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Finances & Money Frugality

How are we not frugal [Personal Account]

Recently I’ve been writing a lot about frugality. I’ve been posting frugal tips like turning off your water and even showing you how to mass-produce PB&J sandwiches. But while it’s easy to tell people to turn down the heat or wear a hat in the house, we’re not that frugal ourselves. Actually, I should say that we can always be more frugal. For example:

  • We keep the heat at 72 when we’re in the house (except when we’re sleeping). In my article “Keeping warm in a cold home“, a number of you have commented how you keep your heat down in the 60s (even as low as 58). Let me tell you, though, that it’s taken 4 years to get Stacie to go from 74 to 72! To go below 70 is unthinkable right now, unless we were to reinsulate our exterior walls.
  • Rather than using a single water heater, we pay for peace at home by using both of our hot water tanks.
  • We eat out on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (when we feel like it). We restrict ourselves from eating our during the week, though. But I do eat out for lunch 1-2 times per week.
  • We don’t budget for clothes; we just buy them when we need them. However, we only every buy what we need and when it’s on sale. Our annual clothing expense is very minimal.
  • We dry clean our work clothes. Neither of us likes to iron, so we spend the extra $1.29 (or whatever it is now) to launder our shirts and dry clean our pants/skirts. It’s SOOO worth it in our minds. However, we re-wear shirts and pants at least 3-4 times before cleaning them (except in the summer when it could be 1-2 wears).
  • We have 2 vehicles, when I take mass transit to work. However, Stacie’s ride is a fuel-efficient MINI Cooper and I drive a weekend-warrior Honda Ridgeline. I do still get about 10,000 miles on the truck each year, even with riding the metro to work.

But do these non-frugal practices negate any advice I provide to you, my readers? I think not. And here’s why.

Why Listen To Me about Frugality?

While we don’t practice all the tips I write about, I am honest in my articles about whether it applies in our own life, including our successes or failures with each tip. Additionally, I recognize that some people are more able to practice a frugal lifestyle for various reasons and appreciate these tips. While you might not drop the heat down to 60 degrees in the winter, you might try to reduce it by 1 degree each week and see how far you can go. Some of us like experimenting with ways to save money (call it the Frugality Engineer in each of us) and getting someone else’s perspective really helps get past our own struggle to change.

So while I share methods to save money and reduce waste (don’t forget that one!) through frugal living, remember that it’s up to you to try it out and see if it works in your lifestyle. You might not see the reasoning in cutting open the toothpaste container to get the last ounce of paste out, but remember this, the rich don’t get and stay rich by spending money. Even the rich are frugal (if they want to stay rich), just sometimes on a different level than us “commoners”.

Be proud of being frugal, just don’t become “cheap” and don’t hold your frugality over others’ heads. Share how you save money, but don’t bash someone for being needlessly wasteful. Perhaps they never figured out how to make the transition to using or spending less. Perhaps their spouse or roomate doesn’t share the same frugal mindset.

And feel free to let me know your own frugal practices for future articles!

About the author

Clever Dude


  • We keep our home at 60 during the day (we work from home), 62 in the evenings if we’re watching TV & sitting and 55 at night. Personally I don’t know how people keep their homes so warm. I wear a fleece & a t-shirt and I’m just right at 60, when we got to other’s homes I’m roasting.

    We also have non-frugal practices:

    We like to warm up the car when it’s really cold (in the single digits) before we head out

    We have 2 cars one is just for fun driving (it’s a MINI Cooper S, and worth every penny),

    We have 4 pets that cost us over $100 a month for quality kibble & other expenses

    We don’t really cut corners when it comes to food, we buy organic, local, pastured. most of what we buy is much more expensive but I know it’s better for us and the environment.

    I’m sure there are more, it’s all about priorities. We choose things we want to be frugal on (no cable TV, keeping the house cold, etc), so we can spend in areas we want to like food & vacations.

  • Being “proud” of frugality is a very hard position to be in.

    I still drive my very first car- a ’95 Saturn- and do all the car repairs myself, but almost all the people I know, including my mother, tell me that it would “elevate my life” if I bought a new car. I keep telling myself to see it differently because I don’t see the point in racking up installment debt when my car runs just fine. Mostly, I think she’s worried about my being lonely. Besides, staying single (I turn 30 this year) is the most efficient way to wealth that I’ve found (not that it’s what I want, but it’s easier to be frugal when it’s only up to you).

  • All I have to say is good for all the people that put their own preferences and comforts above what others perceive to be as the “right way” to deal with money.

    You don’t have to practice what you preach when it comes to money, and others should not expect you to. It’s not as though you are telling people how to live, just giving tips and ideas for those that choose to be frugal. I am the same way in that I sometimes offer tips based on saving money and frugality, but I do not live a strict fugal lifestyle myself.

  • There are lots of tips that I write about at MYC that I no longer do. I have done the things that I write about at some point, particularly when I was starting out on my financial enlightenment journey, but some of these things I no longer feel I need to do. I’m pretty conservative about my spending (except with DVDs, which is a huge weakness), but I don’t feel the need to subsist on PB&J every night of the week…or, heaven forbid, slice open the toothpaste tube to get that last little bit out. So, I think finances is one area where you can compile tips and share them. It doesn’t mean anyone has to take them, it’s just giving them options.

  • There are certain things you will always pay full price for if you inconveniently run out – toilet paper, cough syrup, laundry detergent, tomato sauce. So I guess the most frugal thing I do is make sure I don’t completely run out. The only reason I’d pay $6 for a bottle of Pepto Bismol that I know I can get for half that when it’s on sale is when my stomach is less upset at the though of wasting $3 than it is from eating bad take-out.

  • I think what this country needs is for more people to be frugal. I think there are certain things that some people can handle and some people can’t. For example the heating in the house. To you bringing it down from 74 is frugal! That’s something to be proud of! If everyone was just a tad more concious about what they are doing i think our country would be in a better position today.

  • Living in the Midwest, we have our ‘heat’ at 65 and it’s perfectly fine for us. After a long winter of mind numbing temperatures, we wear shorts when it hits 40!

    @Andrea – in my opinion, buying a Wii isn’t necessarily ‘unfrugal’. If you can reduce the amount of income spent on entertainment in lieu of the Wii, it can ultimately be a cost saver. Also, think of all the fun nights together with friends in family!

    @Clever Dude – When you eat out, do you order drinks? Since you eat out so often, check out my blog post about the cost savings of asking for water!

    Stupidly Yours,


  • This post just gave me an idea for a post of my own. I do some things that are not considered frugal by others and one day a reader (good friend) called me a ‘frugal fraud’.

    This is the second post I have seen where people own up to their non-frugal practices so I think I will do a roundup on that.

    I keep my thermostat set at 70 and wear fuzzy pjs at night during the winter….but I only use brand name lotions on my skin!!!!!

  • @StupidCents – We definitely only drink water, but not just to be frugal. I want to get my calories from the food, not the drink. Sometimes we’ll get a hot chai at the Indian restaurant or an espresso at the Ethiopian place, but we never order sodas or iced teas.

    @Lulugal – I know you light your bathroom with a candle. I’ve read that post before 😉

  • One of the reasons many people enjoy following you is your honesty. You are like the average person, which is why so many can relate. You can still be frugal but the reality is you are going to live your life, not make frugality be the end all and get in the way of life. Little practices can make differences. My thing is I only eat lunch out max once a week if that. I try hard to brown bag and cook at home and am happy with my success.

  • Wii can be quite frugal. With so many games and training options on just the Sports and Fit disks, it will be a long time before we need to buy any more games. We normally keep our thermostat at 66 but we get such a workout that we turn it down to 64 or even 62 whenever we play! Plus, the Fit (which was a gift) motivates me to exercise indoors when the weather is nasty and saves me from a gym membership or yoga classes.

  • I consider myself pretty frugal, but a few things come to mind where I kind of splurge:

    I lease cars and get a new one every 3 or 4 years. I know this is appalling to personal finance experts, but I like driving nice cars, and to me, it’s worth paying more for it rather than buying a Honda or Toyota and keeping it for 10+ years.

    I have a Netflix subscription, which costs ~$18/month for all the DVDs I can watch (worth it to me because I use Netflix instead of cable and seeing movies in theaters).

    I can’t live without my Diet Dr. Pepper. I probably average at least 2 cans per day. But I buy it only when it’s on sale, and never for more than $.25/can, and I almost never drink alcohol (which is way more expensive than pop, even at full price).

    To me, the whole point of frugality is saving money on things that don’t add value to your life so that you have more money for things that do add value (and that includes saving for emergencies and retirement because of the value of financial security).

  • Well, you sound like normal American’s to me except that you try not to eat out at lunch a whole lot.

    My biggest splurge is that we have season tickets to University of Texas football games. We have to donate a little money and the tickets are not cheap, but going to games is one of the most exciting parts of the year for us (shocker, people from TX like football 🙂 ).

    My other splurge is that we go to dinner every once in a while with friends. We really enjoy being around friends. We’d like to incorporate more get togethers at our house and friend’s homes, but that doesn’t happen as much as we’d like.

    Great article!

  • Great thoughts!

    I really liked the last paragraph that sums it up. There is a huge difference between being frugal and being cheap. When my wife and I used to go get fast food, one of us would get a combo meal and the other just get the “entree” (can you call it that?!), so we could share a drink and fries! That may be pushing it!

    Thankfully we’re now debt free, so she can have her own drink and fries!

  • We keep our apartment at 70-72. At that temperature, I typically wear flannel pj pants with a thick sweat shirt, hand knit wool socks and usually have a blanket at my desk and on the couch. My toes and fingers still get cold. It’s more expensive to keep it that warm, but it’s not going to change. I spend all winter long constantly cold, and I refuse to sit around literally shivering in my own home.

  • I agree that it’s important to have compassion for other people and respect their different lifestyles, and as much as it’s important to be proud of being frugal (it’s easy to go the other way and feel ashamed) it’s important to show understanding towards those who have a hard time learning about or living the frugal life.

  • In regards to eating out, I’ve actually started eating out more on weekdays than on weekends, as many restaurants have good deals on Mondays and Tuesdays in particular! If possible, I go for weekday lunch, too, outside of work centers to save more by ordering lunch specials. You still get variety and save time on cooking, but it’s overall cheaper.

  • Very good post. We each have own little indulgences, and the fact that you have them as well shouldn’t negate any good advice you provide. And one of the least helpful things I can imagine is someone trying to talk down to another person for not being ‘frugal’ enough. (Not to be confused with helping or challenging someone to be more frugal by providing advice and encourage, of course.)

    As for not becoming cheap, I think that’s harder, if only because everyone has a different idea of what it is to be cheap. What you consider a perfectly reasonable way to trim your expenses might strike me as excessively penny-pinching, and vice versa. As long we keep the discussion civil, we can all air our little quirks and personal takes on money and savings.

  • We too eat out up to three times a week. As much as I try to plan for the week, sometimes it really IS easier and less time consuming to order healthy-take out or hit the salad bar at Whole Foods on the way home from work. That doesnt include our foodie tendencies to eat out at least once during the weekend.

    I dont budget for clothes either as much as I try. With that said, I only shop at sample sale, clearances, eBay, thrift, etc.

    We have two NICE cars though I do plan on getting rid of one of them.

    When it comes to food (groceries), we spend more than most people do probably but its all about health and well-being. I dont buy packaged/processed foods, but I cannot eat many cheap foods such as gluten, other grains, soy, legumes and really bad processed food (Top Ramen) for health reasons so our food bill does go up.

    Sometimes, I really dot get irritated at the many finger pointing frugal /live cheap blogs out there (mostly the tone) though I know its very important in times like these.

    Other things we do out of being frugal is also good for the environment.

  • I think prioritizing is very important. Very few people can be 100% frugal all the time and life is to be enjoyed. To be super-duper frugal people would have to consider any relaxation time at all time that could be spent on a second job saving more money. No fun!

    Of course it’s important to make sure your budget (in the areas where you don’t splurge!) is as tight as can be 🙂

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