The Value in Frugal

“The longer you work the more money you’ll have for retirement. But the longer you work, the less time you’ll have to enjoy that retirement.” ~ The Wall Street Journal

The retirement conundrum. Now or later? I was talking with one of my sisters the other day about retirement financial planning. I shared with her that I had pretty much mapped out how I intended to tap financial sources and fund my retirement – when I get there. There is considerable uncertainty in world markets and economic conditions, that even well crafted plans could be turned inside out. Still, I recognize the value in creating a plan and factoring for variables and change.

Intentionally, I have lived frugally for the last decade. It’s a simple lifestyle that I’ve chosen. I haven’t deprived myself, yet I haven’t lived my past, extravagant life. If you have a large nest egg and/or a generous pension to look forward to, then choosing frugality may not be necessary. For many, however, “pinching pennies” nowΒ is both conscientious and a prudent habit to have.

In the past 18 months I’ve engaged friends and colleagues in conversations about living frugally – as one plans for retirement and once retired. What I am learning is that there is a wide spectrum across which people plan and do not plan for their retirement. And for some of them, the concept of living frugally hasn’t factored into their current lifestyle. They either don’t need to or they just don’t know the value of money and what inflation does to it, at increasing rates, over time. Or, they don’t know value at all.

I’ve heard some interesting ideas from those already retired. A recurring theme is: begin to shift your lifestyle well before you retire, even if it’s just visualizing things differently. There are plenty of qualitative aspects to retired life that don’t cost a lot. And there are other facets where you might want to freely spend some of your nest egg. After all, living comfortably contributes significantly to one’s wellness.

The list of frugal possibilities seems endless. Here are three considerations for those already retired or for those who are still planning for life’s next act:

  1. Get what you can for free. And that’s plenty. Public libraries rent out not only books and movies, but they also run lots of free programs including lectures. Parks hold concerts for free and colleges frequently allow those aged 55+ to audit classes for free. You won’t earn credits toward a degree, but you will learn some new things.
  2. Swap and trade are words to live by. Offer your guest room to out-of-town visitors and you’ll feel better asking to use theirs. Use a home-swapping service when you visit new places. Trade your plumbing skills with a house painter. The one commodity that retirement gives everyone is time. Barter it for the lifestyle you want.
  3. Boats are things belonging to friends. To state the obvious, you can always rent a boat for a day of sailing or a weekend at sea. Let your boat-owning friends know that you’re “thinking” of buying one and ask if they would mind taking you out for the day? Most boat owners love to show off their toys. Many boat owners say the guests they like are the ones who stick around long enough after the day to help clean up and secure the vessel.

36 thoughts on “The Value in Frugal

  1. It’s so easy to get lost in this highly commercial world of disposability and instant gratification. Although there is truth in “value for money”, I still believe that the most valuable things in this material world are “priceless”.

  2. Oh Eric – I can’t bear to think! Is it denial? No! I am due in a few months to reach the pension – and I’m poor as a church mouse. It’s not that I ever wanted not to save; it’s just that I never could. I’m not uneducated, lazy, or incompetent; it’s just that I never landed in the right spot! The most I ever made in a week was $251 after taxes! Try saving on that on a $300 a week (cheap as it gets) rent! But I got my blog – and a Masters in English Reformation Lute Music, and a hundred other things I can do!

    • I’m sensing that “a hundred other things I can do!” are abundantly admirable and enviable in the eyes and minds of many who, perhaps, have “things” you don’t. You’ve got heart, humor, and depth of soul, Bruce. Be proud of and revel in those!

  3. We allowed our house to be part of a fundraiser for a Mid-Century modern house tour. People were surprised to learn that much of our furniture was bought at THRIFT STORES!

    The next most frugal thing we’ve done is to install solar panels. I was shocked to find last month’s electricity bill at $1.99.

    • Exactly, Glenn! I know someone who got a near-new golf cart at a thrift store for a fraction of even what a used one would cost. Tons of treasures in both thrift stores and (one of my favorites) consignment shops. πŸ™‚

  4. Downsize! We’re moving to a 2 bedroom/2 bath condo from a big honkin’ house. I am feeling liberated and am thinking of all the savings that goes along with this….lower bills on electric, and gas, etc.

    • Congratulations, Angeline! It’s such a prudent direction and choice. For so many reasons in addition to those you cite and anticipate! I love your apt word choice “liberated.” πŸ™‚

  5. Nice post and important topic Eric. I’m all for living simply regardless of our age. I happen to believe that more focus on quality of life, with less material stuff and consumption, are not only better for our beings, but our planet. πŸ™‚

  6. Great advice, Eric! As a frugal fellow here, I’m all about stretching my dollars and not going overboard with expenditures. Credit cards are a big problem in our society – the idea that ‘I’ll just pay for it later’ can really get folks into trouble. I had several thousand dollars of credit card debt a number of years ago but decided after paying it off that I’d only use my credit card if I could pay the amount in full each month. That’s helped me for sure.

    • I’ve come to sense (and know?) you as pragmatic and wise, Brian. Your practices (and comment) don’t surprise me and they are good counsel for many others who are presently where you once found yourself. Appreciate your ‘chiming in.” Stay well, friend.

  7. I think it’s natural for many of us to almost crave simplicity at a certain age. I’m at that “certain age” and being frugal just fits in with a simple lifestyle. I’m not yet retired, but it’s getting closer. I hope we’ve planned well enough, but regardless, simple is an important goal for me. πŸ™‚

    • I hear and agree with you, Debra, with perhaps one minor matter – and that is your choosing to place that “certain age” in quotes. Is there truly a “certain age?” πŸ™‚ Many of us are beginning to shift into the next phase of our lives and what’s important is that you have done some (maybe, a lot) of planning. Kudos to you! Many have given “what’s next?” not much thought at all. Agreed, too, simple is a great goal. Thanks for adding your thoughtful comment.

  8. Look up to Daniel Kahneman speeches – I’m not sure in which but he presents this notion that experiencing self and storytelling/memorizing self are in fact two separate selves everyone has.

    One of conclusions one can get from that is: there is no much more comfort or enjoyment above certain income. You can obviously spend more but then you are not experiencing any better, you just create memories. Then ask yourself how often and for how long you consume your memories (and how much of memories you lose through life).

    Something to take from this notion IMO would be that if one feels unhappy above, say 60k dollars a year, then he/she should rethink what “happy” means and on what premise one should achieve happiness and fulfillment. Because there is not much more to experience than what 60k dollars a year can buy.

    I think frugal living floats with that idea.

    Take care ^^

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Przemek. There are obviously, varying perspectives on the topic of frugality. And Kahneman is certainly entitled to express his.

      I do believe that “comfort” and “enjoyment” are subjective states, ones that are better (best?) personally defined, as individual conditions yield.

      I appreciate your creating time to add richness to this thread. Cheers!

  9. Many choices I make to save money turn into habits that make my life better now. Walking instead of paying for parking. Cooking meals and packing picnics instead of eating out, and using more veggies/less meat when doing so. Learning to make small repairs around my house. Meeting friends for a walk instead of a drink. Making art and games with my son from household stuff. My world is more creative and zestful when I live it this way. Funny how “poor” can be anything but.

    • Beautiful. Yours are excellent actions and reminders of how easy it can be (and is) to revisit our choices and habits. Kudos to you. Thanks for creating time to stop by and share your commendable experiences. Here’s to your creative and zestful world!

  10. I’ve always been a bit on the frugal side, valuing simplicity. (Never had an automatic dishwasher, and don’t mind it, so far.) So I appreciated this article. Just decreased my hours at my counseling (career) job to 30, so I can keep benefits and spend more time writing. Some day I’ll be a writer and an artist and maybe a part time counselor. Thanks for following my blog. I look forward to exploring yours!

  11. “…valuing simplicity.” Me too, Jo Anne. And if living so involves being a bit frugal (at choice), then all the better. Congratulations on choosing to decrease your ‘traditional’ workplace hours as you shift into doing what you love. Though I do (smiling) challenge you on the statement: “Some day I’ll be a writer and an artist…” You already are. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for creating time to share your thought comment.

  12. Retirement is different for each of us. After being forced into an early retirement after an accident at work, I sold up my house and moved to the south of France! That is when my life really began and what one of my blogs is about. Of course, I am busier than ever! LΓ©a

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