Making Frugality Fun

I’ve always been a frugal person and I consider myself a disciplined person. But sometimes I read personal finance blogs and it all seems like….a drag. If you read these blogs, it seems that to live a frugal life, you have to aim to be a monk. You have to live a life of deprivation. You have to deny yourself, deny yourself and then deny yourself some more. And then you retire or die.

I think your self discipline gives way though. And even if it didn’t, at some point you realize that life is short and you don’t want to spend it denying it and being unhappy.

So if not a life of deprivation, then how does one become frugal? I thought about this when I was selecting a restaurant for dinner. One place looked much fancier, was packed and looked fun. The other was half the price in a much simpler atmosphere. But after we picked the cheaper restaurant, choosing foods was much more fun because, for the same price, we had so many options. And it dawned on me, frugality can have benefits beyond saving money.

Frugality can lead to more options
Rather than look at frugality as a way of limiting your options, frugality can allow us to have more options. If we are at a cheaper restaurant, we can choose more foods for the same price.

Frugality can lead to more creativity
If you get an expensive piece of furniture or clothing, you invest resources in trying to protect it and care for it as is. If you get a cheaper piece of furniture, you can spray paint it, reupholster it or have money to add pillows or decor.

Frugality can just be fun
A lot of frugal activities are recommended because they save money but often they’re just more fun to do. Hosting people over at my house is one of my favorite things to do and creates great memories. It’s great that it’s cheaper than paying for the same number of people to go to a restaurant and may even be cheaper than one’s own portion at a restaurant, if you factor in gifts of food and wine and leftovers. But mostly, I do it because it’s fun. I bike to work because it’s fun, but it does save money.

I think if you live your life in a way where most of the reasons you do things are because they’re frugal, you’ll burn out and get sick of it. You’ll get so tired of being a slave to money that you might give up on the idea of saving money altogether. If you do things for the reason that they are fun, but they could also be frugal, you are so much less likely to burn out. You’re living your life according to what makes you happy and really enriching your life by being frugal.

What kinds of things do you do because they’re fun but that are also frugal?

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Why Everyone Should Learn to Cook

I have such beginner’s luck with cooking and baking. The first time I cook or bake something, it comes out pretty well. So I get cocky and the next time I don’t check the recipe as well and it turns out much worse.

I baked some bread tonight. I used the wrong oven temperature. I put the lid on at the wrong time. I used a different kind of flour and didn’t adjust the recipe. It came out flat and weird.

But I was kinda excited about this bread. I mean it’s a Monday and I failed at something. But I’m safe. I’m in the safety of my own home. No one knows except me (and now all of you). I’ve learned several lessons for the future. And it’s fun and creative. When else do we get to try something new, fail, learn and feel ok about it?

It makes me sad when people don’t try to learn how to cook because they think it’s hard. Learning to cook can be hard. But learning everything can be hard. The difference with cooking as opposed to many other hobbies is that you lose so little when you fail at cooking. I mean, I lost 3 cups of flour, a pinch of yeast and salt and some water. And I got to experiment. I got to try to do something. I got to be creative. And I get to fail and try again. And I get to do it again tomorrow.

This is the Secret to Being Healthy, Frugal and Happy

It dawned on me recently that I had lost ten pounds and was keeping it off. My legs had never been so toned, my skin was glowing and I was BM-ing like a rock star.

And it wasn’t because I had gone on a crazy diet and had amazing willpower. It wasn’t because I was dragging myself to the gym. What was surprising about my transformation was not so much the transformation itself but how little sacrifice I had made.

So for those of you that don’t know – this is what I do to be healthy (but don’t focus on this, because the specifics aren’t the key).

Meal plan: I eat one meal a day, usually. I don’t have any restrictions on that meal. I can eat carbs, sugar, starches, dairy, whatever I fancy.

Exercise plan: I bike to work most days and go for a long run or bike ride on the weekends. This amounts to half an hour to an hour of cardio. Every now and then (but not usually) I lift weights.

So am I saying you should do these same things and will get the same results? NO!!! The secret to losing weight and getting toned aren’t what I do.

The secret is: I love this diet and exercise program.

I don’t eat this way or exercise this way in order to change the way I look. If these activities made me fatter, I would probably reduce them, but I would still try to find a way to keep doing what I’m doing. I look forward to them.

I mean, I generally have excellent self-control. But I have only ever been on 2 diets and I quit both early. Gained back the weight. And you know why? People aren’t great at making themselves miserable. People hate telling themselves they can’t have what they want. And you know what? That’s ok!

It’s ok if you want to be happy. The secret isn’t to learn how to deal with misery. The secret is to find a way to get to your goal that you frickin’ are addicted to.

So if you love binge eating, as I do, and hate restricting yourself from certain foods, maybe intermittent fasting is for you. Maybe it’s working out so much that you can eat as much as you like. Maybe it’s savoring your food. Maybe it’s going for a walk after you eat.

If there’s a healthy food you love, focus on incorporating more of those into your diet rather than what you “can’t” eat. So if you love apples, eat an apple before your biggest meal. If you love radishes, roast them, saute them, eat them raw with salt and pepper. Make the healthy thing you love the appetizer and it turns out, you’ll end up eating a delicious craveable healthy food and there will just be less room for the unhealthy.

Whatever it is, the secret to being happy and being healthy is to make it consistent. And to make it consistent, think about adding more pleasure instead of adding more pain.

The secret to being frugal is not to deny yourself everything. The secret is to concentrate your spending on the things that you love. Get rid of anything that’s only ok or that you just do on autopilot. Don’t concentrate on what you can’t do but focus on the wonderful things you want to do. Focus on travel and then it becomes easier to stop shopping. Focus on seeing loved ones and you start bringing your lunch to work. Focus on getting your company off the ground and you will gladly cut cable.

The problem is not with you. It’s not that you lack willpower. It’s that you don’t need it.

what craveable healthy or frugal habits can you incorporate into your life?

Marveling At Our Dumb Luck

Sometimes I read stories on the internet about people failing on their spending bans or whining about how being in debt means they are in constant FOMO and it makes me really sad.

Sad that these people exist in the world. And that they’re typically from my generation.

When my parents came to this country, they had nothing. My mom ate rice and soy sauce as her meals and worked multiple jobs to get herself through school. My dad served in the Navy. I mean, there was a level of sacrifice that people in my generation do not have any concept of.

I’m not saying I in any way shared with the tough experiences they had. I had a much easier life because of their sacrifices. But I think it’s because I know what they went through, and because of how I was brought up, and knowing that money doesn’t grow on trees and we are so privileged to have anything at all that these little things we do to “save money” are not tough – they are ridiculously fun and wonderful.

I drove the same car for almost 18 years and I was ridiculously happy doing so. I spend on average $34/week on groceries and that’s luxurious.  Deciding NOT to buy clothes for A FEW DAYS is an AMAZING PRIVILEGE. Skipping lattes and spa services for the rest of your life – all of this stuff should be super easy to do.

I read this story recently on a Quora answer to What Motivates You. It’s got a lot of really great answers to I recommend you reading it. But this one was the one that showed up in my feed and honestly it’s something I think anyone who can’t figure out how to stop getting manicures needs to read on a daily basis.

After I read this story, I wanted to try to find it again. I remembered the man’s name was Idris and that he was a cleaner in Bangladesh, which turned up this result:

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It links to this article that discusses the worst job in the world – diving in liquid sewage to claw out blockages, without any protective gear and with only a stick for safety. I’m not sure this is the same Idris. But I can understand why Idris may have washed himself literally in public toilets to clean himself before going home.

Risking his life diving into raw sewage as his livelihood and this guy is still happy! How could I not be?

Why You Should Live Below Your Means

One of the many life skills that you want to learn at a fairly young age is the skill of being an ultra-thrifty, minimal kind of little wisp that’ traveling through time . . . in the sense of learning how little you actually need to live, not just in a survival mode, but in a contented mode . . . . That gives you the confidence to take a risk, because you say, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Well, the worst that can happen is that I’d have a backpack and a sleeping bag, and I’d be eating oatmeal. And I’d be fine.’

-Kevin Kelly as told to Tim Ferriss in “Tools of Titans”

 

Would you reduce your own pay for “equality?”

According to actress, Emma Stone:
In my career so far, I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them. And that’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair. That’s something that’s also not discussed, necessarily—that our getting equal pay is going to require people to selflessly say, ‘That’s what’s fair.’ If my male co-star, who has a higher quote than me but believes we are equal, takes a pay cut so that I can match him, that changes my quote in the future and changes my life.
Let’s stipulate first that this is, of course, only happening because everyone is getting paid such gobs of money that the exact amounts may not make a difference. If a man did this at a working-joe level, I think we would all think that man was stupid. 
But even at these levels where money seems more decorative than purposeful, I have to wonder if this makes any sense as a path toward equality. Ok, first, what is equality? The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was meant to abolish wage disparity based on sex. I think this should be considered a phrase: “wage disparity based on sex.” It’s not that people can’t be paid differently – but that people shouldn’t be paid differently because of their different sexes.
 
So first off, I guess the question is, was there a wage inequality problem here and secondly, does this method solve it.