Author Topic: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?  (Read 5463 times)

Mongoose

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Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« on: October 16, 2015, 07:46:51 AM »
Morale is very low currently. I'm fairly new to the MMM concept. Did a fair job of saving for retirement compared to friends but dismal compared to others here. DH and I were somewhat spendypants but not nearly as bad as most others we know. Then came three job losses (both of us then DH again due to positions being eliminated).  Found the MMM blog when I was searching for ideas to lower my grocery bill to well below SNAP levels (not because of a desire to retire early).

Now we are working on rebuilding. DH has an entry level position and is, after only one month at this job, training for management. I started a business that is eeking towards a profit and maybe even a paycheck. We have an emergency fund buffer. It shouldn't be that morale is so low. We probably will dig our butts our of this hole. Maybe even fairly soon.

But I hate being poor. I hate not having an income. I've had regular pay since I was 13. This is a shock to the system. We can only cover the bills about 5 more months from our emergency fund (current take-home is $300 per week for four people). My grocery bill comes to around $2 per person per day and has to cover wheat, dairy and egg allergies. I've cut back eating fruits and veggies myself to leave more for the kids. My house is cold (60 and I would like it to be at 65) because I don't want to spend any extra money. This is depressing. It doesn't help that the coffee pot broke this morning.

We joke that we'll probably be well off in retirement (traditional at 65) IF we can make it to retirement. But, in reality, scrimping and squeezing the pennies to make them go further sucks!

So my question is: is frugality (cooking everything from scratch, hanging all the laundry, eating the beans which I hate, pinching pennies, etc) more fun when the bank/investment balance is going the other way? I can totally see myself becoming very spendypants if we ever get our income up just because this feels so bad.

Kaminoge

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2015, 07:51:48 AM »
Of course it is.

Any form of deprivation is a lot more fun if it's voluntary. eg not being able to afford to live in a house/apartment would be horrible. Choosing to live in a tent can be quite a lot of fun. I'm sorry to hear about your situation and hope that things are looking up soon. Hopefully when they do you can keep some of the habits you're engaging in now and really enjoy not having to keep some of the others. Some of what you describe I do just because I honestly prefer it (eg hanging all the laundry... my apartment has a dryer, I've never turned it on) and it's no deprivation.

mohawkbrah

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2015, 08:06:24 AM »
Of course it is.

Any form of deprivation is a lot more fun if it's voluntary. eg not being able to afford to live in a house/apartment would be horrible. Choosing to live in a tent can be quite a lot of fun. I'm sorry to hear about your situation and hope that things are looking up soon. Hopefully when they do you can keep some of the habits you're engaging in now and really enjoy not having to keep some of the others. Some of what you describe I do just because I honestly prefer it (eg hanging all the laundry... my apartment has a dryer, I've never turned it on) and it's no deprivation.

this

it's different when you have a safety net of money but choose to live frugally than have no choice and have to live frugally

it's all about the choice and freedom to do things what you want after all

Retire-Canada

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2015, 08:08:12 AM »

So my question is: is frugality (cooking everything from scratch, hanging all the laundry, eating the beans which I hate, pinching pennies, etc) more fun when the bank/investment balance is going the other way? I can totally see myself becoming very spendypants if we ever get our income up just because this feels so bad.

If you look at X as deprivation it will suck no matter what.

If you honestly believe a closet full of the latest designer clothes will make you a happier person than buying stuff at a discount/thrift shop will make you miserable. 

If you honestly believe that buying the latest designer clothes will not make you happier and in fact will make you less happy since it requires you work substantially more to pay for a lifetime of expensive clothes than buying a low cost alternative will make you happier.

The difference is entirely mental and it's up to you to figure what is "real" for you and what is a fiction built up by a lifetime of marketing BS.

MrsPete

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2015, 08:15:30 AM »
Oh, yes! 

When I was a teenager and my family was on Welfare and food stamps, NOTHING about our lives was much fun.  We were constantly reminded at every turn that we had nothing.  Being poor pulls on you constantly.  You worry about money all the time -- what's due?  when?  am I ready?  When you do have a bit of money, you can't spend it because you're so afraid of needing it soon.  The future always seems rather scary.  You live in fear of the power bill or a plumbing leak.  You are at the mercy of people who run various programs:  you're not sure whether your FAFSA will work out, you hope the church will give you a basket of food at Thanksgiving.  You feel the need to fit in with the rest of the world, and you fear people will realize just how "badly off" you actually are. 

On the other hand, having money and choosing to spend frugally isn't a chore at all.  You have the freedom to spend when it makes sense:  When you find chicken on sale, you buy 5 packs, and then you feel good about knowing that you're prepared to feed your family.  You enjoy seeing your bank balances increase, which makes you feel safe and secure about the future.  You know you could book a cruise or buy a new outfit anytime you please, but it's easy to say no to these luxuries because you realize it's a choice.  You know that if you break your eyeglasses, you may grumble, but you can afford to buy another pair.  If your friend asks you to go out to dinner on Friday, you're able to say yes or no.  Even though you may not be spending much more than a person in poverty, you feel you're in control of your life. 

Kitsunegari

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2015, 08:29:24 AM »
Oh yes, frugality is much more fun when is a choice!
Sometimes it becomes a little challenge with yourself - how much more can I cut? which next thing I'll realize it's an indulgency and not a necessity? How can spend less and still do what I love? Oh this month I saved 50% of my salary, could I do 55% ?
All this is much more fun when you know you can stop any minute and buy the thing you now decide to go without.

gillstone

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2015, 08:45:41 AM »
First, good work.  You got hit in the teeth and you pulled it together, reduced your costs and made a plan to get back on your feet.  That was all a choice, a choice a good number of people don't make when put in the same situation. 

Choosing to be frugal is easier than having to be frugal just to keep a roof over your head.  However, as you build momentum in your saving more money and reducing spending, the habit of frugality will be more of a choice and you will benefit from it.

The best way to make sure you never find yourself back where you are now is to continue to be frugal even if the money starts rolling in. 


Kitsunegari

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2015, 08:50:48 AM »

The best way to make sure you never find yourself back where you are now is to continue to be frugal even if the money starts rolling in.

Amen!

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2015, 08:52:12 AM »
... my question is: is frugality (cooking everything from scratch, hanging all the laundry, eating the beans which I hate, pinching pennies, etc) more fun when the bank/investment balance is going the other way? I can totally see myself becoming very spendypants if we ever get our income up just because this feels so bad.

Pain producing self-inflicted deprivation is not what Mustachianism is about.  At least not for me.  I practice frugality without sacrifice.  It's not about doing without.  It's about doing instead.  So, to me, my frugality is totally voluntary and a source of satisfaction rather than a source of negative feelings.

(In your shoes, I would stop eating those beans right now and find some other way.  Doing things you hate is not going to help keep you on track.)

Good luck.

velocistar237

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2015, 09:01:02 AM »
Poverty causes stress, no doubt.

However, as you build momentum in your saving more money and reducing spending, the habit of frugality will be more of a choice and you will benefit from it.

Very true, it's a snowball. Once you save up a bit, you'll have more mental space to take more steps.

My wife gets stressed the first time I mention any change like line-drying clothes or planning our groceries around cost per calorie. I try not to push it. After a while, she's more open to the idea. We're more than halfway through our FIRE journey, and it still works this way. Don't try to bite off more than you can chew at once. Focus on the steps you can take that don't increase your stress load by too much.

Hang in there!

JonasNC

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2015, 09:10:23 AM »
I'd like to second the congratulations stated earlier.  You had a series of setbacks and you are doing all the right things!  Good for you and your family!  It will absolutely get better.  If you haven't read it yet, check out the MMM post on hedonic adaptation.  It goes both ways.  When you get into a more stable financial situation, try to remember the things that really bothered you when you were being super frugal and which things you didn't really miss.  Only change the parts that bothered you a lot and you will be better off than you were before your financial hardships because you've learned some new frugal skills.  Good luck!

KittyFooFoo

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2015, 11:17:09 AM »
Yes.  A lot like sex in this regard.

TrMama

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2015, 11:33:17 AM »
Everything is more enjoyable when it's voluntary. Marriage, eating beans for dinner, sleeping in the woods, swimming in cold water. The list is endless. I agree that you should stop eating beans if you hate them so much. Find something else.

It sounds like you guys are really on the right track and this season of your life is temporary. Just try to hang on to some of your frugal ways once you have more income again, so eventually even having to earn an income is also voluntary.

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2015, 01:09:54 PM »
Yes, it's the mental aspect of feeling insecure and not in control.

You're doing a difficult but necessary thing.  You'll prosper again for the discipline and sacrifice you're exercising now.  Keep toughing it out, I hope things get better soon!

Dollar Slice

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2015, 01:35:02 PM »
It feels very different. In one case you simply can't spend money on things you want. In the other case you are spending lots of money on the thing you want most (FIRE). The difference between spending money on a sports car and spending money on FIRE is that you don't spend the FIRE money until later.

It's like a kid saving their allowance to buy a video game. Every time you pinch another penny, it's not "ugh, I can't have that, I'm so bummed" - it's "YES! I can put another $XX towards my goal!"

Best of luck with your financial situation!

lakemom

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2015, 01:41:54 PM »
Morale is very low currently. I'm fairly new to the MMM concept. Did a fair job of saving for retirement compared to friends but dismal compared to others here. DH and I were somewhat spendypants but not nearly as bad as most others we know. Then came three job losses (both of us then DH again due to positions being eliminated).  Found the MMM blog when I was searching for ideas to lower my grocery bill to well below SNAP levels (not because of a desire to retire early).

Now we are working on rebuilding. DH has an entry level position and is, after only one month at this job, training for management. I started a business that is eeking towards a profit and maybe even a paycheck. We have an emergency fund buffer. It shouldn't be that morale is so low. We probably will dig our butts our of this hole. Maybe even fairly soon.

But I hate being poor. I hate not having an income. I've had regular pay since I was 13. This is a shock to the system. We can only cover the bills about 5 more months from our emergency fund (current take-home is $300 per week for four people). My grocery bill comes to around $2 per person per day and has to cover wheat, dairy and egg allergies. I've cut back eating fruits and veggies myself to leave more for the kids. My house is cold (60 and I would like it to be at 65) because I don't want to spend any extra money. This is depressing. It doesn't help that the coffee pot broke this morning.

We joke that we'll probably be well off in retirement (traditional at 65) IF we can make it to retirement. But, in reality, scrimping and squeezing the pennies to make them go further sucks!

So my question is: is frugality (cooking everything from scratch, hanging all the laundry, eating the beans which I hate, pinching pennies, etc) more fun when the bank/investment balance is going the other way? I can totally see myself becoming very spendypants if we ever get our income up just because this feels so bad.

Absolutely!!  I've been in the position of needing to cut another $15 off the grocery bill so we could put gas in the car to get to work (while feeding 4 kids and 2 adults).  When we were barely scraping by frugalness was NOT a game....it was the difference between eating or not.  Now, not so much.  Its now more of a game to see how low we can keep our monthly expenses so we CAN watch the accounts go up.  But when its a case of keeping everything low to keep the accounts from going DOWN its not nearly as fun.  Hang in there!

arebelspy

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2015, 06:10:53 PM »
+1 to those saying everything is more fun when it's voluntary.

For example, sometimes you hear people talk about jail not being so bad, because you can sit in a quiet room, meditate, read (the jail library books), etc.  But when you're forced to do it.. not so fun.

Luckily the Mustachian life IS completely voluntary, and makes one happier to boot!  :)
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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2015, 07:30:52 PM »
I would like to recommend two resources that might help you look at things in a different way: theprudenthomemaker.com and The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. Both women have large families and apply creativity to very tight budgets. I have found them inspirational. Amy's book should be available in your library system.

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2015, 02:56:31 AM »
I echo all the voices saying that it is easier when it is voluntary. I feel for you.

I've recent come out the other side, I had to choose between OH losing their job and paying for three homes simultaneously until we could move. It was a nightmare and I felt the weight of it every day. Now that I'm doing very similar things, but out of choice, my morale is so much higher, and I have a weird rose-tinted glasses memory of the time when it was hard. It's a bit like military basic training or running a Tough Mudder style event. Seneca said something like: That which is hardest to bear is sweetest to remember. Think of this as extreme training for your future frugal self?

Do you have anything from your slightly-spendypants days that you could sell? It isn't a permanent solution, but it might give a little boost to your emergency fund.

MandalayVA

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2015, 04:30:55 AM »
Having seen both sides for myself, yeah, voluntary all the way.  But congratulations on the strides you've made!

Mongoose

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #20 on: November 10, 2015, 07:38:38 AM »
Thanks for the encouragement. I'm hoping this involuntary period of frugality gives way to a more comfortable situation soon. DH is almost done with his management training at the box store and will hopefully be bumped up soon. His current take home is $1200 per month (currently our only income). Our emergency funds are taking a $700 hit this month so somehow spending is down to $1900. Take home after the potential promotion is unknown but gross is around $38-40k).

I have a potential job (6 months duration part time) at the local university (pending grant funding that looks likely). I could work around DH's schedule so no additional spending for child care would be needed. Total for the contract is around $12k (if it is funded). Should give us some breathing room.

Our business is slowly increasing. It is now paying all its own bills. Previously I was subsidizing the electric. We have one new offering running but potential clients asked for additional services. So, we managed to obtain an angel grant for a new piece of equipment. It arrives today. We had enough in the grant for DH to travel to meet with a person in our business area who offered to train him on yet another requested offering. I hope all these efforts are going to pay off eventually. Starting a business is way tougher than we imagined and we were expecting it to be pretty bad.

I have no issue with designer clothes and all that consumer stuff. My big deal is food. And not freezing my hands hanging laundry in subzero temperatures. I really hate cheap meat (used to get grass fed only) and miss fresh veggies. I can seriously see spending reverting in the grocery category especially.

The beans are because I just got the kids to like them and they are cheap. Oldest child has celiac and previously ate only meat and veggies. I added beans to her diet for fiber and to get her diet more varied. I don't want her stuck on only high end groceries when she leaves the nest. She actually likes them now. So....I am trying to put up with the yech (!) in an attempt (however ineffective it might be) to be a good role model for the littles.

GuitarStv

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Re: Is the MMM lifestyle (frugality) more fun when it's voluntary?
« Reply #21 on: November 10, 2015, 08:18:41 AM »
Yes.  A lot like sex in this regard.

Dark humour.  GuitarStv approves.  :P