Friday, June 22, 2007

Are You Too Frugal?

Sometimes I read these bloggers who reccomend things like preparing your own detergent or drinking nothing but tap water, and it just make me wonder: Is It Worth It?

Don't Punish Yourself

Here's how I figure it: Being frugal but still being happy requires that you don't sacrifice on enjoyment and desires.

You can still be happy, even while you are frugal, if you eliminate those desires which are unnecessary for your happiness. Do you really need the big screen tv, the expensive car, the huge house, all of these keeping-up-with-the-Jones' items to be happy?

Eliminate Unneccessary Desires

One thing that helps me eliminate these desires is thinking about why people want them.

On this note, the economist Thorstein Veblen, writing more than a hundred years ago, had some brilliant insight which really pierces the illusions upon which our consumerist society is built.

In his book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, he wrote that our modern consumerist viewpoint is really an attempt by people to try to seperate themselves into higher classes. The highest class is the so called Leisure Class, those people who are so rich and important that they can afford to do basically nothing productive for themselves or society.

The Leisure Class spends money in an attempt to show that they are so rich and powerful that they do not need to spend money on anything useful and can afford to simply waste their money. For instance, the rich spent gob-loads of money on silver utensils, even though steel utensils in fact work better. A modern day example would be the fashion industry: rich, important people spend tons of money buying clothes which are far less useful than regular clothes, and then proceed to wear them once.

Looking at my own desires: I identify a lot of them which are built upon the need for others to recognize me as a success (for instance a car that can park itself) and these desires seem silly, now that I realize they are just an attempt for me to demonstrate that I am so statusful that I can afford to waste my money on useless crap.

What's Left Is What Makes You Happy

So, I do my best to eliminate those desires which are based on some insecure need to validate myself to others by showing that I too can waste my money, and I'm left with those (usually cheaper) things which really do make me happy. My wife, my friends, my activities and hobbies, and of course my beloved Tivo. I don't intend to get rid of these things, no matter how expensive, because My Happiness is Worth It.


J at IHB and HFF said...

Hello. Yes, spending to impress others is odd, especially when (unlike the Vleben example) the spenders do not in fact have the money to waste but waste it anyway (credit cards, HELOCs).


The answer for me is no I am not frugal.