Saving is Invisible

Mercedes, watch, suit.

We often feel compelled to treat ourselves and wear specific brands, drive a nicer car, wear a fancy watch, buy the newest gadgets, compete to have the largest TV, disproportionately show off our rare and nicest moments and travels on social media, etc. We have pride and we want to be cool.

Spending is Visible

Similarly, we also tend to associate the level of other’s prosperity with what we see them doing, wearing, and buying. The truth is what we see people spend their money on tells us nothing about their level of success; it only tells us about their level of spending.

We share with the world when we have a special event or dine out and we pay attention to others who are doing the same. This isn’t really bad or wrong, but it does give us a disproportionate look at life. We see everyone’s best moments, and we share ours too, leading to sometimes subconscious comparison and competition.

Comparison is the thief of joy – Theodore Roosevelt

The problem with our desire to treat ourselves or signal an elevated status is that it often requires some kind of expense. By playing keep up with the Jones’s we commit to a losing contest where we judge our success compared to other’s by looking at what we purchased vs. what they purchased.

A collection of expensive dress shoes. Just because.
A collection of expensive dress shoes. Just because.

Saving is Invisible

No one is taking selfies while making a deposit at the bank or updating their automatic investment contribution amounts. The problem with saving money is that you’re not necessarily satisfying your pride and desire to achieve what looks like a higher status to yourself and others.

How would we modify our saving habits if we always knew the value of each other’s savings? Imagine if, in some kind of video game-esque reality, everyone had a bubble over their heads with their net worth always visible. People would almost certainly modify their behavior to maximize that number just like they act now to maximize likes on social media.

The biggest deterrent to saving is we don’t see each other do it.

A piggy bank. Value of fortune contained unknown.
A piggy bank. Value of fortune contained unknown.

A Humble Middle Ground

Hording money can lead to problems as well. After all, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. However, we should make an effort to be self-aware and wise with our resources. We should realize when we’re envying status as well as when we’re loving money. Then make an effort to remain rational, which can be quite difficult when it comes to money.

Being frugal can mean choosing to appear to have less status in the world by taking a slightly more humble route. Keep driving that old car, wearing those generic brand jeans, and breaking down those worn shoes. Do the invisible: save to create real status. Buy things that deliver actual value rather than a perception or feeling of status.

Frugal Theory

Frugal Theory category brainstorm.

Frugal Theory is a school of thought that focuses on obtaining greater value through economical choices. Frugality is a mental exercise and real world practice of allocating personal finances, time, energy, space, and other resources in order to maximize value.

Frugal Practices

There are a wide variety of people practicing different types of frugal lifestyles. Some people may simply be careful coupon-clipping grocery shoppers trying to save an extra $50 per month. Others are minimalists who try not to buy things they don’t need. Others may be attempting to live off-grid sustained by their property. And some are saving everything they possibly can so they may retire early.

Some general categories of frugal practices that will be covered here include:

  • Frugal Theory category brainstorm.
    Frugal Theory category brainstorm.

    Personal Finance, budgeting, and investing.

  • Lifestyle, goals, wanting and using less.
  • Sustainability, efficiency, reuse and re-purposing.
  • Food that is filling, in season, on sale.
  • Do it yourself when possible rather than buying everything.
  • Shopping smart, buying value rather than price.

Stereotypes

Common criticisms are that frugal people are cheap, suffering, poor, or just not “living life” in a normal enough way to be happy. While some people do fit these stereotypes, there are many frugal practices with more benefits than drawbacks. Many frugal ideas are not part of conventional wisdom despite their benefits because these practices generally require extra work, research, and/or thought.

Being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap. It means making choices that create greater financial freedom, value, and happiness.

Mission

The goal here is to share ideas and information that helps people make better financial choices, get more value out of what they have, and get more out of their resources with the goal of financial freedom.

FrugalTheory.com will share practical ideas that the average person can implement. Topics will include personal finance, investing, smart shopping, do-it-yourself projects, affordable and healthy cooking, minimalism, reuse, sustainability, mental discipline, and more.