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It’s Hard to Be the Frugal One

frugal one

Because most of the people reading this blog post are interested in a frugal lifestyle, it’s easy to hang out with you every Tuesday. Seriously, we can all wave our freak flags and talk about nerdy things like what type of IRA is better, and we all think we are very cool. Correction: We know we’re very cool. :-)

But what about everyone else?

Friends. Family members. Colleagues.

What about the other people we have to interact with who aren’t frugal? Does anyone else get the feeling sometimes that it’s hard to be the frugal one?

1. People Equate “Penny Pinching” with Being Frugal

Maybe it’s my fault because I talk about saving money and budgeting a lot. For one, it’s my job to write about this stuff day in and day out, but it’s also how I live my life.

I always feel compelled to help others or give helpful hints if asked. I’ve answered questions from my friends about credit cards, budgeting, basic investing, etc. However, just because I talk and write about these topics every day doesn’t mean that I don’t have fun or don’t budget for big ticket items.

For example, I love to get my nails done. I love to eat out at nice restaurants. And, I often buy expensive things, like computers that cost a couple thousand dollars. Of course, I save and plan for these things, and they are all within a well thought out budget. But, from some of the comments I get sometimes, you’d think people assume I sit around clipping coupons all day just to get some free oreos (which isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard of by the way.) 😉

2. People Get a Little Awkward Talking About Spending

Sometimes my friends will start off a conversation with, “I know this wasn’t very Budget Blonde of me, but I just bought X.” I always tell them they don’t have to worry about me judging them! What they do with their money is their business. I really don’t have a problem with splurges or nice things. If my friends want to go on a really nice vacation, more power to them. Just because I might choose to do something differently with my cash doesn’t mean I think any less of them.

Plus, I would never butt into a friend’s spending habits or give them unsolicited advice, because I’ve learned that the people who want help will reach out and ask for it. The people who like their swanky lifestyles don’t want to hear they’re doing something wrong. I’ve tried to help people really close to me get on track when I know they’re running into trouble, but those are typically the people who have every excuse in the book and won’t get help until they hit rock bottom.

It really isn’t easy being the frugal one. You sometimes feel almost guilty when buying something for yourself, as if you’re supposed to keep up the frugal-ness 24-7. Or at least, I do.

Still, I’d take being frugal over being maxed out and penniless, so despite the sometimes awkward conversations or other people’s assumptions, I’m still happy with my lifestyle choices.

 

Are you the frugal one in the bunch? If so, do find it hard to be frugal at times?

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Catherine Alford is a professional public speaker and freelance writer who covers family, finance, and freedom. Check out her blog, BudgetBlonde, and her bio at CatherineAlford.com.

58 Comments

  • NZ Muse says:

    Why yes, yes it is. For me this manifests most being the frugal one in my marriage, it sucks being the ‘mean’ one!

  • I think that people just think I’m “cheap,” as I find that most people don’t really distinguish between cheap and frugal and “cheap” seems to be a more readily available word in most peoples’ vocabulary for some reason. It bugs me a little, but I figure live and let live.

  • I would say I’m typically the “frugal one” with the people I’m around, but I also have some pretty frugal friends. I’d say at work is where things are different. Most of the people I work with are older and do not have student loans or have already worked long enough where they have significant savings or just a lot higher income than me. One guy did talk about churning credit cards once in a bigger staff meeting (kind of part of his ‘get to know you’ board) and people looked like deer in headlights haha.

  • Being frugal does take work but I don’t think its hard to be the frugal one in the group. We try to save money on things that our friends/family wouldn’t necessarily notice. We do our own basic home repair/improvement, we cook at home a lot, we walk/bike instead of taking the car short distances. We don’t talk about our frugality a lot with our friends & family. We like to keep that stuff separate.

  • Yeah, honestly it’s hard for being a frugal person. Sometimes when I want to purchase something and I really want it, but every time I think the price and how I’m trying to control my expenses, then I would just forget the idea of buying it.

  • Liz says:

    Thankfully a lot of my friends are in a similar position and are pretty frugal. I think sometimes my parents and sister think I am a bit crazy though. I don’t consider myself an extreme couponer but there are some seriously easy ways to get free toothpaste and occasionally mouthwash that I take advantage of. I haven’t had to pay out of pocket for toothpaste in over a year. My family thinks I’m silly with this. But hey, I’d rather go out and get a drink or something than pay for toothpaste : )

  • Michelle says:

    I used to be the frugal one, but now that all of my friends have finally moved out of their parents homes (and off their parents bankrolls), they are becoming more frugal as well too. It’s nice having friends to talk about money with!

  • You’re not the only one – I totally feel guilty any time I buy something for myself! We’re probably the most frugal out of our group of friends, and we are definitely the only people we even know who want to do something a little non-traditional with our finances (invest heavily now, aim for some form of early retirement). I love having our PF community to chat about money with, but I do wish I had at least one friend “in real life” that got it, too!

  • I literally laughed so hard I spit my coffee when you said that your friends will say “I know it’s not Budget Blonde but…” My friends do the exact same thing but they say, “I know it’s not Financially Blonde but…” And I always have to tell them that unless they ask me to look at their finances and help them, I could care less about what they do with their money. It is absolutely a personal choice and just because I choose to be more frugal or thoughtful does not mean that I judge someone who is not.

  • It’s definitely hard, particularly this past weekend when it came to one of my friends’ bachelorette party. I won’t get into it, but there were tears.

  • Yeah it’s never really easy to talk about money with friends and family. I agree they always seem to feel bad about the purchases they make. I tell them it’s a judgement free zone!

  • Kathy says:

    I’m the frugal one in our marriage which was strange because my husband was an accountant. But I can’t begin to “out-frugal” my mom. She used to pinch the nickel so hard the buffalo would bleed! I learned from her, I guess.

  • Yep, I’m the frugal one. Unfortunately, people equate frugal with cheap. I don’t think that I’m cheap. I just spend money on things that I value and I don’t spend on things that I find frivolous. And I also seek out the best deal when I buy something. But to others, I’m pinching pennies.

  • Grayson Bell says:

    I would say that I am the frugal one in the bunch, but I never find it hard. Most of my friends and family want to do the same thing, so they ask questions. It makes it very easy to deal with.

  • Luckily, we have pretty frugal friends at this point. It’s funny that when we went skiing a couple of weekends ago with some friends, we didn’t really discuss if we would bring lunch or not. Really, I’d never buy the overpriced ski food and didn’t even think to mention it. Anyway, she told me they were a little worried at first that we would want to eat at the ski lodge then she realized that I was way too frugal to do that. It was the best compliment I’ve had in a while!

  • I don’t think I’m known as the “frugal one” in my circle because I never really talked about it. Plus it wasn’t until last year that I really started practicing a more frugal lifestyle. But lately I have been sharing more ideas and people have become more interested in knowing how I saved or how I was able to cut back.

  • I actually had the opposite experience; my girlfriend was always far more frugal than me. And yes – I admit it used to drive me nuts – and make me feel a bit guilty when I bought something for myself. Something I knew she wouldn’t have bought, and which I’d probably have to validate when I got home!

    However over time I became more frugal – she like to think it was her input but I’m just not buying it 😉 Now, frugality is simple because we’re both on the same page.

    We have very few temptations at all and will try to find ways *not* to spend money wherever possible. But yes – living with someone who is far more frugal than you can be tough – boring even – when every suggestion is shot down if it involves spending any money 😉

  • I would “never butt into a friend’s spending habits” either. And, I usually don’t judge…unless they are the type of person who always complains they don’t have enough money, yet they constantly go about spending frivolously and lavishly. I know several people who are like this to an extreme. I rarely say anything because I don’t want to meddle, but it certainly is a head shaker.

  • E.M. says:

    I do usually feel guilty spending money. It’s funny how being held accountable on our blogs influences our decisions, too. It makes me think twice about spending on something, knowing it will be there in my monthly budget review. In any case, my boyfriend and I are the frugal people out of our group of friends as well as our family. I never give advice unless asked, but only my parents know about my blog. They’re always happy to run something by me though.

  • Oh, I completely understand. When I meet someone for the first time and tell them I am a financial advisor, they either: quickly excuse themselves and avoid me, want free advice or want to argue about investments. :) Like you, I don’t mind splurging on things that I truly want and I don’t feel guilty about them either since we plan for those expenses and avoid impulse buys. I’ve weathered my share of “just put on the credit card” remarks and strange looks because I opt not to spend money on things I either really don’t want or prefer to wait until I can afford outright. I know what I’m doing is in the best interest of my family so it doesn’t bother me much.

  • It’s definitely hard to be the frugal one! People assume I’m poor or cheap, rather than just not willing to easily part with my money. But, I’ve learned to stop caring as much about what people think, which makes it easier for me to spend my cash as I see fit.

  • MoneyAhoy.com says:

    I find it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut. As you said, you have mastered the ability not to give out unsolicited advice. That’s something I’m still working on :-) It’s hard for me to be the frugal one because sometimes I want to scream at people for making “bad money”, shortsighted decisions!

  • Snarkfinance says:

    It can be difficult being the frugal one… I have had both friends and family make fun of Mr. Snarkfinance and I for our frugal decisions. It’s just important to remember our goals and why we are making the choices we’re making.

  • My husband and I are equally frugal, so there’s no problem there. It’s my mom who sometimes call me cheap. 😀 That’s fine, though, it’s the big picture that counts, not whether we have the newest gadgets or something.

  • Marvin says:

    Literally every person I know refers to me as Cheap, “frugal, or stingy. Its because a long time ago I didn’t pay for anything. Friends were going out to a movie… call me when it’s done. Friends going out to eat…. I only ate the free bread. But guess what I am where I am now because of that.

  • It is hard to be the frugal one, especially when others aren’t. I started inviting people over to my place for drinks or suggesting frugal things to keep it from being too awkward. Friends also think I judge them for not working as hard as me, which isn’t true. I wish I could relax more, but I side hustle a lot because I feel like I have to!

  • My wife and I are equally frugal and that makes it all easier. Amongst our friends, most are pretty frugal so if anything, the people that spend look like the crazy ones. At work I look like the cheap guy because my coworkers invite me to lunch every single day and I only accept when it is someone’s birthday. It is what it is, and while they enjoy their instant gratification, I am happy to bring my own lunch and save that money.

  • I often “buy my peace” and spend on things I wouldn’t on my own so my boyfriend doesn’t call me cheap, but even then, he does haha. I don’t mind my friends because many are broke and wondering why they still work and can’t make ends meet when I don’t.

  • There’s nothing wrong with being frugal!! It has such bad connotations nowadays!
    In my household, Mrs Ikonz is the saver and I’m the investor. Unfortunately neither of us is very frugal.

    If we’re going to retire early and retire a millionaire, then we need to pull in our belts a little bit, or at least maintain our lifestyle as our salaries continue to grow etc.

  • The Caveman says:

    Amen on your second bullet point! Most of my friends assume that I’m secretly judging them when they’re talking about spending money.

    I wouldn’t be a very good PF hobbyist if I didn’t understand that pinching pennies is not for everyone!

    On the flip side, I have other friends who give me a hard time whenever I spend money on something, as though being frugal means that I don’t spend any money whatsoever on my own enjoyment.

  • Ricky Willis says:

    As someone who lives a frugal lifestyle in everything I do, I find that family and friends will go out of their way to comment. Take Christmas for instance – I had at least 3 family members approach me to see if I was buying presents for them. As I said to them, I may be frugal but I’m not mean!

    I think because people read my blog and know of my back-story, they automatically think I am tight. The truth is yes, I am a little tight, also frugal and also careful with the pennies, but, I also am happy to spend money when there is a need.

    – Ricky Willis

  • So True, it can be awkward, Frugalists just think differently and it’s hard to comprehend for some people.

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