Frugality: What is it and why should I care?

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 18:36

According to the first hit (now) on Google search frugality means "the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance".

For me frugality stands for freedom and independence. A more down to earth way of explaining frugality is "to create or fix it yourself, don't waste anything and do not buy any stupid crap you don't really want or need".
Of course, there is much more to it than just this, but it gives you a basic idea of what it means and most people apply only those aspects of frugality to their daily routine that most suites them.

Frugality is not about NOT spending money and living like a poor person, it's about spending your money wisely and only on the things (items or consumables) you really need or want. Remember that you have to work for this money, so think about how many hours you would have to spend in the office (or other workplace) to be able to buy an iPad and if it's worth all the time and effort you put into it. Will the iPad make you happy enough that you wouldn't mind having to work a full week for it? Think about this every time you want to buy something, be honest to yourself and make a rational decision. You'll thank yourself later, I promise.

Usually, when I start something new I start slow and small. That way, If I don't like it or don't follow through or simply fail there will be no great harm done. So I started my frugal lifestyle slowly by eating more left-overs instead of buying new food and discard the 'old' but still delicious food. I found out that I would eat less and also spend less at the grocery store. My first victory, but I need to be sure I don't slack off and return to my old habits. Next was outdoor food. Why spend €5 a day on lunch (at the cafeteria or a deli) when you can buy €5 worth of bread and condiments in the grocery store and eat for two whole weeks! It may not sound like a lot of money to save, but when you add up all the little things you'll end up with a small pile of money to spend on something worthwhile. Something you really like or care about. A new pair of sneakers, a fancy diner for you and your spouse or a new coat for someone else who really needs it. Just because you had some money left over. Wouldn't that be great?

I hear you say "why should I be frugal? I have a great job and enough money. I don't need to live frugal". That may be so, but like many other people I know most people often have debts. They buy things, because it makes them happy. It makes them feel important and socially accepted. So they buy large and expensive things in order to present themselves to the world as worthy. You can not show up at work in your Fiat Panda, you need a big ass Audi or a BMW. Only then will your co-workers take you seriously. People often think they have enough money, but what would happen if your secure steady job suddenly disappears (like many other jobs in 2008)? You would end up with no (or very little) income and a huge mortgage and other bills to pay. You're probably also paying a lot for your fancy car. Family holidays to exotic destinations suddenly aren't possible any more and every bill to pay suddenly looks like a huge sum of money. A common misconception is that having a job gives you financial security while in fact it doesn't. When you loose it, you'll know.

The best way to make sure that you really have enough money is to stop spending money on things that you really don't need or want. Save money (in a bank or invest) and pay off your debts as soon as possible. I used to have a student loan of about €16.000. When I had saved up some serious cash I paid off all the debt (still well over €9600 at the time) at once. Now I'm truly debt-free and it feels great!! Only when you have no debts you can really live free. And one of the more obvious advice is of course, don't spend money you don't have!. The economic crisis in 2008 was mostly caused by banks giving huge loans to people who actually couldn't afford it. Mostly in the form of a mortgage.

But what is "enough"? How can you tell what is enough? How do you calculate something like that? This, of course, differs from person to person. What level of comfort do you need? How much money do you need on a yearly basis to sustain your preferred way of living? I can't really answer that, that's up to you! But to give you an idea, if you want to be on the absolute safe side think about the 4% rule. Think about how much money you would like to get each month and be realistic, €2000 a month could already be "enough" for you. 4% of your total accumulated capital should be the average that you get every year. So if you want €2000 a month you should consider the formula below.

(total capital x long term interest rate)/12 = monthly income

So if you want €2000 a month the formula will be: (total capital x 0,04)/12=2000 => (12x2000)/0,04= €600.000

So, you'll need a total of €600.000 to have an income of €2000 a month. No need to go to work any more. Mind you that the 4% rule is very conservative. If you know how to invest your money wisely you can probably get an interest rate of 10%, easy. At this moment most of my capital is generating a 11,55% return. Also, keep in mind that when you stop working your expenses will almost always drop dramatically. When you don't have to work you can start a small business (or several) if you like and generate some extra cash. Just for the fun of it! And €600.000 may sound like a lot of money, but it is possible to save this amount by being frugal and investing your capital wisely.

So, now you know a bit more about frugality. Should you care? If you feel that your income and expenses are out of sync, then YES! If you want more control over your income and expenses, then YES! If you want to retire early, then YES!
If you feel that your spending to much, but you don't know on what, then YES!

If you're a fucking millionaire who doesn't know what to do with all your money, then NO, but consider donating some of it directly to someone who actually needs it.

Until next time!

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