The Case for Frugality

by Shawanda Greene

Post image for The Case for Frugality

I’ve been told by a few people to stop being cheap. It’s interesting that every person who has told me that has a lower net worth than me. They don’t seem to understand the purpose of being frugal. I think they believe I enjoy self deprivation and sacrifice. There are probably a few of you out there who get a rush from participating in activities that bring you within an inch of insanity or death, but I don’t particularly care for such things.

I’m not independently wealthy. At least, not yet. Although there are certain material possessions I quite enjoy, my primary purpose for wealth accumulation has very little to do with stuff accumulation. For me, being frugal is a means to the ultimate goal: FREEDOM.

You see. When you don’t have the resources, i.e., money, to buy the things that are necessary for your survival, you’re at the mercy of your provider. Whether that provider be an employer, a spouse, a parent, or, for those of you who are self-employed, a customer, you’re a slave.

Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than feeling out of control. I’ll tolerate authority, but I don’t like it. I’ve decided I’ll conform just enough to function and progress in society. If you’re even a little like me then you’ve thought about the possibility of losing your passion for your current profession. If you didn’t have any money, would you be relegated to a job that the mere thought of caused you to seize up in terror?

You may already have a boss whose face makes you ill. Would you look at that mug everyday if you were financially independent?

What about your spouse? Would the loss of their income render you insolvent? I’m not suggesting that you don’t have an income of your own. You might bring in more bread than your significant other, but the question remains: Do you depend on their spoils?

Regardless of how well you get along with any of your providers, unforeseen circumstances could lead to the deterioration and dissolution of your current arrangement.

Death, disability, bankruptcy, incarceration, and ANY other untold number of things could leave you wondering how you’re going to take care of yourself.

Okay that’s pretty grim, but allow me to share what drives me to be frugal. It’s the uncertainty. It’s the feeling that ultimately, with the exception of God, all my hope rests in me. I look forward to the day that I won’t have to work. Not that I’ll ever stop working, I just don’t want to be required to work in order to sustain myself. I want the freedom to tell, at a moment’s notice, any previous provider that I’m done…

A couple of years ago, I got a taste of what freedom feels like. At the time, I had $7,500 saved up. Although I worked for a wonderful company, I suffered from stress-induced, work-related chest pains. Basically, I hated my job. On the fateful evening of Wednesday, November 27, 2006, an inconsiderate and arrogant manager I worked with decided to chastise me in front of a fellow team member. Being that I was a colleague and not his wife or kid, I was especially infuriated by this behavior. Friday, November, 29, 2006  rolled around, and I politely and professionally put in my two weeks resignation notice without so much as a single job prospect.

Now, $7,500 may seem trivial, but it was enough to get me through about three months of unemployment. Fortunately, my job search only lasted two weeks. Although I admit my skills were in pretty high demand at the time, the stench of desperation is still the saboteur of the most qualified of candidates.

As was the case a couple years ago, I find the quickest and simplest way to save money is to decrease your expenses. Primarily because dramatically increasing your income in the short run, generally, isn’t practical. As a salaried employee, overtime is a waste of time if you’re looking to increase your net cash flow immediately. You might get a bonus of some unknown amount if you work longer, harder, and faster for your employer.

Even if you’re an hourly employee, overtime may not be an option provided by your employer.

If you decide that a second job is the way to go, I’d encourage you to crunch the numbers before jumping in. Where I live, middle income workers could end up forking over 40% of those additional earnings in taxes, e.g, state, federal, Social Security, Medicare, so it may not be worth the effort to take a part-time job making much less than what you earn as a full-timer.

If you live a frugal life, you’ll have more time and money to follow your passion or focus on more lucrative business opportunities. If you have a business idea that requires a modest amount of start up capital, you can use your own savings to finance your vision. You won’t have to fool with investors or lending institutions who’ll, rightfully, want a return on their investment. Again, you’ll be free to run your business as you desire without outside input from those who have a vested interest in your success.

Frugality means adhering to a simpler, greener way of living. You’ll have to give some things up. Although it may be painful in the beginning, consider what you’ll eventually obtain: FREEDOM.

This article was featured in the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights: Sweet 16 Edition! Check out the other articles at Wise Bread.

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