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Frugal and Cheap living are not good ideas
Old 07-13-2010, 11:22 AM   #1
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Frugal and Cheap living are not good ideas

That is correct, I am saying that frugal, cheap living, cheapskate, tightwad, penny pinching are not good ideas. I am writing this because there have been a rash of threads about them recently. This is coming from a person who came from a poor family. I also, started working at 15 and tracked my spending down to the penny for a few months to determine where I spent it at that time. I also, hate paying full price for things and will search for a lower one.

Why is frugal and cheap living not a good idea? Because of how they influence your life, color your view of the world and the potential they have to steal from you.

The words you use do influence the way you think and the actions you take.

Negative Words Affect You More Than You Realise
[/QUOTE]
When you cease to poison your mind with negative words you will notice that you feel lighter in spirit, happier and more generous to those around you. You'll no longer see problems, only opportunities. You won't complain as much or focus on anything negative or bad - you'll be too busy thinking positive thoughts and pursuing your ambitions and dreams.


[/QUOTE]

STANFORD Magazine: May/June 2010 > Features > Cognitive Scientist Lera Boroditsky

There have been threads on going from saving mode to the challenges and difficulty of going to the spending mode. These are instructive examples of the problems with being frugal and cheap living.

I do not want to debate if frugal, cheap living cheapskate, tightwad, penny pinching are not good ideas or have a negative connotation, if it is changing, should it change or if they are negative to you personally. They are not virtues. Nor is this concept splitting hairs. The words we use influence our actions, how we perceive ourselves and others perceive us.

Try this experiment - say to yourself and let it soak in.
I live frugally.
I live in abundance.

I live cheaply.
I live with gratitude.

I live efficiently.
I live wisely.

The point of the exercise it the path the words put you on.

What word would be better than frugal, cheap living, cheapskate, tightwad, penny pinching? I don't have the answer - maybe other will. The word should have a positive connotation that puts the person on a positive path. Something like 'Simple Abundance' or
'I live a life of abundance through simplicity."
'I live a life of simple abundance"


Others with a marketing background might come up with a better word.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:30 AM   #2
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The downside of that approach is that every time you use a euphemism (for that is what many of those words are), you introduce cognitive dissonance. People who live in Stalinist environments (North Korea, for example, or any MegaCorp which has its mission statement on the wall or uses the word "downsizing") are generally pretty stressed.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:34 AM   #3
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What word would be better than frugal, cheap living, cheapskate, tightwad, penny pinching? I don't have the answer - maybe other will. The word should have a positive connotation that puts the person on a positive path. Something like 'Simple Abundance' or
'I live a life of abundance through simplicity."
'I live a life of simple abundance"

Others with a marketing background might come up with a better word.

I've always liked the word content. As in, I should be contented with my life. I'm learning to be content with my life. I trying to be grateful and content with all my life has to offer.

Not always successful with this mindset. But I should be.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:57 AM   #4
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Content is a good one.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:08 PM   #5
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I always thought "frugal" and "content" both had a mildly positive connotation.

Now "cheap" can mean various things, especially for women, some not too positive.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:09 PM   #6
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That is correct, I am saying that frugal, cheap living, cheapskate, tightwad, penny pinching are not good ideas. I am writing this because there have been a rash of threads about them recently. This is coming from a person who came from a poor family. I also, started working at 15 and tracked my spending down to the penny for a few months to determine where I spent it at that time. I also, hate paying full price for things and will search for a lower one.

Why is frugal and cheap living not a good idea? Because of how they influence your life, color your view of the world and the potential they have to steal from you.
Maybe there is nothing wrong with being a value conscious consumer?

Do we deride Warren Buffett for being frugal, living cheaply, pinching pennies? Some might - they would say why does a billionaire not enjoy their money more? Some might put Buffett on a pedestal and say his behaviour is worthy of emulating. It really depends on one's values as to how you view another's actions and behaviour.

Do we deride Warren Buffett or other savvy investors and businesspeople for being frugal, investing cheaply, and pinching pennies in corporate and business matters? Again, some do, some don't. I suppose it depends on an individual's values. I'd say someone would have to be a damn fool if they were a corporate executive and knowingly decided to buy a billion widgets for $2 a unit when they could have bought a substantially similar widget for $1 a unit. Does that make them cheap? Frugal? Smart? Stupid?

I would suggest that if one is seeking validation from others and considers words like "frugal", "thrifty", or "cost-conscious" to have negative connotations, then one should take a step back and think about where their own values lie. Do we let others define us by how much cash we carelessly slosh around? Or do we have enough self worth, ego, self esteem, or whatever you want to call it to know who we are, what we stand for and where our values lie without requiring some external validation that our personas are positive?

I personally find someone who is a value conscious consumer (whatever adjectives are used) to be more interesting than a materialistic spendthrift who attaches ego to stuff. But that's where the value judgments come into play.

If the semantics are most relevant, I would describe myself as liking simplicity and the "simpler things in life". Simple is more elegant than complicated.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:12 PM   #7
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FUEGO:

I believe Dex was making the distinction between voluntary simplicity and being cheap. He also pointed out the benefits of being grateful for what we have.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:16 PM   #8
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Others with a marketing background might come up with a better word.
I've heard it expressed as "Poor people have poor ways"
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:21 PM   #9
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Interesting. I always thought of the word "frugal" as a positive word. If someone called me frugal, it would be a compliment. I could go further and say that I regard frugality and thriftiness as virtues. YMMV.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:24 PM   #10
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So you're not actually saying that the practice of living frugally and cheaply is not a good idea - just that we should call it something different?

I see a slight contradiction in the subject of your post. As I understand it, the words frugal and cheap mean two different things. Frugal refers to the efficient use of money, while cheap refers to frugality gone too far to the extent that it can impoverish the spirit. My interpretation of frugality is achieving that sweet spot where the paring down of one's expenses doesn't cut into personal happiness and general feeling of satisfaction with life.

I agree that words are important but I don't agree that the words we use influence the way we think, as much as the effect applies the other way around; the way we think and feel influences the words we use. Angry people use angry words, happy people use happy words.

If you don't have quite enough money to live the life you really want, telling yourself that your life is abundant isn't going to make you feel differently. If you feel good about yourself and your life though, the right words will just come to you.

I think this is going to be quite an active thread!
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:24 PM   #11
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I wonder if all the organizations and individuals I have given money are upset about my frugal living.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:35 PM   #12
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Words have a way of changing meanings over time.

Decades ago, "made in Japan" meant, made cheaply, inferior. Then later meant, high quality, relieable. (Of course, now Toyota's problems might change the perception again).

I think I do understand what the Dex was saying. That is, the way we label ourselves has a huge impact on how we perceive ourself. Kind of like if I say, for example, "I'm a klutz when it comes to fixing things" then I'll color my own expectations of myself and shy away from attempting to fix things.

On the otherhand, myself being a LBYM type of individual, I can't see the rational of going to a high end store and paying $100 for a pair of jeans when I can get one for $20 that's similar but has a different label. I'd must rather say I'm cheap, frugal and go for the $20 option.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:39 PM   #13
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FUEGO:

I believe Dex was making the distinction between voluntary simplicity and being cheap. He also pointed out the benefits of being grateful for what we have.
I guess it is mostly just a matter of semantics to me. I understand there are nuanced differences in the connotations of words. "Being a responsible spender" connotes something differently than "being a cheapskate". But those two phrases also mean different things (to me at least).

Attitudes toward frugality run on a continuum from complete spendthrift down to mooching tightwad cheapskate. And there are a variety of words used to describe people on this continuum.

I sort of got from Dex's post the part about being grateful for what we have and accepting simplicity as a perfectly normal way to live life. No disagreement from me. Where I disagree is in particular words or phrases that Dex noted and I disagree with the assertion in the thread title. The point of my earlier post is that it really depends on one's values and attitudes towards spending, money, stuff, etc as to whether the idea of frugality and cheap living have a positive meaning or negative meaning.

"frugal, cheap living, cheapskate, tightwad, penny pinching" - I would not have a problem saying we live a frugal lifestyle or enjoy cheap living. I wouldn't want to say "I'm a cheapskate, tightwad or penny pincher" unless said jokingly in a self-deprecating manner.

Maybe "dollar pincher" would be more accurate for me.
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Old 07-13-2010, 12:46 PM   #14
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The concept of "enough" was first raised for me by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin in that first brush for many of us with FIRE, Your Money or Your Life. I use enough and contentment to describe my life. I also generally describe things as choices. As in, I trade this for that so that I recognize each decision is a choice. I don't buy this so I can buy that. We choose our financial destiny and can decide what is enough.
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Old 07-13-2010, 01:12 PM   #15
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I don't feel bad about being "frugal"...

One can strive to do "better", what ever that means. But is someone who is never satisfied really content?
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Old 07-13-2010, 01:21 PM   #16
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Interesting. I always thought of the word "frugal" as a positive word. If someone called me frugal, it would be a compliment. I could go further and say that I regard frugality and thriftiness as virtues. YMMV.
"Frugal" seems to carry an implied wink and a nonverbal instant translation to "cheap" much of the time. OTOH, if you used it during a time of deprivation, it takes on positive connotations (think victory gardens, durable nonfancy cars, taking lunch to work, and tightening the belt to save the mortgage.

It's context-sensitive for me.
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Old 07-13-2010, 01:27 PM   #17
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What Rich said. In 2007, describing oneself as frugal means you are cheap. In 2009, frugal meant you were conformist and smart and following the 5 o clock news that times are tough. If we have a strong economy in 2011 or 2012, frugality will no longer be "cool" or conformist but rather deviant behaviour once more.
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Old 07-13-2010, 01:32 PM   #18
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If we have a strong economy in 2011 or 2012, frugality will no longer be "cool" or conformist but rather deviant behaviour once more.
uh-oh... Now we're all a bunch of deviants...
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Old 07-13-2010, 02:06 PM   #19
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Interesting. I always thought of the word "frugal" as a positive word. If someone called me frugal, it would be a compliment. I could go further and say that I regard frugality and thriftiness as virtues. YMMV.

+1 I do not put frugal as a negative word... cheap.. yes, penny pincher... yes.. tightwad... most definetly....

I also like the word 'thrifty'.... that is not saying they do not do anything, just that they are 'thrifty' doing it... my mother was 'thrifty' and visted 55 countries.. you will not find many spendthrifts who has done as much...


PS.. I (and the dictionary) think spendthrift is a negative word
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Old 07-13-2010, 02:27 PM   #20
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What Rich said. In 2007, describing oneself as frugal means you are cheap. In 2009, frugal meant you were conformist and smart and following the 5 o clock news that times are tough. If we have a strong economy in 2011 or 2012, frugality will no longer be "cool" or conformist but rather deviant behaviour once more.
I have never been one to conform. I thought frugality was cool when the DOW was at 14,000 and I thought it was cool when the DOW was at 7,000. I do know some people who despise frugality. They are the same people who invariably come asking me for money when they get in trouble.
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