My Story: Living Frugally
contributed by "Anonymous"
What Does Frugal Living Mean to You?
Living frugally is a central theme in what I tell my financial clients, who are mostly professionals struggling to survive in an upper middle class environment. I point out that I drive an economy car and will drive it to death, have one winter and one summer suit, and generally look more or less like a homeless person. I do like to eat out, but generally I eat at ethnic dives, which cost less than prepared grocery store foods. I once grew my own vegetables and hope to do so again when I stop working two jobs and have a plot that is not too shady or rocky.
But the key thing is to understand what you really want and will enjoy. My brother once spent more on a Corvette than I have spent on all the cars I have owned over 43 years (about 38 thousand), but my brother is an ex-racer who loves cars. I have a pretty wife and like her a lot, so I am reasonably willing to take her to French restaurants, which have no particular value added to me. I work about 45 hours a week as a tennis pro (it has the fringe benefit of keeping me exceptionally fit and has fringe club membership benefits for my family), but I spend an additional 15 thousand plus on tennis lessons, camps, and court time for my stepson, because I think it will make him a healthier, happier, and better man. We take moderately expensive vacations as a family of five two or three times a year to Europe, etc., including cruises, which are very cost efficient. Most recently, we went on a cruise to Alaska and went ashore to buy bargain excursions.
What I notice is that many of the people around me are unhappy and throw money at the problem, compelling them to run faster and feel less comfortable financially. Money doesn't buy happiness. However, it buys the security in which to seek happiness. Having no debts, for instance, is one of the best things money can buy. It's a great stress reducer. Being prepared to buy any sort of medical care you might ever need is another. Oh, yes, I spend several thousand dollars a year on vitamins and food supplements for my wife and me because, hey, we're worth it, and, yep, we are never sick.
The toughest thing is not giving a hoot what other people buy. We probably fit in well in our affluent community and also among our circle of professional friends in terms of net worth, but we don't look like it. I do have to spend time beating down ideas for home improvement that my wife comes up with whenever we have a bunch of people over. I remind her not to let other people's standards intrude on our life system that works so well.
Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!
"Anonymous" is a financial adviser and tennis pro.
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