The longer I go with debt payoff being my numero uno priority, the more I notice that my lifestyle and financial priorities are not the same as my friends and general peer group.
Some of this is, I believe, due to living in Austin. Austin is a young town where lots of people are either currently in the service industry (catering, bartenders, waiters) or have spent a few years there. That kind of lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to saving, investing or frugal living. It’s hard work for not that much money.
Often service industry folks go out together after a shift, spending the money they literally just made. Getting paid in cash tips makes it easy to spend and hard to save. Most restaurants and coffee shops don’t offer 401K’s or any sort of benefits. A lot of people working in these places don’t have any higher education or they’re currently working through it.
I have cut my going out way, way down. Like, basically to nothing. If it’s not free, I’m not doing it. My entertainment these days includes movies at home, hiking, walks in the evening and free lectures or shows around town. I also usually spend my weekends catering, meaning prime going out time is spent working. This past weekend I catered 6.5 hours Saturday afternoon and night and 8.5 hours on Sunday. I didn’t get a whole lot of down time this weekend.
None of my friends have this mindset. Some of the are debt-free and making decent to good money, so they don’t have the concerns I do. Some of them are in the same debt situation as I am, but don’t have the same priority level about it that I do. Both of those are fine- no one can be me except for me! However, these differing mindsets do put a damper on my social life.
When my friends suggest going to brunch, I refuse. When they suggest picking up Chinese for dinner, I pass. When they want to buy tickets to a concert in Dallas and spend the night (it’s a four hour drive), I am definitely out. All of those things are beyond my means right now.
I don’t mean to sound jealous or bitter, because the truth of the matter is, I like living frugally. I like knowing that I am crushing my debt, that I am beginning to save for retirement, that next year I’ll be able to take myself to Europe (frugally, of course!) I like living simply and minimally. It’s been hugely beneficial for my mental health, my wallet, my consumer footprint and my time management skills.
I used to spend hours on websites looking at clothes or art prints I wanted but knew I could never buy. I used to cycle through clothes simply because I’d owned them for ‘too long’ (even if they were in good condition!) I used to use my credit card to finance nights out, knowing I really shouldn’t.
I don’t do any of those things anymore. As a result, I generate less waste, I have a great credit score, and I am more organized in how I spend my time. I really like that! My room takes about 10 minutes to clean and I lose way fewer items simply because I don’t have that much stuff. I dislike clutter and knick-knacks and I would rather see my money in my bank accounts and investments than in my closet.
I disagree Ms. Bradshaw.
Those things, I am finding out, make me different from a lot of people in my life. I am having to choose between my frugal lifestyle or my friends at times and it’s a major bummer. While sometimes I can convince people to join me for a walk or a free yoga class, more often I am excusing myself from fun times that cost dollar bills. Occasionally I question myself: am I obsessed with money to the detriment of other parts of my life?
I really don’t think so. While this month I am being particularly frugal, I have no problem spending money on things that add to my quality of life. Brunch and drinks every weekend don’t fall into that category. I think I am making huge strides in an area that has haunted me for the past few years. I think I am making responsible choices for my future. I think I still see most of my friends a few times a month. I think that being slightly out of step with my peers is worth it for my personal goals. It stings at times, but ultimately the path I’ve begun walking down is proving every day to be one that I am liking.
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.