Frugality — It’s Like A Diet, But It’s Also Like Alcoholism

by Katy on April 7, 2014 · 19 comments

Practicing a life of extreme frugality is a lot like being on a diet. Like a diet, you spend your days carefully planning your purchases, (meals) patting yourself on the back for figuring out low cost alternatives to your old ways (low calories hacks) and working hard to stay within your budget, (diet.) And like any diet, there are going to be times when you say “F*ck it!” and dive head first into a multiple pints of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food/Cherry Garcia/Karamel Sutra. But instead of giving up and spending subsequent days in indulgence, you devote the next week to making healthy food choices and in the end it’s all progress.

Unfortunately, frugality is also like being an alcoholic.

There are places you can no longer go to, and people that bring out your worst. Your favorite stores are suddenly off limits, and your friend who always picks the most expensive restaurants is now put in the category of people who bring out your worst, and need to be handled carefully. New habits have to be established.

But new habits don’t have to be negative thing. Being in control of your life, whether it’s food, money or booze is within your grasp. And if you slip up with a day of indulgent eating or an adorable new pair of boots, that’s okay. Just take it one day at a time and start fresh the next day.

It’s all progress.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugal queen April 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

A really interesting point of view. As some one who has given up drinking and spending, I can’t stand pubs or anywhere there is drink. What you say is true though there are places I can’t go as I’ve shifted my financial priorities to saving for retirement and paying off my mortgage I can’t afford to eat out any more. Restaurants and shops are off limits but I remember that’s my choice and now I’m two sizes smaller, I want to stay that way.


K D April 7, 2014 at 10:50 am

Years ago I wanted to write a book that related saving money to dieting. I had a brainstorm but did not write down my ideas so the book idea was quickly but a distant memory.

I also like your analogy to alcoholism.

As many people like to say, “it’s all good”.


Diane April 7, 2014 at 11:43 am

One of my greatest pleasures is eating good food and since I cannot afford restaurants, I make sure most of my home cooked meals are restaurant quality. Tonight: David Leibovitz’s roasted tomato basil pizza. Basil from my porch container garden and the rest of the ingredients from the fridge or cupboard. The roasting tomatoes smell divine!


Karen April 7, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Love the new look with the photo!


patti April 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Well, this is timely as I have started Weight Watchers this week. It is hard to change your ways, but you can do it. And you can still go out to eat or whatever… just don’t over indulge (food or money). I went with our gang of friends to hear a favorite band play on Saturday night (for free) and had neither food nor alcoholic drink. I just sipped on my Diet Coke and enjoyed the show and friendship. No one even asked why I wasn’t eating or why I wasn’t drinking. Sometimes we think we are making a big deal out of something that may not even register with other people.


karyn lee April 7, 2014 at 2:45 pm

oh my goodness. i have been struggling to stay frugal because i have no idea how to change my habits – but believe it or not, this post is so beautiful and straight to the point it makes sense and gives me another way of thinking about this lifestyle and give it another good go. thankyou


Chris April 7, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Even without buying anything, I so enjoy your photos of the worst/weirdest of Goodwill!


Gina April 7, 2014 at 6:54 pm

I lost a couple of friends by switching to a frugal lifestyle last year out of financial necessity. Interesting how they stopped calling and were busy when I called them. It was as if their social life only revolved around expensive lunches, dinners, coffees & shopping. It was an adjustment for my other friends to spend time with me without spending money…but they were open to meeting up for walks, free yoga, picnics and (gasp) visiting each other at our homes, something I always did with friends until about ten years ago when it seemed everyone always wanted to go out instead.

I will never go back to my wasteful spending ways if my finances increase. It was such an incredible waste of money on so many mediocre meals, calorie laden coffees and clothes I ended up not wearing or wearing once and relegating to the back of the closet.

Yes, some days it feels like a punishment when I’m really craving a restaurant specialty and I can’t go and have it. But the craving passes and I’m getting pretty good at making copycat meals of some of my favorites. And it is good to know the ingredients that are going into your meals. Bonus, I’ve lost 15 lbs. & now fit into clothes that I haven’t been able to wear (thankfully I hung on to many but donated some). So I won’t have to buy anything for spring or summer this year!


K D April 8, 2014 at 4:01 am

Your second paragraph is spot on. I often feel as if most people are sheep and I understand “The Emperor Has No Clothes” story better now than I did as a child. Food and beverages can be made for pennies on the dollar (compared to eating out/take-out), they can be so much healthier, and the environmental impact is greatly reduced.


Betsey April 8, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I can relate to yur first paragraph. When I decided to go frugal, I lost about half of my friends. The rest were relieved! They had gone frugal also, and we found it was much more fun to make a pizza at someone’s house or have a progressive dinner or a finger food fest. I do not miss my spendthrift ways at all although I must admit I get tempted and sometimes I invite temptation right in.


marieann April 8, 2014 at 4:17 am

I find that a frugal lifestyle can really change relationships. It is unbelievable how much socialization involves shopping and spending money, a very sad commentary on our way of life.
Luckily I don’t enjoy restaurant food anyway so it’s no hardship for me to eat at home, where I know the food will be good :).
Besides thrift stores the only places I shop are yarn and fabric stores so most of my shopping buddies are knitters or quilters.
I am an avid gardener also, so I have my gardening friends and we’re quite happy to visit each others gardens or meet at the garden club.

I can see how hard it must be for someone to change spendy habits when there can be so much resistance from friends and family


Belleln April 8, 2014 at 4:47 am

Good post. Many people don’t realize how important it can be to live a frugal lifestyle. We’re 65+, retired to Florida and barely made it thru the real estate bust. We would not have been able to if we were not used to being frugal. Lost most of our money/investments, had to trim our budget to bare bones living – even calculating how many gallons of gas we could afford each month. But, we did not lose our home or car or have to be baled out by our kids, declare bankruptcy or apply for food stamps or line up for free food/meals. Took about 3 years to recover and we are financially solvent today.
Being frugal has also defined our friendships – if we cannot be accepted for who we are and the way we live then these are not people who we want to be our friends. Based on what my kids (ages 32-40) tell me, I believe it is much harder for those under the age of 40 as their lifestyles have been defined, for the most part, by where they shop, eat and what they spend on their free time ie movies at the theater vs Redbox & popcorn at home or country club or golf & tennis vs. public courses & courts.
Had an interesting conversation at the grocery checkout last week as I apologized to the woman behind me for taking so long to finish my checkout. The cashier did not tally one of my $1 coupons and I made him go back and check. She said, not too nicely, that she never used coupons, wouldn’t take the time and didn’t see how it really helped. When I said I lived on SS and had a limited budget she was taken back and said I didn’t look like I needed ‘help with money’. How does one look when being frugal?
Someone mentioned not being able to change spending habits – it takes about 21 days to change a habit. It’s not quick and easy but a long slow haul made easier by a good support group. If necessary sit down with family & friends and make your case and insist on their support. If they won’t support you then limit your contact with them.


Katy April 8, 2014 at 7:25 am

Thank you so much for sharing your story! You have a lot of personal insight.



Louise April 8, 2014 at 6:52 am

This is your best post ever – so well written! And, unfortunately, so true 🙁


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary April 8, 2014 at 9:13 am

In terms of the people I have to avoid to stay on my non-consumer path, the ones I have the most trouble with are the people who are money-conscience and still very consumer oriented. They are always talking about the screaming deal they got on … whatever it is … or how to save money by signing up for … whatever thing-a-ma-bob. I wish these folks well, but I cannot be around them. For me, the best path to frugality is to continue to move towards more simple living and less stuff.


Katy April 8, 2014 at 9:52 am

So true. “Screaming deals” are still money spent and stuff into our homes.



marieann April 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I was grocery shopping with a friend, we went to buy the specials. She said the bottled water is on sale only $2 a case. I said I know where I can get it cheaper than that….out of my faucet.


Gina April 12, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Isn’t it bizarre that bottled water has become the norm? I grew up drinking tap water and felt fortunate as my mother told me her generation didn’t have floride in their water. Then I moved away from home and bottled water became the “it” or “Starbucks” of our time and I fell victim to the fad of carrying a bottle everywhere. Again, as a kid or a teen we never toted a drink everytime we walked out the door. There were water fountains in public places (still are) if we felt parched. I was guilty of that for years, until I finally “got it” and what those plastic bottles are doing to our environment. I now tote a refillable bottle filled with tap water every time I walk out the door!


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