The Frustrated Frugalite

The other day, a friend and I were talking about the things we do to be frugal. We were discussing all the tips and tricks we’ve learned to save money and cut down on waste. We were also discussing how, with the current economic downturn, more and more people are learning how to be frugal. They are visiting websites that deal with frugality, watching money saving segments on TV, reading books on simple living, and seeking hints on any ways to save money.

Now, my friend is usually a pretty level headed guy who’s kind and understanding. But during our discussion, he dropped this bomb on me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here because some of it was unrepeatable), “I really hate all these people who are suddenly trying to be frugal. A year ago, most of them were looking down on us, ridiculing us for being thrifty, couponing, shopping at thrift stores, and growing our own gardens. Now they want all our tips and hints that we worked so hard to learn. Nobody taught me how to be frugal. I learned it in the school of hard knocks and I think they should, too. I’m not telling anyone how to save money; they can kiss my butt. Why should I give up my hard learned knowledge to a bunch of people that the minute things turn around will be back to consuming and wasting like mad? Why should I give away my secrets so that these losers can crowd my favorite thrift stores and compete with me for deals? You won’t catch me telling any of these people how to save.”

At first I was shocked, especially since this was coming from a guy who will loan you any tool out of his garage or help you with any repair. But when I thought about it, I did sort of see his point. It is difficult being the “frugal oddball” at times. We frugalites have put up with a lot of strange looks and nasty comments over the years. There are the cashiers (and patrons) who roll their eyes when you whip out a stack of coupons at checkout or ask for a price adjustment/price match. There are the people who mock your homemade gifts, even though those gifts are more useful and unique than anything that can be bought. There are the people who tell us we’re crazy for spending time hunting for deals and that we should “value our time” and just pay full price for something. There are all the comments about “missing out on life” because our frugal ways mean that we don’t have everything we want. But we’ve endured it all because we know the value of our way of life. And now that the recession is here, everyone else is coming around to the frugal way of thinking.

Now that being frugal is cool, more and more people are wanting to know the secrets of the frugal life. I have noticed that the good thrift stores in this area are getting more crowded (and some have raised their prices, I think, to cash in on their new found popularity). The grocery store is more crowded on the day the new sale flyer comes out and there are more people with coupons in hand. Store brands are scarcer. The local seed store sold out of spring seeds about a week after they put them out. When things go on sale in the Sunday flyers, you’d better be there when the store opens or you’re out of luck.

So I see my friend’s point. The things we always took for granted and enjoyed as “secrets of the trade” are now more crowded and harder to find. This new “frugal is cool” movement is impacting those of us who have always been frugal. Our secrets are out and we’re competing with a lot more people for our deals. And it is a little annoying that these new converts have so much information at hand that will make it easier for them to become frugal. Those of us who have always been frugal, before it was popular, had to learn the hard way, through trial and error. There were few people or experts out there telling us how to cut costs and reduce waste.

But I don’t share my friend’s viewpoint that these new converts can “kiss my butt.” I look at the growth of frugality as a good thing and am willing to help people along in their own frugal journeys. If a large number of these recent converts remain frugal, the demands on our planet will decrease. We will have less waste and pollution. People will be healthier. More money being saved is good for the economy in the long term. If more people are frugal, the likelihood of this doomsday recession happening again is less. Families might become stronger. There are a lot of benefits that go with frugality on a large scale that go beyond simply saving money.

While it may be inconvenient that my local thrift store is more crowded, demand should bring other stores to the area and force those that are currently cruddy to clean up their acts to compete. It may stink that store brands are harder to find, but increased demand might force stores to start stocking more and making more varieties. It may be annoying that all these new people have a wealth of frugal information at their fingertips, but the plus for me is that new viewpoints and ideas are coming to the fore that I can add to my own library of information. If more people in my neighborhood become frugal, it opens up more possibilities for carpooling, resource sharing, swaps, and bartering. Now that frugality is cool, I am less of an oddball. People actually want my advice instead of looking at me like I have a disease. So I say bring on the new frugal people!

My friend does have one hope to relieve his frustration. I suspect that he’s right that, when things turn better, many of these new frugalities will go back to their free spending ways. For many, the conversion is only out of necessity, not a lasting change of heart. And when that day comes, our good thrift stores will be empty again and store brands will be easy to find. Our expertise will no longer be in demand and we will be left alone. When frugality is no longer cool, those of us who make it a lifestyle will find it easier to pursue again. But we will lose a lot of benefits that come from having a large frugal population. And we will be back to being derided and dismissed as freaks. It may be frustrating to suddenly have to share our resources, but the tradeoffs are worth it. I, for one, welcome any and all new converts to the frugal lifestyle.

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13 Responses to The Frustrated Frugalite

  1. lizajane says:

    Your friend has an interesting viewpoint. It’s hard to imagine that someone that “borrowed” the tricks of frugality will deride and dismiss us as freaks, though.

  2. Rob says:

    I myself am a little torn between the two positions. It really irritates me that… for instance… I used to be able to walk into target at any time, pickup my target brand shave gel for 3-4 less then name brand, and go about my business, now its almost never there.. Little things like this are hard to get past because like you and your friend say, when things get better people will go back to their old ways and for now there just making my life difficult. But I digress, maybe if enough people come around corporations will realize there outrageous prices etc…

  3. Carol says:

    I understand where your friend is coming from, but like you, I see that having more frugalists in the area will open more opportunities like sharing, carpooling, etc.

    Not that many years ago, people asked me questions like “why do you bother growing vegetables when they’re so plentiful at the store?”, “why do you hang your clothes on the line? You have a dryer,” and “why do you make pizza at home? It’s only $20 to get one delivered.” I would smile and just say “because I like to” knowing they wouldn’t understand the savings (nor would they find them to be worthwhile, considering the effort and planning involved). Now these same people are changing their tune and I’m becoming a trendsetter.

  4. mimipaula1 says:

    Wow…sounds as if there’s anger-issues at work in your friend’s life! I hope he addresses and gets control over those!

    My point of view is this: I did not invent frugality. I wasn’t the first person to decide that exercising restraint in my financial spending is a very WISE pursuit. I grew up under the tutelage of the Freud of Frugality and the Maven of Miserliness, the woman who could take a nickel with her on vacation and, after a week, would bring back six cents! That woman is my mother, who swears that her efforts to promote frugality pale in comparison to HER mother’s ability to squeeze a dollar until it hollers! My mother is the most frugal person I know and I take it as a great compliment that people tell me that I’m a lot like her!

    Spread the word about frugality and share the tips! This is the time for us “pennypinchers” to SHINE!

  5. Emily C says:

    Good Write Up. People will always be people no matter where the ecomony stands. Frugers – shine – this is your moment and every moment is fleeting so enjoy. Teach all – those who are clueless and in a mess, be kind to them. These are the times when truly the cream will rise to the top – I want to be with that group. And let’s not forget that this too shall pass, but if we all get through this time with grace and less judging then maybe we have finally learned a lesson that has been taught since the beginning of mankind! Smile and share – that is my mantra these days!

  6. zach says:

    i think we should all be working towards the greater good. many elements of a frugal lifestyle lend themselves towards giving back to the earth (composting, gardening, eating local, reducing water/gas consumption, etc), and other elements lend themselves towards giving back to our neighbors (charitable donations, homemade gifts and food, sharing resources with our friends and families).

    in tough times like this, i think it’s especially important that we help each other out. darwin harped on survival of the fittest, not survival of the frugalist. i’ll personally do anything i can to make my friends, family and co-workers more “fit” if it helps them get through these next few years, and i hope they’d do the same for me.

    everyone makes mistakes. some people have drinking problems, some people are lazy, and others don’t make wise spending decisions. nobody’s perfect. but if you’re “good at frugality” and you’re being asked questions about it, maybe you can find something they’re good at and ask them questions about it. kind of like bartering knowledge.

    either way, i’d be flattered that someone was appreciating my lifestyle and financial decisions, and if i knew that my advice could better their lives, i wouldn’t hesitate to dispense it at all.

  7. baselle says:

    I can kind of understand your friend’s emotions. One of the perks of frugality is being contrary, quietly doing something the opposite of what everyone else does. Greedy when others are fearful, fearful when others are greedy. Right now if you truly want to be contrarian, its time to make your bigger purchases or indulge your cravings. They are going to be cheaper than they were a couple of years ago, and you’ll get great service at the store. :)

  8. Personally, I feel validated by the fact that more and more people are embracing the frugal lifestyle. Plus, it’s an improvement on our society as a whole. Our society has been so wasteful and has existed in this fog of “if it feels good, do it” and never having to wait for anything. “I want it now!”

    I think that if more people embrace frugal living and maintain it even after the economy improves, we’ll benefit more as a society.

  9. minny says:

    I learned many of my frugal ways from other people who were happy to share them with anyone who wanted them.

    In my turn I am happy to share what I have learned and developed with anyone who can benefit by them.

    For me, this is part and parcel of being part of a community.

  10. Cindy M says:

    I really don’t find frugality to be frustrating and like your neighbor, I know the more folks who jump on the bandwagon, the less I’m gonna be able to find my little bargains and deals out there. Seriously, in reality, I personally am striving not to be such a consumer anyway. I say a real frugalite could care less what the friends or family think anyway. A real frugalite is frankly not a “team player” (how I hate that terminology) and learns to only seek out his/her own kind for friendship/partnership. I certainly share my tips and knowledge with serious inquirers. I think the media hype about being “green” is laughable, what a bunch of yuppie phoneys. Just my 2 cents.

  11. Gail says:

    I got a magazine in the mail the other day who’s stated purpose is giving ideas for using machine embroidery. The whole issue was chock full of ‘green’ ways to do machine embroidery. It made me want to throw it in the garbage it was so silly. Why did this magazine think it needed to crawl on the ‘green’ bandwagon when they have no concept of the notion of going ‘green’ and being frugal? Their ‘budget’ item was a top to embroider for a total cost of $50! The prior issues budget article was a dog shirt for $40! Are these people nuts or what? I just completed a baby quilt for a charity donation. The fabric cost me less than $2 (yard sale), on sale batting $4? and assorted threads and designs I already owned plus one design I bought $1 and lots of my own time. The whole project turned out a lot better than their $50 garment.

    This is the frustration. People and companies that don’t know the first thing about frugality are giving out advice to the new crop of frugal wannabees until the economy perks up. How can people give advice when they don’t practice it themselves? And yes, I’m sure most of the frugal advice being asked for falls on deaf ears. Even on the Savings Advice forum, people come and ask questions and then have a million reasons for not thinking they can do a frugal thing. The cable TV is the one that really gets me. How people with barely money to put food on the table can’t turn that stupid box off and save $100/month (or whatever it costs).

  12. I say the more the merrier. It’s great to have so many new converts to frugality. All the more folks to swap ideas with. I too have noticed the crowded thrift stores and scarcity of the good stuff as thrift becomes more popular, but I think it will only be a good thing in the end. It will spawn new types of products and businesses
    that will be aimed at us.

  13. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Frugal blogger money tips March 16

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