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February 26th, 2020
A need or discussion of frugality creates an association with poverty. Money and mindset gurus don’t talk too much about frugality because it implies a restricted state: it indicates that a person doesn’t have the ability to increase the value they create and capture. Frugality is about resorting the way resources are used in order to keep more, and this requires some sort of limit to the resources that are coming in – quite counter to the great heights advertised by your lifestyle guru. The lure that such money and mindset gurus use isn’t that you’ll become better off. . . and here are the strategies. That’s not exciting. Such gurus create attraction by claiming you will become spectacularly rich, and
then of course there will be no need for something as plebian as frugality.
Advice on this front often takes coffee or avocado toast as an example. Stop drinking the coffe and you’ll save X amount of dollars every month, that’s Y amount of dollars every year! and just think about what you could do with that money.
That last bit, about what you can do with money, might seem like the optional addendum that’s so obvious that it doesn’t necessarily need be said, but it’s the most important part of the discussion about frugality, and not in the way one might first expect.
The question arises: what exactly ARE we doing with the money we do have?
Most expenses perpetuate due to mild addictions and simply trying to ‘fit in’. Coffee certainly qualifies as an addiction, and maybe avocado toast fits somewhere between ‘fitting in’ and our constant ridiculous conviction that to go more than 12 hours without eating during which you’re not spending most of that time sleeping is unhealthy insanity.
Confronting the facts of fasting, and experimenting with the practice in an informed strategic way certainly makes it look like the incredible quantity of food that we consume in the modern age is perhaps better described as an addiction as opposed to something as quaint as ‘maintaining health.’
Fasting aside, is a daily coffee and toast smeared with healthy fat really the best places to look in order to figure out where and how we spend our money or save it?
The real things to look at are the ones that seem non-negotiable.
These become more obvious if we make some radical comparisons. First we might ponder: harking back to the time just before the United States was founded, when Europeans were invading North America, how much money did it take for someone to survive? At first thoughts of inflation and conversion might come to mind, but generally, the answer should be obvious: Not much at all. People built their own houses, they knew something about farming and how to raise livestock, they knew how to preserve food.
But let’s make an even more radical comparison. Those early settlers were equipped with a farming mindset, they were trying to make agriculture work. So let’s go back even farther to a time before agriculture, and ask:
How much money would you need to be a hunter gatherer?
The answer here doesn’t just highlight in extreme the previous answer, it takes it to it’s limit. It wouldn’t cost anything to be a hunter gatherer. In comparison to modern times, the idea of money was nearly non existent.
The difference is, of course, knowledge. Practically no one in the modern age has the knowledge required to be an effective hunter gatherer.
But the point of going down this rabbit hole of comparing human subsistence living is to point out one fact:
With the right knowledge and application, living is free.
Nothing could sound more painfully untrue for anyone taking part in the modern world. Living expenses for a huge majority are at their limit, and many live on a razors edge of balancing money that feels like desperation. Even those who have more than enough to subsist are not without financial stress.
All of this is to highlight the unquestioned areas of expense. Sure it feels unquestionably necessary to pay rent because of course, you need a place to live. But is this true? Or is it more a product of what everyone else is doing? Just imagine for a moment if you didn’t have to pay rent. How incredible would that be?
When asking such unusual questions that are veering away from the norm, we suddenly require a different framework for answering. Instead of looking at what everyone else is doing, we have to think about what is actually physically possible. Allred Alfred who founded the wildly successful distributed coding school called Lambda School lived in a car while he was looking for a way to start the school. Countless others have found similar solutions.
This aspect of rent and living expenses is likely to play a huge role in the coming decades as work becomes more distributed through an internet connectivity that gains global coverage. Soon it will be possible to live in the middle of nowhere and get paid.
The frugal individual looks for a way to make this happen now in some way.
But hidden beneath this discussion of money resides the real target of frugality.
Real frugality doesn’t result in pinched pennies.
Frugality is about rearranging resources and action in order to maximize the one resource that we cannot make more of, namely: time.
True frugality creates free time.