While frugal people often get a bad rap for being “cheap,” it’s usually due to misunderstanding more than anything else. Oftentimes, non-frugal folks assume those who are more careful with their money just “don’t know how to have fun” or haven’t learned to enjoy the finer things in life. Or they might assume someone who doesn’t spend freely must be poor, or have squandered money in the past, or are just plain miserly.
Yes, there are plenty of folks who are frugal out of necessity – and if you’re just getting by on a low income, frugality is definitely your friend.
But if you ask a frugal person what drives them to be judicious with their spending, often it has nothing to do with those preconceived notions.
For example, there are a ton of frugal people whose bank accounts are brimming with cash – the “millionaire next door types” who have socked away money for years.
Other folks choose a frugal lifestyle because they want to maximize the money they earn. Some deeply abhor waste, or choose frugality to reduce their consumption and lessen their impact on the environment. And some people live frugally because they want to simplify their lives – when they’re not spending money, they have less to stress about.
But if there’s one thing for certain, it’s this: Our frugality confuses the heck out of people who don’t “get it.”
When you’re not frugal, it’s hard to understand why others don’t spend the way you do – or why they choose to go without when they can clearly afford more. Unfortunately, some people hate frugality and look down on it – and really, that’s where the problem lies.
Three Ways to Deal With People Who Hate Your Frugal Lifestyle
Almost anyone who’s lived a frugal lifestyle has faced a naysayer or two somewhere down the line. Maybe it’s a co-worker who makes fun of your older, paid-off car or your refusal to go out for drinks. Or a sibling who criticizes your simple, affordable home. Perhaps you have an acquaintance who looks down on your choice of clothing, or a neighbor who thinks you really need to “spruce up the place” to make your property as attractive as theirs.
Whoever the person is – and no matter what they say – it’s important to stand your ground.
Here are some ways to deal with the haters who may not appreciate your frugal tastes:
#1: Focus on your goals.
While choosing to be frugal isn’t the easiest decision to make, it’s a lifestyle that comes with too many upsides to count. When you spend wisely and waste as little as possible, you tend to have more money to save and spend on important goals.
Obviously, more savings can help you sleep better at night – and even provide a safety buffer if you lose your job or face a loss in income. And when your expenses are lower, you have fewer bills to worry over.
Or maybe you’re frugal so you can afford to travel the world. By spending less on housing, food, and entertainment, you can afford to traverse the globe while also saving steadily for the future that will inevitably come.
Either way, focusing on these goals is the best thing you can do to stay on track. A non-frugal friend may not understand your desire to have a fully-funded emergency stash or to pay for your child’s college education, but that doesn’t make these goals any less worthy.
Focus on the future and on your goals, and that will help ward off any negative feelings from people who might criticize you.
#2: Know that some people will never understand.
Many Americans are so caught up in consumer culture that they can never truly understand why someone would choose not to spend. They’re so busy buying and upgrading their lives that they can’t imagine any other way.
On the flip side, frugal people are inherently different, mostly because they usually have a goal in mind. Either they’re saving for the future or paying off their house, or socking away money to try and retire early (or at least on-time).
People who don’t focus on personal finance may not appreciate these goals at all, mostly because they don’t tend to think that far ahead. Keep in mind that up to 78% of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck, and that nearly three out of four full-time workers say they’re in debt. Further, more than half of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.
When you consider these statistics, it’s easy to see why regular people don’t understand your early retirement goals or your devotion to living debt-free. It’s not their reality – not even close – so of course they won’t “get” why you’re so focused on the future.
As a frugal warrior, you don’t have to understand the way people think or spend – and you probably couldn’t care less. But it’s equally important to realize that it’s not your job to make people understand why you’re frugal. Some people never will, and that’s perfectly okay.
#3: Meet them halfway.
Out of experience, I can say that some of the backlash frugal people get is because others feel you’re isolating yourself or refusing to participate. A good example from my own life is when, many years ago, I refused to participate in Christmas gift exchanges because I believed (and still believe) they’re a waste of money.
Here’s how I see gift exchanges: Everybody buys a random, impersonal $20 gift and exchanges that gift, so we all end up with something we didn’t want. In my mind, this is akin to setting $20 on fire, so I’ve never wanted to participate.
Of course, family members haven’t always loved that – and I think some of them misinterpreted my feelings to mean that we didn’t want to be a part of the group. That’s why, over the years, I’ve softened on situations like these where everyone wants to participate except for us.
That’s not to say that you should spend money you don’t want to just to make other people happy. Instead, try to see your frugality from the perspective of an outsider. Sometimes, spending the $10 or $20 to participate in a group event can go a long way to ensuring family harmony or mending a long-term friendship – and that’s a sound investment.
The Bottom Line
If you’re sick of dealing with people who seem irked by your frugal lifestyle, remember that it’s more about them than it is about you. Sometimes people might see your success as their own failure, and the fact you’re making financial progress may serve as a painful reminder to them that they’re not.
It’s your life and your goals that matter, and there’s power in not caring what other people think. As you forge forward with your frugal lifestyle, keep your eye on the prize and don’t let negative opinions get you down.
Haters may always hate, but you don’t have to listen.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.
- Five Reasons People Fear Frugality – and Why They’re Wrong
- Frugality and Long-Term Financial Success
- 10 Daily Habits of Frugal People
How do you deal with people who don’t like your frugal lifestyle? Please share in the comments below.