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General Discussion => Welcome and General Discussion => Topic started by: Ron Scott on September 09, 2021, 06:37:45 AM

Title: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Ron Scott on September 09, 2021, 06:37:45 AM
When someone tells me they are frugal I assume they are making a conscious choice to limit spending. She could spend more, she chooses not to. If I only have $300 a week to spend and need to spend all of it to live I am not frugal. If I have $1000 a week to spend but chose to spend only $300 Iím frugal.

Therefore, retirees can ONLY be considered frugal if they spend less than a reasonable SWR. If I estimate I cannot spend more than 3.5% of my invested assets without running out of money in old age and I spend 3.5% I am not being frugal because Iím spending the maximum I can every year. (Iím ďliving upĒ to my means.) If I spend 2-3% Iím frugal. By definition Iím living below my means.

By extension, a retiree with multiple residences, half a dozen cars, and a couple club memberships may actually be frugal while the median American retiree (say under $300k in assets) is likely not being frugal at all since they need to spend everything they can on basic needs.

The reason I bring this up is that I believe most people in America donít have choices here. They need to spend a large percentage of their max just to get by. If you consider yourself frugal youíre probably well above averageóyouíve got choices and thatís enviable. Consider yourself lucky.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: dblaace on September 09, 2021, 06:52:07 AM
Being frugal has nothing to do with numbers. It is the practice of making the best use of whatever resources you have available.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: uniwelder on September 09, 2021, 06:54:30 AM
Plenty of people with limited income spend it on fast food, cigarettes, and expensive cell phones. They have a choice. I completely disagree with your idea.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Malcat on September 09, 2021, 07:12:46 AM
I also completely disagree with your position, and it makes me wonder how many poor people you know.

If you spend any time among poor people, you will see that there is a huge range in spending behaviours. Some are careful with budgets, focus on saving as much as possible to cover emergencies, and are meticulous about maximizing every cent to stretch their few dollars as far as they will go. Others spend cash the second they get any because that's what it's for, with total disregard as to whether or not their kids have food.

My mom owned a bar and welfare check day was consistently busy.

Meanwhile, I learned frugality from my father when he was his most broke. He taught me that luxury doesn't need to cost money. That delicious food can be found from all sorts of cheap or free sources, that beautiful places to sit and eat that food are free if you seek them in nature, and that swimming in a river is the best entertainment a kid could ask for.

Frugality means not wasting money, and people at every wealth level are capable of wasting money.

That said, I'm curious why you want to make this point? What is the drive behind communicating this? What are you trying to say that you think people don't already know? Because I really can't tell what it is that you want to get across.

We all know that a billionaire who only spends like a 6 figure earner is living way further below their means than a 6 figure earner who is living like a 5 figure earner.

Also, pretty much every single person I've ever seen here who saves huge sums through living well below their means has expressed that they feel fortunate to be able to so.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: mistymoney on September 09, 2021, 07:16:53 AM
I also disagree!
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: wageslave23 on September 09, 2021, 07:23:25 AM
You are referring to living below your means.  Stick with that terminology.  Frugal means not wasting money. Two completely different things. A lot of poor people are frugal and don't waste money.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Malcat on September 09, 2021, 07:26:06 AM
You are referring to living below your means.  Stick with that terminology.  Frugal means not wasting money. Two completely different things. A lot of poor people are frugal and don't waste money.

And a lot of very rich people waste money like crazy, but live well below their means.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: ixtap on September 09, 2021, 08:16:32 AM
It is true that there are many choices I can make that someone who is living paycheck to paycheck at the same spending level cannot make. It is true that some of those choices are a privilege that isn't acknowledged quite enough.

However, frugality generally has a positive connotation and is defined in terms of economy with resources. It has often been observed that the difference between frugal and cheap is that frugal will spend money for a genuinely better project, while cheap just looks at price. In poverty, one sometimes just doesn't have the option. If I don't have reserves, I can't spend more on the bulk TP. I may not be able to buy the can opener that will last longer. I may have to make the cheap choice sometimes, but if I am watching my own resources, I can still be considered frugal.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: boarder42 on September 09, 2021, 08:21:57 AM
you have started some of the weirdest threads here like you only had 32 posts and not read thru most of the things in the forum.  Not really sure your end goal with most of these. 

but this one as said above is flat out wrong.  like many of your other threads where you're trying to reinvent a term or a system thats been talked about in the FIRE blogsphere for years.  I don't think you're going to break much new ground with points like these.


Maybe you should just start a journal and people that want to go down your road of random misgivings with the FIRE community can follow it? You start new topics daily that have either been hashed to no end or just plain dont make sense.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: boarder42 on September 09, 2021, 08:28:05 AM
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/profile/?area=showposts;u=30046

it seems like you're pretty ANTI FIRE based on all your posts in your profile.  So what do you expect to gain from this forum being an avg'd aged retiree who is not interested in how the FIRE system works?
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Sibley on September 09, 2021, 08:48:49 AM
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/profile/?area=showposts;u=30046

it seems like you're pretty ANTI FIRE based on all your posts in your profile.  So what do you expect to gain from this forum being an avg'd aged retiree who is not interested in how the FIRE system works?

Some people just gotta troll I guess.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: boarder42 on September 09, 2021, 09:17:22 AM
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/profile/?area=showposts;u=30046

it seems like you're pretty ANTI FIRE based on all your posts in your profile.  So what do you expect to gain from this forum being an avg'd aged retiree who is not interested in how the FIRE system works?

Some people just gotta troll I guess.

yeah just odd to see 65 year old trolls.  Maybe trying to justify how they lived their life and flow that same concept down to others.  the bogle heads forums make much more sense for the advice and fear thats been promoted in most of these threads though.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Ron Scott on September 09, 2021, 09:18:30 AM
I donít know guys. I grew up DIRT poor. We didnít buy used or eat in every day or appreciate the simple things in life out of choice. Nothing cool about it!  We just didnít have any money. My folks divorced over money and when dad was in his late 40s he went back to live with my grandmother so he could afford to give me a college money.

I see way too many Americans in the same situation today and itís a real shame.

So it seems to me being frugal means spending below your means as a choice and those who can afford to do so should count their blessings.



Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Malcat on September 09, 2021, 09:19:00 AM
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/profile/?area=showposts;u=30046

it seems like you're pretty ANTI FIRE based on all your posts in your profile.  So what do you expect to gain from this forum being an avg'd aged retiree who is not interested in how the FIRE system works?

Some people just gotta troll I guess.

I think it's that people come here with a preconceived notion of what the prevailing beliefs are here.

We see a lot of this from some newer members. They don't spend a lot of time getting familiar with what our community here is actually about before pronouncing sweeping pieces of wisdom for our collective benefit.

And then we're left scratching our heads thinking "wtf? What image of us have you painted in your head without actually talking to us first?"
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Malcat on September 09, 2021, 09:24:15 AM
I donít know guys. I grew up DIRT poor. We didnít buy used or eat in every day or appreciate the simple things in life out of choice. Nothing cool about it!  We just didnít have any money. My folks divorced over money and when dad was in his late 40s he went back to live with my grandmother so he could afford to give me a college money.

I see way too many Americans in the same situation today and itís a real shame.

So it seems to me being frugal means spending below your means as a choice and those who can afford to do so should count their blessings.

Dude, I grew up DIRT poor, and as I said, my dad taught me a lot about frugality. My mother and father were equally poor at a certain point in mu life after she lost the bar. She was never frugal, she never was careful with her money, and cigarettes were a top priority. My dad on the other hand was able to make sure that we had fun activities, and great food, and really made the most of what little money he could scrape together.

From my mom, I learned to fear running out of money, but from my dad I learned to be resourceful even when there isn't any money.

I think as other people have pointed out, you are using a very limited definition of what frugality means.

Even then, I still have no idea what point you are trying to make.
Everyone here knows that a lot of people have no choice but to live on very little money. What is the actual point you are trying to make?

That we should be grateful for having higher incomes??? Well yeah, obviously. But who said we aren't????
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Botany Bae on September 09, 2021, 01:34:29 PM
I don't get your point at all, as poor and frugal are anything but mutually exclusive. I AM poor, as in my family has always earned just above the state poverty line (125%), and many years we came in below it. We also have a 30-50% savings rate most months, because we are frugal. Being frugal by necessity would still give us some leeway to take on a car loan on some such silliness, but we are frugal BY CHOICE so we can save more towards goals without having to work over time or enter higher stress positions. Everyone has a choice. Even when I was homeless 20 years ago I had choices, and I made a bunch of frugal choices that eventually got me back on my feet (I was fortunate that my circumstances were not due to addiction and mental illness, though).

I'm guessing we aren't cheap, as we are relatively content and happy. Plus, friends and family tend to assume we make about twice as much as we actually do in part due to our quality of life. I have family earning six figures that are one pay check away from being homeless, while we could live without changing our lives too much or earning an additional cent for a year or more on just our savings.

Granted, we are also very fortunate to live in a place with no food taxes, no income taxes, quality free and low cost health coverage options for the low income, a mild climate, and access to excellent free education.  We could be more frugal -- move out of our high cost of living area to somewhere cheaper, for example, but we don't want to and being frugal gives us the option to stay.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: mm1970 on September 09, 2021, 01:36:42 PM
I donít know guys. I grew up DIRT poor. We didnít buy used or eat in every day or appreciate the simple things in life out of choice. Nothing cool about it!  We just didnít have any money. My folks divorced over money and when dad was in his late 40s he went back to live with my grandmother so he could afford to give me a college money.

I see way too many Americans in the same situation today and itís a real shame.

So it seems to me being frugal means spending below your means as a choice and those who can afford to do so should count their blessings.
+1 to @Malcat

My parents divorced also, my father immediately retired and there was NO college money.  He didn't believe in college.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: spartana on September 09, 2021, 02:17:38 PM
I don’t know guys. I grew up DIRT poor. We didn’t buy used or eat in every day or appreciate the simple things in life out of choice. Nothing cool about it!  We just didn’t have any money. My folks divorced over money and when dad was in his late 40s he went back to live with my grandmother so he could afford to give me a college money.

I see way too many Americans in the same situation today and it’s a real shame.

So it seems to me being frugal means spending below your means as a choice and those who can afford to do so should count their blessings.
+1 to @Malcat

My parents divorced also, my father immediately retired and there was NO college money.  He didn't believe in college.
And some of us early retired types who came from impoverished single parent homes or even homeless situations managed to earn money to support ourself on low incomes and money to go to college - often enlisting in the military - and money to retire young even while earning a low income. We were fortunate to be able to use the abilities we had to get to where we are now but we weren't all born with a silver spoon. Heck many of us didn't even have a spoon at all. I find the OPs post kind of condensending.

So are we fortunate because we now have choices on how to spend our money? Or fortunate because we aren't living in a van down by the river eating government cheese?  Something in between? Or does being poor beget being frugal now or later in life? Sometimes but  being frugal generally has nothing to do with how much money one has or how much retirement income one has. I have a low retirement income and started out lean FIRE by most standards here. But even if I spent ALL my monthly retirement income I don't think that would mean I'm frugal or a s pendy pants person.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: American GenX on September 09, 2021, 02:54:30 PM

I just wanted to disagree with the OP also.  lol
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: spartana on September 09, 2021, 03:15:57 PM

I just wanted to disagree with the OP also.  lol
I think the OP is coming from a more traditional retirement POV where he is or will be retired closer to traditional retirement age with SS or a pension not too far away. Investments don't have to last as long and you have more choices of how to spend your money then you might compared with a 50 or 60 years in retirement like some plan for around here (myself included). IDK but I do get what he is saying. That if you CAN spend more in retirement  but choose not to you are being frugal and that is a luxury only the fortunate retirees have. But of course that not really true for many of the reasons listed above.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Malcat on September 09, 2021, 03:18:26 PM
I donít know guys. I grew up DIRT poor. We didnít buy used or eat in every day or appreciate the simple things in life out of choice. Nothing cool about it!  We just didnít have any money. My folks divorced over money and when dad was in his late 40s he went back to live with my grandmother so he could afford to give me a college money.

I see way too many Americans in the same situation today and itís a real shame.

So it seems to me being frugal means spending below your means as a choice and those who can afford to do so should count their blessings.
+1 to @Malcat

My parents divorced also, my father immediately retired and there was NO college money.  He didn't believe in college.
And some of us early retired types who came from impoverished single parent homes or even homeless situations managed to earn money to support ourself on low incomes and money to go to college - often enlisting in the military - and money to retire young even while earning a low income. We were fortunate to be able to use the abilities we had to get to where we are now but we weren't all born with a silver spoon. Heck many of us didn't even have a spoon at all. I find the OPs post kind of condensending.

So are we fortunate because we now have choices on how to spend our money? Or fortunate because we aren't living in a van down by the river eating government cheese?  Something in between? Or does being poor beget being frugal now or later in life? Sometimes but  being frugal generally has nothing to do with how much money one has or how much retirement income one has. I have a low retirement income and started out lean FIRE by most standards here. But even if I spent ALL my monthly retirement income I don't think that would mean I'm frugal or a s pendy pants person.

Yep, worked full time all through undergrad. For the first two years I was popping ephedrine so that I could function on only one or two hours of sleep a night. And that was despite having to pay almost no tuition because of a scholarship.

Pay was about $7/hr (annual <14K) and rents in my city were insane at the time. It required full time work just to live, and even then I could only afford a small room an hour bus ride from school in an apartment that reeked of cat piss.

Super fun times.

I tried to join the military, but they got my medical records and quite literally laughed at me :(
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Mr. Green on September 09, 2021, 09:15:03 PM
If you look up the word "frugal" in the dictionary, the definition has no relationship to income, only spending. And in today's world spending doesn't even have a strict relationship with income because of all the debt services available to people. What you see is people with means being frugal by choice, whereas some folks may be frugal by necessity. Both are possible.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: RunningintoFI on September 09, 2021, 09:21:47 PM
When someone tells me they are frugal I assume they are making a conscious choice to limit spending. She could spend more, she chooses not to. If I only have $300 a week to spend and need to spend all of it to live I am not frugal. If I have $1000 a week to spend but chose to spend only $300 Iím frugal.

Therefore, retirees can ONLY be considered frugal if they spend less than a reasonable SWR. If I estimate I cannot spend more than 3.5% of my invested assets without running out of money in old age and I spend 3.5% I am not being frugal because Iím spending the maximum I can every year. (Iím ďliving upĒ to my means.) If I spend 2-3% Iím frugal. By definition Iím living below my means.

By extension, a retiree with multiple residences, half a dozen cars, and a couple club memberships may actually be frugal while the median American retiree (say under $300k in assets) is likely not being frugal at all since they need to spend everything they can on basic needs.

The reason I bring this up is that I believe most people in America donít have choices here. They need to spend a large percentage of their max just to get by. If you consider yourself frugal youíre probably well above averageóyouíve got choices and thatís enviable. Consider yourself lucky.

Part of "being lucky" is being prepared to take advantage when opportunity arises.  Plenty of people have opportunities and fail to do anything with them for a multitude of reasons.  Obviously there are aspects of luck for all of us here but that doesn't mean we did absolutely nothing to leverage that luck into opportunity.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Radagast on September 09, 2021, 10:47:23 PM
My inlaws were dirt poor until sometime within the past decade. Their house had rammed earth walls. Kids played with mud, making little cups and models, because there was no money for toys. To cook, they burnt twigs and the leaves, stocks, and cobs of corn. The only heat they had was trapped from the burning of the twigs and corn under a tile bed, where everyone in the family huddled all winter. Their toilet was two shaped stones with a sloped ramp between, all business went down the ramp and was regularly encouraged with a shovel. The ashes from burnt corn and twigs was sprinkled on top to reduce odor, and periodically the whole lot was wheeled out to the fields as fertilizer for more corn. One summer they didn't have enough money to cook with salt for several months. Clothes were purchased during many years, but not all.

But, for as long as I have known them, they seem able to produce several thousand dollars at a minimum if needed.

So... are they extraordinarily wealthy and fortunate? I guess they have a greater liquid net worth than the average American, so there is that. Truly swimming in wealth and fortune, they are. Imagine if they were so poor they couldn't be frugal!
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: kite on September 10, 2021, 12:20:59 PM
I donít know guys. I grew up DIRT poor. We didnít buy used or eat in every day or appreciate the simple things in life out of choice. Nothing cool about it!  We just didnít have any money. My folks divorced over money and when dad was in his late 40s he went back to live with my grandmother so he could afford to give me a college money.

I see way too many Americans in the same situation today and itís a real shame.

So it seems to me being frugal means spending below your means as a choice and those who can afford to do so should count their blessings.

Nothing stops any of us from giving away all of our excess to help others in poverty. If you see Americans in any situation that is financially a 'real shame' it is within your means to alleviate some of their suffering.  You can give them your money or give your money to a charity that serves people in desperate circumstances.

My mother is frugal.  Born weeks before the crash in 1929, her early memories included homeless people coming to their back door and her mother fixing a sandwich that she was tasked with carrying out the back door.  Her parents rented the bedrooms in their home to women who taught at their school and my mother slept on a bedroll in her parent's closet. 
Now in her 90's, my mother still cuts her own hair. She says you never need more than 3 of any article of clothing. One you are wearing, one that is washed and hanging to dry and one in the closet. It's her routine to wash her underclothes in the shower and have them hanging on a drying rack, in her room. There were no tupperware or rubbermaid containers of leftovers in our fridge. A container to store food was not something she would ever buy. If there were left-overs, they were in a bowl with a plate over it, on a plate with an upturned bowl on it, or still in the pot it was cooked in, ready to go back on the stove to be reheated.  She can well afford new clothes but prefers to mend sweaters as they get holes in them.  Her frugality is not just about money, but also better for the environment.  She is the embodiment of "use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without."  She still eats every meal off of a table that has been in the family since the 1800's.  For a few generations, nobody had money to buy anything new and anything serviceable would still be in use.  Then when we could afford new things, she wasn't really in the habit of acquiring anything new.  Shopping & restaurant dining was not her idea of entertainment.

Her brother is not frugal. Drives across a toll bridge to a neighboring state each week for a haircut & shave.  There is a place within walking distance and dozens of others that are closer.  But he's stubborn and set in his ways. Pays the local Wash&Fold to do his laundry. Gets most meals at a diner or gets take-out. He generates a lot of trash & burns a lot of gasoline on nothing. He's burned through every inheritance. My mother doesn't touch hers.  Each of them has only SS income. My mother's property taxes take a 1/3, her other living expenses (food, medicines, utilities) take another 1/3, and she gives away 1/3 to charity.  Uncle spendy has nothing left at the end of the month, having spent it all on restaurant meals & personal care.

These are very old folks, whose habits were formed early on and they had extremely polar reactions to their upbringing.  One is frugal, one is not. Each of us could be frugal at whatever our income level. Frugal means you don't waste.  You might be frugal with excess income (in which case you can grow your 'stache or donate more).  You might be frugal with expenses that meet or exceed your income. That situation is not sustainable.  But mostly, Americans are just not frugal.  We're a nation of extremely wasteful individuals, regardless of our income.

Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: life_travel on September 10, 2021, 03:33:57 PM
If you look up the word "frugal" in the dictionary, the definition has no relationship to income, only spending. And in today's world spending doesn't even have a strict relationship with income because of all the debt services available to people. What you see is people with means being frugal by choice, whereas some folks may be frugal by necessity. Both are possible.
Mr Green nailed it. Frugal can be by choice ( when you spend less than your income) or by necessity ( when you HAVE to be frugal because you have limited funds).


In addition, if you are at traditional retirement age , like others mentioned, why you even worried about 3.5%??

4% is already super conservative and the creator himself is saying 5% is safe.



Itís been more than 25 years since Bill Bengen, a financial adviser in southern California, created the so-called ď4% rule.Ē
Well, now comes news that Bengenówho has sold his financial planning practice, and moved to Arizonaóhas updated his numbers.

Not only is he no longer sticking to 4%, he says that that number was always treated too simplistically.
So where are we now?

Bengen says based on the current environment he thinks a new retiree should be safe if they start with a withdrawal rate ofÖno more than 5%.

ďThatís what I use myself,Ē Bengen told me when we spoke by phone.

OK, so itís not an earth-shattering change from 4%. Itís even less of a change from the updated ďworst case scenarioĒ rule of 4.5%.

But the 4% rule is now a 5% rule, if you like. This puts Bengen at odds with those who think the number should be lower than 4%, not higher, because of todayís record stock and bond prices.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: spartana on September 12, 2021, 08:16:37 AM
If you look up the word "frugal" in the dictionary, the definition has no relationship to income, only spending. And in today's world spending doesn't even have a strict relationship with income because of all the debt services available to people. What you see is people with means being frugal by choice, whereas some folks may be frugal by necessity. Both are possible.
I looked it up as I never really thought of the actual definition. So according to Merrian Webbster:
"Definition of frugal:  characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources".

That's probably many people here both during their working years and during retirement with regard to money. And of course many are "frugal" in their use of other kinds of resources beyond money. But I think the OPs definition falls flat overall. Is Jeff Bezos frugal if he doesn't spend a million bucks a day if that is what his income would allow? Is someone here who chooses to live on little and FIRE young NOT frugal if they are spending their whole $1000/month passive income?
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: alienbogey on September 12, 2021, 10:25:23 PM
I, too, completely disagree with OP.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Malcat on September 13, 2021, 05:59:04 AM
If you look up the word "frugal" in the dictionary, the definition has no relationship to income, only spending. And in today's world spending doesn't even have a strict relationship with income because of all the debt services available to people. What you see is people with means being frugal by choice, whereas some folks may be frugal by necessity. Both are possible.
I looked it up as I never really thought of the actual definition. So according to Merrian Webbster:
"Definition of frugal:  characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources".

That's probably many people here both during there working years and during retirement with regard to money. And of course many are "frugal" in their use of other kinds of resources beyond money. But I think the OPs definition falls flat overall. Is Jeff Bezos frugal if he doesn't spend a million bucks a day if that is what his income would allow? Is some here who chooses to live on little and FIRE young NOT frugal if they are spending their whole $1000/month passive income?

It's both really.

That's why this thread is so silly.

I consider some very wealthy people who live like upper middle class people and very thoughtfully so to be very relatively frugal considering their spending capacity. But I also consider the leanFIRE person who is house hacking and dumpster diving to live their dream to be frugal as well.

Anyone who intentionally, and thoughtfully tries to spend very carefully and stretch their dollars is frugal.

So for example, I know a lot of wealthy people and some live well below their means but still aren't very frugal. They just never inflated their lifestyle past a certain point, but they're still wasteful and careless with their spending. Still heavily consumerism driven, just not upgrading their consumerism to a more expensive level. So having a room full of purses, but they're all $2-3K Louis Vuitton instead of $50-60K rare leather Birkins.

I don't consider someone frugal because they have a room full of expensive purses just because they can afford a higher end of ridiculous consumerism.

But I also know very wealthy people who don't spend even a fraction of what they could and when they do, they're very thoughtful about their spending. They might spend a lot on clothes, but specifically try to support local environmentally driven designers. They might use their purchasing power very carefully and only spend when it aligns with their values. They're frugal in a relative sense where it's all about less consumerism, and getting the most for their dollar, but for them the biggest part of "the most" is the impact, not just how the consumption benefits them.

Then there's the ultra rich cheap bastards. They're the most amusing. They're miserly fucks who cling to every cent as hard as they can. They spend the least and the only joy they get from their money is having it and watching it grow. For Christmas, they give their family the free gifts they get at department stores.
They're not frugal, they're cheap. I'm related to one, it's a delight.

On the other extreme, there's the family living on next to nothing, barely scraping by. The frugal version is meticulously careful, making everything last and stretch as long as possible. But the non frugal version has just as little money to survive on, but prioritizes buying cigarettes and beer.

So it's not so much that frugality is a specific level of living below your means, it a specific level of spending. It's more that frugality is the antithesis of wasteful consumerism.

So when you frame it by what it isn't, it becomes clearer what it is.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Dave1442397 on September 13, 2021, 08:09:53 AM
There was a TV show called Clarissa explains it all. They should remake it as @Malcat explains it all :)

I've known most of these types of people over the years. I remember meeting a guy who lived on 1% of his yearly income. He had multiple mansions, a private jet, etc. He liked to invest in small businesses as a part-owner, and made sure that it was a good deal for everyone.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Dicey on September 13, 2021, 08:43:24 AM
There was a TV show called Clarissa explains it all. They should remake it as @Malcat explains it all :)

I've known most of these types of people over the years. I remember meeting a guy who lived on 1% of his yearly income. He had multiple mansions, a private jet, etc. He liked to invest in small businesses as a part-owner, and made sure that it was a good deal for everyone.
Is his name Marcus?
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Dave1442397 on September 13, 2021, 11:33:01 AM
There was a TV show called Clarissa explains it all. They should remake it as @Malcat explains it all :)

I've known most of these types of people over the years. I remember meeting a guy who lived on 1% of his yearly income. He had multiple mansions, a private jet, etc. He liked to invest in small businesses as a part-owner, and made sure that it was a good deal for everyone.
Is his name Marcus?

No, Bert.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: ender on September 13, 2021, 11:36:51 AM
You are referring to living below your means.  Stick with that terminology.  Frugal means not wasting money. Two completely different things. A lot of poor people are frugal and don't waste money.

+1

I'm torn on posts like this. On the one hand, it does drive some additional conversation.

But on the other hand it just... misses the point of MMM almost entirely and is presented really preachy.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Imma on September 14, 2021, 07:00:05 AM
@kite your mother sounds like my late grandmother. Born in the same period. She always gave money to charity, tried to save money and had food on the table and clothes for her kids! She also never bought tupperware, but use a plate or a bowl instead. She would use recycled plastic food containers in the fridge though. She would freeze things like half a bell pepper and she would make delicious foods from the contents of her freezer. As a kid I used to think my grandma was rich because her food was so delicious. I had no idea we would get toasted bread with our soup because she was too frugal to throw away stale bread!
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: RetiredAt63 on September 14, 2021, 09:51:49 AM
Only the fortunate can be frugal in life.  They can also be spendypants.

The unfortunate have to be frugal, no choice.

Pete was always upfront that he was aiming at those who had a firehose of income.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Malcat on September 14, 2021, 02:35:32 PM
Only the fortunate can be frugal in life.  They can also be spendypants.

The unfortunate have to be frugal, no choice.

Pete was always upfront that he was aiming at those who had a firehose of income.

Really?

I distinctly remember Pete writing that although people typically criticise that FIRE is only for people who make a lot of money, that the less you make, the more important the principals of frugality are.

Also, as I said above, there are absolutely low income people who are not frugal.

I would say that the product of frugality for low income people is different than for high income people. For high income people it creates a deluge of extra cash, and for low income people it creates a much higher standard of living than being wasteful, because they don't have extra to cover the wastefulness, so what happens is that their core quality of life starts failing.

Many people, very low to very high income are just terrible with money, no matter how little or how much they have.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: RetiredAt63 on September 15, 2021, 05:10:23 AM
Only the fortunate can be frugal in life.  They can also be spendypants.

The unfortunate have to be frugal, no choice.

Pete was always upfront that he was aiming at those who had a firehose of income.

Really?

I distinctly remember Pete writing that although people typically criticise that FIRE is only for people who make a lot of money, that the less you make, the more important the principals of frugality are.

Also, as I said above, there are absolutely low income people who are not frugal.

I would say that the product of frugality for low income people is different than for high income people. For high income people it creates a deluge of extra cash, and for low income people it creates a much higher standard of living than being wasteful, because they don't have extra to cover the wastefulness, so what happens is that their core quality of life starts failing.

Many people, very low to very high income are just terrible with money, no matter how little or how much they have.

Yes he said that it works for lower income people, when he was asked.  But if I remember correctly, he started by aiming at those with good incomes.  And really he was aiming at lower impact on the planet, but that came out a bit later.

And for sure people can be wasteful at any income level. Anyone who uses recreational drugs (I include tobacco and alcohol here) is prioritizing that over other parts of their life.  Decades ago my then husband and I took our first real vacation, a week at Club Med.  In the middle of a Quebec winter a week in the Caribbean was heaven.  Friends of ours could not figure out how we could afford it.  They smoked, their annual cost of cigarettes was what we had spent on our vacation.  Different priorities.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Icecreamarsenal on September 15, 2021, 06:10:57 AM
I donít know guys. I grew up DIRT poor. We didnít buy used or eat in every day or appreciate the simple things in life out of choice. Nothing cool about it!  We just didnít have any money. My folks divorced over money and when dad was in his late 40s he went back to live with my grandmother so he could afford to give me a college money.

I see way too many Americans in the same situation today and itís a real shame.

So it seems to me being frugal means spending below your means as a choice and those who can afford to do so should count their blessings.




I've counted my blessings and privileges.  Now what?
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: habanero on September 15, 2021, 07:21:50 AM
Many people, very low to very high income are just terrible with money, no matter how little or how much they have.

Saw a fascinating statistic the other day, admittingly from over here and not North America, but the point was that the percentage of the population who spend their entire monthly salary is almost completely invariant to what that salary actually is.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: OtherJen on September 15, 2021, 07:25:39 AM
Many people, very low to very high income are just terrible with money, no matter how little or how much they have.

Saw a fascinating statistic the other day, admittingly from over here and not North America, but the point was that the percentage of the population who spend their entire monthly salary is almost completely invariant to what that salary actually is.

There's a new Amazon Prime documentary on one of the more famous recent MLM scams, LuLaRoe. In an interview, one of the top sellers claims to have been living paycheck to paycheck, despite making mid-5-figure monthly bonus checks. Basically, she just kept increasing her shopping habit until it expanded to meet the new income.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: kite on September 15, 2021, 08:56:34 AM
Many people, very low to very high income are just terrible with money, no matter how little or how much they have.

Saw a fascinating statistic the other day, admittingly from over here and not North America, but the point was that the percentage of the population who spend their entire monthly salary is almost completely invariant to what that salary actually is.

Entirely believable. I know scores of people with higher incomes than mine who struggle to get by week-to-week. 
It reminds me of Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. 
We humans do dumb shit, even when we know better.  And we do it with stunning regularity. 
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: RetiredAt63 on September 15, 2021, 09:14:11 AM
Many people, very low to very high income are just terrible with money, no matter how little or how much they have.

Saw a fascinating statistic the other day, admittingly from over here and not North America, but the point was that the percentage of the population who spend their entire monthly salary is almost completely invariant to what that salary actually is.

This makes sense in a way.  If someone thinks that they are leading a miserable deprived life because of their limited income, then the moment they have more money coming in they are going to increase spending for all the things they were "being deprived of".  Probably with some "I deserve this" thrown in.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: habanero on September 15, 2021, 12:35:35 PM

This makes sense in a way.  If someone thinks that they are leading a miserable deprived life because of their limited income, then the moment they have more money coming in they are going to increase spending for all the things they were "being deprived of".  Probably with some "I deserve this" thrown in.

Based on my limited data set (i.e. what I observe) I find that for higher income folks the biggest issue is a steady increase in "fixed" costs such as a larger house, expensive activities for kids, a rather fancy car and or a 2nd car, a cleaner for the house, a cabin, maybe only one income in the family as one parent stay home and so on. It's not that the spending itself is totally headless per se, it just tends to add up to quite a lot as disposable income increases and these costs are harder to get rid off as it becomes part of everyday life. 
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: NorthernIkigai on September 16, 2021, 02:57:47 AM
If someone thinks that they are leading a miserable deprived life because of their limited income,

A self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one.

(Also, not even Jeff Bezos' income is technically unlimited).
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: Kwill on September 16, 2021, 06:20:43 AM
This interesting discussion on what it means to be frugal reminded me of Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2770/2770-h/2770-h.htm). The five little Peppers and their poor widowed mother Mrs Pepper are the embodiments of frugality in virtuous poverty.
Spoiler: show
 They are eventually rewarded by falling into great fortune by a series of coincidences. They continue to be frugal and virtuous when they are rich, serving as an inspiration to the less enlightened rich people around them. It's not terribly realistic.
I liked the series of books when I was a kid, but they're a bit different from what we would expect now since the first one was originally from 1881.

Anyway, that's all a long way of saying I disagree with the OP's definition of frugality, and I think some good points have been made so far.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: RetiredAt63 on September 16, 2021, 07:56:41 AM

This makes sense in a way.  If someone thinks that they are leading a miserable deprived life because of their limited income, then the moment they have more money coming in they are going to increase spending for all the things they were "being deprived of".  Probably with some "I deserve this" thrown in.

Based on my limited data set (i.e. what I observe) I find that for higher income folks the biggest issue is a steady increase in "fixed" costs such as a larger house, expensive activities for kids, a rather fancy car and or a 2nd car, a cleaner for the house, a cabin, maybe only one income in the family as one parent stay home and so on. It's not that the spending itself is totally headless per se, it just tends to add up to quite a lot as disposable income increases and these costs are harder to get rid off as it becomes part of everyday life.

For sure.
House too crowded?  Don't declutter, buy a bigger house.
Car is a beater?  Overbuy for the next one.
Why should I be cleaning this mess?  Hire a cleaner.
My work position is important, I need to dress for it/impress people - huge clothing budget.
I am sooo stressed, buy a cottage - which will likely add more stress.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: stoaX on September 16, 2021, 08:23:07 AM
I donít know guys. I grew up DIRT poor. We didnít buy used or eat in every day or appreciate the simple things in life out of choice. Nothing cool about it!  We just didnít have any money. My folks divorced over money and when dad was in his late 40s he went back to live with my grandmother so he could afford to give me a college money.

I see way too many Americans in the same situation today and itís a real shame.

So it seems to me being frugal means spending below your means as a choice and those who can afford to do so should count their blessings.

Nothing stops any of us from giving away all of our excess to help others in poverty. If you see Americans in any situation that is financially a 'real shame' it is within your means to alleviate some of their suffering.  You can give them your money or give your money to a charity that serves people in desperate circumstances.

My mother is frugal.  Born weeks before the crash in 1929, her early memories included homeless people coming to their back door and her mother fixing a sandwich that she was tasked with carrying out the back door.  Her parents rented the bedrooms in their home to women who taught at their school and my mother slept on a bedroll in her parent's closet. 
Now in her 90's, my mother still cuts her own hair. She says you never need more than 3 of any article of clothing. One you are wearing, one that is washed and hanging to dry and one in the closet. It's her routine to wash her underclothes in the shower and have them hanging on a drying rack, in her room. There were no tupperware or rubbermaid containers of leftovers in our fridge. A container to store food was not something she would ever buy. If there were left-overs, they were in a bowl with a plate over it, on a plate with an upturned bowl on it, or still in the pot it was cooked in, ready to go back on the stove to be reheated.  She can well afford new clothes but prefers to mend sweaters as they get holes in them.  Her frugality is not just about money, but also better for the environment.  She is the embodiment of "use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without."  She still eats every meal off of a table that has been in the family since the 1800's.  For a few generations, nobody had money to buy anything new and anything serviceable would still be in use.  Then when we could afford new things, she wasn't really in the habit of acquiring anything new.  Shopping & restaurant dining was not her idea of entertainment.

Her brother is not frugal. Drives across a toll bridge to a neighboring state each week for a haircut & shave.  There is a place within walking distance and dozens of others that are closer.  But he's stubborn and set in his ways. Pays the local Wash&Fold to do his laundry. Gets most meals at a diner or gets take-out. He generates a lot of trash & burns a lot of gasoline on nothing. He's burned through every inheritance. My mother doesn't touch hers.  Each of them has only SS income. My mother's property taxes take a 1/3, her other living expenses (food, medicines, utilities) take another 1/3, and she gives away 1/3 to charity.  Uncle spendy has nothing left at the end of the month, having spent it all on restaurant meals & personal care.

These are very old folks, whose habits were formed early on and they had extremely polar reactions to their upbringing.  One is frugal, one is not. Each of us could be frugal at whatever our income level. Frugal means you don't waste.  You might be frugal with excess income (in which case you can grow your 'stache or donate more).  You might be frugal with expenses that meet or exceed your income. That situation is not sustainable.  But mostly, Americans are just not frugal.  We're a nation of extremely wasteful individuals, regardless of our income.
Your mother is an inspiration!  She reminds me of my grandparents who, by economic circumstance, were quite frugal.  And from what I remember, they were quite happy as well.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: boarder42 on September 16, 2021, 01:26:15 PM
While the feeling ebbs and flows I basically love my work. I'm 60. I manage a $400m business with more than 800 employees and offices in several countries. I travel a good bit and lately my wife has agreed to join me in the fun places. I admit, I'm exhausted most of the time but I make room for family fun and biking (just did 40 miles, half in the rain).

I could easily have retired 15 years ago without having to rethink my lifestyle but my attitude is different. I'm contributing to something larger than me. I am competent, my competence is recognized and appreciated by my staff and CEO, and I can see the positive results of my efforts. 

I plan to retire in 2 years. I could work forever but I know it's only one life and I want change.

My problem is I don't have a plan I like. I can't imagine not throwing myself in unstructured problems on a daily basis. I can't imagine not being exhausted and the prospect of that feels unpleasant. I don't have the temperament to volunteer at the senior center, and sitting on boards or playing golf in Florida all day are non-starters.

What do you retired folks do?

OP may have a warped view of reality being 65 years old and recently retired from running a 400MM dollar business with 800 employees.  and working to typical retirement age.
I have never set a budget and Iíve never tracked how much money I spent in a year. My wife and I were always natural savers but have only set one savings ďgoalĒ in our lives; for our daughterís education.

Had my number in my 40s but I had a great job and retired around my 61st. Never felt money was the problem or the solution.

This spring my wife asked me how much we spent in the past year, ďjust curiousĒ. I had no idea. Didnít take too long as we have one checking account used for most outflows.

We each took a guess before starting work on the effort and were shocked by how little we were spending. I overestimated by about a third and she was off by more. (So much for SWR!)

I donít recommend my approach to others but for us I think having a budget would have just encouraged unnecessary spending. We prefer to evaluate each expense on its own merits.

Do you budget and track spending regularly?
well when you're making 100x the avg american salary you probably dont have to budget and he also had no idea what he spent which is pretty normal too

basically quit his job with no idea how much he spent then 3 years in was like huh how much do we spend wow way less than we thought.

but he's fortunate so he must be frugal spending 1/3rd less than a random guess.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: partgypsy on September 16, 2021, 03:03:18 PM
I think more people, especially looking at the past 100 years, and across various countries, were naturally more frugal just to survive or get by. I wouldn't let some more visible examples of people who are not well off and not budgeting well (and often having not good family situations) detract from that truism. Having good household finances, economy not so much to do with rich/poor, but really a particular culture, which more people were, say going from 70's and earlier. Started post WW2 but it seems like the 1980s was the inflection point. It's not fortunate, but a culture. Our current US culture is the opposite of promoting frugality. So it's a minority.

Being a time cramped working mom I spend money to solve problems. I'm looking forward to seguing to a more simple slower way of living as my time opens up, kids are older/moved out etc so I can cook the way I want, not be a chaffeuer etc.
Title: Re: Only the fortunate can be frugal in life
Post by: mm1970 on September 17, 2021, 10:41:02 AM
Quote
My mother is frugal.  Born weeks before the crash in 1929, her early memories included homeless people coming to their back door and her mother fixing a sandwich that she was tasked with carrying out the back door.  Her parents rented the bedrooms in their home to women who taught at their school and my mother slept on a bedroll in her parent's closet.
Now in her 90's, my mother still cuts her own hair. She says you never need more than 3 of any article of clothing. One you are wearing, one that is washed and hanging to dry and one in the closet. It's her routine to wash her underclothes in the shower and have them hanging on a drying rack, in her room. There were no tupperware or rubbermaid containers of leftovers in our fridge. A container to store food was not something she would ever buy. If there were left-overs, they were in a bowl with a plate over it, on a plate with an upturned bowl on it, or still in the pot it was cooked in, ready to go back on the stove to be reheated.  She can well afford new clothes but prefers to mend sweaters as they get holes in them.  Her frugality is not just about money, but also better for the environment.  She is the embodiment of "use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without."  She still eats every meal off of a table that has been in the family since the 1800's.  For a few generations, nobody had money to buy anything new and anything serviceable would still be in use.  Then when we could afford new things, she wasn't really in the habit of acquiring anything new.  Shopping & restaurant dining was not her idea of entertainment.
This is one of the most inspiring things I've read in a long time.  I read it yesterday, and came back here just to tell you that.

I have fixed some clothing and items this last week (and will do more this weekend), and it makes me really proud of myself.  If only I could get my kids to stop growing out of their clothing. Today, I dug through my own pile of T-shirts to find a race t-shirt from 2009 for my 15 yo to wear to school.  Win?