The Frugal Counterculture

“Countercultural” is one of the last things most people would call me, but the description that fits me well. Chances are, if you are reading this article, you are countercultural, too. Living within your means and saving for the future are pretty radical ideas in our culture of easy credit and instant gratification.

In addition to having a way of thinking that differs greatly from the predominant culture, frugal people have some characteristics in common with other countercultural groups. Though we hold a broad range of political and religious beliefs, we share some important ideas. In addition to living within our means and prioritizing saving, we believe in making wise use of our resources and eliminating personal debt.

Frugal people don’t have a particular style of music or clothing to distinguish us, as many countercultural groups do. Most of us don’t wear long hair and long skirts like the hippies or dress in black like the beatniks and the Goths. If you look closely, however, you might be able to identify us by our clothes — they’re likely to be a little worn around the edges and a few years out of style. Then again, some of us wear new, highly fashionable clothes, but pay less for them than everyone else.

The frugal counterculture might not be organized enough to be called a movement, and we have no formal recruitment plan, but we welcome anyone who wants to join us and are willing to teach new members of our group about our way of life. We also teach frugal principles to the next generation and are thrilled when our children grow up to be frugal, too.

I am not aware of any plans for a frugal revolution, but if frugal living became mainstream, it would change the world — many businesses would find themselves losing money, and a lot of people would have to find new ways to make a living. (Thankfully, having converted to the frugal lifestyle, many of these people would already have saved for a period of career transition and would find that they could live on a lot less money than they previously thought.)

As with any way of thinking that goes against the norm, people who live frugally can be seen as strange, particularly when we are asked to explain our reasons for doing some of things we do. Ordering water at a restaurant is considered healthy if you do it because you don’t want to drink caffeinated or sugared beverages, but you’re seen as cheap if you do it to save money. Sometimes, our frugal lifestyles are mocked, and we are called insulting names, like “tightwad” or “cheapskate,” or even “Scrooge” (whether or not our motives are mean-spirited). Yet, even these names can be turned into proud labels when we apply them to ourselves. I think of two well-known publications catering to the frugal lifestyle: The Tightwad Gazette and Cheapskate Monthly.

If you identify with these descriptions, welcome to the counterculture! When you tire of continuously going against the popular way of thinking, remember that frugal living is a rewarding lifestyle. When you live within your means and save for the future, you are less likely to worry about money and more likely to be able to afford what you really want. What a great way to live!

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11 Responses to The Frugal Counterculture

  1. Brooke says:

    I agree! The “normal people” will never understand me! They think I’m strange now, but they’ll understand later when things go my way!

  2. ~Dawn says:

    We definitely run ‘counter’ to culture… But then when things get tough we are already here to help… we will never go away!

  3. Funny, because from the earliest time I can remember, Scrooge (the McDuck kind) has always been my favorite character, so I take it as a compliment 😀

  4. fern says:

    Loved the last sentence in the 1st paragraph. That says it all, very well. An interesting topic for an article.

  5. Richard says:

    Well, I cannot say that I am “frugal” in the same sense the author uses the term, but I do try to live within my means and save what I can for that inevitable “rainy day,” which these days can be at any moment. If anyone in this country these days cannot understand what the debt we as individuals, and we as a country, are taking on then we can only hope the world community will have a better bankruptcy law than we now bestow to ourselves.

  6. fathersez says:

    Like someone wrote in his blog, being frugal has made him the office leper, or something like that.

    Living below our means needs strength of character in more ways than one.

    You are very right in pointing this out.

  7. Aleta says:

    Enjoyed your article. I have gone to restaurants and ordered water and the waiters have brought back water that actually costs more than the soft drinks. They have an angle for everything. I just refuse it and ask for the regular water. They can think whatever they want, it is our choice to not want to pay a rediculous amount for beverages that can really add up to our restaurant bill. We have reduced our meals out drastically by eliminating beverages.

  8. Pingback: Festival of Frugality 109 | On Financial Success

  9. Daphne says:

    Frugality is a lifestyle. I was born with it. My father is and grandmother was very frugal. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt for bargains. But I still remember that it is only a bargain if I will use the item.

    I do not deny myself things I really want but I don’t go into debt for them either. I save for them and for my future as well.

  10. The Envoy says:

    How wise these words seem 2 years on….

  11. Minny says:

    Now nearly three years on these words are of even more importance. During the last year, two friends who were amused by my frugal style have come to ask for advice – which was given willingly.

    It looks to me as though ‘frugal’ will be the prevailing culture in five years – why? Because no-one will have any money and credit will be hard to get.

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