In light of recently quitting my beloved job that I held for nearly 8 years, I’ve been re-reading Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. While I definitely don’t think everyone is called to spontaneously leave the workforce like I did, I think this book makes some great points about time, resources, identity, and what “making a living” really means. It provides steps to help readers take control of their finances enough to retire early in life, work part-time instead of full-time, or work full-time and donate the extra money.
I often write about the how of frugality (how to take frugal vacations, frugal ways to hang out with friends, buy groceries frugally, stop purchasing unnecessary clothing, and stop shopping just for fun.) But today I’d like to explore the why of frugality. It’s about a lot more than just saving money.
Frugality makes us less reliant on paid work.
Even those of us who like our jobs and feel we’re making a contribution can recognize that there is a larger arena we could enjoy, one that is beyond the world of nine to five: the fulfillment that would come from doing work we love with no limitations or restraints – and no fear of getting fired and joining the ranks of the unemployed.
-Your Money or Your Life
And even if you like your job, imagine if there was no stress or weariness when you got home. The energy your job takes from you, keeping you from accomplishing other things, is part of the real cost of working. If you were to deduct the energy, the commute, the clothing, and the conveniences you must pay for as a result of working, what would your true hourly wage be? Would anything be left of your paycheck?
Is the cost of working making you go broke?
After I analyzed our spending patterns it became clear that nearly half of what I made was spent on the job; that is, spent on gas, oil, repairs, lunches, a little here, a little there, and most of it unrecoverable. In short, I could stay home, work part-time where I live and actually save money by making half of what I formerly made.
– Larry G, Your Money or Your Life
Frugality maximizes enjoyment.
There is no word in the English language for choosing “enoughness” and living at the peak of the fulfillment curve mentioned in Your Money or Your Life. “Frugality” doesn’t quite capture the joy of living with enough, but it’s the best word we have.
Waste lies not in the number of possessions but in the failure to enjoy them. Your success at being frugal is measured not by your penny-pinching but by your degree of enjoyment in the material world.
–Your Money or Your Life
By material world, the author means the simple pleasures of a walk, fresh air, a good book, or a healthy meal. Not excessive consumption. True appreciation. Frugality is the opposite of a spendthrift. A frugal person looks in the closet and is thankful for those well-loved items, not always feeling like they have nothing to wear.
Frugality truly enjoys. It’s not just about saving money, but it’s a whole lifestyle. Consumerists rarely slow down enough to actually enjoy the things they acquire. Consumerism is a never-ending treadmill of dissatisfaction.
We don’t need to possess a thing to enjoy it – we merely need to use it… For many of life’s pleasures it may be far better to “use” something than to “possess” it (and pay in time and energy for the upkeep.)
-Your Money or Your Life
We love walking to parks instead of having a big yard to maintain. We love going to the library rather than owning every children’s book ever written. There is value for our kids to learn how to share too.
The sharing side of frugality helps foster community. We’re not all just looking out for ourselves, we’re looking out for our neighbors and lending a helping hand when needed, borrowing before buying, giving of our time, helping out, sharing meals, and listening to one another.
Frugality doesn’t have to be about stockpiling and saving so we can buy an even better thing someday. It’s about cultivating a life of meaning through selfless thinking and generosity.
Frugality doesn’t waste.
Frugal choices are often greener choices. If you believe that money equals life energy, then it’s a foolish thing to waste. Frugality is about maximizing resources. Reusing, refusing, and recycling. Whenever we spend money we’re consuming something, whether it’s raw materials, replacing something worn out, or consuming food. That’s why we’re called consumers. One of the greenest things you can do is simply buy less stuff.
We also make a point in our family to use cold water rather than hot, dry clothes outside, and rarely run the furnace or AC. These are small sacrifices in the grand scheme of things and we notice the difference in our energy consumption and our bills.
Frugality is healthy.
Frugality frees up money and time for what you truly value.
Honestly ask yourself if what you’re spending money on is bringing you fulfillment in relation to the life energy it cost. Chances are you’re overspending on some things that bring you very little real fulfillment. Maybe there’s even some areas of you’re life that are important to you and you aren’t investing enough there.
I could easily never write again for how many things I have to do in a day, but that’s a decision I’m unwilling to make because I love to write. It makes me happy and it keeps me sane. Far too often, we shunt aside the very thing that brings us the most happiness because we deem it “unworthy” of our time.
Take the challenge. What’s your purpose? What do you truly value in life? What is so important that you’re willing to put all of your life energy toward it? What frugal steps can you take to help you move toward your larger dreams?