I remember I was in the 6th grade (or so) and I had just gotten these new sneakers from Payless. I’m not really sure if Payless is only on the east coast but it’s basically a store that sells cheap footwear. I didn’t really have any kind of understanding about brands or labels at the time and my parents actually did spend quite a lot of money on me for nice clothes and shoes since I’m an only child. But we had walked into Payless one day and I really liked a pair of sneakers I saw. So my mom purchased it and I wore them to school the next day, all excited to show off my brand new kicks. Well, a boy came up to me and said “ewww, you got those from Payless” (kids can be so cruel! ). I didn’t really know what to say but felt embarrassed to be wearing cheap shoes so I never wore them again. That was the first time I remember being embarrassed to be frugal.
As an adult, there were definitely times I was embarrassed to be frugal. Years ago, I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping with a coupon or in the sale section. Why? Because I didn’t want people to think I was poor or that I couldn’t afford something at regular price (please forgive my younger, naive self).
But there in itself lies the problem. We often tend of associate being frugal with being poor, as if there’s something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. If we weren’t poor, we wouldn’t have to frugal, right? Wrong.
The richest people are the most frugal
The people who wear the designer labels, live in the big houses, and drive the fancy cars aren’t actually rich. Because they’ve spent all their money on stuff. The richest people are actually the ones who are the most frugal. In my college days, my goal was to get a big, fancy job so I could have money and buy whatever I wanted. I did that for awhile and realized I was digging a deeper hole for myself everyday. The irony was that the more money I spent, the more “poor” I became. I like to think that the richest people, in terms of both money and happiness, are the most frugal. They learn to live more on less. I’m trying really hard to adapt that concept and while it’s hard, I definitely believe in it.
Stop caring about what other people think
My biggest problem was and still is, to an extent, that I care too much about what other people think. That’s sort of the problem with Americans in general. Everyone tries to keep up with the Joneses, even if it’s driving them to debt. Don’t try to keep up with appearances because you’ll never be able to. There’s always going to be something bigger, fancier, flashier. Who cares if someone has something nicer than yours? It’s all relative ,anyways. If you’re happy with what you have, then be happy with it. Trying to compete with someone else on material things is always going to be a losing battle. Live happily and frugally. And in the meantime, you can sit comfortably while you watch the “Joneses” self-destruct.
There is a fine line between frugal and cheap
With all this said, there is a very fine line between frugal and cheap. And if I cross that line into cheap, then yes I will be embarrassed for myself. When it comes to saving money, I won’t do anything that puts my health in danger (like dumpster diving) or unethical (like stealing).
Have you ever been embarrassed to be frugal?