I don’t like to spend money. There, I’ve admitted it. Even when it’s for something that I know I’ll love and can easily afford, something inside me clenches up and I don’t want to spend. (I blame genetics. My father and grandfather were the same way.) That’s good from the standpoint of saving for retirement and emergencies. I’m in a good place as far as my future is concerned. It’s bad, though, for those around me at times.
Even though my husband is frugal, he’s better at spending than I am. He has no trouble letting go and splurging on a trip or something for the house, or buying a car when it becomes apparent that the current one is on its last legs. I am not so mellow. I get all freaked out when it comes time to even talk about buying a car or a water heater, let alone actually writing the check. This happens even though I know the money is there and that we’ve saved for this very eventuality. I make him crazy at times.
I know I’m not alone. Many of my frugal friends report the same thing. Their frugality sometimes makes others around them crazy. It may be a refusal to spend, or it may be some crazy frugal activity that other people in the household don’t want to get involved with. (My friend who tried to go a month without buying toilet paper comes to mind. The rest of the household was smuggling TP into the house in their backpacks and briefcases because they really, really, weren’t onboard with her experiment.) Whatever the cause, a frugal person who cannot let go or who goes too far can cause other people to hate them. It can reach the point where the frugal person is actively driving other people away. At that point, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it or if you need to find another way to live.
There are two solutions to this problem, neither of which is easy to implement. The first is to find other, like-minded people to hang out with. This is a bigger problem if you’re married and have kids. You can’t just jettison them for a more frugal version. However, if you’re single and it’s just a matter of finding friends who understand you, it might be the way to go. If the people around you “get” your frugality, they’re less likely to run away and will probably support even your most insane ideas.
For the rest of us, it gets tougher. We have to learn to loosen the financial reins a little bit. We have to learn how to say, “Yes” when everything inside of us is screaming “No!” Obviously we don’t have to say yes to every single thing, but we have to learn to compromise and to make sacrifices for the greater good of our relationships. When your best friend really wants to see that new movie as a means of escaping her crappy home life, you have to learn how to say, “Sure, I’ll go,” when it means making her happy. When you need a new(er) car, you have to learn how to be satisfied once you’ve found the best deal you’re likely to find and write that check without complaint (it’s that or end up on the side of the road one night). When your husband really wants to take you on that anniversary trip to Hawaii, you have to learn to smile and say, “Thank you,” rather than saying, “Forget it. I don’t want anything.”
As hard as it is, there are times when spending is the best thing you can do. If it makes those around you happy, improves life, or keeps the peace you have to suck it up sometimes. If you hold tight to your money and refuse to enjoy life or, more importantly, to allow others to enjoy theirs, you become someone that no one wants to be around. Like Scrooge, you may eventually find yourself alone because you drove everyone off with your frugal ways. It’s a lesson I struggle with every day. I think I’m getting better, but it’s always going to be hard for me. Frugality is good, but not when it hurts everyone around you.
(Photo courtesy of porschelinn)