Sunset in Mexico. One of many trips for FFF and her husband.
I wish I had this problem! Is it possible to be too frugal? Is there ever a time to let up on frugal habits? My financially-free friend (FFF) thinks so.
History of reluctant spending
Old habits die hard
Changing long-standing habits is tough. Anyone who has ever tried to stop chewing their fingernails or spending hours on Facebook, or tried to start going to the gym instead of the couch after work knows this all too well. The idea that I’ve been playing with since being asked to write this entry is that, through my life, the way I have been with money is habitual; a well-practised, well-wired pattern of behaviour that is resistant to change regardless of changing life circumstances.
We hear a lot about the habit of over spending. I’m a reluctant spender. Spending isn’t easy. It doesn’t come naturally. I’m getting better at it, I’m happy to say. It’s about time!
Growing up, I had very frugal role models in my parents. I learned, through my observations and deductions over the years, that spending a lot of money, especially on self and personal possessions was a weakness. No-name brands were the way to go. Zeller’s jeans were good enough. It was far more impressive to ride a 15-year old rusted Canadian Tire bike than to give in to media and peer pressures to buy the latest and greatest.
So I learned not to spend. When I travelled, I travelled on the cheap. I used the book “Europe on $10 a Day” as a guide, but I made it my own personal challenge to spend even less! I got my first job as a teacher in 1981. Over the next 30 years, my yearly salary would increase from $18,000 to $80,000. I furnished my first “working girl’s” apartment with garage sale acquisitions. Two years after starting my career, I finally purchased something new: a Sony record player. It felt great but also a little excessive.
When my first husband and I went to buy our first home, I couldn’t stand the idea of owing anyone money (ie: having a mortgage). We agreed to buy the smallest fixer-upper we could possibly find close to our favourite part of town but definitely on the wrong side of the tracks, and do all the renovations ourselves. We took in renters upstairs to pay off the small, but necessary, mortgage. After 2 years we sold this house for a lot more than we paid for it and were able to move into a bigger, more comfortable home to start our family.
A slow letting go
We slowly allowed ourselves to start taking holidays and replace second-hand furniture with new pieces. There was a slow letting go of the self-imposed restraint I had come to know so well. I sometimes even ordered something from a menu based on what I wanted to eat rather than what was the cheapest option! It felt liberating on the one hand, but risky on the other. There was still a strong voice within me that cautioned against throwing caution to the wind. I reminded myself to keep it under control.
Six years ago, I remarried. I feel very fortunate on so many levels, but what is applicable here is that my husband and I have a lot of financial freedom. We are both retired. We have a nice home that is completely paid for. We can travel, pursue our interests, eat out and buy artwork. But old habits die hard. I’m still wired for frugality. I still hesitate. I still find myself buying the boots that are on sale rather than the ones I like best. When shopping for things for the house, I still ask, “do we need it?” The difference now is that I sometimes allow “want” to have importance too, regardless of need. I don’t need to go to Hawaii this winter, but when my husband suggested it, I didn’t hesitate to jump right on board.
What do you think? Should FFF abandon her frugality copletley? Or is it still serving her well?
Comments are welcome!