Frugality and Hardship

I have written quite a bit on this blog about frugality. My general philosophy for these posts has been to find ways to live frugally without compromising the lifestyle significantly. In other words, try to adopt a frugal lifestyle without feeling deprived. But the problem seems to be that I have started to begin believing in this principle of “frugality without hardship” so much so that, I cannot convince myself to give up some things that I am used to, even if I want to! In other words, while I have been relatively successful in making sure I don’t give in to the desire to live a life of excess, I find I am extremely unsuccessful in giving up the little luxuries I am used to!

With the huge medical bills rolling in this month and possibly the next few months, I wanted to trim a little more fat out our fairly lean life style – at least temporarily. But as I look at the different expenses that we have, I find that we cannot bring ourselves to cut down on any of them. We have made sure not to fall for some of the indulgences most of our friends have given in to, but now that we have gotten used to our existing lifestyle, we have a lot of resistance against changing anything. We had a much more leaner lifestyle for a while when we got out of school and started attacking debt – but somehow we just can’t bring ourselves to go back to that.

Frugality without hardship is a luxury of those that want to live frugally out of choice and not out of need.
I remember reading a comment on some one’s blog (sorry I don’t remember whose) that all the talk about living frugally without hardship is a luxury of those that want to live frugally out of choice. For those have to live frugally out of need, whether to do it with or without hardship is not a choice. And that is so true. In some cases, it is just not possible to take the hardship out of the equation. But is the reverse also true – ie, if you are frugal out of choice, you cannot accept any hardships at all?

We have an inherent entitlement attitude that we deserve a decent life.
When you live a frugal life out of need, it is important to try and get out of that situation as soon as possible and a few sacrifices seem acceptable. The situation may be that you are in too much debt or have had a sudden job loss, etc. But somehow, when the frugality is no longer a need, we give in to the inherent entitlement attitude that we deserve a particular lifestyle and having to make sacrifices that compromise that lifestyle seem very difficult.

Short bursts of having to go through hardships can offer stretches of a life without hardships over a long time.
Now, in our particular case, it is not required to make those sacrifices just yet. We could go on having our cable television and eating out 1-2 times a week etc. But, if we don’t want our medical bills to turn into huge debt, we need to give up something some where. And without sacrifices in lifestyle, usually the savings goals fall victims. Instead of compromising our savings goals, it seems logical that short bursts of voluntary hardships now are better and could ensure that we stay hardship free for longer stretches.

If you are willing to go through hardships on choice, you are much better prepared to handle life’s ups and downs.
Moreover, if we can bring ourselves to give up some of our little indulgences voluntarily now, in the future if life throws bigger curve balls at us, we can survive them more easily. We can face whatever life has to offer without feeling like it is imposed on us and we don’t have a choice.

I understand that logically, we should be able to give up some of the little luxuries we are used to. It was not long back that we could not afford these little luxuries and got on by fine without them. Then why is it that I find it so hard to give them up now? Why do even small sacrifices feel like huge deprivations?

*Image credit: Photograph by davebluedevil [via Flickr]

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M said...

Great post and something I've thought a lot about as well. This is the first pf post in quite a while actually that really spoke to me. What's funny is I think when I am frugal out of choice, I can deal with what you call "hardship" much better than when I'm frugal by necessity.

If I just want to save more, I have no prob. cutting way back. That's bc I know the payoff is for something I want and this is a choice I'm making. I don't have to cut back, but doing so will allow me to other advantages that I want.

When I have to be frugal bc of medical bills or other such circumstances that's when I don't feel good about going without. If I'm frugal because I enjoy frugality and dislike waste and excess (both true) or because I want to save for some goal, frugality is no problem and cutting back is easy. It's when I have to but don't want to that it becomes more of a problem.

Anyway, either way I *can* cut back, the question is always do I *want* to, and *should* I? I don't cut back if I don't abs. have to when it comes to the things that make my life enjoyable and really matter to me, esp. if it's for the long term. If I have to, well, that's another story.

But I def. don't think it's wrong to hang on to some of what makes life enjoyable, even if it means paying off debt more slowly,not accumulating as much cash, etc.

ispf said...

M: You bring up a great point! I hadn't connected the hardship one is willing to accept based with the end goal! Something to think about. It does explain why I am so hesitant to cut back now - I really am NOT thrilled about these bills :( Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

Luke said...

Great post. I've often thought about this from the aspect of Christ's teachings (which opens a whole nother can of worms).

I've been reading through that book you sent me on Neuroeconomics. It's absolutely fascinating. It's always interesting and yet disturbing to hear someone break down the "why" part of our motivations.

ispf said...

Luke: Glad you like the book! I find it amazing that the simple examples really drive home the point!