|UFF Dog with his last bed|
I "outed" my frugal self to two real-life friends this week, and it felt strange.
I tend to downplay my most extreme frugal weirdness in public--certainly at work and with people I don't know well. And actually, even among close friends I don't make a very big deal about it, although tips (such as which cheap red wines are drinkable, where to buy tofu ends by the pound, and self hair-cutting pointers) are exchanged with friends who also live frugal lives by choice or necessity.
Situations in which I often feel awkward are those in which I need to explain why I choose not to do something that others are doing, or that is being discussed. It would be disingenuous to say that I can't spend money on X,Y, or Z--yoga classes, eating out, social gatherings, clothing. I am privileged to be able to afford the necessities of life, and more. If I was not focused on saving--for what jlcollinsnh calls f-you money, but what I prefer to think of as financial security or independence--my daily life certainly could be less financially restrictive.
But I choose to find creative ways to live a rich life with minimal spending, so that I can also choose to spend on those things that support my values and are most important to me. Financial security is certainly one of those things, based in part on raising a family with very little money for many years. At that point, frugality was an absolute necessity and not a choice.
While we were never short on food and always had a home (and lots of books), in the days before the Affordable Care Act, I recall the stress that accompanied purchasing private monthly insurance for my family that did not even cover preventative care such as vaccines and routine physicals for my young kids. I also remember the shame of taking a child with a decayed tooth to the dentist and being asked "Why did you wait so long to bring him in?!"
These days, I choose to prioritize helping my son through college (for now only one), so that he can start off in life without a lot of debt. I also choose to try to save and invest 50% of my income; currently into retirement savings. I didn't start saving until my early 30s, having spent a number of years staying home with my boys and working part-time at interesting, low-paying jobs. We UFF Parents are not getting any younger, and try as UFF Dad might to deny it, most people want to retire eventually. I know I do.
All that to say, I'm lucky to have the choice to live frugally, but it also can lead to some social awkwardness--which is why I usually avoid going into any in-depth conversations around it, lest I be judged (as selfish or miserly) or be perceived as judging others. However, I felt the need to explain to my dear friend who visited last weekend why I was so hesitant (aka being a party pooper) about some activity suggestions, and so told her about this previously top-secret frugality blog (Hi C!). This was a bit of a cowardly way to share, because I told her about the blog as she was leaving town. Then, I met with my knitting friend S at lunchtime Monday, and felt compelled to spill the beans again…only to discover that she too is a proud frugal weirdo (Hi S!). In fact, I'm pretty sure that neither of us ordered anything at the coffeehouse where we met to knit. Oops.
It feels a little vulnerable. I'm happy with my frugal life and its challenges and rewards, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to broadcast it. Interestingly, I find that having to be frugal is much more socially acceptable than choosing to be frugal.
I'd love to hear from other people about your experiences opening up to friends and family about your frugal life, and their responses. Or your response to frugal weirdo friends. Please share!