Apparently I’m a bit behind on reading personal finance blogs, because I just came across a couple of articles from February of last year. They’re old, but make some great points and are very interesting reads. Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote an article about how a media interviewer called him a cheapskate. And then Him from Make Love Not Debt wrote about his thoughts on the topic. I found both articles very interesting, along with the comments from readers. It seems like everyone has an opinion, and two people can see another person’s frugality in very different ways. My personal opinion – and we’re all entitled to one – is that I’d much rather hang out with Trent than Him. I think Trent’s values are a lot more in line with my own, and from the articles I’ve read on his blog, he seems very happy with his life and choices.
But the articles brought up a deeper point than just the choices we make in our own lives and whom we choose as friends. There was a lot of talk about judging others and self-righteousness – from both sides of the frugal – spendy spectrum. I think that it’s somewhat natural to tend to think highly of others who are most like ourselves. Most people tend to choose friends with whom they have a lot in common. I would say that I’m probably the most frugal of my friends, but they’re all pretty focused on saving for a rainy day and for retirement, and none of them think less of me for shopping in thrift stores and driving an old car.
I do think of myself as frugal. And I am happy almost 100% of the time. For me, the connection between those two things is strong, and I believe that the simple life my husband and I have created for our family plays a large role in our happiness. But I don’t think less of people who make different choices in terms of how they spend their money. As long as those choices don’t impact the rest of us. If a person chooses to spend all of their income each month (and I’m not talking about someone working for minimum wage who barely has enough for rent and food), that is none of my business. But when I started hearing about mortgage bailouts after ARMs began to reset a couple years ago, I’ll admit to being irritated – especially when I read article after article about people who purchased houses that they could barely afford, even at the low introductory interest rate. Bankruptcy is another example of something that drives up costs for everyone else, and it’s frustrataing when the bankruptcy is caused because a person consistently made choices to spend instead of save. Yes, there are lots of cases where bankruptcy is caused because a person became too ill to work or suffered some sort of catastrophic circumstances, but there are also plenty of people who live paycheck to paycheck (despite having a good income) and are thus putting themselves in a situation where they have no ability to weather even the slightest financial storm.
What do you think? Do you agree more with Trent or with Him? Do you care about how other people choose to spend their money? Are you more or less frugal than your friends? Do you friends care?