Why Frugal Blogs Are Terrible For Me

Some people are inspired by uber frugality blogs. For me? They make me feel guilty that I spend too much money.

MMM, I can sort of handle. I just look at the parts about relative frugality, renting vs buying, how expensive cars are, savings rate time to retirement, etc. I don’t look at how much his family spends each year.

Other blogs in which people rave about how little they spend are really counterproductive for me.

I inherited the money scarcity mindset that my mom has or maybe had as she seems to be spending money more easily these days than she used to. When I was younger, I refused to let myself spend money and would guilt myself over it. I’ve finally mostly acquired a healthy relationship with money, thanks in part to my spending plan and in building a good nest egg.

I’ve never had a need to have the money scarcity mindset. Yet I’ve had it for most of my life, feeling like I can’t afford to buy a pair of pants I really want or a nice purse or to refresh my wardrobe. In high school, I saved 80% of my paychecks by transferring 80% of my income to my savings account immediately. That much was probably a bit excessive.

I would play games with myself as to how cheap I could get my grocery bill.

I would tell friends I couldn’t afford to do X activity when really it was that I didn’t want to.

I hated buying good bras because they’re really expensive. Eventually, I set myself a budget for bras that allowed me to buy 4 per year (now it’s up to 5) and not worry about the cost.

I set aside the cost to renew my passport, my Nexus/Global Entry card, and my driver’s license every month, despite the fact that I could easily cash flow any of these things.

I’m only just now in my late twenties starting to take care of my hair and skin because it seemed expensive and complicated.

I didn’t have a texting plan on my cell phone at 22 because I was too cheap. So one of my friends texted me repeatedly to try to convince me to get one. I eventually got one when I started dating someone and texting more.

I agonized and agonized over how expensive my rent was after college. I mean, I went from my parents paying my $350/month in rent in college to me paying $1,500/month in rent, which is definitely a huge jump.

I hate buying cell phones, computers, and electronics in general. Decision paralysis totally kicks in, plus spending guilt. I guilted myself when I replaced my four year old iPod that would no longer hold a charge several years ago. Mine wouldn’t hold a charge! And I still guilted myself!

There’s a difference between being frugal and cheap. I’m finally frugal and I’m proud of it. Some people have a terrible relationship with money in their 20s due to overspending. Mine was from unnecessary financial guilt and anxiety.

We all have to find our own level of frugality and then not let lifestyle inflation kick in from there.


22 thoughts on “Why Frugal Blogs Are Terrible For Me

  1. I find it interesting to see how little some people spend. Although on relative terms I would consider myself frugal with a 50% savings rate, we still spend almost $10K/month. I used to feel guilty spending money, as every dollar spent, was a dollar less working for me. But we made a mental transition to follow the law of 50/50, whereby we save 50% of our after tax income and spend the other 50% guilt free.

    At some point I suspect that our income will grow to a point that our savings rate will naturally increase beyond 50%. But we allow for a proportional amount of lifestyle inflation.


    • Heh well you are married and count yours and your wife’s spending together. The spending numbers that I post are just mine. My boyfriend makes a similarish income to mine and has similarish spending patterns, ignoring how we have distributed our “shared” expenses. If you wanted the picture of how much we spend together, you should approximately double my spending and you would get our joint spending, which is much closer to yours. It’s probably about $7-8k/month on average for the year.

      When I graduated from college, my spending goal was a maximum of 50% of my net income. My income has grown since then and my lifestyle hasn’t (though the proportions to different categories do vary each year) and so my savings rate has increased. Some years my savings rate has decreased when my income has gone down.

      Thank you for sharing your story! It’s nice to hear from someone else who is relatively frugal, but not extremely frugal.

  2. I feel ya. Though I think I’m ok with my previous um, abundance of caution. I’ve generally been pretty good at spending on what’s important and not spending on what I don’t are about, and a lot of my not buying things is because of analysis paralysis and not money guilt. Bigger savings has made it much easier for me to not have money guilt. Sometimes it scares me how little money guilt I have now, but something about hitting a “if we lose our jobs and don’t change our lifestyles we’ll be ok for 10 years” level of savings has made even $500 purchases seem like not such a big deal if they’re something we really want/need.

    We just got iphones yesterday… I will be interested to see how our Ting bill compares to our Sprint bill.

    • Oooh iPhones! I really like mine. I’ve been quite happy with Ting over the last several years – I highly recommend them. I love how easy it is to track my usage throughout the month. My Sprint bill was $85/month and my Ting bill has been about $28/month with taxes.

      Mine was analysis paralysis combined with money guilt, which just wasn’t healthy at all. My boyfriend is really helpful with reducing both. He seems to have an incredibly healthy relationship with money and it’s definitely rubbing off on me! :)

  3. I am also not a big fan of the uber frugal blogs. Life is about balance, and I generally shy away from anything too extreme one way or the other!

    I think it’s great that you’ve been able to break out of old habits. That’s hard to do! Most people don’t ever take the time to do the introspection required to notice your own habits and thought patterns, let alone do the hard work of consciously changing them!

    • Life is about balance! And I think that’s part of why I love your blog! :)

      Oh gosh I spend so much time introspecting! It’s exhausting sometimes.

  4. Many years ago, reading about ultra frugality might have stressed me out. I did some not-so-healthy (or safe) things in the name of stashing away per diems and tiny paychecks when working at REUs in college. Think eating too few calories or walking home through unsafe neighborhoods at 2am after missing the last subway instead of calling a cab.
    But Mr PoP has been a pretty neutralizing influence on that front. He’s never really operated from the same scarcity mentality that I have (since he grew up in a family that had a lot more money than mine did), so he really does balance me out. (FWIW, I’m responsible for him not dribbling money out for things he’s not getting a value out of the way he used to, but he’s probably not *that* much more frugal because of me.)
    So I guess I can read ultra-frugality blogs and not take the contents too personally, though they honestly don’t interest me all that much if it’s just “frugal for the sake of frugal” and not in pursuit of some more interesting goal (environmentalism, health, or a personal goal that might overlap with one of ours). The only ones I REALLY can’t stomach are the “prepper” ones who are frugal because they sincerely worry that the world is going to end. FTLOG.

    • Oh I think I’ve personally called about 5 cabs in my lifetime. I did tons of 45-60 minutes home in the dark instead of calling cabs. I graduated with $30k in the bank after undergrad and didn’t want to go traveling before starting work. I didn’t want to go to grad school for fear of living on no money. It’s so freeing now that it’s mostly just me in control of my money and not my parents.

      My boyfriend has definitely helped my relationship with money – he is very calm about it. And I’ve helped him set up investment plans and allocations and find more interesting credit cards and better savings accounts. I remember coming home from shopping with several hundred dollars of clothes once and feeling guilty about spending so much. He asked me if all the clothes fit (yes), how many other similar clothes that I had that fit (none), and if I liked them (yes) and then told me that it was good that I had bought the clothes then because I had no such items that fit.

      Neither of my parents had much money growing up, but they started to have a reasonable nest egg when I was in my teens, so I remember their scarcity mindset and not the easier spending days. I remember them paying off their mortgage early and saving for retirement. My boyfriend’s family didn’t really talk about money to him like mine did though so I think I know much more about my parents’ financials than he does about his parents’.

  5. I think it’s strange how some of the uber frugal blogs are also uber environmentalist blogs. I mean, I’m not necessarily against conserving resources and what not, but some of it seems a bit nutty that if you’re not driving a Prius, making your own soap, and never turning the A/C or heat on, that your the one who is on the fringe…..I don’t think you should feel guilty for heating or cooling your apartment, and some of those blogs make me feel that way.

    I share your problem of having guilt about spending, and there’s no logical reason for it. My parents certainly have no problem spending, especially on their children, but I seem to go through extremes, I’ll skimp for a few years and then go crazy traveling for 2 months. Or, like recently, I haven’t purchased a music CD in the past 3 or 4 years, so I order like 30 of them.

    There needs to be a healthy balance, I guess just don’t find value in going to the bar/happy hour, and other than attending orchestral concerts, participating in active events such as social sports and purchasing music – and of course dating – hopefully with someone who is equally as independent, I’m just not sure what I’d really spend on anything else anyway….

    When i sold my condo and paid some estimated taxes and then the next month had a $2500 insurance repair to be reimbursed….i basically just cashflowed it as if nothing happened.

    I suppose I could take do some enrichment learning and take a CFP course for shits, etc, but why, I hate sales, so it’s not like I could actually use it…

    • Actually, I don’t think I would say that I feel guilty about spending, I just have the scarcity mentality that you mentioned. But there’s really no explanation. Must be inherited from some previous generation…..

  6. I’m not as frugal as most, but I’m aiming for a 50% savings rate of my net paycheck income but I’m not there yet. I like reading MMM or Frugalwoods as it gives me ideas of where I can improve. I’ve never felt guilty spending, I guess I’m not that emotional about it. I just make sure I really want to do X or buy Y before I do it and don’t fret about it afterwards. I could be better with frugality, but the benefits don’t outweigh the costs right now for me :)

    • That’s great that you have a healthy relationship with spending money! If you do and your naturally a saver, the savings rate will increase naturally.

  7. I’m still trying to find the balancing of spending enough and not too little/much (perception wise). We save a good amount and are generally doing well, but part of that is because we have housing provided with our jobs. So, I often think to myself “maybe we shouldn’t get used to this level of spending because we couldn’t do this on these salaries if we had to pay for housing.” Then again, maybe we’d make more if we worked elsewhere. Such a tossup.

    I like the idea of a bra budget. I’m still rocking my nursing bras (tho, to be fair, I do nurse 2x a day). I could really use a new few bras, especially since my body changed post-baby. But then I guilt myself because I’m still losing weight, because I was heavier than I should be even before I got pregnant. So I’m not sure what a good solution is. At least I have bras.

    I like reading some frugality blogs, but I big issue I sometimes have is that most of the people I read make more individually than my husband and I make together. We are definitely not rolling in the dough. I don’t mind celebrating people, and I think the Pops do a great job of talking about their earnings in a non-pretentious way. But I sometimes get really frustrated at the REALLY HUGE percentage of savings some people have. Um, yes, sure. Try saving that much on, say $40k or $60k a year (not what we make, btw). At some levels of money — and levels many, many people make — it really is very very very difficult to save upwards of 75% a year. So I like people at all levels of income who keep it real about the decisions they make. I find the decision making and tradeoffs (at any price point) more interesting than people who just brag about how much they saved.

    • I definitely feel out of touch with reality now that we’re making so much money (since DH got his current job). It really is a completely and totally different world in this tax bracket than it was in the 25% bracket that we’ve spent most of our adult lives in (or with our grad school incomes!).

      • I feel even more out of touch with reality whenever I consider our combined income – we would be solidly in the 33% tax bracket MFJ, which is crazy. My parents’ combined income is/was comparable to mine, not double mine.

    • If it were me, I would probably assume that your income would go up by at least part of the amount you’re saving on housing now.

      I buy $70+tax bras from Chantelle and they last me for about 12 months before the elastic on the band isn’t as good as it once was. I am a somewhat odd size, so I usually buy mine from Nordstrom. They’re great at fitting you in one that fits and they have a great return/exchange policy even on bras. I’ve found that I feel a gazillion times better when my bras fit properly than when any other item of clothing does. If you don’t want to spend a lot on bras, I would buy 2-3 good ones and your body will thank you.

      I fully admit that if I made less money, I would be saving less money. I would probably also be spending less, but I would not be an extreme saver the way I am on a higher income.

  8. I think I talk about this on and off. It took me some years to find my feet through extreme frugality by necessity and then learning how to live with PiC who is a natural spender and believes in enjoying life, so that now, even if he has been converted to much of my philosophy, we even each other out relatively well. I set our mandatory savings and monitor our cash flow to ensure that we’re not going to ever overdraw. After a few years of marriage, it’s now working pretty smoothly but I think every so often I enviously think of having a 50% savings rate and sigh. :)

    It’s probably telling that maybe the third or fourth thing that occurred to me when I got pregnant was: Oh DAMMIT, I just finally splurged on 2 new nice bras, if I can’t ever wear them, that’s going to really tick me off.

    • I do read yours! I just don’t comment a lot :) You, SP and some of my friends who I can talk money with make me feel more like our spending is okay.

  9. Everything you said could have come out of my mouth, except I’m not quite as far on the other side. This is a big part of why I started my blog. I’m still pretty bad with money but I’m working on it. I’m shifting to spending money on only what I value, but it turns out I don’t value much. At least, I don’t value day to day discretionary purchases. Progress, progress.

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