People are Attracted to Frugality Because of Laziness

I haven’t always been the biggest fan of frugality, but I know exactly why people are attracted to it.

My opinion is that there often bigger fish to fry and better way to make the gap between earnings and spending as large as possible (including earning more money!). But to each his own, and there’s a clear explanation for why the first step of personal finance for many is resorting to cutting costs.

What it comes down is that people are lazy. Increasing income doesn’t come easily. If we could wake up in the morning and say ‘I think I’m gonna earn something extra today’ we’d all be pretty happy. But in reality making money takes hard work. We either have to learn another skill or put in a lot of time and effort into a business plan. For most people who want to have an extra $1,000 in disposable income each month, why go that route when we have some low hanging fruit we can pick?

To me, the problem with frugality doesn’t have to do with picking the low hanging fruit. I think it’s admirable to cut out the first layer, which is often just waste. Once we get rid of the wasteful spending and become conscious of our spending habits, we get two positive outcomes: more savings and less clutter, both mentally and physically.

My issue is when the first layer leads into a second and third layer. Cutting out waste is great, but eventually we start cutting into the things we like and cut back on the things that make us happy. Right there is where it crosses the line for me. Once we save money for the sake of saving money (and get no additional benefits and in fact get some drawbacks), we’ve taken it too far.

It’s easy to save on our existing expenses, and we should all aim for this goal. However, just because it’s easier to cut back on expenses doesn’t mean that there’ s no limit to how far we can go. In fact, there’s a very clear limit. We only have so much we can save. There’s no limit to how much we can earn. If we spend $2,000 a month, we likely will be able to cut that a little bit but we’re not going to get an extra $1,500 in earning power per month.

But who’s to say we won’t be able to do that with a small business? Just $1,500 is definitely attainable! There really is no limit to how much more we can make by working hard and building a businesses using our existing skills, we can do anything.

Readers, are you over frugality yet? It has its place, but have you moved on to greener pastures yet?


17 Responses to People are Attracted to Frugality Because of Laziness

  1. JT says:

    Mmmm….controversy in the morning!

    I’m not sure it’s laziness – have you seen how hard people work to find coupons? I think it’s guarantees vs. no guarantees.

    I know that I can spend X amount of time and save Y amount of dollars. However, X amount of time invested in a certain activity does not necessarily yield me Y amount of dollars.

    Certainty is valuable; it’s the reason why people look to save rather than earn. It’s also the reason why you keep your short-term cash in a savings/checking account rather than a volatile, but higher-yielding investment.

    Just my .02.

    • Daniel says:

      @JT, People don’t want to put in the time in for something they don’t know if it will pan out, absolutely right. But clipping coupons isn’t enough to make a SIGNIFICANT change to your bank account. With more cash, you can buy all the things you want! When you cut back, you buy less and less!

      • JT says:

        @Daniel, I agree with you. Still, I understand why people don’t seek to make more money.

        Saving money is a risk-free return; earning more isn’t always risk-free. Earning lots of money is never risk-free. I don’t think it’s an indication of laziness, however.

  2. I agree. One you eliminate the low hanging fruit, I like to stop there. What’s the point of living if you never do anything you like?

    • Couldn’t agree more. All the hard work and earnings are for naught if people don’t take the time to enjoy what they earned. All that will come from it is a miserable person with a fat bank account.

  3. Melissa says:

    Last fall, I pulled my (relatively new) trench coat out of storage and discovered a small hole in the side. A normal person would have just bought a new coat. But no! I decided I would just stitch it up. No biggie. Except I didn’t. I kept wearing it, and the hole got bigger. Then I decided I would have to put a patch over it. Except I didn’t, and by the time I put the coat away for summer this year there was a MASSIVE hole in the side that was so big that I had to carry a tote bag on that side just to cover it. I never did patch it.

    Did I go through all that out of frugality? Heck no. I was just too lazy to 1) Fix it or 2) Figure out a way to afford a new coat.

  4. I think that sometimes it’s just misplaced effort and energy. If some people placed the same amount of time and work into developing a business rather than extreme couponing, they wouldn’t have to worry as much about cutting out the “wastes”. Granted, it is always wise to shop around and try to get the best deal but not when the opportunity cost is time lost doing so or money that could have been earned while doing that searching.

  5. krantcents says:

    Your frugality is being value conscious to me. I try to see how much more I can get by either being smarter or more creative. For example, it bothers me that movie tickets are so expensive ($11.75). I use group discount tickets that cost me $6 instead. It is a game for me!

    • Daniel says:

      @krantcents, absolutely, and I think that’s really easy. I do it too! And that’s the positive side of frugality.

      The negative side is driving 6 miles to save 3 cents on gas.

  6. It’s not laziness. It’s just easier for most people to cut expense. Anyone can cut their expense, you just have to work at it and be consistent. It’s like sports, everyone can play hard on defense.

    Of course, it’s best to be frugal and earn more money. There is no reason why you can’t do both.

    • Daniel says:

      @retirebyforty, If it’s easier to cut expenses, and it’s harder to make more money, then isn’t it obvious that if we try harder (and not be lazy) we can earn more.

  7. I have mixed feelings on this (and yes, awesome controversy brewing here)…

    On one hand, some of the most frugal people I know are in fact lazy (if you can call an opinion a fact, but I digress). But that might be anecdotal.

    On the other hand, it’s a pain in the ass to be really frugal. It takes discipline! It’s hard work! I don’t have the discipline to eat crappy food, ride my bike everywhere and tear my bounce sheets in half. It’s work! So in that vein, perhaps the frugal are more hard-working and people like us who spend way more than we need to and outsource stuff, waste resources, etc are the ones who are lazy.

    Who knows, I do what makes me and my family happy. But if I didn’t have the side income I do, I’d probably be more frugal.

  8. Jackie says:

    I think there’s a difference between frugality and cutting expenses as a way to save money (instead of going out and making more.)

    Frugality is more a mindset where you don’t want to waste things. So you do things like use cloth napkins instead of paper towels, save rubber bands and baggies, etc. I don’t think it’s necessarily about cutting expenses, although that can definitely be a byproduct.

    In general I’ve found it easier to go out and make more money than to cut expenses, but that’s because until these past couple of years I didn’t have very many places to cut.

  9. pamela says:

    I could not disagree with this post more!

  10. I realize the language your using is all about stirring up the ol’ controversy, but, um, really? Frugality is a manifestation of laziness? And your logic to reach this conclusion is based on the fact that “making money takes hard work.” Seriously?

    Mistaking frugality with deprivation is a common thing. Folks generally tend to confuse being miserly with being frugal. Frugality is pretty much just common sense and lacks deprivation. Me thinks you’ve spent a bit too much time around the miserly type.

    As for “making money is hard work.” Um, have you spent much time in corporate America? I have steadily moved up the food chain of corporate hierarchy and as a result, I make significantly more and work significantly less than I once did. My experience is hardly uncommon (although not to be confused with universal truth). Perhaps for a migrant farm worker or other manual laborer, making money is hard work. For the rest of us, it’s not such a challenge. Many, many folks work in fields that could barely be considered labor and receive substantial sums for doing so. The laziest way in which I function is through the ways I make money. The ways in which I employ frugality often require a great deal of effort, which is why I frequently opt to outsource something, thus spending money, because I am simply too damned lazy to do it myself.

    Short version–your logic has a some flaws. Also, I think the “make more vs. save more” argument is a false dichotomy. You can do both and neither are inherently negative.

  11. If you save money, you don’t have to pay taxes on the savings. If you earn more, you pay taxes.

    However, to me the point is to not waste and use everything for the best purpose. It’s not to save money.

    Sometimes its easier to save money, sometimes its easier to earn it. Depends on the business idea or the frugality idea.

  12. Yes, it’s probably easier for most people to clip a few coupons rather than start a side business, but I’m not sure that’s out of laziness. I personally am learning the value of my time, but not in dollars – I can always earn more money, but I can NEVER buy more time. I’d rather spend my time with people I love or doing things I love than pouring my minutes and hours into overtime at the office or trying to start up a small business. Being frugal by staying out of the mall, shopping for food during sales and with coupons, and taking advantage of free community events is a better trade-off to me.

    Call me lazy if you want – but yes, I’d RATHER being reading a book in a hammock drinking homemade lemonade with my husband than trying to figure out a way to earn more, more, more. As they say, no one ever died wishing they’d spent more time working.