It’s about living well, not being cheap

Adam Garden, My Life, Personal Finance 12 Comments

(null)I’ve been thinking about Mr. Money Mustache’s recent conversation with Andrew Horowitz and the misconceptions he had about what it means to live frugally. Being frugal doesn’t mean cheap. It doesn’t mean deprivation. It’s not about eliminating everything fun in your life that you enjoy.

As MMM says, 

This is not about being cheap, minimalist, or extreme.

It’s about using logic and science to design a Slightly Less Ridiculous Than Average Lifestyle in order to live more happily.

(null)Sometimes the online FI community focuses way too much on the coffee and cable cost cutting and we all love to talk about those who go to an extreme to pay off debt or save up. And why shouldn’t we? Those are great stories. We all love the big transformation. But they’re not compelling as a lifestyle. It’s the difference between a crash diet and a healthy, happy lifestyle. That’s why I think the man with the mustache has gained such a following. He doesn’t focus on the dollars, he focuses on living well. We don’t just ride bikes because it saves gas, but because it’s good exercise and we get to be outside. DIY projects don’t just save money, they build skills. We choose efficiency because we hate waste.

(null)This week, I managed to sit by a fire with wood I chopped, drinking a glass of wine at home while I read a book and listened to some music. Grand total = about $5 between the wine and firewood. The next day I started out morning with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice right off tree in my backyard. I finished off the evening with a salad picked from my own garden beds. There is something immensely satisfying about that, in a way I wouldn’t have understood before giving it a shot.

(null)Did I do these things because I wanted to save $50 and not go out with friends Thursday to the bar? No, I did it because I enjoy going out less and less, the weather was perfect for a fire, and I like a glass of wine and a book. I don’t pick oranges becuase they’re free (though that’s an incredible side benefit). I do it because they’re more fresh and healthy than anything I can buy in a store, and it TASTES BETTER. I don’t just grow my own vegetables to save money. In fact, it’s probably a money loser for at least 2 years when you account for the cost of wood and dirt for raised beds. But I do get the satisfaction of digging in the dirt and watching something grow, which feels good after a day of staring at screens. It also provides exercise and fresh air, and much higher quality than I can buy in a store. 

(null)Living well is about the money, but it’s not JUST about the money. It’s about living the life you want to live and understanding what really makes people happy (hint – it’s never more stuff). Living a good life full of love, laughter and friendship. Doing those things in the right manner will also lead to greater wealth, but that can’t be the only goal.  


Some fun garden shots as we hit the end of the winter season. Here’s where we’re picking those salads every day. (null)





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Comments 12

    1. Post

      My life has become filled with old man hobbies, that also happen to save money. I would have never pictured gardening as a hobby 3 years ago.

  1. M

    Hey man, I couldn’t agree more. Especially since I grow a lot in the warmer months. I am looking forward to the day when my olive trees are a lot larger and they will produce much bigger olives that I can cure at home myself. Plus, the leaves are meant to be super healthy for you.

    It’s really important to spend money on high quality items and good food. Things that will last the test of time, and food to really nourish your body. That is truly good value for money.


    1. Post

      I agree. Good food and good company aren’t that expensive and bring actual happiness to our lives. I’m certainly guilty of buying crap I don’t need.

      I had no idea you could grow olives in the UK? I would have thought it was much to cold and wet. We put in an olive tree here in Houston, but it’s still too small to get any real production. We’ve got that along with 20 other fruit trees or so in the yard.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Gen Y Finance Guy


    I really enjoyed reading this post. A lot of people don’t know or care to know the difference between being frugal and being cheap. Like you, as I have gotten older, I have been way more content staying in an drinking a glass of wine, sitting by the fire, and reading a book.

    Actually funny story. The wife and I actually have headlights so that we can more easily sit by the fire and read.

    Being frugal is not about sucking all the joy out of life. Its about cutting off spending that doesn’t bring any joy into your life. Or finding other avenues to get the same joy 🙂

    Looking forward to reading more of your stuff.


    1. Post

      Hey, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I like the headlamp idea. I’ve never tried that but I’ll keep it in mind. If we’re outside I usually switch to the kindle for convenience.

      Looks like we started out in similar areas. I’ve worked for several major oil companies at this point and live in Houston. My background is also somewhat similar to yours. I think we probably have a lot in common. Looking forward to corresponding further.

  3. Vivianne

    Living well is a good adjective. The key is not feeling deprived. You can have steak dinner, just cook it at home, it takes 15 minutes. I see that you also like to the fresh juice too. I’d love to pick the orange off the tree and juice it. The weather here is too harsh. However I get persimmons, apple and pears each fall.

    Most of us are conscious about our money, but when you are being concious, you pay attention to you well being also, as you can see some blogger will imclude exercise and loosing weight as they cut their budget. It’s not coincident. I take care of my body well, watch what I decide to intake. People who tend to over spend, will also hoarders and over indulge.

    Cutting cable isn’t bad, more outside time, less indoor couping, less depression, less online shopping and binging. I see that as improvement in quality if life.

    1. Post

      Persimmons, apples, and pears are awesome! We grow some of those as well, though it’s harder in our climate than it is up north.

      I agree a lot of those things are connected. Good habits breed good habits.

      I can’t say I’ve jumped on the cut the cable bandwagon. We went without it for several years, but I’m a pretty avid college sports fan, and I found myself spending too much time sitting in bars or going to friends houses and spending unnecessary money, when a $30-40 cable bill would let me watch at home.

  4. Zambian Lady

    Being frugal is different from being cheap. I have a friend who is always teasing me on my frugality but he is always broke and afraid that he may have an emergency as he has no savings. I have told him that I only buy things when I need them and not just for the sake of doing so, but he has thinks I should spend more. Each to his own, I guess.

    I have never been a gardener but have started yearning to do a bit of it, but living in an apartment without a balcony will make things challenging. Your veggies look very nice and healthy.

  5. Lisa

    Thrifty people know what makes us happy–and it isn’t more stuff. We appreciate what we have (material things and things like health, peace of mind, friends and family) and don’t miss what we don’t have. It’s fine to spend money on things that will enrich our lives–we can splurge on those things because we don’t twittered our money away on things that don’t make us happier. So it’s not a matter of depriving ourselves of anything–it’s a matter of choosing to spend on things that bring us joy.

  6. Jeremy

    You nailed it

    There is also an added bonus. If after years of living well for not very much money, you decided that you wanted to make changes, you could be even More Ridiculous than Average. Those who already are have few choices

    1. Post

      Hey Jeremy, thanks for stopping by. I’m a big fan of your site.

      Good point. Living well for less always gives you the option of spending more at a later date. I think of that as the Joshua Kennon way a lot.

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