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?