5 “Normal” Insanities You Should Avoid Like the Plague


The following is a contribution from Ben at The Wealth Gospel. If you’re interested in contributing to Frugal Rules, please consult our guidelines and contact us.


There are a lot of things in our society today that have become accepted as “the right way to do things.” Many of them are good rules to live by, and many more have only a sliver of truth, which is weighed down by the fact that they’re completely irrational. They consist of rules of thumb, precautions and mind sets, some which have developed over time and others which are more recent arrivals to the scene.

Retirement Age is 65


In the traditional world of personal finance, the most important goal is generally retirement. The only problem is that they got the age wrong. Take a step back and think about it. Do you really want to wait until you’re old and things stop working the way they are supposed to before you start spending time with the people you love and doing the things you love? Granted, there are many people who love their work and would enjoy doing it until they’re dead, but there is a huge difference between having to work and choosing to—which is what retirement is all about.

Along with this is the rule of thumb of saving a certain percentage of your income for retirement. It generally ranges from 10-20%. It’s important to have a set amount you’re saving, but why stop there? Just take Mr. Money Mustache’s shockingly simple math for early retirement. Again, the idea isn’t to give up doing what you love to sit around, watch television and drink beer. Unless that’s what you love. But really, the idea is about giving yourself options; making it so that you can choose to do what you love until maybe someday down the road that changes and you have the flexibility to adapt.

More Income = More Stuff


The general first thought people have when they receive a raise, a bonus or a big tax return is, “Holy crap! What should we buy?!” You want a bigger house, a newer car, a boat, or just increased ancillary spending on things like eating out, even more cable channels and vacationing. The overarching reasoning behind it is that you deserve it. And you know what? You’re right—at least partially. Doing those things aren’t inherently bad, but the future You doesn’t deserve to get the shaft because the present You is too selfish or myopic to share.

When I worked in the financial services industry and counseled young couples on the topic of raises, I would give them a loose rule of thumb: 50% of the extra income should go directly to retirement savings, 30% toward debt and 20% toward whatever lifestyle increase you choose. Depending on the amount of debt you have, your ratio is going to change a little, but the idea is to keep the priorities in perspective.



This is one of the newest insanities to storm the world and is by far my favorite. The idea is that you only live once, so you should do whatever you want now and leave consequences for the weak and worrisome. Another way of saying it is, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The truth is that you do only live once on this earth. The stupidity comes in when you forget the fact that your future also belongs to that life.

Living your life as a string of never-ending todays will make you wish you had given a little more thought to the tomorrows. I’m not calling for selling out your happiness today by focusing only on your future. Both extremes aren’t going to help. But finding the right balance can help you to give up some things for what you want most while also enjoying the present.

Better Safe than Sorry


This is also a new one that has cropped up since the most recent recession. Everywhere I go, I hear horrible things about the economy. Working at a bank, I hear a lot of customers tell me about how they’re moving a lot of their money out of the stock market into CDs and money market accounts because “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” But they’re somehow oblivious to the fact that the Dow and the S&P 500 are at all-time highs right now. Sure, things aren’t going as well as we would like them to be in a lot of areas of the economy, but my IRA is up 17% since this time last year so things aren’t looking too shabby.

But fear will do that to you. Fear is strong enough to get you to disregard decades of strong recoveries that have followed the stock market’s declines, each cycle creating a stronger market. It’s strong enough to scare you into taking your investments and leaving them in accounts that can’t even keep up with the rate of inflation. The stock market is surprisingly a very emotional place to be. There is no right answer to how much you should have in risky investments and how much in safe ones, but I would argue that putting your retirement nest egg in a CD is more risky than putting it in the stock market because you’re guaranteed a negative return after inflation.

Buy New

The folly of buying new when it comes to cars has probably been beaten into the brain of every person reading this. But why stop there? I buy a lot of books used on Amazon and they’ve performed just as well as new ones. I’ve even gotten compliments on some of the clothes I have purchased at second-hand stores, and I’m not a super fashionable guy in general. So you can be fashionable and frugal! I bought a refurbished computer for $85 while in college that lasted me a couple of years. There really are a lot of things you can buy used that will do the job just as well as a new version would. In fact, a lot of the time you can’t even tell the difference. There are some things you shouldn’t buy used, though. For example, I would recommend staying away from used underwear.


What are some of the things you find ridiculous or insane that seem normal to the majority of people today?


Ben Luthi is a personal finance blogger who does his thing over at The Wealth Gospel. His passion is to help people to stop thinking about personal finance in the conventional way and to find their true potential and align their behaviors with it. And he speaks German fluently, which is sort of cool. You can follow him on Twitter at @WealthGospel


Photo courtesy of: MorgueFile

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to U.S. News & World Report, Investopedia, Credit Karma and more. If you're wanting to learn how to monetize your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

Latest posts by John Schmoll (see all)


  • I love this, “finding the right balance can help you to give up some things for what you want most while also enjoying the present.”

  • This is great. I agree that retiring at 65 is way too old–if you would rather do something else!

  • Great post, Ben! My favorite normal insanity rule goes along with the YOLO one with people who think you’re “crazy for sacrificing so much to get out of debt”. People are regularly confused as to why we would sacrifice all kinds of fun stuff for the supposedly far off dream of financial security, but if this is “crazy” , I’ll take it. :-)

  • I’m somewhat of a sucker for buying new stuff, but I still feel like I get a pretty good deal price-wise on my purchases. I like Timothy Ferriss’ view of retirement where you take “mini-retirements” from working throughout life. This allows you to spend time travelling and doing things you want before you turn 65. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to go in and out of jobs in a career so not many take this approach.

    • Agreed! I read Tim Ferriss’ book a few months back and it completely blew my mind. But yeah, really the only way to do that is if you run an online business where you can work anywhere or you can somehow finagle a way to work remotely with your job.

  • I think I’ve heard all of these sayings at one point or another, usually about finances. We try to balance out what we’re aiming for in the future with what we do now. We have purchased a large percentage of stuff second hand to make our money work in different areas. Being too analytical sometimes is probably my craziness.

  • Alexa says:

    Yeah, the YOLO craze has been getting on my nerves lately. Every time somebody does something stupid they want to add a YOLO and make it okay. I think there should be a good balance in life. Enjoy the now but plan for the future.

  • Agreed, on all of these! The YOLO crap as well as the belief that the more you make the more stuff you can buy are the ones that seem the craziest to me. I just can’t figure out how people justify that! It’s important to live life now, obviously – and that means not depriving yourself. But I also want to be able to live life in the future, too! A good balance is key.

  • YOLO is such an unfortunate term. Sure, you may only live once….but you can really screw up your life if you apply all aspects of this philosophy to it!

  • Matt Becker says:

    A lot of important things in here Ben. It’s such a key point that people need to do some of their own thinking and not simply take the conventional wisdom as gospel. We have a lot of choices in how we want to live our lives, and some of those are very different from how most people do. It’s up to you to make your own decisions.

    • Thanks! And it’s true. It seems that “conventional wisdom” really doesn’t make sense in most cases. There are too many sheeple willing to just follow the herd. By the time they wake up and start thinking for themselves, it may be too late.

  • I think along with YOLO and more money=more stuff is the “I deserve it” camp. I work hard. I deserve to drive a new car or have new shoes every week. I used to do that because I wasn’t happy with how some of the thing in my life were going and I used that as an excuse to get into debt. What I deserve now is to pay off all our debts and be able to quit my day job if I want.

  • Great post Ben! I usually want to punch anyone that says YOLO to me. Yes, it is true that you do only live once, but that doesn’t mean you need to make stupid choices and use that as a justification. Have fun and enjoy things responsibly.

  • I fear the taxpayers will end up supporting the YOLO group in their old age.

    To respond to your question though, I’d cite routine publishing on social media the excruciating minutiae and salacious details of one’s private life!

  • “The stupidity comes in when you forget the fact that your future also belongs to that life.” So true! I’m living a bit of that now from my YOLO days in my 20’s. Here I sit at 43 and I know I’m not where I “should be” as far as retirement. I am very good about buying things used now, or even getting them for free when friends who feel the need to buy something new, just give me their old thingy. Win!

  • #YOLO isn’t exactly “new” but a re-branded carpe diem, but I 100% agree with you. Avoid this mentality like the plague! The amount of money people throw away in the name of only living once is profoundly upsetting. And THANK YOU for telling people to invest.

    • You’re right! I have never thought of it that way. It was so dumbed down I didn’t even recognize it :) And you’re welcome! I still don’t get why people insist on buying gold and sticking all their money in a CD. Maybe I could start a company that manufactures aluminum foil hats and people could invest in that :)

  • Romona (@monasez) says:

    I never understood why ppl want to wait until 65 to retire and enjoy life. I deal with senior income information every day at my job and I can tell you that most of them end using their money and investments to give to their kids and grandchildren. And sometimes they just let the money sit

  • I agree with every single one of those! Just because it’s the “norm” and everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s not crazy! Sometimes I indulge in a little #YOLO but it’s more of a running joke than an actual mindset.

  • Great post! I deal with YOLO or the I deserve it mentality every day. Some want me to sign-off on their desires so they don’t have to be held responsible for the outcome. We certainly should enjoy every day but that doesn’t mean spending money recklessly. I think we have some skewed visions of retirement. On one hand you have an unfortunately large group of people who don’t plan for retirement until they are a few short years away from when they would like to stop working. Of course, they also haven’t saved anything. Some are still stuck on the old version of retirement where you did quit work at 65 and probably died a few years later. These days it definitely does not have to be that way, but you still need to plan for it and so few do.

    • Thanks Shannon! And I agree. When I was in the financial services industry, I saw a lot of people wanting to retire in a few years, but they’re nowhere near where they need to be. And a lot of those people were responsible, just uneducated. It broke my heart.

  • I like buying new cars. If you get the right one, it’s not much more expensive than a used car. We drive our car for 10 years so we get a lot of value out of it. Anyway, when you’re a parent, you want all the latest safety features.
    I like YOLO too, but not on spending. Life is short and you need to enjoy it while you can. There are a lot of things you can do without spending a lot of money.

  • The more income more stuff insanity is definitely a big problem I see with many people. You’ll never get a head if you continue working to pay for things that you really don’t need and shouldn’t buy. And don’t get me started on YOLO…can’t stand it. It kind of is a corollary to the more stuff category as that is the excuse for buying more and more things…

  • I think the whole wedding industry is completely insane. The things that have become “tradition” are so outrageously expensive, people are losing sight of what it’s really all about. Not “normal” at all, no matter how much they think it is.

    • You’re telling me! I’ve told people that our wedding only cost $3,000 and they freak out about how low that is. And the whole time I was thinking about how freaking expensive it all way. $500 for a dress that you’re never going to wear again? Seriously? I’ve tried to get my wife to rent her dress out to others, but she’ll have none of it lol

  • Hey Ben and thanks for a great read!

    As a simple living advocate, I totally agree with all your above statements with special attention given to buying used instead of new and that more money doesn’t mean you need to buy more stuff. I don’t know about other people, but I’ve lived this way for the past twenty years and I would never look back :)

    Take care and thanks again. All the best.


  • YOLO is very popular with my friends.I used to embrace it but now I know better. It would be better if I was only living that day that I say YOLO and do whatever I please including burning money. But you have many other days like you said in that one life.

  • I think buying “new” stuff is one that a lot of people get stuck on. If it functions the same, I tend to buy used. I have bought used furniture, clothes, books and even electronics. It has saved us a ton of money over the years and it is insane to spend more if you don’t have to.

    • Books are my favorite to buy used! Especially textbooks while I was in college. I even made money on a book once when I bought it off Amazon for $35 and then sold it to the campus bookstore at the end of the semester for $60. It was awesome!

  • Love this! The used underwear line totally cracked me up. I agree that “new” things are overrated, especially cars! I don’t think very many people on this planet are wealthy enough to afford such a huge drop in value the minute you drive it off the lot. I buy used books on Amazon too, they can be found much cheaper than the new ones!

  • The YOLO phenomenon seems to be a growing trend. With everyone so stuck to there “got to have it now” mentality (insert debt jokes here) it is no wonder that very few people have any equity to their name.

    • True dat! One of my favorite photos I’ve used on my blog is a bunch of people walking past a homeless man with his cup out. By each of them it shows their net worth, and it’s all negative, except for the homeless man :)

  • The time to save raises and continue living like a college student is right after starting you career job. We used to be extreme savers, but as our incomes have increased, we have been spending more on our lifestyle. We are still pretty frugal, but also not like we once were. That’s not to say spending more is all that bad. We give a lot more to charity than we used to. It’s around the same percentage, but with higher income, we can easily afford higher giving.

  • Nice article! In my case, more income would be really welcome and it would totally mean more savings. I already hope to be able to retire (or at least semi-retire) before I am 65, if I even manage to get that far, so the more I save, the closer I am to that goal.

  • Adam Kamerer says:

    YOLO is Carpe Diem taken to the point of absurdity. I think it’s very important to live in the moment, to enjoy your life and fill it with as much adventure and good things as possible right now, while still making good decisions that preserve and provide for your future. It doesn’t have to be one or the other — there’s plenty of room for enjoying the now while savings for later.

  • Entitlement is the root of the YOLO thing. Humans feel they’re entitled to things but they’re really not.

    I also am a big proponent of buying used. Not only is it cheaper but it’s better for the environment. I worked at Fry’s Electronics in college and I still remember a customer who was buying a computer accessory. We were chatting and she mentioned it was for her mac book. I asked her if she bought it here and she said she never buys new computers as she’s against it for waste reasons. I really liked that and I try to do that for my electronics when I can. And when I do buy new I always buy the best I can afford that is well-reviewed so it lasts me a long time.

  • Kayla says:

    I agree with just about everything here! The only thing is the retiring at 65, I don’t think I would want to retire at 65 because thats likely 30-some years (considering your healthy) of no active income and much of the time doing NOTHING. A vacation here and there, a somewhat active lifestyle, but mostly boredom I presume. Not to say I want to work 40 hours a week till I’m 90, I don’t want to work 40 hours a week till I’m 40. I’d rather find balance earlier, sometime in the future start working part time or freelancing with less hours far before turning 65, and continue to do some work after 65. I’d like to keep it fairly balanced over a longer period in my life between work and sudden no work! It’s definitely nonconformity, but it sure sounds like excellent balance that would be well worth it.

    • Not a bad thought! And I guess a lot of people have a different definition of retirement. For some retirement isn’t to stop working, but just to switch over to doing something they enjoy or slowing down a little bit, or maybe even just having the choice to stop if they want. Anyway, thanks for the comment!

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