When I used to drive, the roads seemed chaotic. Drivers would cut each other off, give a finger, and visually seethe with anger. Driving wasn’t my favorite activity, but I rationalized a “need” for a car. It would take me to work, school, and play. I had “real” reasons to have one.
I clutched onto this idea and would frequently feel deserving of a car, place on the road, and conscientious, obedient drivers. I’d get furious when someone stopped at a light for a moment too long or was slowly moving in a passing lane. Others were blocking my ability to drive swiftly, effortlessly, and calmly. They were the problem!
Embarrassingly, it wasn’t the only area where I felt a sense of entitlement. A few years ago, I remember complaining that making lunches was an inconvenient task. It took too long. I expressed a desire to be able to afford and not feel guilty about eating out more often.
And then there were all the times where I convinced myself that I deserved something special. My mind of would casually drift into complacency and I’d think, “Because of all my hard work I deserve a treat.” But did was I really entitled something extra, more, or sweet?
Sometimes these thoughts would border on narcissism. I was a special, important person – better than the rest. I’d expect others to conform to my norms and settle into my expectations. I was looking out for number one. I struggled to see what others were experiencing. Like a sudden smack over the head, frugality was a departure from entitlement. Over time, it helped me see my blindspots and grow. Here are five takeaways:
1. Learning to live modestly
As I pursued frugality, life became simpler and more modest. Slowly I built more savings, cooked more meals at home, and made more donations to others. I brewed coffee at home and found ways to get it free on campus. My shoes became more beat up and shirts developed frays. I learned to patch things and upcycle. I sold my car, and bought a bike.
2. Opportunities for self-reflection and growth
With every shift, I realized a different side of my personality. The whole world got a facelift – a beautiful reframe. My bike empowered me to see the city with a fresh pair of eyes. Without the normal trappings of “success” I could reflect on who I want to be as a person. In time, I realized great fulfillment in helping others.
3. Exploring long-term happiness over short-term “fixes”
By choosing this life, I consciously eschewed the easy routes for long-term happiness. Advertisements market a life of joy through possessions, beer, soda, and cars. Oh, the things you can buy to make yourself better! Finally, those words and images stopped working. I wasn’t compelled to go to the mall after seeing an ad, and I became more hostile when I’d see them.
4. Increasing patience with impatience
Before I changed my life, long lines were infuriating. There was an incompetence to everyone around me. The checkout person wasn’t going fast enough and the shopper had too much in the cart. Over time, lines became an opportunity to breathe and think briefly. Similarly, I developed patience with others’ impatience, anger, and entitlement.
5. Departing the rat race
Entitlement is a nasty, nefarious quality. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to see. Someone usually has to say it to your face (someone did for me). Frugality has enabled me to look for qualities in myself and others that aren’t about how much they can buy. Another’s worth is no longer tied to net worth.
How have you changed since you embraced frugality?
What did you learn?
How might you grow if you suddenly lived more minimally and mindfully?
I’ve changed my life a lot in the last year, but I still hate line ups. Not because I become enraged at the individuals in them, but because they usually mean I shouldn’t be in that place in the first place, or that I should have been smart enough to be there at a different time.
My ordered accountant brain also sees them as inefficient – there’s just about always something that you could do to change the line up so that it wouldn’t occur in future, and it usually doesn’t cost much (if anything) to change it. I think line ups are something that people just accept though – a bit like accepting that you need to work until you’re 65 and buy endless amounts of stuff to enjoy life!
Mary Lohmeyer says
In many areas of America today, a car is not an entitlement, it is a necessity to get to work, go grocery shopping, etc.. While I don’t buy into the idea of buying a new car all the time or buying some fancy model just to show off, a good quality used car is a must most places in the US.
If one lives within a well-supplied area that has good public transit, a car might not be a necessity. However, some people, for various reasons, can not ride a bike or if they can ride one recreation-ally, it wouldn’t do to get to work.
It seems to me that there is getting to be a form of reverse elitist ism and snobbery in the frugality community: I.E., I’m a free, green, frugal, spiritual and giving soul because I have desired an uber-frugal, lifestyle and the rest of you are selfish, lazy, entitled pigs.
I agree with you. a car is a necessity where I live, and I’m driving a 2001 vehicle (my husband’s is a 1996). We both have a commute to work. I also agree about the snobbery that is creeping into frugal living sites. Let’s live and let live.
Sam Lustgarten says
Thank you for sharing your viewpoint. I think it’s important to provide your lens. You’re absolutely right that some people live in areas that aren’t public transportation/bike friendly. Additionally, some people cannot take these methods for physical and/or mental medical concerns.
What does that mean for us and your comment? Well, I’d argue that I’m not interested in some sort of reverse elitism. Frankly, I’m simply sharing my opinion and experience. Yours may be just as correct as mine. But my hope is that we can seek out opportunities to be non-judgmental, while also aspirational. It’s a tough balance, though.
I really thank you for your response.
Mary Lohmeyer says
Sam, I am not meaning to say that you, yourself, are so much a reverse snob, as it were. One thing you do point out and I think you are walking your talk, is the need for social and environmental justice as an end to the means of frugality and simplicity. Many frugal sites do not stress this. It’s seems more of a ‘how cheap and minimal can I be to be a total frugalista.
That type of thinking does veer into reverse snobbery.
I, personally, do not drive because of from of dyspraxia. I can’t bike because my balance was destroyed when I had meningitis. I take public transit to work and end up bumming rides to places I can not walk My housemate has a used 1999 Subaru and he couldn’t get to work without it. He works 25-30 miles from home and is a correctional officer, The cheaper groceries and shops and farm markets are not accessible to me without a car. In my area, the rather inadequate public transit ends at 6:00 p.m. and is non-existent outside of the city proper on weekends and holidays. We have a high rate of bike and pedestrian fatalities.
This city just hosted the UCI Worlds Cycling Race, the first American hosting in over 20 years. Boy howdy, can those guys and gals go on their bikes! The winner,Peter Sagan of Slovokia, was something else. But I wonder what the Europeans, who are used to good public transit and train services thought of the lousy Richmond, VA transit services and our ‘transfer center’ that makes many homeless shelters look fancy?
I do agree that many drivers are sh**heads. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been hit by a speeder, a phoner or just a reckless jerk. I have been known to flip the bird at jerks who don’t give any thought to pedestrians trying to cross a perilous road.
I, like you, have had people not want to be my friend because I lack a car and that stinks. I think it is possibly a combo of snobbery (you are not adequate and adult because you do not drive) and laziness/selfishness (don’t want to take the time to befriend someone who can’t drive to eet you.) And I do agree that many Americans, especially men, tend to have the egos to wrapped up in their cars. I also know people around here who wouldn’t use public transit even if they lived in DC, which has excellent transit. They just won’t do it. They are totally addicted to having a car even when they could take transit, walk or bike,
But, child (and I am a tad older than you, so I can say child. My mama was a twenty-something during the Great Depression) you do need to buy new shoes occasionally! Poor fitting shoes that are too worn out are bad for the feet. Bad feet mean less walking, biking and more doctor bills. Just buy a good pair or two (on sale, of course) and maintain them. Take them to the cobbler, if need be. But take care of them dogs or you will be miserable as you age!
Stefanie @ thebrokeandbeautifullife says
It might be the big city living, but I’m still one of the most impatient people I know in spite of my frugal hacking 😉
Life is an amazing growth process. I can look back and see so many ways I’ve grown over the years, in understanding, compassion, loving, and so on. My journey toward minimalism is one component of that.
I think the rat race is often hard to see until you step outside of it. Consumerism so pervades and under-girds our culture that it’s hard to even imagine life without so much stuff until you come to the place where you realize that it’s all just stuff.
I love your take on long lines. With kids, I still admit I find them a bit infuriating. 🙂 But I agree on all your points. We’re just starting to break into the frugality mindset and I find it helps make the important things a lot more clear. And I definitely think “I deserve this” a lot less!
Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says
What a powerful message. I’m really hoping that frugality will help us fight entitlement in our children. I agree that it’s had this impact on me. I believe contentment is the true secret to financial freedom.
Jim Wang says
I’ve always been on the frugal side and one thing it’s helped me become is more self-sufficient. It’s all too easy to pay someone to solve your problems and when you pay, you get that sense of entitlement with it because you’re the one parting with the cash. When you do it yourself, you can take it a little slower, make sure you do it right, and eventually leave with a skill you can use later.
I still hate lines though. And rubber necking. 🙂
Berin Kinsman says
My car broke down about 6 years ago and my first thought was that I needed a new car and started worrying about how I could afford. Then I realized that my actual need was to get to work, and that I lived close to a major bus stop. A monthly bus pass was less than a spent on gas, let alone insurance and a car payment. I was lucky that I lived in a place with good public transportation, but the fact that “buy a car” was my immediate response without even thinking that there might be other options is terrifying. We do so many things because we’ve had these manufactured social norms drilled into our heads.
Sidney Ford says
Your comment really struck a chord, Berin: “…the fact that ‘buy a car’ was my immediate response without even thinking that there might be other options is terrifying.” I think that’s the worst of it for me — knowing that I’m programmed into buying, rather than defaulting to “how will I make x situation work.”
Berin Kinsman says
When I first started living a more minimalist lifestyle, I was constantly struck by how often the go-to response to a problem was to buy a product or pay someone else to perform a service.
I’ve only recently embraced frugality, but I already see some of the positive effects. I now give more to charity, for example. I’ve adopted minimalism and mindfulness a few years ago, and definitely see how my patience improves.
I just wrote a blog post about how you inspired my to live more frugally and my thoughts on that: http://currentlylovingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/frugality-greed-vs-generosity-2/ I hope you get a chance to check it out!
I’ve paid of and closed 3 credit card accounts in the past 2 years, paid off debts totaling $60,000 in 3 years. Just replaced my 2008 Smart car with 164,000 miles on it with a 2008 Convertible Smart with 12,400 miles on it that I paid $6,000 cash for. I still have a ton of debt like Parent Plus college loans the size of a mortgage that we took out on my 3 daughter’s college education. However in the past year I paid cash (only one is left and is her final semester). My point is I don’t borrow anymore. We have a good income because I have a pension and my wife and I still work. We will be debt free in 5 years except for the house. If I Include the house it will take about 10 years.
I dreamt of retirement but healthcare cost have put that on hold. Besides I fear I’ll get bored considering I’ve worked all but 3 weeks of my life since I was 14 years old 44 years ago.
Another major change is I avoid creating busy work at work and I no longer rush. I think the latter part comes with age. My wife says I drive like an old man though I’m guilty of driving 5 mph over the limit but I realized some years back that weaving in and out of traffic and driving fast only shave off a couple of minutes in most commutes, but increase the likelihood of an accident dramatically. Slow and steady for me, just like with my debt payoffs.
P.S. My wife still likes to buy things but I am going to be patient with her as well. We still date every Friday night after 30 years of marriage and we travel several times a year but I am not wasteful.
Al McCullough says
Totally changed us. Rather than save up money for “stuff” we opt to save for experiences. I’d rather have good memories and stories to tell than a trinket to dust.
Jen @ Frugal Millennial says
I can relate to all of these except the point about being more patient. I guess that’s just my Type-A personality 🙂