Frugality is a grossly misunderstood concept. To most people, it means scraping by on the absolute least amount that you can, and sometimes simply going without. My friends often misunderstand me when I say that I can’t do something, or simply state that I’m going to purchase that in a couple months once I save up the money.
“You need to treat yourself sometimes,” they exclaim. “If you can’t afford it, I can cover you! You can just pay me back later.” It’s usually at this point that I have to stop and explain myself a bit better. Because while I know they mean well, it’s rare that I don’t physically have the money—it’s more that I am simply being careful about my spending that month, or that I already spent my fun money elsewhere. The leftover money is set for other things.
Because, despite what people think, being frugal does not make you a miser. But frugal people don’t spend money like everyone else, and that can be confusing to some people. So the next time you find yourself struggling to explain what frugality really is to non-frugal people, here are some tips:
1. Don’t use the word ‘frugal’
Frugal has become something of a dirty word and has all kinds of associations that you may not want, depending on your social circle. So, even though you technically are frugal, don’t claim that title. Instead, simply say you’re saving money, or that your budget is a little tight. People understand that and are less likely to push or become confrontational.
2. Don’t lament your frugality, or be superior about it
No one is frugal on accident, and it’s not as bad as people tend to think. When you’re explaining your frugal lifestyle, avoid lamenting that you have no money. It’s only going to make things awkward. The same goes for bragging about how little money you spent last month. While some people may take it well and congratulate you, others will feel threatened as they aren’t doing the same. Frugality isn’t for everyone, and while that might be normal for you, for others it may not be. Be understanding about it.
3. Be open about why you’re frugal
The main thing that people rarely understand is why someone would choose to be frugal. Why save money when you could spend it? Even if you aren’t comfortable explaining exactly how much debt you have, how much you need to save, or how little you make, explaining it in generic terms can help friends and family better understand your situation. As a bonus, it might stop some of those invites to pricey events and the constant talk about buying things.
4. Explain what your frugality does and doesn’t allow
Everyone does frugality a little differently. For some, that means not spending money on cable but still going out for coffee regularly, while other people may have cable and avoid eating out entirely. Talking with family members and saying exactly what activities/things you’re changing will help them find ways to spend time together that you are comfortable with.
So, have you ever had to have this discussion with others? How do you help friends and family understand your frugality? Tell me in the comments below!