Responding to Frugal Envy
Defining What "Being Frugal" Means
I've seen articles on The Dollar Stretcher and elsewhere describing people who are doing extreme frugality by choice. These are usually couples who have each other for company or who invite friends over for home-cooked meals and a video from the library.
I'm used to saving a decent chunk of my income. Since moving to a large urban area with a high cost of living, I've found it hard to connect with like-minded people. My county and neighboring ones have some of the highest incomes in the country.
Some of my coworkers who live locally have 6,000 square foot houses (dual/triple income and large family). Others have different spending priorities and commute two hours each way to work. I choose to rent a smaller place that is close to work and in a so-so neighborhood because I think it makes financial and personal sense for me. Does anyone have suggestions on how to make frugal friends?
Remember that old saying "Birds of a feather flock together"? Well, you can find frugally minded folks at thrift stores, used book stores, flea markets and even the library. Strike up a conversation while you are sorting through gently-used clothing or swap coupons with your neighbors. Maybe they moved to that area to save money, as well!
Watch for events in the dollar-stretching community like bag sales at your local thrift store, a neighborhood garage sale, or a raffle event. You'll soon attract like-minded people who know how to have fun without spending a fortune.
Shaunna P. in Fargo, ND
Start to find frugal friends as you would in any other community, such as at your church or synagogue, the children's schools, where you shop, and at work. I live in one of the richest states in the country and have loads of frugal friends. Even the wealthy enjoy getting value for their money.
Right in your so-so neighborhood, there are likely to be other individuals and families with similar values. You can meet them at the laundromat, the playground and other community facilities.
Also consider joining your local Freecycle or similar group online. Members are committed to saving the environment by saving items that still have use. They are generally people who live a frugal lifestyle.
When I moved from a small town to a large city, one of the things I did to make frugal friends was to get a schedule of classes for local community education. I chose a small suburb just outside of the big city to take classes. There are a multitude of classes to take from finances (frugality) to art and athletics. Not only did I find a very good frugal friend (we call ourselves the "cheap sisters"), but also I learned along the way by taking various classes that appealed to me. I took everything from home repair classes (drywall, electrical and plumbing classes that were taught by a retired shop teacher) to learning to play volleyball (much cheaper than joining a gym). I found that most of the people taking the classes were also on budgets. This is an often overlooked source of enjoyment!
It does take time to make new frugal friends. Don't be in a rush. Don't be intimidated either. Your kind of people are there! Try thrift shops (especially those run by churches and synagogues) and chat with the sales people who are probably volunteers. Librarians are also a wealth of information. Check area bulletin boards for free or low cost entertainment. Co-ops are another source. Chances are frugal people will be there. And remember, it costs nothing to start up a conversation with someone at these functions. It's amazing what you discover just by chatting with someone. (I once met a widow who had season concert tickets for two and was just wild to find someone to go with her, at no cost. I said "yes" and she is still one of my favorite friends.)
I live in a very expensive area in California, as well. People who visit our area think that everyone is rich, but in the few years we have lived here, we have made some friends who live on both sides of the frugal fence! In fact, I would bet that there are more people living near you who are living frugally by choice or necessity than in the area where you came from. You just have to find them!
If you read local newspapers and find free and cheap activities, like speakers at bookstores, composting workshops, farmer's markets, hiking trails, consignment stores and matinees, you will find like-minded people. You might even make a new friend at work who is spendy, but is in debt up to her eyeballs and would really benefit from learning some thrifty ways to have fun, like a movie night (movie checked out from the library, of course!) at your place.
I'm not sure what your interests are, but you could even invite some acquaintances over for a clothing swap or book swap. Or maybe you could organize a Lunch Club at work where five people each bring lunch one day a week for five people. Even people who love to spend often love a good deal. And even people who do seem to have a lot of discretionary income might like to go for a 15-minute walk on their lunch break (which is free and healthy). And maybe that could lead to a weekend hike and picnic. Moving to a new area always has the challenge of finding new friends. You may have to turn over a few stones, but the friends you seek are out there.
Jennifer in Rio del Mar, California
To find like-minded frugal friends, try looking first in your own backyard. Do you notice any of your co-workers often brown-bagging it for lunch or bragging about how she found a great new outfit on the clearance rack when you complimented her on it? What about church or other groups or organizations you belong to? Or your neighbors in the less-pricey neighborhood you live in (especially seniors whose generation was ingrained with common sense frugality)?
The easiest way to find like-minded friends is to let them come to you naturally. It's almost like dating in that a woman who projects a strong sense of self-respect and class will naturally attract men who appreciate those qualities, while the rest will quickly move on to someone else. Similarly, if you're open and unapologetic about being frugal, in a friendly, non-preachy way, those who feel the same (or at least are open to different ideas) will gravitate to you, while the big-spenders who roll their eyes at the "crassness" of economy won't even bother.
Seek out volunteer opportunities with organizations that serve primarily low-income families, such as the local food bank, Boys & Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Volunteers at such groups typically have both perspective and priorities compatible with (if not identical to) yours.
Elsie in North Georgia
Try posting on Craig's List for like-minded folks. There's a "Strictly Platonic" section, one for males and one for females. And there's sections for "Activities" and "General" under the Community header. Best of all, it's free!
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