieting but with your wallet. That’s no fun. Diets are not fun. Don’t think of a frugal lifestyle like crash dieting.

Both dieting and finance should both be about slow, pervasive, smart, lifestyle changes.

We all got our own little flavor…our own little definition…of what it is to consciously use less than what we can. Simple concept BUT lots of complexity that’s all dependent on how you think about it.


Why I Think We Do It Right

Is this self-serving to say?

I have a lot of fun living my life the way I do even though not everything can be 100% perfect. It also happens that our life is very cost-effective even though that’s not the main point (nice frill though).

Since we do save 90% of our gross income and we’re touching $1.5 million so…logically it’s very safe to say we’ve always been happy the way we are or else we would have changed something a LONG time ago.

I notice the majority of normal humans tend to adjust their spending to their income after a raise and labels that new toy as a “need” from thenceforth.

I find that very odd.

Like…I don’t get it. Someone explain this to me in the comments. Is it normal for people…to go around collecting everything that is wrong with their life and immediately when the funds come, they spend it in order to fix or upgrade it? What was wrong with life before? Is contentment rare?

When our household income doubled itself from 2016 to 2017 and our net worth doubled itself…we didn’t change much to our bottom line. I know our lives weren’t perfect but it was hard to pinpoint what we needed without having to think about it. Since we had to think about it…that means we don’t necessarily need it as it wasn’t a dire “need.”

Oh, and when I found out what I needed…LOL hell would freeze over if money could buy it directly. Damn! So much damn! Hahahaha 🙂

I guess this mentality that I’ve hatched into this post makes me and hubby justified in why we are the way we are. I think we’re a rare breed…didn’t think we were that odd before but I realize now that we might as well be. I wish more people come forth like us and think like this.

For everyone in the vast public and real people I know personally, they are broke and they’re still spending $$ away because they want to make a problem (real, imaginary, self-imposed or otherwise) go away.

They’re spending to feel the impact today because I think they don’t know what they truly want out of life tomorrow…and that’s kinda sad.



Frugality is a zen-like mindset everyone should cultivate. It should be considered an overarching lifestyle choice for those of us in comfortable abundance. Learning frugality is learning to be content with life in your own lane. It’s not a race to the bottom. It’s not a quick wallet diet. It should be a work-in-progress frame of mind if you want to do it appropriately longterm.

That’s going to make our lives a little easier to breathe in and lessen the amount of tension that we all carry around too much of these days.

Frugality is powerful because if people can just control their spending, save enough money, and desire little else then they can feel rich anywhere, anytime, with anyone.




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38 thoughts on “Frugality Is a Lifestyle That You Might Be Doing Wrong”

  • Great points! Frugality is done right when you’re having fun with it. I do find joy in saving money most of the time. Sometimes though, it does get to me that I prevent myself from the good things in life just to save a couple of bucks. But I snap out of that pretty quick and return to normalcy – saving mode!

    I didn’t know we were stressing you out about your expenses. I think you and Jared are doing such a great job with your budget. It’s definitely something for us to learn from and for you guys to be proud of. Life’s too short to be stressed! 😉

  • You guys just have that frugality mindset. Some people have it and some people don’t. I think your income increased so quickly that you didn’t have a chance to slowly adapt to it. If your income increased slowly, you’d probably be more comfortable with spending just a little more every year.
    I’m sure you spend more money in 2018 than in 2015. Is that right? Even if you’re frugal, the cost of living still increases.
    Joe @ Retire by 40 recently posted…Should You Focus on Making More or Spending Less?

    • You’re right Joe, we did increase our expenses that went to our rental (the one sold recently). We didn’t budget in 2015 (a couple of crazy kids.) I think besides house maintenance and Airbnb expenses other things stayed the same.

  • Contentment is rare!! It’s a moment by moment struggle in all life topics and is related to achievement culture. I would say it takes a significant mindset shift to adopt contentment over buying more things. Also, it takes an even larger mindset overhaul to adopt contentment about things that are unrelated to money. Ex: not checking yourself in the mirror, speaking up for yourself, being ok with tardiness…
    Lindsey recently posted…Is your PhD stuck on Mars? Apply the Martian Method

  • Buuuuuuurn the witch! 😉

    Pretty much what you’ve described above is why my Friday posts are almost always about positive wins (and really just describing our lifestyle). I fall very much on the side of creating a life that we enjoy right now, not ten years in the future after beating ourselves up after every dollar. Still, writing down my frugal “wins” each week help remind me what we’re doing well while enjoying the ride.

  • WOW 90% that is truly inspirational. Just how do you accomplish that? Maybe a paid off home? Or high income earners? I pay almost 35% in taxes from my income so the MAX I could save is about 60% after living expenses. Maybe this is after tax income? I am brand new to your blog so I apologize if these questions have been answered in other posts! Thank you for posting, definitely subscribing.

    • Super frugal and a relatively high income (nothing crazy 1%er though.) We still have a mortgage that’s about $1,400 a month. It is gross which means we are not including taxes – our taxes slay us too. We should be at about 60-70% after taxes 🙂 ahoy welcome aborad!

  • Burn the heretic!!!
    (Bonus points if you get the nerdy reference 😉)

    Right there with you L! If you don’t like, why the hell are you doing it?! Save a lot, spend a bit. Just don’t be a miser and spend none of it.

    • Warhammer? Or I don’t know, I hear that every day. People scream it at me in the streets hahahaha.

      Sometimes misers are reverb patterns from being poor, or that’s why I think I was that for a few years out of college.

  • I think like anything, it takes a while to settle into frugality, and notice what’s really not working vs. what feels like it’s not working because you’re trying something new. We’ve been making adjustments as we go, and now I think we’re finally in a groove, but I’m sure we’ll be making more adjustments in the future 🙂

  • ms. lily, i know we spend a lot less than 5-6 years ago when we had 2 full time jobs but not much time, but life is better now. y’know i’ve never had an ipod, ipad, dishwasher, smartphone, smartphone bill. it’s not due to trying to be frugal but it’s a bunch of crap i don’t value. i do have un-frugal satellite tv. mrs. me has some of those devices and enjoys them. you’re right, that we don’t act on how some spending is perceived by others. i’m not going on a hike when i would rather go for sushi just to put it on the blog. it would be easy enough to say we don’t have tv and we took the hike to get more readers and say we saved 142% of our income but the honesty comes more easily.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…If You Own Individual Stocks, Diversity is Your Friend

    • You don’t have a smartphone?! Woahhh that’s rare these days as crazy as it sounds. They ARE too expensive yes.

      My husband thinks dishwashers saves on water (and $) than handwashing — wait did you say you SAVE 142% of your income?!?

  • Haha, thanks for the mention, but I would never say burn the witch! You are not a witch at all, don’t feel the frugal-guilt! You are called The Frugal Gene not The Frugal Guilt 😉

    I think what you guys do are amazing and you should be proud of your level of frugality, I am happy with our level of frugality. Our level of frugality is not ordering a drink and just asking for water at brunch LOL. Or using a coupon for take out to get $10 off. Or getting Dominos only when it’s 50% off.
    GYM recently posted…How to Give a Share of Stock as a Gift

  • Great post Lily!

    I am reading Vicki Robin’s “Your Money Or Your Life” and in it she talks A LOT about having enough. I think the word “frugal” needs to begin to be incorporated into her view point, because they’re both almost the same thing (at least in my mind). She discusses that it isn’t necessarily about stripping your paychecks to the bone and not spending money on anything, but more about establishing what is ENOUGH for you personally. Once you determine what is ENOUGH for you personally, than it is much easier to shape how frugal you can/should be with your money.

    • Agreed! And it’s not easy to figure out what is enough because ‘enough’ changes all the time for people based on their life phrase. This stuff is straight up hard.

  • Preach gurl! Great post!

    Life is all about balance. If you are losing sleep over it, what ever you are doing is probably not healthy for you. There is no shame or guilt if things went slightly over and this is no race to the bottom. What you do is for you and your family. Yes it can seem like we need to keep up with the next FIRE blogger or whatever, but does it really matter in the end? We should all be in this to help each other and encourage each other.
    Independence Engineered recently posted…Save Money on Taxes and Get Healthier While Doing It!

  • I think by living the frugal lifestyle, you have to know if it makes you happy and not just life that lifestyle just because. Plus you have to find a balance of keeping your finances in check and know if it fits with your needs. Spending your money and drowning in debt is not a good balance neither does having no debt and being miserable because you want to save money just to save. You have to find that sweet spot of spending on what you want, knowing that you have the finances to cover that and have a good amount of money to save.

  • They used to call me cheap, but not any more. I love finding ways to save money. It is almost like a contest in seeing who much we can save in one month . Frugality is our way of life and we have been questioned by friends on how we do it. I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks

  • Let’s just face it. People buy excessive crap to fill a void within themselves, or to prove themselves to others, a la keeping up with the Joneses. I could go on and on about people looking outward toward materialistic goods vs. inwards. And let’s not even bring the whole instant gratification attitude many people have these days. I don’t blame them! Everything is so sparkly and begging you to buy them these days. And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t spoil yourself or your loved ones every now and then. Everything in MODERATION is key. Great post from Douchebag Lily!

  • I love how you point out the difference between frugal and survival. It’s really got me thinking.

    I was also thinking about how no spend weeks/months are totally not sustainable but they can be fun to do with a group, as sort of motivation, and if you’re new to frugality, it’s kind of crazy eye opening how much crap you probably just have laying around and what you can be doing instead of spending more money. I think they can be useful as little bursts – but people who do them all the time are a little too fanatical for me.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…I Can’t Get No Motivation

  • I call it peak frugality. Sometimes you live life and the stars align for peak frugality. Shit is just dialed in. Other times it less optimal. But, don’t beat yourself up because things aren’t peak frugality. Life (and your finances) will be okay.

  • I think you have to do what is comfortable for you. Just the other night I asked my husband if he thought it was time to get rid of a certain chair in our living room. I reminded him the chair was well over 20 years old now and maybe we should replace it. He sat in it and said, it still feels comfortable to me and it looks good why would we throw out something that is still perfectly usable? We didn’t!! I guess I was worried that friends were wondering why I wasn’t staying up with the current style in home decor but why? We both really like the chair and who cares what other people think- we are the ones that live here everyday. Money stayed in our pocket and we are happy.

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