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Frugality vs. Cheapness
Cheapness... a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Being cheap is very often mistaken for true frugality. Cheapness refers to a state of being consumed entirely by price tags. Cheaper is better and something over a fixed dollar amount, say 100 bucks, is too expensive. Affordability is a less-than-versus-greater-than analysis fixed to a set price amount.
On the other hand, frugality hinges on conscious spending. There is no absolute dollar amount for frugality. If you find yourself anchored by such a price ceiling you are more likely leaning towards being cheap instead of being frugal. It's alright, there is hope for you yet.
How to Tell If You Are "Cheap"
The above questions are designed to get you thinking about price vs. value. If the first thing you think of is price when assessing the above questions, you likely have a cheap mindset. A cheap mindset is often described as being very fixed, rigid, possessing an enormity of limiting beliefs.
Don't get me wrong, the goal is certainly to save and invest as an aggressive pursuit towards financial independence. However, years of deprivation and missed life experiences are not.
How to Tell If You Are "Frugal"
Frugality is a central tenet of my writing. Value-driven conscious spending and saving towards a worthy pursuit. Yes, financial independence is important but, it's not more important than your health and happiness in the pursuit thereof.
The first post ever published on this blog was an effort to define frugality. The three main pillars of frugality are value, awareness, and freedom.
Ask yourself the following questions:
If the answer is no to any of the above don't panic, it just means you are operating from a poor mindset, regardless of how much money you have in the bank. Things can and will change. So where do you start?
How to Change Your "Cheap" Mindset
By reading this post, you have already started. Educate yourself and do not be afraid to question your existing money mantras. Do you believe that attaining a high net worth is only for liars and cheaters? Does the thought of saving and investing evade your thoughts entirely? Is it possible that you have missed out on life experiences because of a deprivation mentality?
If there is a vacation you want to go on, wedding that you'd love to attend, or any other experience that you would cherish and value, start figuring out how to make it attainable. Frugality is not about saving costs at every corner but rather finding value in every dollar you spend. Long-time personal finance author Vicki Robin wrote about life energy in her renowned book Your Money or Your Life. Think of your dollars as life hours. How many "life hours" of your day job will it take in exchange for your purchase. If you decide that two weeks worth of work is a worthy trade for a new dishwasher then by all means, go for it. In contrast, aimlessly spending $200 on shoes or $600 on a television you don't need in exchange for several hours at work hardly seems like a worthy ideal.
Most importantly, don't be afraid to assess your spending. So many of us have poor financial outlooks because we don't even take the time to look at it or are otherwise fearful that it might confirm our existing limited beliefs. It's time to buck that trend and get honest with how terrible you are at assessing true value in life. Researchers have continuously found that social interconnectedness and experiences are high-value activities in terms of life enjoyment. With that in mind, it seems ridiculous to miss out on a trip with friends or family just because you can't afford it. Rather than traditional budgeting, instead focus on saving that amount by working more or spending less for a short period until you have saved the necessary funds for the upcoming expense. Remember, personal finance is best handled with an open mindset and ability to adapt and adjust when the situation calls for it.