The Discomfort of Being Frugal

being frugal

I’ve noticed something about myself. I am uncomfortable in high-spending situations. And this is true even when I’m not the one paying. Not long ago, a potential vendor took me to lunch at a swanky restaurant. He was paying, but I felt uncomfortable in there. I’ve been frugal for so long that spendy places give me the willies. I’ve found this to be true when we go on cruises (the fawning staff and luxurious restaurants, even though they’re included in the ticket make me uncomfortable), when I’m invited to a Christmas party being held at a country club, when I was gifted an afternoon at the spa, and even when I go to someone’s over the top McMansion for a baby shower. Things that smack of overconsumption, large outlays of money, and ostentatiousness make me uncomfortable.

It’s not that I don’t know how to behave in such places. I know which fork is for which course, and I know how to make polite social small talk at functions (I hate it, but I can do it). I know how to be polite to staff and I have good manners. It’s just that the whole time I’m thinking, “Is this worth it?” and “Wow, with what this dinner (or party, or house) costs I could beef up my retirement account, go on a retreat to the mountains, or do some needed work around the house.” Some people have the ability to relax and be fawned over. They relish the pampering. I am apparently not one of them. Which is why I’m so much better suited to the simple life.

It’s not that I don’t like to have fun. I do. But my definition of fun, success, and worthwhile outlays of money are much simpler than many people’s. I’ve lived a simple life for so long that it’s become part of who I am. It’s seeped so deeply into my psyche that I cannot relax and enjoy spendy things. I much prefer to surround myself with simple, functional items rather than luxurious items. And I don’t really find myself wanting to upgrade my life to incorporate those things into it because I know they don’t bring me happiness. That’s not to say that people who enjoy spendy occasions or things are wrong or bad people. They’re not. Just like I can’t enjoy high spending outings, my simple life is no fun for them. We’re just different from each other.

I’ve yet to find a cure for my discomfort and I don’t think there is one. I suspect that even if I won the lottery and could do anything and have anything, that many of my tastes and loves would remain the same. My idea of a big splurge might be to buy a new car rather than used, but even then I’d have to run the numbers.

The one thing I do have to watch, though, is that I don’t let my discomfort ruin the outing for others. At that lunch I mentioned earlier, I had to watch my comments and facial expressions so that my host wouldn’t see how uncomfortable I was. He’d chosen this place to be nice (to schmooze me) and it was up to me to be gracious and not blurt out, “Seventy dollars for a steak? Are they kidding?” Whenever I’m in a high spending situation, I have to constantly check myself to make certain I’m displaying the appropriate amount of gratitude and graciousness instead of squirming in my seat or telling a server, “No, don’t bother with that, I can get it,” when they are so clearly there to provide stellar service. All of this watchfulness is exhausting, which is another reason I don’t seek out such opportunities.

Just as some people are introverts and others are extroverts, there are some who are comfortable in the lap of luxury and some who squirm in the seat. I’m definitely in the second category. It’s served me well in that I am happier with my simple, inexpensive life. I just have to remember that others enjoy that sort of thing and “go along to get along” when they invite me places.

(Photo courtesy of coneslayer)

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5 Responses to The Discomfort of Being Frugal

  1. jim says:

    Oh yeah – been there, done that for about 3 decades! Here’s what worked for me. I finally realized that their need to put on a show or spend WAY more than they should was simply a reflection of their insecurities, i.e. their need to show how “wealthy” they are. Then I just figured it was something they felt a deep seated reason for doing so. Once I got there, I just “let live and let be”. Everyone has their demons. Just let it be and go with the flow. Really. Everyone is best off in their comfort zone. And those zones change – so just let everyone be in whatever zone makes them comfortable – UNLESS “those” include your children, in which case you need to make a serious stand and teach them better.

  2. tiptho says:

    Loved your comment, jim…made a lot of sense to me. well-said!

  3. audrey says:

    When I first started reading this article I thought “oh ya, a girl after my own heart” but as I got further into it, especially regarding the “used car” comment I thought, oh no wait just a minute here. I believe it’s about priorities regarding how you want to spend your hard earned money. Would I spend $70.00 on a steak? Probably never but I would definitely spend it on a specialty food item that is organic, sustainable, fairly traded etc. Do I like a nice car? yes, but I won’t spend $100.00 dollars on a pair of shoes. I know where to get the same shoes cheaper. :) My advice is kick back and enjoy living out of your box since clearly you don’t do it often. Hopefully the people who are picking up the tab won’t come crying to you when their money runs out.

  4. Gailete says:

    Sometimes that uncomfortable feeling comes from not being at all able to walk in someone else’s shoes for that type of consumption. I can’t comprehend the shop til you drop ethic, especially as now just getting groceries makes me feel like I am about to drop. I hear about how many shoes some women have and that they need a whole closet for their shoes. For one thing how do they even decide which shoes to wear and when, why don’t they just stick with the most comfortable pair? Part of the problem with me and shoes has been the total disconnect buying shoes has been for me. Ever since grade school it has been hard to find even ONE pair of shoes that fit. How can a woman find hundreds of pairs that fit???? I’m about at the point that I would spend just about anything for ONE nice, comfortable pair of all purpose shoes that will last. I don’t even have the stamina to go shopping for them and since I can’t find proper fitting shoes in stores, there is no point collecting large return shipping fees to buy them by mail. So yes, when a woman talks about all the shoes she has and needs yet another pair I am uncomfortable. Same with shopping for clothes. I make most of mine (or buy at the thrift store) and my life style currently is being mostly at home or occassional errands. Just how many garments can I need? I see budgets that give over large amounts for clothes monthly and my mind goes why? Do they really wear out their clothes that fast? My life has been so different that it is hard for me to fathom such a different lifestyle. But then I suppose that can’t understand mine either. The gracious thing is to not knock their lifestyle unless they are asking how to be frugal and at the same time talking about the latest sale they are planning on going to. Hopefully they won’t knock my lifestyle either.

  5. Kris says:

    It sounds like a perfectly logical way to live. We’ve become so used to the “more more more” mentality that it seems odd when people don’t want more. But in most countries, more isn’t an option. They just want enough. Why can’t we be satisfied by enough? I’m not opposed to capitalism, I think it’s great. But just because we can strive for more doesn’t mean we have to, does it?

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