My Take on Extreme Frugal Living
As you can probably tell by now from my writing and comments on other sites I am much more focused on the income side of the equation when it comes to balancing a budget, becoming debt free and savings. That’s not to say I don’t pay attention to expenses at all, nothing could be further from the truth. I just think that in the long run most of us are going to be better of finding ways to increase income rather than cut expenses. After all, you can only cut back on your expenses so far (even Heidemarie Schwermer and Mark Boyle can’t cut anymore), but you can theoretically increase your income without limits.
So while I can agree to some extent with frugality, I really can’t see the need for the extreme frugality some would like us to follow. I do what I can to cut back on electricity usage, I don’t own a car, I buy clothes only when necessary, I am not guilty of going into debt for Christmas, birthdays and vacations, I do not have a mortgage and our rent is 1/2 to 1/3 what others in our neighborhood pay for similar apartments. I don’t say this to brag, but to highlight the fact that I am by no means extravagant in my spending. Some might even call me frugal, although I like to think it is just good common sense and knowing the value of a dollar (or a Baht in my case).
Though I don’t waste my money (usually) I can’t see where it would benefit me to do some of the things recommended by the proponents of extremely frugal living. Our modern industrial complex is very efficient and there’s no way I could save an appreciable amount of money by replacing mass produced items with my own DIY creations. Is it really in my best financial interests to make my own toothpaste, shampoo and soap? Hardly. Will the time it takes for me to learn how to sew and make my own clothes be repaid by what I can save versus mass produced clothing? I don’t think it can, plus I have no interest whatsoever in sewing or learning to make my own clothes. The very idea makes me cringe.
If you take the time to follow every tip for extreme frugal living how much money can you save? And conversely how much time will it take you to complete all these tasks on your own and how much convenience have you lost. In some ways being frugal is similar to tracking every penny you spend. It can be helpful, but the more you do it the more your returns from the activity diminish.
Because all of the time you spend changing your own car fluids, making disposable hygiene products, creating clothing and monitoring your energy usage to the nth degree is time you could be spending creating additional income streams for yourself. You could be starting a new business, taking on a side hustle or researching investment possibilities. All of these things will eventually lead to increased income far in excess of the amount of money saved by extremely frugal activities.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not belittling those who choose to pursue frugal options that I shun. My guess is that they have taken a close look at the pros and cons of each action and have made a choice within their own belief structure that makes them comfortable. In some cases people follow extremely frugal lifestyles because of religious reasons or because they are concerned with the environment and our usage of the limited resources of our world.
I can certainly appreciate and respect that. My concern is that some may blindly follow the advice of others without considering the total cost in both time and money. Be frugal if you like, even to the point of an extreme frugal lifestyle, but please be sure that you have considered the “costs” of your frugal life as well.
As with almost everything in life, personal finance and yes frugality is a balancing act. If you can find a true balance in your career, financial life, personal relationships and the attainment of your goals then you are way ahead of many of your peers.
What is your take on frugal lifestyles versus increasing income? So you prefer cutting expenses or would you rather find ways to increase your income? Are you already living a frugal lifestyle or do you tend more toward the convenience that our mass produced society offers?
I, too, am a modest frugality guy. I’m definitely more extreme than my wife, but we balance each other out so that we’re somewhere in the middle. But we focus more on saving and investing enough to make sure we’re on track to meet our goals and then if there is a little slippage with the rest, we’re OK with that. We do try and stretch it for sure – just nothing “extremely extreme.”
I do agree that some people take the frugal lifestyle way too far. I couldn’t see myself making my own soap or learning how to sew either. I do think there are lots of little ways that we can save money which adds up to a lot. Really it just comes down to common sense. You’re right though, you can make much more money by increasing your income. Unfortunately not everyone has the skills or drive to accomplish that.