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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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