Why Adopting A Frugal Mindset Will Hurt You

Several years ago I was knee deep in credit card debt while working a normal 9-5 job. To pay off that debt I spent a lot of time learning frugal habits. I cooked my meals, cut out Starbucks, saved spare change, refrained from all types of expensive purchases, and generally just stopped spending money altogether. And it worked! Within a little over a year I had paid off all my credit card debt. Since frugality helped me get out of debt, why would I call it hurtful? Two reasons:

1. It absorbed a surprising amount of time and energy. I stayed on top of frugality web sites and had to mentally put a lot of effort into being frugal.

2. It didn’t increase my income.

No matter what type of frugal champion you become, it won’t increase your earnings. It teaches you how to be a miser, not a mogul. Unless being a miser is your natural disposition, frugality will not make you any happier. I hated being frugal because counting every dollar I spent made me feel like a loser in poverty, not a success. I couldn’t even buy a round of shots for friends at the club without getting depressed at the expenditure.

What is easier: spending less money or making money? Is it easier to pinch pennies and skip on laundry soap or is it easier provide a service or product that people want? Frugality is the path of least resistance. Take a look at these two subreddits and their numbers:

/r/Frugal – 197,000 subscribers
/r/Entrepreneur – 26,000 subscribers

The sheep chooses to be frugal. The lion chooses to make more money, to the point where the efforts to save money on a $50 oil change is totally irrelevant and something that doesn’t even warrant thought. Instead of going down the rabbit hole of frugality, choose instead to give value.

Read Next: The Synergy Between Game & Money

41 thoughts on “Why Adopting A Frugal Mindset Will Hurt You”

  1. Unless being a miser is your natural disposition, frugality will not make you any happier.
    The relevant question is, does living within your means, even when they are limited, make you happier than being in debt?
    As it happens, some of the richest people I know are the biggest misers. They are lions — but they know how hard it was to earn the money, so they care how they spend it. If you worked hard to make the kill, you guard it jealously from the jackals.
    What is easier: spending less money or making money? Is it easier to pinch pennies and skip on laundry soap or is it easier provide a service or product that people want?
    For most people, it really is easier to spend less money. Getting a better-paying job, or becoming an independent businessman instead of an employee, is really hard. Pulling down a salary is easy and predictable, and all you have to do is live within it.
    What I thought this post was going to be about was, “don’t bother being frugal because the gummint is just going to plunder your savings anyway, and the gummint rewards people who screw up using the money of the frugal to do so.”

    1. “As it happens, some of the richest people I know are the biggest misers. They are lions — but they know how hard it was to earn the money, so they care how they spend it. If you worked hard to make the kill, you guard it jealously from the jackals.”
      I don’t know why but that stereotype keeps persisting. For every frugal rich guy like Buffet, there are a dozen Trumps. RichKidsofInstagram.Tumblr.com should be enough to dispel this “he’s oh so rich but so frugal at the same time” stereotype. Sure you can argue that most of ones on there aren’t self-made but I’d say if their self-made fathers allow their sons and daughters to spend so much and if they stay in a big-ass mansion and their garages are full of Lamborghinis and Ferraris, then their fathers aren’t frugal either.
      Not being frugal doesn’t automatically mean you’re going into debt. Likewise, just because you live below your means doesn’t mean you belong to the frugality cult.
      Those into the whole frugality cult tend to be a bit on the extreme side. Like clipping coupons to save a couple dollars even if they have a fairly good wage. Or, staying in a $4 a day hostel in some South American country vs. a $10 a day hostel even if the former is ridden with bedbugs, dead cockroaches, dirty toilets and rude staff and the latter is vastly superior.

      1. It depends where you set the cutoff point for “rich”. At lower levels, i.e. the vast majority of the well off, the rich live lives not much distinguishable from the general middle class. “The Millionaire Next Door” paints a statistically informed portrait of the average American rich person where he drives a mid-level sedan until it dies and lives in a modest house in a nice neighborhood. But I think that book is really talking about late middle-aged people with something like a $2 million net worth, which I would consider upper middle class rather than especially rich. I don’t think there’s been a systematic study focusing on the lifestyle of those with $10 million and up, and more importantly those under 50.

  2. Roosh – another genius post. I stress this to any young person out there. You only need to know two things about personal finance –
    1. Always pay off your credit cards in full every month.
    I use to say “never use credit cards” but that isnt realistic in modern society (internet purchases, airfare, rental cars, etc). So what this basically says is that you never spend more money than you have sitting in the bank. So if you put $700 on your credit card in a given month, and you write a check for $700 to pay for it, then by definition you have the cash on hand. This keeps you disciplined without sweating the details about ordering a smaller coffee to save 30 cents. Use a charge card like Amex so you won’t be tempted to let it float until the following month. So that is defense. And as Roosh said, defense can be boring and/or frustrating.
    2. Invest in yourself (offense)
    This is the most important as Roosh indicates. So what does this mean? If you make $60k per year as a midlevel manager, you should expect to make 2% raises every year because your skills stagnant. But if you invest $100k on a MBA, that income could double and your payback is very quick, even factoring in lost income if you go full-time. Another example – I used to date a dentist. But she wasn’t always a dentist, she was a hygienist making $50k per year. After two years as a hygienist, she put herself through dental school and now makes $300k at age 33. Two different examples, and I use the term “invest in yourself” or “bet on yourself” while Roosh says focus on adding value. We are basically saying the same thing.
    – John
    p.s. – the dentist said she wouldn’t date me if I was a teacher. Hypergamy at it’s finest!

  3. I have a $100,000 MBA from a top rated business school. It didn’t double my income and it’s going to take a long time to get payback on the tuition let alone the opportunity costs. Although to be fair it does depend on your starting point going in. Right now, I would file my degree under “mistake”.

    1. That’s because your MBA is probably from Univsersity of Podunk, Alabama. I know you said top-rated but many people I met classify many state universities as “top rated” even though they’re not.
      I know the anti-degree stance is quite popular in the “manosphere” but you’d be hard pressed to find people who got an MBA from Harvard, Stanford etc and didn’t increase their income significantly.
      What the “university is a waste of time” crowd doesn’t understand is that the value of the degree really depends on your networking skills. Even if a guy has an MBA from Harvard, his income probably won’t increase if he was a total anti-social herb.

    2. “YMMV” indeed. Hopefully, it should pay for itself at some point (new job from b school contact, the mba got you an interview when you otherwise wouldnt, etc). Where did you go? I went to U of C.
      – John

  4. You don’t get to be a “mogul” without capital. The only way to get that is savings. If you take investor funding or loans you may technically be an entrepeneur, but more importantly you’re an employee, not the boss.

    1. Savings is NOT the only way to obtain capital. Investor, bank, or private capital can be acquired and that does not make you an employee. It makes you part of a team. Making money is a team effort, not a do it yourself effort.
      If you waited to save $1 million as opposed to raising $1 million through borrowing capital, you would be shooting yourself in the foot.

  5. There is middle ground: you don’t have to be a miser as an alternative to being a spendthrift.
    When money was tight in my school years and early career, I found the universally-recommended “making a budget and living by it” an incredibly depressing task, and could never bring myself to do it. Instead, I put a weekly cap on my discretionary spending: $40 in school (this was a while back…) and $100 when I first started working. On payday, I’d take the money out of the ATM, and then use it for anything nonessential over the following week, with the money in the bank covering groceries, utilities, rent and other essentials.
    This way, I knew I always had money for some fun AND for basic expenses, which kept me from getting depressed about how poor I was, or getting poorer by going into debt. And I didn’t have to pinch every penny, which was always massively depressing – I would still look for on-sale food or clothes or whatever, but casually rather than as an all-consuming obsession. It also resulted in me saving up money over time (the tiny fraction in the bank that didn’t go to regular bills), that I could then put towards suits and such to get and then improve my job.
    I heartily recommend that every man should be poor for a period in his early adulthood. Not to teach him to be a miser, but to teach him the value of money and the bitch that is opportunity cost. Financial discipline follows.

    1. Agree with your last paragraph. I literally had a zero net worth at age 30, thanks to school loans. To quote Andy Rooney – “Being broke is a terrible feeling but it’s probably an experience everyone ought to have once in a lifetime.”

  6. What you don’t realize Roosh is that frugality is a tool for those journeying on the path toward being a mogul, not an end, for the smart people at least. When would be entrepreneurs quit their job in hopes of launching their business, obviously they’re going to have to downgrade their lifestyles and be frugal for a while and weather the 2-5+ years until they make it big or give up.
    You yourself had to be frugal at that stage after quitting your job and before the green started pouring in right?
    I challenge anybody to name a successful self-made entrepreneur who didn’t come from money and didn’t have to be frugal at one stage or another to get whr tehy are.

    1. I was educated with a frugal mindset, but in a good way. My parents always gave me everything I needed, but not extra useless stuff.
      When I started my business I was very frugal. Living with no financial safety was very stressful for me. Some people take it better than others. Having no guarantee of money for me was like a nerd doing his first approach with all his friends watching.
      I never had debts and bootstrapped my business. I was very cheap. I basically spent a year and a half at home (working online), almost did not go out and got a girlfriend to live cheaper and have my sexual needs covered.
      Now I have more money and it is cheaper for me to eat out because it saves me the time of shopping, cooking and doing the dishes.
      Being frugal hurts productivity, but it’s was the correct choice at that time.
      I wouldn’t advise people that start businesses to go into extreme debt and living like rock stars before they are profitable. Living well is a reward of success and not a right for everyone.

  7. i aint frugal man. i dont count every dime. but what i do is 2 things:
    1) avoid credit cards and loans like the PLAGUE. if i was starting a business or buying a house any time soon that would be an exception. i dont even buy cars without cash money, and i have 3 of them and am young and single.
    2)put some of your paychecks (or whatever income source) in a fuckin shoe box. savings accounts? budget? fuck that. shoebox that shit and before you know it you will have 50 grand sitting in your closet.
    oh and not needlessly acquiring bills is a plus. phone, water, power, rent. the rest of that money is mine to do what i want with it.

    1. What’s funny is that if you use the right credit card, its is both easier to track your expenses and you can earn rewards for your spending that are actually a benefit to you. Plus you build up a credit history that can help you when you need to apply for that loan for a mortgage/to start a business. (your advice on car loans is spot on, cash or no car)
      So your advice on credit cards is a classic example of what Roosh is talking about; it appears to be sound at face value but it can actually do you more harm than good in the long run.
      As for the shoebox i’ll leave it alone. Just don’t let anyone know it’s there, OK?

  8. Nice post. There is a limited amount of energy/time we each have each day, and we must spend it wisely. Working on building your empire will yield greater returns than driving across town to save a few bucks by bulk-buying mayonnaise at Costco or wherever.

  9. One can take being frugal and earning more as one and the same thing.
    If you could have done something to earn 20K more last year but didn’t, it means you lost that money, which is the opposite of being frugal.
    ps: Be very careful spending money on college/starting own business , its a minefield.

  10. your take on frugality made me look, in hindsight, at my last year.
    since i moved back to my parent’s house, i became a frugal person. Living with frugal people (specially my father), turned me into one.I counted money, was broke and wasn’t getting any new poon. Just +3 notches since i moved back, in february.
    when i was living off from parents, i scored new pussy on a regular basis. i wasn’t frugal, i lived on the edges of my wallet, i did’n’t spare any penny. i spent as soon i had money. i guess that is’nt being frugal. i had a minibar in my bedroom and girls on my bed.
    besides killing my game, frugality killed the player inside me too.
    a warning about frugality: it will hurt beyond your person, it will kill your soul.

  11. I am careful with money in that I don’t spend large amounts impulsively, but for things that make me happy, like chasing pussy or spending all day in the coffee shop, I don’t count how much I spend.
    A travel lifestyle paradoxically limits your expenses because you don’t have room to gain material possessions. Even if I wanted to go out right now and spend a lot of money, there isn’t much for me to spend on besides a fancy meal ($40 max in the city I’m in).
    True frugality is rejecting corporate messages that convince you to buy crap. When you understand which purchases/activities make you happy, you become automatically frugal without any effort.

  12. Couldn’t agree more. Although my natural tendency to upscale my lifestyle to match my earnings has a somewhat deleterious effect on my saving potential.
    Currently managing to piss a $250k salary up the wall every month… It’s amazing the amount of stuff I can find to buy that I never knew I needed.

  13. You are right that increasing earning power should be a priority and that minor indulgences like a Starbucks coffee are generally harmless. And spending hours cutting coupons is obviously a waste of time unless you have determined that you are unemployable. That is just common sense. I think the point that people should live withing their means rather than engage in douchetastic displays of conspicuous consumption is still valid.
    Preaching against excessive frugality today is like women worrying that fat shaming will lead to excessive thinness. Not really what most people need to worry about.

  14. Roosh is talking about your primary focus.
    Use scarce time and mental energy thinking and acting on ways to expand your income instead of cutting coupons and living like an old man. It has a much higher ROI on time.
    Nixing mean frugality doesn’t mean becoming a loose spender and blowing money regularly on expensive luxury cars, fancy hotels and caviar. That is just stupid.
    It just means stop pinching pennies and stressing, and using the freed time and mental energy improving yourself and expanding your income.
    Very good advice.

  15. Unconventional wisdom at it’s finest. The old myth of work hard, save your money and live below your means is a great way to lead a very meaningless boring existence. I prefer to do something great

  16. Wrong…You need both- to save money and to make money at the same time…But waching your spending of money is more important…

  17. Frugality only kills you when you’re paranoid about your bank account and grudgingly settle for the mediocre. It doesn’t have to be so. A few examples on my part include buying most of my food and booze directly from farmers, much fucking cheaper than supermarkets and douche clubs in busy areas but at no cost to quality. I’m also teaching myself how to be creative with the simplest of ingredients and long lasting foods. Perhaps it ain’t feasible for most of you US urbanites but I’m sure you can always keep an eye open. Frugality is not bad if taken as an exercise for coming up with alternative ways of still getting by instead of being paranoid about how much you spend. Obviously avoiding useless shit helps

  18. Go big or go home as they say. Once you’ve expanded your wallet, you’ve also expanded your mind. Always push your lifestyle up and your mind expands to afford it. Want to drive a Porsche? Buy a rental house who’s rents pay for the Porsche payment. Spend that time and brain power on getting what you want. Or if your into the traveling comfortably make your goal 4k a month cash flow off properties that comes passively and throw in some outsourcing.

    1. No. He’s 100% balls-accurate. An “idiot” is the kind of person who gets a second part time job…. and then spends more money buying restaurant food ., eating out, and sending all his clothes out because he doesn’t have time to do them or cook himself. That’s counter productive hamster-wheel stupidity.
      A woman once enjoyed lecturing me on “wasting” (tossing) a PAPER napkin that wasn’t really dirty. She folded it and told me I should keep it for later. That”it’s a WASTE”. Same woman and her SEEMINGLY sensible “frugality” got pissed that I threw out half a sammich, instead of eating the soggy bread later.
      I actually had to MANSPLAIN to her that nothing about a thrown out sammich is a “waste”. The bread man was paid. The butcher was paid. The lettuce and mayo company was paid. The napkin man was paid. Once this stuff reaches my kitchen and it’s PAID for – it’s not WASTED when it’s thrown out. It’s actually more of a waste to eat when you’re not hungry – just because it’s “left over” and shouldn’t be wasted.
      She would actually EAT IT – just to avoid throwing it out – even when she is not hungry because she doesn’t want to “waste” it. Insane. But that’s how she thinks.
      THAT’s an idiot.
      This is the same woman who will drive across town to save 20 cents on a head of lettuce – just because she has a coupon she dedicated 15 minutes scanning newspapers to finding , saving, cutting out and carrying around in her purse for weeks. She thinks she’s being “smart”.
      The same woman who will put on her coat and drop what she is doing because gas (across the street) is 10 cents cheaper per litre. She thinks she is “saving money” but all she’s doing is LOSING TIME.
      On the surface… these SEEM like good well-intended lessons. But they aren’t. THEY ARE LESSONS ON HOW TO LIVE AND STAY POOR. The article above is a better lesson.
      If you know how to build a deck for $2000 in materials instead of paying someone $15000 to do the job in the same amount of time – THEN it pays to be frugal. Otherwise work on what PAYS. Concentrate on providing a service for $100+ an hour so that silly conversations about paper napkins and half-eaten sammiches become totally irrelevant.
      If you are folding a slightly dirty napkin to wipe your mouth again with some other time, then better put a dunce cap on.

  19. as a general rule there are two things that im never cheap about
    1. clothing
    2. food

  20. I think, as your story tells, it is worth it to achieve specific goals, such as getting out of debt pronto.
    I also think that some frugality habits, once learned, they don’t really use any additional energy.
    I am currently getting out of debt, however I am also investing on my education, learning about entrepreneurship, Taking good quality Real Estate classes and learning about the rich mindset (assets vs liabilities and the like)
    I stopped Starbucks, I make my own coffee and created a nice reading corner at my home. I stopped cable, I am too busy learning how to make money 🙂 I do not watch every cent, I refuse to coupon. But I do watch my overall money allocation for each category each month to make adjustments if necessary.
    Since I am renting, I moved to a very tiny cute studio, this allows me to afford laundry service and cleaning services, so I have even more time to learn.
    Frugality habits make me less wasteful and more conscious which helps my community and my planet.
    I think frugality, well applied is a wonderful thing. It is not a black and white deal.
    My two cents 🙂

  21. i racked up $100k on credit cards once…. my solution… get another $20k card with interest free balance transfer… push $20k across there from the platinum one…. get a limit increase on the card I’d cleared …. they like it when you clear cards….. and then use the $30k credit i had to start a business with…. if you’re going broke, at least go for broke and do it in style….

  22. oh, I’m the same with food, I don’t like counting calories…
    a momnet on the lips, a lifetime on the hips, but ya only live once studmuffin…

  23. My rule is not spending on worthless crap… That basically makes me frugal because, guess what, most things you can buy are worthless crap.
    Enjoying life? Again, no need to buy worthless crap to enjoy life. “What is essential is invisible to the eye”, this is as true as it gets.

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