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Still in the closet about frugality?

Maybe it's time to be proud of that 12-year-old car and that reliable old flip phone.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 5, 2012 10:53AM

This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner blog Wise Bread.


Wise Bread on MSN MoneyThere's an odd contradiction about money in the U.S. While we love a great deal, we don't want to cross the invisible line that suggests we need a great deal or can't afford to pay full price.


Image: Stacks of coins (© Digital Vision/Getty Images)And, while it's totally acceptable to show off what we buy, few of us share the tenacity and dedication it can take to live within our means and be value-conscious. That's why sites like Wise Bread are so popular: They give folks a chance to meet like-minded people and talk openly about what can often seem like a subversive topic -- frugality.


So, when it comes to frugality, are you in the closet or out? Was coming out a gradual process, or did you kick the proverbial door wide open on Day One? (See also: "A beginner's guide to frugal living.")


My own journey made it fairly easy to live an openly frugal life. First, my parents instilled in me the value of simplicity and debt-free living early on. Living with a certain level of financial mindfulness and modesty was a fact of life, and I took the lesson and the benefits to heart. (Post continues below.)

Once I landed my first real job after college, I worked closely with a group of underpaid social workers (is there any other kind?). Our tight-knit office made it easy to talk about the challenges and strategies of living in Chicago on a wage that was barely $19,000 a year. We were all relatively young, and it seemed like everyone brought sack lunches, shopped for bargains, drove modest cars and decorated their apartments through Dumpster diving and thrift shopping.


Later, I said goodbye to social work, transitioned to the corporate world, and began work with a benefits-consulting firm. Part of our intensive training involved learning about retirement plans and understanding how the power of compound interest combined with benefits of saving early could redefine our golden years. Everyone took the message to heart -- not only for our clients, but for our own personal security. It gave my frugal ideas a clearer focus and more urgency. Though the atmosphere was a bit buttoned-up and certainly more affluent, we all talked openly about saving, retirement planning, setting financial goals and sticking to budgets.


Now, being open -- even enthusiastic -- about frugal living is second nature to me. I love to share my own successes and missteps, and I think it helps make the journey real for other people who are at different points along their own roads. Still, I can't help but feel bad for all the closeted frugalistas out there.


I see (and eavesdrop on) them everywhere. They're the young corporate guys tucking away old flip phones so their co-workers won't see their telephonic shame. They're the office workers who feel compelled to overspend on a wedding or baby shower gift to keep up with the absurd standards someone else has set. They're the ones who fall silent while everyone else talks about how little room they have left on their credit cards.

So, for all you closeted guys and gals out there -- come on out. Talk about how and why you save. Lend some sanity to the conversation and give your peers a chance to agree, emulate and come out too. The power of ridiculous levels of spending and consumption lies in everyone's silent agreement and acceptance. Maybe it's time to be proud of that 12-year-old car and that trusty old flip phone. Maybe it's time to stop apologizing for the home-brewed coffee and the TV that's decidedly not flat. All these things help make you wonderfully frugal -- and isn't that worth celebrating?


More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:

Jul 5, 2012 12:23PM
Being frugal is very smart regardless of income. However, if one pushes it too far they can alienate clients and, or burn bridges. It's a tough balancing act.
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