“Frugality Vs. Quality Of Life”. That sounds like a title fight. Two heavy weight contenders going at it. But, it’s not like that. Frugality and quality of life are not necessarily at odds with one another, nor are they mutually exclusive. However, I thought I’d share some of my experiences with living (extremely) frugally over the past year and how it’s affected my quality of life.
I’ve experimented with cutting many expenses since I started to adapt a frugal lifestyle. Some have worked out for the best, and some not. Some expenses can easily be trimmed from one’s budget, whereas others do affect quality of life negatively. This is where the “personal” in personal finance comes into play. Only you can know what you’re comfortable with.
- I tried a VOIP-based cell phone for a few months. Basically, I could only make and receive phone calls over an internet connection. The cost was $10/month. The cost was great, the experience was not. It started to impact personal relationships after only a couple months, as it was difficult to get a hold of me and it was difficult to clearly hear my voice when I was able to be reached. I canned that idea, and have since settled on a $40/mo. prepaid cell phone with unlimited minutes. It’s a happy compromise.
- I cut my gym expense. I was paying $30/month to work out at a fitness facility. I thought “I can do better than that” and canceled the membership. I decided to run outside and do push-ups and sit-ups at home. This didn’t work. I found that I wasn’t motivated enough to run around in a big circle outside for half an hour or more. I decided recently to reinstate my gym membership. I decided that keeping my health in a good state is important and worth at least the $30/mo. I’m paying. Another happy compromise.
- I sold my car last summer. I proudly and doggedly lived without a car for about nine months. I took the bus, walked and bicycled everywhere I had to go. It worked out pretty well. Unfortunately, the bus was not reliably getting me to work on time and I had to recently purchase a car. If I didn’t have such a tight schedule at work, or if I was already financially independent I might permanently live without a car. It’s actually quite easy to get around without a car if you live in an appropriate location and if you have an open mind. This is one expense that I don’t think affected my quality of live negatively, but it did isolate me. I’m not sure about others who live without a car, but I found it was difficult to meet up with friends after work and it was hard to relate my story to others when I’m living that “extreme”. In this way, living car-free did affect my quality of life. I’m a bit more social now that I own a car again. If I lived in a very big city, being without a car would probably not be an issue at all.
These are just a few personal examples where I cut expenses and I was able to see first-hand how my quality of life was affected. I think, most of all, these examples show you how important it is to have balance. Balance in life is key, as you want to save money for tomorrow and delay gratification but at the same time you have to live a little today. Life is short and you don’t know how long you have on this planet, so while living below your means is extremely important in my opinion, you also have to strike a balance between frugality and quality of life. I decided that maintaining personal relationships was much more important than saving $30 on a cell phone bill, that being healthy and in shape is worth the gym membership that is necessary to keep me motivated and that retiring early/becoming financially independent isn’t all that great if you’re isolated from everyone else. I mean how fun is it to be financially free at a young age if you’re lonely, out of touch and out of shape?
Balance is key. I’m learning as I go and I lived extremely frugally in 2011. I look forward to trying my best to maintain a high savings rate in 2012, but I also look forward to trimming back the “extremeness” this year. I look forward to striking the most harmonious balance between frugality and quality of life. I think that if one strikes an appropriate balance between quality of life and frugality, it makes the journey much more pleasant and sustainable. If you’re doing nothing but eating rice and beans, staying at home every single weekend and maintaining isolation in the search of an ability to save as much money as possible the journey may prove to be difficult and unsustainable. I lived an extremely frugal year, and came out great and learned along the way. I don’t think I’d want to live so frugally for the rest of my life. After all, I think everything is a means to an end. Living frugally and investing in dividend growth stocks (my dividend mantra) is a way for me to achieve personal financial freedom from the chains of being a wage slave. I’d like to be in command of my own destiny and be the master of my own time. Being the master of my own time isn’t very comforting if I can’t do anything, see anyone or eat the things I like to eat.
I hope this doesn’t come across as negativity in the face of frugality. I believe frugality affords an average wage earner the best chance at having excess capital to build wealth through an appropriate and well-thought investing plan. Frugality is something I live by every day. I drive a 13-year old car, talk on a cheap prepaid cell phone, eat as cheaply and at the same time healthily as possible and work-out to not only feel good but also to save on future health care costs. But, I think it’s important to have balance and important to maintain a quality of life that you’re comfortable with and one that’s sustainable. The journey to financial independence is not a race, and if it was one it wouldn’t be a sprint.
Let’s have balance in 2012!
Thanks for reading.
Photo Credit: renjith krishnan