The Line Between Frugality and Deprivation

The Line Between Frugality and DeprivationThe Line Between Frugality and Deprivation

A lot of people on the quest for financial independence aim to trim their expenses.  This works great… until it doesn’t.  Sometimes the line between frugality and deprivation becomes blurred.  It’s possible to cut your expenses too much where you can make yourself miserable.

I was listening to a great podcast that the Mad Fientist put together from a Q&A at Camp Mustache which had Pete aka Mr. Money Mustache, Paula Pant from Afford Anything, Doug Nordman from The Military Guide, and, of course, Brandon the Mad Fientist.

An interesting topic was discussed regarding that line between frugality and deprivation that I thought would be worth discussing.  The subject of motivation in relation to the quest for financial independence came up and the Mad Fientist spoke pretty honestly…

Well, I know for me personally, I don’t think it was motivation to keep pursuing FI.  It was more I went the opposite way and went so hardcore that I made myself really unhappy during that process because I just didn’t want to do anything that involved spending money.  I just wanted to get there as soon as possible.

This openness was helpful to me because I could absolutely see myself going down that same path.  I want to reach financial independence so bad that it eats at me constantly.  So I think about different ways to cut expenses (and, of course, ways to make more money).  In the process, my natural frugality kicks in… sometimes too much.

And I’ll be honest, the only thing that really holds me back from taking things too far is my family, particularly Mrs. R2R.  And she’s absolutely right to not settle for less.  Although it’s a good thing to have the end-game in mind and make things happen, life is really about the journey.

Smell the Roses - The Line Between Frugality and DeprivationIf you’re not stopping to smell the roses and enjoy the present moment, you’re going to look back and regret that you wasted a lot of the years of your life.

And, of course, there’s always that morbid possibility of early death.  Boy, would I be ticked off if I got hit by a bus and was too frugal for my own good leading up to it!!  🙂

A little further into the podcast, Doug “Nords” reinforced the whole idea…

You’ve gotta be careful with the line between frugality and deprivation.

[…] you’re looking at frugality, but if you’re not having fun, if you’re not feeling challenged and fulfilled and enjoying what you’re doing and making that struggle toward financial independence, then you’re probably into deprivation.

That’s the time when you take a step back, try not to save so much or try to raise your income, and try to enjoy life a little bit more, so that you feel revitalized, you feel re-energized, and you feel like you can make that journey the rest of the way to financial independence.

Damn, I wish I could have been at this event!  Just a bunch of great minds all in one room at the same time!

But think about it – it’s some awesome advice.  If you’re pushing yourself so hard that you’re stressing yourself out, then it’s time to step back and take a breath.

Taking a Breather

I’m going to take that advice… sort of.  I think that I’m running the well pretty dry on cutting expenses.  One exception is that we may revisit the idea of downsizing our house, but we’ve tabled that for another year.  In the meantime, I’m going to chill a little on spending my free time digging around all our expenses looking for every nickel and dime we can save.

That leaves us with the other side of the spectrum – bringing in more income.  I just hit up my real estate agent to get things rolling on finding another duplex to purchase and rent out.  Next month, I’m going to work with my mortgage broker to get pre-approved and then Mrs. R2R and I will start doing some shopping for rentals.  Obviously, this will require some time and effort, but I’m not the handiest of handymen, so the properties I’ll be looking for generally don’t require a ton of work.  If there’s work that’s out of my league, I would bring in someone else to handle it.

So where’s the part of this post where I actually take Doug’s advice?

We’re going to take some time to ourselves as a family over the coming year to help re-energize.  Over the next month, we’re hoping to book our vacation to Panama to take place in early summer.  We also have a vacation already booked for a relaxing getaway to Tennessee later on in the year.  Additionally, we’ll squeeze in some camping fun hopefully once or twice in the summer.  Taking some time away to just recharge should be just what the doctor ordered!

And then…

Back into the Swing of Things

Once the fun of summer is over and we’re back to being de-stressed, I get to attend FinCon for the first time.  FinCon is basically a convention for personal finance bloggers.  I’m very excited about this and I think I should be rejuvenated and ready to go when that comes around in October.

So in a nutshell, that simple podcast has provided me with some great advice that I’m going to leverage to try to enjoy life a little more.  Chances are that the coming year won’t be hugely profitable with the expenses of some of the activities planned, but I think it’s very much needed and really won’t throw us too far off track (especially if we are able to pick up another rental).

The line between frugality and deprivation can sometimes run together when I’m involved, but I’m happy to take this little break from being over-frugal for a short bit… although I’m sure I’ll find some ways to keep some of the frugality going on the trips that we do take!  🙂


Have you ever had a blurred line between frugality and deprivation?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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16 thoughts on “The Line Between Frugality and Deprivation”

  1. Great reminder and plan. The problem with deprivation is two fold: 1) it can be extremely demotivating and knock you off the path to FI. 2) it can cause you to not enjoy the journey to FI. We never know when we have lived our last day. That does make it important to enjoy the time you have even while planning for the future. It’s not common, but every so often I do find myself crossing this line. (Usually a waiting period and other steps reveal if I truly value the item). In those cases where I cross the line I too have my wife to nudge me. It’s good to have someone on the journey with you who can help to keep you on your path.

  2. Frugality can definitely be taken too far.

    Nobody asked, but here’s my advice: Just find a level of spending you’re comfortable with and *stick with it*. Having a solid idea about how much you’ll spend is worth far more than shaving a couple dollars off the budget.

    1. You know your advice is always welcome here!! 🙂

      I definitely agree with what you have to say and I think we do a really good job with sticking with our level of spending. But I will say that the drive to reach FI sooner rather than later definitely ends up pushing me for those couple of extra dollars here and there. Will it really make a big difference in the long run… not so much, but it’s just my nature I guess.

      — Jim

  3. What a breath of fresh air. This post is spot on. I live as frugally as possible without depriving myself of so much that I no longer enjoy life. Yes, there are areas where I could probably cut my expenses a little, but I want to have fun along the way. You never know what will happen in your life, so enjoy every moment you have. That said, I also think one needs to put a process in place to ensure they meet their financial goals. But be careful, don’t set unattainable goals otherwise you will end up depriving yourself to meet those goals! My boyfriend keeps me in check – he’s not quite as frugal as I. Good luck finding a good balance!

    1. Thanks for the kinds words, Danielle! I was looking at your site and like the part where you talk about how you want to be able to look back at old memories like your grandma was able to… very inspiring and I agree wholeheartedly! You’re right that it’s definitely a matter of finding the right balance.

      — Jim

  4. This is a tough one Jim.

    I normally just set aside a small portion every month where I can spend on any kind of “entertainment” for myself. But the problem is whenever I use this fund I’ll be thinking, do I really need this….? Since any extra that I save would help me get closing to FI.

  5. Hey Jim, we’re on similar paths. We sold our big “city house” in April16 and used the $$ to payoff our “downsize” cabin. We’re now debt free, and 18 months from FIRE.

    On the Rockstar Forum yesterday, someone asked about focus areas for 2017. I said one thing we risk as FIRE bloggers is an obsession with savings and the future, and we need to focus on balancing that with living in the moment. Your post is an excellent example of the struggle to achieve balance. Look forward to meeting you at FinCon (also my first!).

    1. Hi Fritz – that’s fantastic that you’re so close to FIRE!!

      Balance is definitely a tough one for me, but I’m working on it! 🙂 I’m looking forward to meeting you as well at FinCon – sounds like a great opportunity!

      — Jim

  6. Thanks for this post. I can definitely take frugality too far, and your advice was something I needed to hear. My goal is to actually budget for extras–clothing, beauty (massages, facials, pedis) and extras (yoga). It makes me nervous even thinking about spending money on those extra things, but in the long-run I do believe it will keep me on track…I’ve been in deprivation mode for a long while…and in the end, these won’t make that much of a difference in my FI plan.

    —This Wife’s Life (

    1. Hi TWL – thanks for coming by! It seems like it’s an ongoing mind-battle (at least for me) to determine what’s a waste of money and what’s not. If you have a solid FI plan and it’s already in your budget for non-essentials, then it makes sense to me! 🙂

      — Jim

    1. I definitely agree that those are two areas where you shouldn’t compromise. That’s one thing that’s easy to forget – we’re in a very privileged position to have that choice.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      — Jim

  7. I think I sometimes get close to that line myself. I’m currently in a mini retirement and have to just worry a little less about my budget and just enjoy my time off.

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