Monday, July 6, 2009

The Frugalities of Being Frugal.

When I was a little boy, all I ever wanted was KFC. I loved the stuff and if it wasn't for my regiment of swimming 3-4km every morning for training, no doubt I'd be 140kg by now, instead of the 90 that I'm pushing. See back then, things were simple; you went into KFC, ordered original recipe, coleslaw, and away you went. Fast forward to today and there are too many options, like hot and spicy, cayenne chicken (what the f&k is that), gay wraps and this new contraption called a filler which, upon removing from the packaging, is virtually uneatable without making a mess. While I'm sure you're finding this very entertaining, I use it as an analogy; life too has become more complicated.

As I've grown up, I have realised (or at least beginning to realise) that I am living by my means. As a uni student living on $4 Black and Gold pizzas and absolutely putrid frozen lasagna and No Frills pies, I could get by on my measly Austudy money no worries, which was about $200/fortnight after rent. And guess what. I was happy. Today, I am also happy, but 200 bucks wouldn't cover shit. How can this be? Why has this occurred? Could it be that living costs more now?

I don't think so. All of a sudden I have a mortgage, I have these things called "bills" and insurance to pay for....stuff. All of a sudden, I felt the urge to buy a huge arse LCD TV, or to buy furniture that costs more than $50, or to buy a $100+ shirt when I was at the Melbourne F1 earlier this year. It seems my standard of living has magically improved as I began to make more money.

So I'm going to talk about frugalities. Yes, being frugal saves you money, but does it mean you have to be a tight arse still watching a black and white screen wrapped in wood?

I am going to create a new term. You ready? It's called "MODERN FRUGALITY".

Being modern frugal is very simple, easy to do and leaves money in your pocket at the end of the day, without resorting to living off rice and sugar only.

I'll give you an example. Let's look at mobile phones:

True frugality = No mobile
Old time frugality = Cheap basic mobile such as a traditional Nokia, on a cheap plan (i.e. $5/month)
MODERN FRUGALITY = An expensive mobile on a cheapish plan (for example an iPhone on a $10-20/month plan)
Totally non frugal = iPhone on a $100/month plan
Ridiculously money wasting = The above, but golden encased and comes with it's own stripper.

So in essence, modern frugality observes the best of both worlds. It's not being totally tight, but it's not being over the top. Frugal living in modern times means that you still are able to have nice stuff (if that turns you on), but are thinking about your cash flow too. A lot of kids these days have huge mobile phone bills, well in excess of $50/month and this becomes a lot of money. It teaches bad habits. "Oh, I have $100 of free calls that I pay for in my monthly fee, so I HAVE TO use it."

Whereas, you can be frugal with the same mobile. Buying an iPhone for example gives you a top of the line phone that once purchased, costs you nothing and the secret of modern frugality is in the plan that you end up getting. Modern frugality allows a person to still have quality items, but with some thought as to the ongoing financial impact.

Let's repeat this mindset for one off purchase items, for example an LCD TV:

True frugality = Black and white hand me down brick TV.
Old time frugality = TEAC or equivalent cheap SD 40 inch.
MODERN FRUGALITY = LG 40 inch HD.
Totally non frugal = LG 55 inch HD.
Ridiculously money wasting = LG 55 inch HD with it's own stripper.

So you see, the modern frugal person does not buy crap. In old frugal times, it meant buying shitty TVs but a modern frugal individual will buy "middle of the range" I suppose you might say. No that's not right...it's more middle of the range with thought. You see, old time frugal person, let's call him Bill, will end up with a TEAC. It will be fine, there will be a warranty blah blah blah. BUT, it is a TEAC and let's face it, it's going to die in the arse very quickly and Bill is oging to be one of those pissed off on-the-dole people that hate the world. LG on the other hand should last longer, but a modern frugal person does not buy the biggest, however lets keep in mind that they don't buy shit. Yeah, that's it, the modern frugal man does not buy shit.

Phew, I'm glad I came to that conclusion finally, because I was beginning to have doubt I could define it, but yes, modern frugality is about not buying shit, but also not buying excessively huge. I'll leave you with that thought...