Frugality is Not a Competitive Sport

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by on June 25, 2009

Frugality is Not a Competitive SportIn our series on defining what it means to be frugal, we officially defined the word and dove into understanding what it means to value one’s resources. As we explored these issues, we also alluded to the competitiveness of being frugal.

It’s funny, but my picture of the word “frugal” was not always a positive one. Yet recently, because of many changes in our economy and people focusing on saving rather than spending, frugal is the new “in” thing to be. You can see the word everywhere- on blogs, the news, stores, I bet there’s even a t-shirt out there somewhere!

In all seriousness, I know many people are hurting due to the economy and I want to see it get better as much as everyone else, but I do like the new focus on saving, rather than spending these days. It seems that everything was getting too excessive and the view of buying bigger and better was getting way too out of proportion.

Unfortunately along with this popularity of frugality, comes competition. Now, I agree that some competition can be a good thing, if it is for fun, but when taken too seriously, it can lead to two types of wrongs: judging others and belittling oneself. Judging occurs when people start making value judgments about a person because of his or her purchases. People become boastful and others are ashamed of what they are buying.

How can we judge another person when we don’t know what their budget, savings account, or income looks like?

And yet, many others are comparing themselves to others, wishing that they were more frugal. They belittle themselves when they aren’t saving as much as the next person. The truth is that no one is perfect when it comes to finances (or anything else). We all miss a great deal, forget that coupon, or just feel like splurging every once in a while. And there is always room for improvement.

Being frugal is about valuing one’s resources, which is different for each individual and family. Where some people may decide to save, others may want to splurge and get something that costs a bit more, while still staying within budget. Instead of judging each other, we can encourage each other as we make improvements. Each of us should be proud of ourselves for the money saving changes we make each day, even in the smallest way.

So, how do you feel about the competitive nature of being frugal? Do you compare yourself to others or is this not an issue for you? As always, I welcome your thoughts!


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  • Great topic for discussion. I think we should compare to ourselves. Am I doing better today than five years ago? Am I improving and growing in my understanding of finances and in good stewardship? No one else feeds my husband and kids, but me, so I need to make the best decisions with what I know.

    FishMama@LifeasMOM’s last blog post..Frugal Friday: Dejunk, Organize, and Clean

  • FishMama, thank you for your feedback! You are right, comparing to ourselves is good, and very healthy. We can see where we have come from and also set goals for the future. Thanks for sharing!

  • The Messy Mom

    Great post. I have noticed this too. The pendulum has swung from competing to see who has the most, to competing to see who saves the most by living off of the least. I agree with you and fishmama.

    The Messy Mom’s last blog post..Birthday Freebies

  • I whole-heartedly agree. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in comparing ourselves to what others are doing to save then its just a new form of keeping up with the Jones’.

    niki’s last blog post..Frugal Friday…Drive-ins!

  • So true! Instead of playing ‘Can You Top This?’ with each other, we should offer encouragement! I love reading how others are frugal, and never feel jealous. That’s because I take so much away from it all in good ideas and advice–for free, LOL! Do I think Mrs. Jones is greedy because she was able to snag fifteen boxes of Duz Detergent for a buck? Not at all, although I might wonder where she’ll put it all, LOL!

    mom2fur’s last blog post..My frugal, florist daughter

  • I’m the same way, I truly enjoy seeing how other people have saved and the deals that they get so that it can give me ideas on how to do it. It can be inspiring! :) I hope that the deals that I post on this site can help others be able to save and/or get ideas for future trips!

    I know that it is also important to make sure that we are using our time/money wisely and buying things we don’t need doesn’t seem very resourceful. If that family can use 15 boxes of detergent, then that makes sense!

  • I like seing what others are doing! It encourages me to do better.

    Some things are hard to read, like articles on how to frugally take vacations. Vacations are just not in our budget. I still read some of those anyway, hoping for ideas that would be possible for us, but there aren’t usually any that would work for us.

    Sometimes, I think how great it is that others have places that double or triple coupons. Since I don’t have that where I live, I know that I can’t get things quite as cheap as others, so I’m going to have to spend a bit more.

    I think it’s great that many can get cereal for really cheap. Cereal and milk are not in my budget. Even really cheap, my children are still hungry an hour later when we eat cereal. I have decided that cereal does not work for our family (I don’t want to be making a snack for everyone before I’ve finished the breakfast dishes!) But if it works for someone else–that’s great!

    I think I can always try to improve, and I learn a lot by reading others’ ideas.

  • Jeanetta

    Thanks for this post! Very refreshing and a good reminder! I appreciate the character building aspect of your website. Good deals are fun, but character is what counts in the end! :)

  • Great post. I found myself falling into this trap. I was watching what I spent so closely that I actually would get angry with myself if I didnt work a deal right and had to pay an extra dollar. I would find it hard to let go of for the next twenty minutes and obsess about how I should have done it different.

    As I have learned to be more “frugal” I have actually ended up with more then I need. What I mean by this is that by learning how to coupon etc. I am able to get many free items I would not have purchased otherwise. I looked at my cupboard the other day and had so much stuff I didnt need that I was able to give much of it away. By looking at the ‘know how to save’ as a gift I can learn to share rather then become competitive. Some of us have gifts in one area while others in another area. If I have the ability to sniff out a deal, and can use that to provide items for others or teach them to do it as it fits in their lifestyle, then it becomes a giving process and that makes it hard to be judgemental.

    Sia Hills’s last blog post..Movie Cube Rent One Get One Code

  • What a great article! I have been frugal for a long time, way before it was cool. Now I’ve had to learn to let go a little and not make my husband crazy with my cheap ways. For us, learning to splurge a little is a good thing, at least in small doses. We do so much to stay frugal that it is important to enjoy the little things and not stress over the missed deal.

    It is hard to not be frustrated with impact that SO many people’s bad financial decisions have had on our country. I only hope that this ‘new’ way of focusing on living in your means, saving and be conscious of spending can stick around for a few (hundred) years!

    I’m here via Gayle’s blog and was tickled to be selected as well! Isn’t it great? :)

    Heather’s last blog post..Frugal Find Friday–Canning Colanders

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  • I think it does get a bit crazy out there sometimes. I come from a family that really appreciates a good deal, but we are willing to spend the money if it’s worth it too. I have other relatives who confuse being stingy for being frugal. In their stinginess, they always seem to end up paying more for things.

    Sometimes it’s hard to pass up a good deal, too and that leads to other kinds of waste.

    I just finished a two week “shopping vacation”. Made myself eat what was in the house to clear it out so I could start over. (Luckily, I had mostly good stuff around or that could have been a disaster). It was a great way to re-evaluate how my diet has changed and where my money is going.

    Anne’s last blog post..Excitement in the back yard

  • I’m motivated to learn more, and use my resources more efficiently when I see what other women are able to accomplish. I don’t feel a sense of competition; just a sense that I have much to learn. I’m so thankful for all the people that take the time to help all of us make better choices with our purchases.

    Jeana’s last blog post..Runs to the ER…

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  • Tiff W

    I am NOT competitive, and I find the only competition I am involved in when it comes to frugality is trying to get in there and get something that is on sale before the shelf-clearers wipe out every store in the county.

  • Saving Money Is Highly Competetive.

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