10 Top Reasons People Are Frugalphobic

 Frugalphobic -- Wide-eyed Man Holding His MoneyDespite all the great financial advice being distributed online, one topic remains off-limits in the lives of many: Frugality. To be sure, many folks are frugal and thrifty, and it’s even become an internet fad over the years, especially if you struggle to save money or make a decent income and hope to gain financial independence. Nevertheless, regardless of the freedom and the benefits that come from frugal-hood, a large segment of society continues to avoid the subject or is self-inhibited against it.

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Below are 10 top reasons why people reject being frugal (some of which are interrelated).

1. Expensive Tastes

Have you ever had a hankering for something fancy and expensive, or appreciated the handiwork and craftsmanship of a high-quality item? Many have a taste for quality, for costly brands and products, and as long as they can obtain them — even if the prospect for financial independence depends upon their rate of spending — they won’t live frugally. To live frugally you must be satisfied with less. So if you simply can’t be happy with less, you won’t lower your standard of taste unless you have no choice. For example, imagine someone with expensive tastes…

  • Driving a cheaper brand or 2nd- (or 3rd, 4th, 5th) hand, smaller car.
  • Wearing cheaper brand/2nd-hand clothes and other wearables.
  • Using cheaper brand/2nd-hand/smaller or even NO electronics: PC, mobile phone, TV, entertainment system.
  • Living in a small house in a modest neighborhood.
  • No longer choosing high-quality purchases.

2. Expensive Interests / Hobbies 

People love their hobbies and interests, and that’s a good thing. Well, maybe not always. I met a couple recently who were avid ATV enthusiasts and frequented the local ATV parks. Their machine topped 20 grand with all the add-ons and what-not. Most of the folks who visit the parks also have decked-out, oversize heavy-duty pickup trucks and trailers to haul their ATV’s back and forth. And those places get really crowded, there are a lot of people who enjoy these cool, expensive rides.

Now, I’m not faulting anyone’s choice of recreation, they have every right to spend their money as they wish. We all have our thing. Nevertheless, I was truly curious how so many could afford the expense — I couldn’t, and my earnings are at least fair for what I do. Was I really that far behind them all in income and savings? So, I asked them. And they said, “We just put it all on credit, like you do your car or your house!” Ouch! To me, it would be one thing if they had oodles of “disposable” income (I dislike that phrase as well!). But instead, they just financed it with more debt. And then, of course, it costs extra for travel, gas, entry to the parks, maintenance, repairs, etc. Anything pricey usually costs much more to use and maintain on a repeated basis.

Now again, it’s their (negative) money, I understand they’re having a great time of it. They like red dollars (in the red), I like “green” ones. But remember, this is just one of the “reasons” why FRuGaL is a dirty word for some, and this certainly isn’t the way to scrimp. It comes down to the adrenaline rush and camaraderie, and people pay handsomely for it.

Think of all the expensive sports and hobbies there are. Here are just a few:

  • Motorcycling
  • Drag racing
  • Auto restoration
  • Extreme sports of various types (skydiving, scuba diving)
  • Model railroading
  • Art Collecting
  • Boating
  • Aviation
  • Equestrianism

It would probably be more difficult to name hobbies that aren’t expensive.

3. Comfort Level

Comfort is first-cousin to expensive tastes. In order to live frugally, you have to manage a certain level of discomfort, either emotionally, physically or both. Again, you must be satisfied with less. Living frugally and downsizing are nearly the same. Unless you’re already frugal, you’ll need to downsize to get there, and downsizing means both going smaller as well as going cheaper. And having less may mean giving up comfort, such as:

  • Being hotter in summer and chillier in winter as you lower your A/C and heat usage to cut your utility bills. This is a huge toughie for some, and they simply aren’t going to do it regardless of how much it costs.
  • Living in tighter quarters.
  • Driving a smaller and/or older vehicle that doesn’t look as good or ride as nice. You might have to do without the soft leather, the sunroof, the remote start and the dual-climate control.
  • Taking shorter or less-steamy showers, with less water pressure.
  • Cut down or cut out entertainments that cost money.
  • Don’t eat so many comfort foods.
  • Don’t use Retail Therapy as a mood-enhancement.
  • Cut out the mani/pedis and spa treatments.
  • Going completely without toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap … Juust kidding on this one. You don’t have to become a vagabond to be frugal. But then again … if you really want to cut down on costs … just don’t get too close to anybody.

4. Habit and Mindset

It’s hard to get self-motivated and break out of your current mold, even when you should. And sometimes people aren’t even aware of how they spend because they’re on auto-pilot. Automating your expenses can help with income and spending. But you have to switch from Sport mode to Eco mode with your finances first. Automating isn’t enough if you’re still sending too much of your money to the bill collectors automatically. You may need to invest some time researching money-saving ideas and how to implement them. Then you actually have to put them into practice to establish new habits, it won’t “just happen.” And none of this will occur unless your mindset is properly aligned with reasonable goals and you’re ready to make a change for the better.

For this, it would be helpful to visit some informational and entertaining on-line resources to get you going. Here are a few links :

You can even do your own search as there are far too many good ones out there to list here (just remember to come back to this site by subscribing!) Even if you don’t apply everything you learn from these sites, there’s a great community of people you will have discovered!

5. Apprehension / Fear

Some are averse to frugal living because they’re afraid of what they’d have to give up in the process. Related to the Habit and Mindset disinclination, there’s a certain fear in making this kind of lifestyle change. Articles have shown how certain life events produce stress: moving to a new location, switching jobs, death of a family member, change in financial state, change in living conditions — see more here. So until someone has a positive change of mind with regard to living with less, there can be a certain fear toward downsizing your life:

  • How will you make out? Will you be content with less once you’ve committed?
  • What will others think of you, will the Joneses think you’ve given up and declare victory? Will your family stop coming around because they’re uncomfortable with your new lifestyle? Will you look like a failure or an extreme oddball?
  • Maybe you have strong attachments to things you would have to sell or get rid of to pursue a simpler life.
  • You’ll have to deny yourself in some areas.
  • There’s a challenge involved getting to the end-point, it’s not effortless.
  • How far do I go with this?

6. Laziness / Busy-ness

It’s tedious to create a detailed budget in a spreadsheet, it requires both time and energy. It takes much less effort to use an on-line resource, such as Personal Capital, to analyze your cash flow. Nevertheless, it does require that we apply ourselves to fulfill the goal of living with and spending less. It takes time, effort and deliberation to get moving on it. A large percentage of people will just ignore any thought about downsizing or being frugal. Another large percentage might find the idea interesting, and a subset of those might even give it some thought. But only a smaller percentage will actually take action and do something about it, either because the rest just aren’t motivated or are too busy to make it happen.

7. Addiction to Spending / Possessions

Sale! Today Only! Clearance! Just $X! As low as $Y! Buy two, get one! Some are addicted to the call of Retail Therapy to one degree or another, or they’re hooked on owning stuff, and that’s simply not a frugal way to live. Maybe they started out to impress others, or to indulge in the dopamine high they get from buying some cool, new item, and they go prodigal from there. The only remedy for this is to receive a little Retail Therapy Therapy, or get to know someone on the opposite end of the addiction spectrum. There’s a freedom to spending and owning less, but they won’t realize it until they’re loosed from the addiction.

8. Expectations / Peer Pressure

Related to fear and apprehension, it’s miserable to be caught up in the spiral of others’ expectations and peer pressure — either from family, friends, coworkers, social groups or even the media — to keep up a certain image or reputation. This is even worse than keeping up with the Joneses, it’s trying to keep up with everyone else due to the unrealistic expectations placed on you. And it’s just as hard to break free from this as it is dopamine addiction or possession-prison, because, if you become frugal, you might let others down or be rejected by them. But you really need to ask the serious question: Why are they let down? Is it because they expect certain things from you? Why do they really care?

9. Ignorant / Ill-advised Spending Proclivity

There are those who are just, shall we say, willingly or ignorantly naïve with their money. They waste their money on totally useless stuff. Consider how much is spent on the following, which are usually (maybe not in every case), not recommended:

  • Excess alcohol
  • Excess gambling, lottery tickets or speculation
  • Drugs and other illicit activity
  • Extended warranties (usually)
  • Timeshares (usually)
  • ATM / overdraft / late fees
  • High interest / debt payments
  • Larger packages / bundles than you need / can afford
  • Unused gym, club (or other) memberships
  • Generally living at or above your means
  • Fill in the blank here … as this list could easily go on indefinitely.

The best remedy for this is to become better educated (or rehabbed in some instances), and to budget your expenditures to see where everything goes. Then take a sharp knife to your expenses and don’t hold back.

10.  Abundance Of Money

I saved the most obvious one for last. If you have an abundance of income and/or savings, there’s really no pressing need to change-up your lifestyle and downsize. You’re not as likely to do so unless you’re committed to a non-consumerist way of living because of your personal values. Some with money resist lifestyle inflation and the call to possessions, but many do not. So, if you have absolutely no inclination to cut spending or to reduce consumption because it doesn’t negatively impact your financial situation, you’re not likely to go all economical all of a sudden.

That’s not to say that people with money can’t mismanage their finances, of course. We’ve all read or heard stories about actors, sports stars and lottery winners who have somehow (and sadly) squandered their fortunes, so it befits them as well to live with a shrewd sense of personal finance. But that’s a different matter than being thrifty.

So there you have it! 10 top reasons why FRuGaL remains a 4-letter word in a high-consumption society. The bottom line for most of these is the conspicuous fact that many could not care less, and if they wish to work until they’re as old as Methuselah, good on them!

I’m sure you can think of even more, right? What is your frugal-phobia?

Thanks for reading! Please join the discussion and leave a comment below.


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8 Replies to “10 Top Reasons People Are Frugalphobic

  1. Thanks for the mention.

    My FRuGaL fear is of going in the opposite direction. I’ve deliberately kept myself away from the Mr. Money Mustache forums because the one thread about folks using rock salt, instead of deodorant on the armpits, freaked me out! (Not real deodorant with rock salt in it, which is somewhat of a fad, but like a rock or crystal that lasts for years.)

    Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year to you! I guess that’s one item I hadn’t thought of trying. I’m usually pretty sparing in my usage (use only the minimum needed and don’t waste it) so I didn’t see that as a big money waster. Was it the idea of the rock itself or the discussion that freaked you out? I took a look and saw some interesting comments — some called it a hippie rock — others saying their coworkers didn’t complain about “smell.” Ha ha. MMM certainly has some more intense ideas that save him money, and I have to assume they work for others, so it’s not too surprising to see.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. The comments in the MMM forums go way beyond what Pete, himself, would do I think.

    It’s the hippy thing but it also seems to me like frugality for the sake of frugality. I’ll spare you some of the more “personal” of personal hygiene stuff the women discuss but it’s pretty out there.

    1. Yeah, I guess that’s why he calls it a cult — because they’re really into it on a deeper level. That’s what sets him apart, though. For some of his more common savings ideas, most have come to the same conclusions on their own. It’s the “out there” ideas that draw attention, the sense that you have to be a bit renegade. I’m not on that level by any means, it’s enough that people think we’re nuts to keep our house at 64 in the Winter and 81 in summer. (Mrs Rybo would go even farther — I’m the holdout.)

  3. AWESOME LIST!

    Obviously frugality is the name of the game for me, but it isn’t for most people my age (25) that I interact with. For some reason the younger person’s mentality when presented with alot of money is to flaunt it because they have it. They believe that this money is going to be a consistent flowing stream that never runs out. They never prepare for the “what-if I get fired?” or “what if my job becomes obsolete?”

    I actually had a funny encounter with one of my close buddy/co-workers the other week. I brought a PB&J for lunch and they bought their typical $10 food truck lunch. When I asked why they buy everyday instead of bringing on occassions, and the response was “because I am not poor.” They are also the same person that told me they are going to retire at 50, yet have auto loan debt, a tiny emergency fund, and investing in the single digits to their retirement accounts.

    I am not sure when/why being frugal ever became something that is looked down upon, but I like to believe it is just the result of people who are insecure with their own finances, making them put down others who seem to manage their money well.

    Great post!

    1. It’s almost like there’s a certain power-feeling when you have more money to spend. For me, I didn’t start making a good income until a little later in life. I had to live frugally in my 20’s because I had no choice. But once I started making a decent income — I forsook that and started spending more than I should have in some areas “because now I have the money, I can do what others do that I couldn’t before.” The problem there was that I was embarrassed that I simply couldn’t afford to do what others could, I didn’t have a frugal mindset as a way of life. And when confidence is high and things are going well, it’s a lot easier to forget the future! I was just ignorant, too — I didn’t learn proper investing habits early enough. That’s why it’s WAY better to be informed and to get started early as a matter of principle.

  4. Rybo – Thank you so much for the shout out!

    I especially appreciate your Comfort Level point. I’ve found that purposely making myself uncomfortable is a major key to long-term happiness and growth. It’s the philosophy of the Stoics.

    Of course, I do this in moderation and in a reasonable way because nobody wants to be uncomfortable all the time, but a bit of discomfort is a good thing. For instance, I’m about to go running outside when it’s below freezing and I’m definitely going to be uncomfortable. I try to do one or two moderately uncomfortable things every day, so that I later appreciate the comforts that I have.

    1. Thanks @Mr. Freaky Frugal. I have to admit … my wife is better at the discomfort thing than I am. She also runs regardless of whether it’s colder out than Antarctica (unless it’s icy). She also used to keep her heat at 55 degrees in winter before we got married (“before” being the operative word, there). It’s at a near-balmy 64 when I’m home — Florida weather. But when I’m out, it gets turned down some more. Once the bill comes in, though, it makes a pretty big difference.

Thanks for reading! What say you?