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Why are you frugal?

If you want to sleep better, readers say, dump your debt.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 26, 2009 4:54AM

Frugal people sleep better.

That’s a recurring theme in a Smart Spending message board thread called "Why are you frugal?" Readers say it’s hard to beat the contentment of a good night's slumber, untroubled by debt.

Some readers say they're frugal because they love finding great deals, but most have more complex reasons. They're thrifty now to meet future goals: a car, a house, a family. They've chosen to reject hyperconsumerism. They're called to careers (e.g. the arts) that are fulfilling but require careful money management. Or they simply enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having an emergency fund.

Frugality begets options. "I try to save money on things that don’t matter, so I can have choices on things that do," wrote a reader posting as "SC CDF."

Opera or HBO?
What matters, of course, is completely subjective. "Great Arm" has opera season tickets. She does not have long-distance phone service or cable television. On the other hand, reader "Lynn D" is frugal so she can have cable. 

"If clipping coupons means I can afford my HBO," she writes, "then I'll clip the coupons and take the time to scour the grocery sales ads to get the best deals."

Years ago, "matts-dad" quit a job he hated; it was affecting his health, he says. At the same time, he and his spouse were two years into a five-year plan to pay off credit card debt. Walks, trips to the library, local celebrations and other free things took the place of expensive treats. Matts-dad realized that all their debts had come from "trying to buy some feeling that couldn't be bought." 

Now, he writes, they know that "money is a tool, living is an art!"

Reader "bee dance" also made a conscious lifestyle choice. To her, frugality means going outdoors rather than staying inside with “expensive gadgets.” It means buying less and buying secondhand to reduce waste. Most of all, it means not "(spending) the better part of my life sitting in a cubicle to pay off the stuff I bought to make myself feel better because I sit in a cubicle all day!"

Frugality = freedom?
When "laterbloomer" sees pricey items, she sees handcuffs.

"Handcuffs that (could) chain me to a job I might not like," laterbloomer writes. "Being frugal has been a way of protecting my freedom."

Also on the subject of freedom: Frugality means being able to pay one's own way. "Librarygoddess" is a careful spender so she won't have to "go running to my parents or grandparents if an emergency arises."

Having savings in hand is the reason that "JenniferG1982" is frugal. Not going into debt for school uniforms or car repairs makes her happy. So does paying cash for Christmas: “I love giving, especially when I can afford it.”

“Rose 1953” and spouse sacrificed financially for two sets of futures: their own, and their children's. Thrifty living allowed them to help their kids graduate from college without student loans. It also has helped them prepare for early, debt-free retirement

The frugal lifestyle has made them appreciate what they have. "There comes a time when you have everything (you think) you want and need -- and it's true," Rose writes. "We are happy and content and enjoy each and every day."

Waste not, want not?
"Cronewitch," who started the original thread, technically can afford to waste money but "just can’t seem to feel good about it." At times she thinks about buying things that would impress other people. Usually, she decides that "I don’t need to compete."

I agree. For me, frugality is not about deprivation -- it's about decisions. It's deciding to live the best life I can without going into debt. It's deciding to do without some things now so that I can save for the future. It's deciding to budget for a certain amount of charitable giving. All of this is more fulfilling to me than having the latest designer handbag -- or living in that cubicle that bee dance mentioned.

If I could waste money, would I? I guess it depends on how you define "waste." For example, some people might think it would be a waste to buy a bunch of Mentos and some Diet Coke and show my great-nephew how to turn them into backyard geysers

Heck, even I think that's a waste! But I might do it anyway if he visits next summer, because it would be hilarious.

Of course, I'll buy the Mentos at the dollar store.

Published Oct. 31, 2007
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