Yes, Frugality is Only for the Rich

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Let’s imagine two families that each spend $46,000 a year. If that family makes $46k/year, they are a cautionary tale. But if that family makes, say $250k/year, they are paraded around as frugal experts.

This is basically how I read the uproar about the Frugalwoods, i.e. the latter couple. There was an article critiquing them because their situation is unrealistic to most people. Then there were critiques of that critique, stating that frugality was for everyone.

These latter articles made it seem like the lower and middle class should aspire to the “extreme frugal” habits of the Frugalwoods.  One article even says the Frugalwoods should be applauded because “they’ve exhibited a level of self-restraint and stick-to-itiveness that the rest of us can only dream of.” I mean, I guess the rich can only dream of it. The lower income and middle class live this reality every single day.

Consider that 50% of U.S. households earn $50k or less, representing 70% of the population. Captain Obvious says, that’s the vast majority of people in this country. Some of these households are going into debt, sure, but if we assume 50% of this group is living below or at their means, that’s 44 million households (34% of all U.S. households) living on less than what the Frugalwoods spend per year (assuming $50k after taxes is around $40k. Some commenters have stated the Frugalwoods are living on a bit less than $46k but it’s still around this figure).

If frugality were actually about living on less, then these 44 million households should be as equally vaunted as those making more. But living off <$46k when you’re making <$46k is stressful. No one wants to follow advice on how to be struggling, even if the actual budget would be the same. What’s better is living a bucolic Instagrammable lifestyle where one can talk about minimalism and having “more time for the things that matter” on $46k. The only people who can live that life are the rich.  


I love love love this comment by Dr. McFrugal:
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On Reddit, this sentiment is echoed:
Being frugal really starts to apply when you make enough money that you could afford luxuries, but you turn them down to save money. That’s frugality. The college kid who is eating Ramen every day because he doesn’t have a choice – that’s not frugality, that’s survival mode.

Frugality is only for the rich because the poor and middle class are just surviving.

I have nothing against the Frugalwoods. It’s not their fault that they’re celebrated for something that millions of other people are forced to do. It’s like a couple that’s celebrated by living on $12/day traveling to another part of the world, even though the general populace lives on $2/day. It’s like an able-bodied person using a wheelchair for a day, and being average at it, and everyone saying, hey people in wheelchairs, look and learn from this guy.

It’s not the couple’s fault that they’re feted. The problem lies in the lack of understanding of what is normal for the majority. There are millions of families with even lower than “extreme frugality” budgets, but it’s the rich people with higher budgets who are getting celebrated. That means it’s not the budget that is celebrated but the income and the percentage. Lower and middle incomes may win on absolute spending but if you define frugality as percentage saved, the rich will always win. 

This is not to say that the lower or middle class should give up hope and spend willy-nilly.  Saving money is obviously good and should be encouraged even if you don’t get a book deal. What I’m really critiquing is the critiques of the critique.  If “extremely frugal” people like the Frugalwoods are spending more in absolute terms than lower and middle income people, then the lower and middle income people are just as frugal. At some point,  you hit the threshold for how little money one can spend. If well-educated, book-selling, rich “extreme frugal” people are spending more than you, even with all the advantages that the rich have for saving money (like better rates because they can pay for their house in cash) than maybe the 44 million households making it work on less have hit the absolute limit. Let’s not chastise them regarding “learning frugal habits” just because their savings percentages are low. The savings are low because of lack of income, not lack of frugality.

We also need to question why we inexplicably praise rich people for doing the same thing as the middle class as if that’s a huge hardship for them. We have impossible, standards for the lower and middle class and very low standards for the rich. This is unfair. There are a few takeaways I get from this situation.

1. Let’s stop pretending rich people have all the answers.
I know someone might say, well saving a lot of money on a high income is more difficult than living paycheck to paycheck on that same income. I don’t even know if I need to explain this but here are 4 reasons why being rich is easier than being poor:
  • There’s a lot of comfort from the idea that you can just solve problems with money if you want to/have to. You can’t do that if you are lower income.
  • There’s comfort in knowing that saving money can produce tangible results soon. If you’re rich, you can live like a pauper and possibly retire in a few years. If you’re poor, living like a pauper means you can retire in 45 years. It’s the difference between sprinting for 500m and sprinting a marathon.
  • Being rich makes saving money easier. I got a coupon in the mail for a free meal at a new fast casual place that opened up. That would never happen if I didn’t live in a fancy area where people can be expected to come back for paying meals in the future. Living in a rich area means you’re treated better and have better perks. And don’t tell me “avoiding lifestyle inflation is hard.” No, figuring out if you can afford rent next month is hard. Not buying new things when your old things are getting faded is easy.
  • Being rich means you can screw the poor. My friend told me that when he was a kid, his mom paid way too much for a beater because she had bad credit. If I wanted that beater (this never would have happened because I was 10 at the time, but let’s say this happened today), the dealer would have offered it to me for less because I have excellent credit and could pay cash. Not only would I have gotten a better deal on that car, but if I had gotten that car, which was just one option for me, she would have been screwed. That was the only car available for her. Being rich means you have all the options that the poor have and also the options of the middle and upper classes. Being poor means you hope the rich don’t take your options in their quest for frugality.

So yes, being rich makes everything easier. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. It’s more impressive to live on a lower income if you’re lower income. It’s easy being rich.

2. Everyone should first seek to understand.

I’m weirded out by bloggers who talk about “nonfrugal” people as if they are some single entity that is obsessed with conspicuous consumption. Some people are like that, for sure. But others are making all the right choices and are constrained by their circumstances. Others are making most of the right choices. Others are recovering from some of the wrong choices. Some people just make different choices.

And most people suffer from the simple malady of not being rich.

The middle and lower class have tips and tricks that the rich can’t even comprehend and it’s a bit sad that they’re underrepresented in personal finance blogs.  Poorerthanyou started a group highlighting articles geared for lower or middle income folks but it shouldn’t just be people with lower incomes that read it. Everyone should read this. Personal finance shouldn’t be about lower income people needing to learn from higher income people –  everyone should be learning from everyone else.

 

S%&* Bad Advice Personal Finance Bloggers Give

Save money on hideous harem pants! Source

The beauty of getting financial advice from regular people bloggers is that you get such a breadth of experience and advice. The downside is that no one is policing these people from saying really terrible and stupid things and giving the worst personal financial advice I’ve ever seen. Look, I’ve done some stupid things to save money, but I don’t recommend those tips to anyone else. I’ve seen a lot of the advice below on different blogs and I think, hey, no one follow these, ok? Let’s not be jerks. Let’s not condone bad, stupid advice.

1. Rent out an extra room.

Who are these people that have extraneous rooms to rent out but are low on money? In any case, even if you are one of these mythical people, this is bad advice because you might not be able to find suitable people to rent out your extra room, and it might be against your lease or condo agreement to rent out on Airbnb. If you are low on money, perhaps the easiest to thing to do is rent someplace smaller instead of figuring out how to rent out extra rooms.

2. Don’t spend money on [X].

X tends to be luxury items – designer clothing, daily lattes, fancy cars, cable TV, vacations. But they might also be purchases that the person loves. Personal finance is personal. There are very few things that people buy that are universal bad ideas (except lottery tickets and scams). Personal finance shouldn’t be about giving up arbitrary things but giving up things that mean very little to you so that there’s sufficient funds for things you really care about – whatever those things are.

3. Student loan and mortgage debt is “good debt.

This was more prevalent advice before student loan debt toped $1 trillion. While student and mortgage debt may be unavoidable for some, there’s nothing desirable about having the debt.

The “good” label really refers to the moral superiority over having this debt. In terms of impact on your finances, I would venture to say that student loan debt is the very worst debt because 1) it can’t be discharged in bankruptcy; 2) is the fastest and easiest way to get into tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt; 3) can’t be settled for a lower payment; and 4) you can’t return or sell the product you purchased to alleviate some of the debt.

4. Eating others’ leftovers or diving in the trash is a good way to save money.

If I literally had no money for food, I would still rather skip meals than eat out of the trash. It’s like French kissing strangers, except the stranger has been rotting in the garbage can and tastes bad.

Food prices have decreased dramatically over the decades. Food is cheap. Ramen, beans and rice, frozen veggies, eggs, pasta – you can eat a delicious dinner for less than $1/meal – why eat someone’s gross leftovers for free?

5. Save money by not tipping.

This is how you actually save money – eat at home or eat at a place where you’re not expected to tip. Don’t be a jerk to save money.

6. Get free meals by going on dates.

First there is the inherent risk that if you go out, your date will not cover the cost of dinner or may even expect you to cover the cost of it. Second, if you aren’t interested in dating this person, that’s a waste of your time. Time is more important than money. Third, you’re making the rest of womankind look bad. Some people will argue that men should pay for dates. Some people argue that everything should be split. Everyone thinks that each person should be prepared to pay for the meal.

Generally, these tips don’t save a lot of money but have the side effect of making you a terrible person and hurting others. Let’s not follow these tips because being a stingy miser that everyone hates doesn’t mean you’re good with money.

Why “Frugal” is My Least Favorite F-word

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 10.14.27 AM.pngDon’t you hate it when you share something with a friend and instead of mindlessly complimenting it, and you, by extension, they offer completely valid criticism?

Me too. Please keep mindlessly complimenting this blog. Thank you very much. =D

So anyway, I was a little gaga over The Minimalists’ documentary, which I told my friend about. He texts back: “Lol I’m watching it. It’s funny.”

Um, it’s not funny. It’s deeply moving and profound, I say. So he says:

All these guys are doing is chasing happiness from a different angle.

I was initially taken aback because this wasn’t a clear compliment regarding either me or the film. But after my initial shock and irrational anger subsided, I realized that he wasn’t wrong (ugh! friends who aren’t wrong!). Though The Minimalists’ minimalism was a rejection of consumer culture, there isn’t as much difference between minimalism and consumerism as I had initially thought. Whereas consumerists may compete over who has the most or the nicest stuff, minimalists can compete over who has the least stuff.

And both of these competitions are, let’s face it, kinda stupid.

Defining yourself by how much stuff you own is weird (“Hello, my name is Lisa and I own 500 things”); equally weird is defining yourself by your lack of stuff (“Hello, my name is Lisa and I don’t own 500 things”). One person has a lightly packed backpack and the other has three overstuffed suitcases, but the kinds of things they pack are similar. If both people enjoy their respective luggage and both get to the same destination, then who’s to say one way is better than the other?

I think a similar line of thought applies to people who define themselves as “frugal.”

Dictionary.com defines being “frugal” as “not wasteful.” But “wasteful” is a subjective term. I see articles by bloggers bragging about their uber-frugal lifestyles and dismissing unnamed others for their perceived extravagance. Spending on designer clothing, going out for drinks with coworkers, having a nice house – these are seen as anti-frugal. Meanwhile, “frugal” people apparently shop at used clothing stores, avoid get-togethers that cost money and flaunt the modesty of their homes – so they can retire and travel the world. If that’s the only way to be frugal, then I’m not interested – because I love get-togethers, and I’m Asian, so you know there’ll definitely be food. =D

The purported difference between minimalists and consumerists is that minimalists think having nice stuff is wasteful, but spending money on experiences is not. But you’re not  saving money choosing one route over the other – you’re just making different choices with the money you have. And I am uncertain why one set of choices is less “wasteful” than the other. If I save money on travel in order to have a nice house that I get to enjoy with my family and friends everyday, why is that not considered frugality?

There was an article awhile back on Iwillteachyoutoberich that reasoned that spending a lot doesn’t necessarily mean one is wasteful if the amount spent is conscious. One shouldn’t assume that spending on what others may perceive as frivolous is unwise if it’s meaningful to the person who spends it. And MixedUpMoney once proclaimed: we are all frugal.

I believe everyone is frugal (sorry I stole your idea MixedUpMoney!). I’ve never met a person who tries to be wasteful – who tries to pay more and get less, who finds loopholes to pay MORE in taxes, who trashes perfectly good stuff because they like the feel of plastic clogging the Earth’s landfills. Everyone tries to use their dollar to get the maximum good. After all, there are 83 million hits for “how to save money” on Google because everyone is looking for ways to save money and there are approximately 83 million different ways to be frugal.

Everyone is frugal. They just might not be frugal in your eyes, according to your values and judgments. Everyone is trying to obtain the right amount of “stuff” so that they can achieve their goals – but their number of items will be higher or lower than yours. It makes us all look stupid (and sad) if we are trying to out-frugal each other.

The idea of “frugal” v. “unfrugal,” minimalists v. stuff-ists, makes it seem like we have fundamentally different values than people who define themselves differently.  Some may negotiate a deal on a luxury car,  some may buy a cheaper model, some may lease  and some may go car-free. You may have your biases about which one of these is the “frugal” option, but in the end, isn’t the type of car you drive less important than where you’re going?

Minimalism and frugality aren’t the destinations – they’re just different cars we drive as we figure out where we’re going.

In the new year, in a very divided country, we don’t need more reasons to be divisive. Of course, tips for saving money are always good and can be helpful. But there is no reason to put down some people’s choices or elevate others’. Personal finance is above all else, “personal.” We are all striving for the same things – happiness, security, love, meaning.  Our decisions are different, our values are different, our stuff is different, but overall, we are very similar, more similar than we care to remember most of the time. To quote one of my favorite poems by Maya Angelou:

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike than we are unalike.

Faith, freedom, finances, even failure, and other F-words are useful from time to time. But I’m done with “frugal.” “Frugal” is used as a term to judge one set of personal finance choices as better or worse than others. I’d rather err on everyone having the freedom (best F-word) to finesse their finances to fit their own life. And we can all just fire (another good F-word) each other up along the way.

Wishing you all the happiness, security and love, stuff or no stuff, in the flipping fantastic new year.

 

Gif source: giphy

How I Paid off $112,000 in Student Loan Debt in 18 Months

How I paid off $112,000 in student loan debt in 18 months

I was fortunate enough to graduate from college debt free. Then I had to go and attend law school where I racked up $112,000 in student loan debt and credit card debt. So you can add this to the unremitting list of “student loan debt payoff” stories. I will admit that my story is more boring than most.

My secret is that there is no secret: I got paid a salary that made it possible to pay off the debt while living a reasonable lifestyle. There are no magical tricks herein. My story is completely mathematically realistic.

The high income was the most important key to paying off my debt. Still, there were a few basic guidelines I followed that helped me pay off the debt.

1. I Reduced Student Loan Debt Before Repayment

Part of the reason I was able to pay back my student loan and credit card debt in such a short time was that a year and a half is not that long a time to sacrifice. Had I taken the maximum load of debt offered to me, it wouldn’t have been feasible to pay off the debt for several years, and I likely would have given up the fast-paying scheme.

The more interesting articles are why I only accumulated $112,000 in debt as opposed to upwards of $180,000, which is the full cost of tuition, fees and approximate living costs at my law school for three years, without interest:

How I Saved $65k in Four Years for Graduate School

How I Saved Tens of Thousands in Law School

It also helped that I was entering a profession that offered jobs that could be high enough to pay off this debt in a reasonable time period. I worry sometimes that these amazing debt paying stories may encourage people to accumulate huge debt while preparing to enter low-paying fields. My favorite debt payoff stories are boring because it’s a bad situation to end up with a lot of debt and a low income. Don’t accumulate so much debt that it becomes mathematically impossible to pay back!

2. I Used my Bonuses

I was lucky enough to get two bonuses during this time period, both of which I put completely towards my debt. I didn’t even consider using the money to buy anything else. What motivated me was that I wanted to be debt-free more than I wanted any more stuff or experiences.

3. I Plowed All of My Money Towards Student Loan Debt First

After bonuses, I paid about $5,000/month for 18 months to pay off my loans. I had an auto payment of approximately $3,000/month (3 times my minimum loan payment). Then I would make periodic extra payments. I could have made a higher automatic payment but I had already had one disaster where extra expenses left me without sufficient funds to pay my rent and credit cards on time. I figured I’d give myself a little more leeway on the monthly payment.

Instead, I would make extra payments when my bank account looked high. Having large balances in my bank account that encourages me to spend. Low balances, even if they are artificially low – like the money is in a separate bank account – subliminally encourage me to spend less. So the extra payments served both to pay down my debt and discourage spending. Still, it was really difficult sending such large amounts out of my bank, particularly after loan payments were already taken out. It was like ripping a bandaid off. You force yourself not to put it off and then when you get to it, you do it quickly and move on. If I had given myself the option, I would have left the money to wallow in my bank accounts. But I was determined to pay off my debt.

4. I Knew the Value of Money


After maxing out my 401k, transportation, taxes and health benefits, and after rent and utilities, and paying off my loans, I had $1,100/month left. That covered the cost of my car, home goods, clothes, food, insurance – basically everything else. For a lot of new lawyers, $1,100/month is too low. (I knew a classmate that was renting a $7,000/month apartment after all).

But $1,100 was enough money for me and I knew the value of this amount of money. When I was an entry level employee, I lived on just a little bit less disposable income, because I was maxing out my 401k. And I remember during that time wanting for nothing.

I was used to living like a law student.  Knowing that I could survive on less was invaluable knowledge to me. I wouldn’t have paid off such large chunks of debt so quickly had I thought I would have had to feel deprived. I knew the value of money so I knew how to be happy with less.

5. Everyone was in the same boat


I knew I could live on less, but I also had more expenses in this time period than ever before. I had medical expenses, a new wardrobe, a drastically increased rent. During this time, It helped that most of my friends were also paying back loans and lived similar lifestyles. A lot of my friends were supporting their parents with their salaries.  It also helped that we worked such long hours our first year that we had very little time to blow through our money. (Some people though would take this as license to spend more).

I felt that I was able to maintain a fairly comfortable existence – just without any lifestyle inflation – and I knew that the time for watching my purchases was short. It was a small price to pay to be debt-free in 18 months.

***

So there you have it – I paid off my loans by reducing the loans I took out, making enough money to cover the loans I had and then just throwing money at the loans until they disappeared.

It was technically possible, and indeed my initial plan, to pay off the debt in one year. But I thought my life was becoming too Spartan. I had increasing visions of dying without having bought a sofa for my apartment. So I went on Craigslist and I bought a sofa and chair for $60. (frugal doesn’t change, natch).

Whatever your plan, being debt free is amazing.  I don’t regret any part of it (even law school, which is rare among lawyers).

Do you have any debt repayment tips?

The Ugly Truth about Frugality

I haven’t done many diets because I hate the idea of restriction. I lasted about 4 days on a no-carbs diet and they were some of the most miserable days of my life. But one that has stuck is the “one meal a day” diet.

I started by skipping breakfast. That was quite easy. I immediately didn’t miss it. Skipping lunch was much more difficult and I could feel the hunger eating (haha) me alive. But it got easier as my body adjusted. And the hunger would subside after 15 minutes, max. And when I finally eat my meal of the day – dinner – I eat without abandon. There are no restrictions. There is always dessert. So it seems like a joyous celebration rather than a constant level of restriction.

I think the parallels to personal finance speak for themselves. I look at other people’s spending, and I’m pretty shocked about the constant frittering of money.

For me, I’m pretty used to wanting something and not buying it. It seems that for a lot of these people, that’s not how they do it. They get the itch and they scratch. I get the itch, and I store the itch in a file and revisit the itch in a week.

Frugality often reminds me of my diet. I’ve heard supermodels complain that they’re always hungry. The truth about frugality is that it often feels like you’re hungry all the time as well. Frugality means you just ignore these “hunger” pangs. If you think about frugality as a whole, you’ll feel like you are constantly living in a state of desire and denial. You’re always craving.

Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re deprived. Sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t have enough. You will have a list of things a mile long on your “to buy” list. That’s just the truth of denying what you want. It doesn’t get easier. Unless you have a way to tune out all marketing, there will always be new things that make you itch for more.

Of course, giving in to your desires isn’t what you truly want. The problem with scratching every itch is that your skin will be all scratched up. The problem with eating whenever your hunger strikes is that you’ll often eat too much. You don’t recognize the signals to stop eating anymore and you may start mistaking signals for thirst or boredom for hunger. And as your weight balloons, you start to worry about every time you eat, trying to restrict at all times. Sometimes it’s better to restrict from the get-go.

The upside of ignoring your desires is that 90% of the desires will go away and often quite quickly. And rather than having a lot of products that you can barely remember desiring, you’ll have a fat checking account.

It reminds me of co-opting and bastardizing Steve Jobs’ graduation speech motto, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” But here, “Stay hungry. The hunger will go away.” The caveat is though, you still remember to eat and when you do eat, relish every moment of it.

[I thought about submitting this article idea to a personal finance site but figured it would get a lot of backlash because the idea of restricting one’s meals is basically as unpopular as saying “Trump’s doing a good job.” People will accuse you of encouraging eating disorders. Meanwhile, we’re facing an obesity epidemic in conjunction with widespread malnourishment. To the extent this counts as advice, it only applies to people who don’t have an eating disorder. Please take care of yourselves. ]

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 let you optimize your results
I am a woman who loves reading about beauty. I don’t necessarily love spending the big bucks on beauty but I voyeuristically look at other women’s medicine cabinets, as posted all over the web, and I’m shocked to see so many tiny bottles of very expensive potions and primers.

I know if I bought a lotion or “miracle product” for $100 or more a pop, I would use as little as possible to preserve the product. See, look at this. I would have spent $100 and I would be tiptoeing MY life to preserve IT. It’s pretty weird. It’s like having a child or a dog. Except it’s a beauty product. The products you buy should serve YOU. Not the other way around.

And the thing with skin care is, your skin needs moisture. Maybe this miracle product is better at moisturizing your skin than a cheaper product. But is it better than products that you actually aren’t afraid of applying multiple times a day all over your face and in indiscriminate quantities? Likely not. The moisturizer can’t moisturize skin that it doesn’t touch.

So I say, buy the products that you are not afraid to use, that serve you, rather than the other way around. And while you may feel frugal using a nonfancy moisturizer, it feels incredibly abundant to be able to use your products without abandon.

Frugality can save time.
Piggybacking off the previous idea of saving product because it’s so expensive is that expensive things make us think we should take better care of them. I take the time to be gentle to my expensive purses. I would consider saving an expensive face cream in case of a fire. But doesn’t that make you feel rather poor and insignificant? Again, you’re spending your money to WORSHIP A PRODUCT. The product should serve you, not the other way around.

Yes, you should take care of your things. There’s no need to be reckless. But there’s something wonderful to be said that it can all burn in a fire and I wouldn’t risk my life for anything (but my laptop would certainly be nice). It’s also nice to think, ok so my stuff is getting a bit of wear and tear. Well that’s what they’re there for.

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?

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 amazing willpower. It wasn’t because I was forcing myself to eat iceberg lettuce or 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.

This is exactly what I do for eat and exercise:

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 I lift weights or do body weight strength training exercises.

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, just not for diets. I have only ever been on 2 diets and I quit both early. Gained back the weight. And you know why? Because 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.

The secret to being frugal is not to deny yourself everything but to concentrate spending on the things that you love. As an obvious first step, stop paying for stuff you hate. Stop paying for the gym if you hate going to the gym. Get rid of anything that’s only ok or that you just do on autopilot.

And then focus your attention on things that you love. 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.

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 problem is not with you. It’s not that you lack willpower. It’s that you shouldn’t use willpower for everything.

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