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Frugal living: when is it bizarre?
Old 06-17-2008, 07:52 AM   #1
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Frugal living: when is it bizarre?

I hope this forum didn't have such a topic or if it did then it was long ago.
The following quote of CaseInPoint from "The Ultimate Cheapskate" thread: http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...tml#post670362 prompted me to start this thread .

Sure, there's a point at which overspending becomes garish and wasteful, but there's also a point at which being super frugal can become downright bizarre.
I really wonder how many people actually choose to live so frugally, as oppose to being forced into it.


I'm curious whether you are frugal by choice or your decision to become a frugal person was influenced by someone else (e.g. your spouse, friend, etc. or someone close went through bankruptcy that prompted you to evaluate your early lavish living, etc. etc.).

When do you think frugality becomes bizarre? Any real life examples?

I think our family hasn't crossed the line between 'normal' frugality and 'bizarre' frugality, but I'm sure in some cases we're considered CHEAP by other people.

The latest example would be this. I'm expecting a boy in Aug. We've also got a 2.5y.o. girl. So, some colleagues at work asked me whether his nursery is ready. I said no, he'll spend almost a year in our bedroom (in DD's crib) and when he moves to his sister's room who'll be moving to a guest bedroom, we'll just hang some pictures maybe. Their reaction "Oh, but don't you need to paint it in blue or something? Isn't your DD's room pink now?" Me: "No, the walls are off white like we bought the house new. We never came around to paint". Should I feel guilty for not decorating the room in the cute colors and buying matching bedding/furniture because my DH and I feel fine as is? Maybe we're lucky we don't have people coming to our house or otherwise they'd make us really guilty and would definitely 'push' us to start shopping and changing our interior.

Another example. When DD passes her crib to her brother, she'll sleep on the thick full size mattress instead of a child's bed. After grandparents leave us (they'll come to help us out in Nov. for 3-4 months), DD will move to the guest bedroom that has a queen size bed.
Our rationale for doing this way is that our house won't become a motel with beds/mattresses stored in each and every room. Do you think this is bizarre because I don't see that way?

80-90% of children's clothes and toys are from garage sales or Goodwill. I know that in a year or two I'll shop more in regular stores for kids if I find nothing good in Goodwill or a consignment shop. It's time (and gas) consuming to drive to various garage sales and find good clothes.

What about you?
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Old 06-17-2008, 08:00 AM   #2
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All what you say sounds fine to me. Who or what is putting the "guilt complex" on you?
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Old 06-17-2008, 08:07 AM   #3
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Check out the Dollar Stretcher site: The Dollar Stretcher

There's a forum there too, some of those people take frugality very seriously. I haven't been dumpster diving for a long time and then only for moving boxes behind a department store but some do that all the time.
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Old 06-17-2008, 08:18 AM   #4
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I think that labeling someone's frugality as "bizarre" is almost equivalent to saying "we don't do that" or an attempt to enforce conformity by means of social pressure.

Why should you feel social pressure to paint your childrens' rooms pink or blue if you don't want to? Personally I grew up in a relatively wealthy family, who could well afford paint, and yet the walls of my bedroom were a beige, flowered wallpaper. Fine with me!

When I was 8, my parents had my room re-papered to a blue flowered wallpaper (not pink), and it didn't bother me a bit.

What I think is bizarre about your story is that you are being pressured to decorate your own home in a fashion that doesn't appeal to you, for whatever reason (whether that happens to be due to frugality or not). It's your home, not theirs! I suggest that you shouldn't listen to them, and instead should do what you like with your own home.

Or maybe they are just saying this because they think most people do the blue/pink thing, and weren't intending to pressure you. Either way, my vote is for you to do what you want!

We had zero money when my daughter was born. Her walls remained white, and I found some Mickey Mouse fabric in primary colors (mostly red and blue) and sewed curtains out of it. I bought her first teddy bear (and all her other toys) and raunchy old thrift shops in the bad part of town, yet I will never forget her delight and excitement at getting that teddy bear on Christmas morning. ("BEAR!!!" She was only 15 months and I had no idea she even knew that word!)

She survived the white walls without any resulting psychological trauma or gender identification issues, and the only problem from the bear is that she had to do some sewing to patch holes in it (out of nostalgia) when she was in her teens.
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Old 06-17-2008, 08:25 AM   #5
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I take out the backseats of my car on my 50 mile roundtrip commute to work, perhaps that is "bizarre".
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Old 06-17-2008, 09:32 AM   #6
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For me, being frugal is all about ER, the more I save the sooner I can walk away and the less I spend the sooner I will have enough to satisfy a 4% SWR. I don't see myself as a frugality extremist, but some would probably say I live on the edge.

As I have mentioned before, I have a brother who spends every penny he earns. Recently he said I was being unpatriotic for not doing my part to spend the economy back to health, and he knows I make too much to be eligible for a stimulus check...

There are those who push frugality to extremes and others who do the same with their spending, finding a comfortable middle ground and being happy with my choices is all that matters to me, I could care less whether anyone thinks my lifestyle is "bizarre".
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Old 06-17-2008, 09:42 AM   #7
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I don't think any attempts at frugality are ever bizarre unless they have a self-defeating aspect.

Case in point would be my MIL who saves the hot pasta water to wash dishes after the meal. Dishes are clean(ish) but with a haze of starch. For someone living alone, they may not care but I think not offering people clean dishes crosses a line.

My own schizo-frugal mom has gotten sick from eating leftovers that she didn't want to "waste". Also in the bizarre category might be the string savers and borderline hoarders who have drawers full of "useful" stuff they never actually use. BIL tried to be frugal by buying many years worth of bras/underwear at a time for his store not understanding that, not only do fashions change but the elastic goes bad! If your frugality is impeding your life unnecessarily, then it's self-defeating/bizarre.
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Old 06-17-2008, 10:11 AM   #8
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What qualifies as bizarre is seining broken glass from a jar of peanut butter (see T-al for additional information) so as not to throw away a whole, but broken jar. I can now add Ladelfina's stories to my list--gah!

I think maybe some of those folks at work might be like me, childless and clueless, and have no other conversational gambits for talking to pregnant ladies. Seriously, I've been guilty of saying just that thing to other women, yet would certainly concede that your non-decorating plan is entirely reasonable. At least I know better than to ask when you are due (just in case you aren't actually pregnant!).

My sis's kids rooms are decorated now, but weren't when they were babies. She waited until they were old enough to weigh in on their choices. Hers sleep in queen beds right after getting out of the crib.
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Old 06-17-2008, 10:19 AM   #9
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I've contemplated building a small device the size of a toilet paper roll with a winding handle on the side. It would enable you to wind a new roll of TP from the bathroom stall for use at home (since those dispenser things are usually locked in some fashion and the roll doesn't fit a residential holder). That was just a thought exercise though as it'd be stealing and, if I really wanted to make a name for myself as the TP bandit, I could just swipe a roll off of one of the janitor's carts.

Otherwise, anything that's penny-wise but pound-foolish would get you on the bizarre list. Speaking of which, I had also thought about a retractable latching arm that would mount under your car. You could secure it to the back of a semi as a safer alternative to drafting. Again, just a thought exercise, don't hurt me.
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Old 06-17-2008, 10:21 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by CitricAcid View Post
I take out the backseats of my car on my 50 mile roundtrip commute to work, perhaps that is "bizarre".
I've done the same thing in my PT Cruiser for a few years now since I do 98% of my driving alone....why should I haul around 100-200 lbs of seats that I rarely use?
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Old 06-17-2008, 10:32 AM   #11
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I don't think I was bizarre when I borrowed a crib and avocado green changing table for my daughter 21 years ago. I bought blankets of every imaginable design, whatever was on sale. Her room was blue, the color of the room when we bought the house and I knew the baby's sex beforehand too. I certainly didn't care what my relatives thought...they were just as frugal, probably more so, than we were. My friends were in the same boat...so no comments there.

I know times have changed and what HGTV says must be the norm...but, I don't buy it. Design/furniture based on when is current on HGTV is just a bunch of propaganda aimed at the gullible masses to sell products. The babies certainly won't notice their decor. It's only for "impressing" the adults and one-upmanship.

I don't do bizarre frugality. I like nice things, but I don't go overboard with all the newest and biggest just to impress others. I like comfortable more than showy.
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Old 06-17-2008, 10:50 AM   #12
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I've contemplated building a small device the size of a toilet paper roll with a winding handle on the side. It would enable you to wind a new roll of TP from the bathroom stall for use at home
Ooh you should go further and hook up something to harness the energy of your TP spindle rotating at home.

One bad batch of chicken curry you guys could light up the whole neighborhood for a few hours.
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Old 06-17-2008, 10:54 AM   #13
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~


I live frugally by choice... or maybe by habit... but I just do what
comes naturally, so there is no effort or sense of deprivation.

When I was growing up, my depression era homemaker mother
made my clothes. My parents lived somewhat frugally...
but they managed to raise three children and own their home.
We did things as a family. We went on fun [low cost] weekend
outings [fishing, camping, arrowhead/fossil hunting, etc] and on
big camping vacations every summer [Yellowstone, Carlsbad Caverns,
Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Zion Park, etc.] My parents had
a paid off home in the city a paid off small farm and very little debt...
Mom was a homemaker and Dad retired at age 62... and they did
all this on a carpenter's salary.

When my son was growing up, he wore clothes from garage sales
and the Salvation Army. I like to shop at garage sales and the
Salvation Army thrift store myself. You can find gently used
quality items for a low price... nothing wrong with a bargain !

I semi-retired at age 55 and I have no debt [house and car are
paid off.] Thanks Mom and Dad for raising me with your family
and financial values.


~
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Old 06-17-2008, 10:56 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aida2003 View Post
I hope this forum didn't have such a topic or if it did then it was long ago.
The following quote of CaseInPoint from "The Ultimate Cheapskate" thread: http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...tml#post670362 prompted me to start this thread .
Hi Aida,

Thanks for bringing out my comment for discussion!

In response to yours, is not wanting to paint your child's room a matter of trying to avoid the $20 expense, or is it a style decision?

As for the bed, usually parents use cribs for babies as a matter of safety to avoid falling, suffocation, etc. A new crib starts at about $50-$75 and goes up from there.

I personally view one indicator of bizzarness being when people go to tremendous lengths to avoid spending very small amounts of money rather than positioning themselves (or their spouses) to earn more money at their jobs. In other words, the amount of time and effort spent trying to save a buck or two is more than it would take to earn more money at work. (Of course, this assumes that people are capable of working.)

Another indicator is when people who can work are just too damn lazy and unmotivated to go earn a decent living, and instead opt for "super frugal" lifestyles, like dumpster diving, not using soap, toothpaste, etc. IMO, those people are are really super lazy, as opposed to just "super frugal."

Sorry to offend certain forum members, but I think that relying on sifting through other people's trash for one's daily necessities is out of the realm of "frugal," and into the realm of the bizarre. If someone believes that they need to do that, they may want to seriously consider spending their dumpster diving time figuring out what went wrong in their lives and how to fix it.

The funniest thing to me is that I've noticed a trend for the super lazy and underachievers of the world to proclaim themselves as environmentalists... As if they are saving the world by their big sacrifice of not using deodorant...

So, to each his/her own. I wouldn't presume to judge people as good or bad, but I also can't suspend my disbelief about this new culture of the bizarrely frugal.
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Old 06-17-2008, 11:43 AM   #15
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In response to yours, is not wanting to paint your child's room a matter of trying to avoid the $20 expense, or is it a style decision?

As for the bed, usually parents use cribs for babies as a matter of safety to avoid falling, suffocation, etc. A new crib starts at about $50-$75 and goes up from there.
As regards to painting DD's room, we thought to paint first, but my DH is not the handiest person in the world , and I didn't want to risk doing myself while being pregnant. Then came the challenge of creativity and we are both bad at that. On top of that, I just do NOT like shopping. So, we could afford to buy paint , but didn't want to hire a painter and didn't want to 'indulge' in shopping.

As far as the crib goes, grandparents bought the safest crib ever which will last years and years unless broken on purpose. Since DD is already 2.5y.o. it's time to start the transition to a bigger bed (mattress in her case). So, no need to have two cribs in the house, IMO.
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Old 06-17-2008, 11:58 AM   #16
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What I think is bizarre about your story is that you are being pressured to decorate your own home in a fashion that doesn't appeal to you, for whatever reason (whether that happens to be due to frugality or not). It's your home, not theirs! I suggest that you shouldn't listen to them, and instead should do what you like with your own home.

Or maybe they are just saying this because they think most people do the blue/pink thing, and weren't intending to pressure you. Either way, my vote is for you to do what you want!
You're right. Maybe people who question me might have nothing to do with the pressure for me to decorate. I personally think I don't have that "thick skin" because when I answer such or similar questions I feel kind of guilty because I know we can afford it but we don't do that by choice (factoring in how we detest shopping in general). Maybe I need a shrink who'd help me to overcome my guilt while talking with mainstream consumers.
Oh, and I frequently blame my family (in my mind) for the sense of guilt. My parents spend money as well as my sister. That could be me to rebel their living style and chose to be frugal instead. On the other hand, once in a while they'd say something about my frugality and it would hurt me. So, I know they consider me very cheap. When we go to visit them, we're the ones wearing the same clothes and shoes they've seen before and they would were something new.
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Old 06-17-2008, 12:07 PM   #17
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What about you?
When I do it, it's prudently frugal. When my dinner companion does it, it's bizarre.

Ha
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Old 06-17-2008, 12:18 PM   #18
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When do you think frugality becomes bizarre? Any real life examples?
You want bizarre I'll give you bizarre.

"The Witch of Wall Street"

Biography of Witch of Wall Street Hetty Green Part 2
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Old 06-17-2008, 12:20 PM   #19
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I get real worried about what others think only when they are paying the bills. Too many folks have allowed their brains to be overloaded with right & wrong opinions from commercial advertising.

I like nice things and buy when I have the money. My home purchases are NOT based on HGTV or print media. I paint when it needs it or I want the change.
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Old 06-17-2008, 12:34 PM   #20
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Lots of people don't use a crib at all. They dislike keeping children in "cages". They put a mattress on the floor so the baby won't get hurt if it rolls out, and they childproof their house.

Not me, I used all the handmedown equipment I could find from my sisters and the goodwill. Why pay a lot of money for expensive new clothing your child will outgrow in days? Or equipment you might only use once or twice? I did ensure that the used crib I bought met the safety standards, and I bought a new mattress because there's a sanitation issue with used mattresses. I enjoy quilting, so I made each of my babies a new quilt at birth. That was the extent of my decorating. Later, when the kids were old enough to have an opinion and to help out, I painted their rooms and put up vinyl decals.

Bizarrely frugal would be the guy I know of who lived in the woods in a homemade cabin with no plumbing or electricity, and no outhouse. He would crap in a bucket and once a week, whether it needed it or not, he would sneak into a nearby RV park and dump it in their restroom.

Frugality that involves tresspassing and/or stealing, like putting extra food in your purse at an all-you-can-eat buffet, is bizarre. One elderly aunt of my husband's always wants me, for some reason, to wrap up food in a napkin so she can stash it in her purse. The last time she wanted to steal crabmeat, although I implored her not to. And no, she wasn't deprived during the Depression; she was always rather well to do. I think the Depression excuse covers a lot of eccentric behaviors in our elders.
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