Frugality without sacrifice is the basic guiding principle of my personal finances. It is what has made it possible for me to have a very comfortable basic lifestyle on just $15,000 a year. But how do I actually practice frugality without sacrifice — as opposed to frugality as sacrifice? Or as opposed to disguised unfrugality? I do not think the answer is obvious. So here is how I see it.
In my view, practicing frugality without sacrifice is based on one key concept and one key question. The key concept is: to do instead, not do without. And the key question is: is it worth it to me… not can I afford it.
To do instead, NOT do without. I used to stream music on my PC using Sirius, which cost me $4 a month. Now I stream music in an improved way using Pandora, which is free. I am doing instead, not doing without. I used to use a credit monitoring service that cost me $13 a month. Now I use Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, which are both free. I am doing instead, not doing without. I used to use Comcast cable to view television, which cost me $50 a month. Now I use a long-distance rooftop antenna and Netflix, which costs me $8 a month. I am doing instead, not doing without. My real life examples go on and on. The point is that I am practicing frugality without giving anything up — without sacrifice.
Is it worth it to me, NOT can I afford it. I thoroughly enjoy chuck steak at $4 a pound or less. I can afford to buy ribeye at double the price. But any taste difference I might detect is not worth the extra cost to me. When I traveI, I am extremely comfortable staying at Best Western for around $75 a night. I can afford to stay at a Hilton for considerably more. But any extra amenities I might have available are not worth the extra cost to me. I drive a 1996 Dodge Dakota. I could afford to write a check for a new truck. But a new vehicle is absolutely not worth the extra cost to me.
The point is that I am practicing frugality without feeling deprived or feeling that I am missing out. Without sacrifice.
The takeaway: I believe the bottom line question is whether one is happy with one’s frugal spending choices — or resentful of them. If one is happy with those choices, then one is practicing frugality without sacrifice. And, guess what. I am happy.
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