Being Frugal is Being Different

by Kelly · 11 comments

in Thoughts On Frugality

This post originally ran as a guest post in March 2008 on Being Frugal, one of my favorite personal finance blogs. Not only have I always loved Lynnae’s writing style and thoughts on frugality, but she’s been a real inspiration to me as I grow Almost Frugal.


As an American living in France, people know that I am different as soon as I open my mouth. It might be because of my accent, or the minor grammatical mistakes I continue to make, even after eight years here. Or it might be because I speak to my children in English, and that always turns heads.

In our consumer culture, being frugal also makes you different. Not having the nicest car, or furniture that matches, or a house full of pretty things, or even owning the house you live in, all because you’re frugal, makes you different from others. It’s not quite as easy to spot as my accent, but it makes you stand out none the less.

How you react is a question of attitude. I always smile when people in the grocery store turn around at the sound of my voice. When they make comments about how great it is that my kids are growing up bilingual, I agree politely. I don’t mention how tired I get of always having the same conversations!

It’s the same thing with being frugal: it’s all about attitude! I have a standard answer for why I don’t go out more often, or buy lots of things: ‘It’s not in the budget’.

It’s like saying ‘I don’t have the money because I have hundreds / thousands / hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and I’d rather throw all my available and hard earned cash at that than buy another overpriced cheap piece of tat / eat another meal I won’t remember in five years, like you’re doing now.’ Only you’re saying it politely.

Saying ‘It’s not in the budget’ shows that you’re different. It shows that you’re the sort of person that cares enough about where your money goes to establish a budget and, more importantly, stick to it. It shows that you’re the sort of person who is working hard to overcome past indulgences, and well, if that makes you different, you don’t really care. Saying ‘It’s not in the budget’ acknowledges that you’re different, but doesn’t make a big deal of it.

So go ahead: the next time a spendthrift friend or acquaintance tries to talk you into buying something you don’t really want to buy, or going somewhere you don’t really want to go, use your secret weapon. ‘It’s not in the budget!’

What do you say when someone asks you to spend money you don’t want to spend?


1 Nicki at Domestic Cents March 13, 2009

That’s my reply too! I’m strange in the mom-element. I don’t go to spas. I don’t take my daughter anywhere that requires $20+ for her admission. She isn’t enrolled in the fancy preschool in our town either. Yeah, people think I’m a little strange but I’m OK with that. We’re going to be in a great spot in five years when she’ll actually be able to remember the things we do with her 🙂

Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..Sensible Review:

2 Sherri (Serene Journey) March 13, 2009

Hi Kelly. My husband and I are pretty careful with where our money goes as well. We usually say “We don’t have money.” and just leave it at that. Although that’s not entirely true. We have the money, but like you, choose not to spend it on things we consider not important or a valuable contribution to our lifestyle. It took a lot of work and 2 years for us to finally get out of debt and it was quite the accomplishment. So we’re really in no hurry to get back in debt.

I’m with you on the accent thing too. We’re from Canada but lived in Australia for 4 years and every time we spoke we got the same look from people and smiling really is the only way to respond. 🙂

Sherri (Serene Journey)´s last blog post..Quite Possibly The Best Homemade Crusty Bread Ever

3 Amanda March 13, 2009

I usually either say, "It's not in the budget" or "I'm not interested." If it means I'm going to blow my budget buying something I don't need, I'm not interested in doing that to my budget. So either statement is a true statement.

<abbr>Amanda´s last blog post..Motivating Your Kids to Read</abbr>

4 Bette in the Midwest March 13, 2009


I'm a very frugal SAHM and am long past the need to justify how I spend my money to my family or friends, or to keep pace with anyone else in regard to spending. It took getting out of the working world and into the world of home making, parenting, etc. for me to finally get here. It's not really anyone elses's business is it?! I think saying "that's not in our budget" is a perfect response if/when it might be needed, and nothing more need be said.

I love hearing about life in France and would be interested to hear more about how the people there compare to Americans in their views about money, saving, earning, spending, etc. Say in aspects of homes, cars, clothing, haircuts and personal care, entertainment, home furnishings, college educations, etc. What are some of the values you've seen in that culture, how are those values taught and passed on, etc. I'm sure there is a wide range, as there is anywhere, but it would be fascinating to hear about some of it from your life there!

Best regards!

5 Annabel March 13, 2009

Kelly, I'm surprised you've encountered that situation in France (unless it's your American friends and acquaintances!)—I find the French to be quite frugal in general.

I try not to be around people that would pressure me to spend money in ways I can't or don't want to, but if that situation came up I would say something like "I have other things I'd rather spend my money on."

6 Coco March 13, 2009

I love the phrase “it’s not in our budget.” I am definitely using it when I am pressured into buying or doing something I can’t afford. Much more graceful & less brunt than my “I don’t think so….”

Sure, being frugal is being different, but I think being different is a WONDERFUL thing. I rejoice in being different, because that’s what makes me unique. Besides, who ended up the winner – the Ant or the Grasshopper?

Coco´s last blog post..Honolulu Festival; March 13-15

7 Carol March 14, 2009

I think a lot of people might want to present themselves as free spenders, but if you look more closely, you’ll find a lot of ways in which they are in fact quite frugal. They just don’t broadcast it because they want to LOOK successful. I’m not sure that being frugal is being as different as you think..

Though I have friends who have great houses full of matching furniture and uniformly nice things, I have more who do not.

8 Liz March 14, 2009

Kelly, yours is a wonderful site which I am really appreciating from Australia. I agree that a short non-confrontational response is the answer – you can quickly tell those friends who are keen to engage in a discussion about a frugal approach, and those who aren’t. A simple line to remind yourself of your longer-term goals is also a helpful tool!

9 Holly March 14, 2009

I usually say ‘It’s really not my cup of tea.’ ; ‘I don’t have time to…’ or ‘I’m not that keen on …’ And in truth, I’m NOT a person to get my nails done, go to the sunbed, package holidays, hair appointments, coffee and lunch out, take-away dinners frequently, the latest techno-gadget and almost daily shopping. I find them not only a waste on money, but a waste of time and energy!
My 10 year old son is very happy with what he does have (we count our blessings together regularly), even though he does get a bit wistful when classmates or teammates expound on their newest expensive item. I would rather spend the money on enriching activities than on electrical goods that are thrown on the wayside after a few days or weeks.
As an American in England for the past 11 years, I too get the same questions and comments to the point where I can anticipate them. A common misconception is that all Americans are rich with swimming pools! Well, not how I was raised… frugality was an important part of my whole life. Re-use, Recycle and Re-purpose were an understood necessity, not a global warming incantation.

10 Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife March 15, 2009

I think your response is SO much better than saying “I don’t have the money.” And for many reasons. Saying, “I don’t have the money” – especially if you’re saying it to your child – implies that you WOULD spend the money if you had it, and/or that you’re “poor.” While I agree that it’s really no one’s business how we spend our own money, with kids I think it’s important that parents use occasions where this might come up as opportunities to communicate important values and the decisions the parents are making because of those values.

It’s often not a case of not having money. Rather, frugal people make conscious decisions about how that money will be spent. Usually, it’s the case that we’re prioritizing some greater good, whether it’s getting out of debt, saving for retirement, practicing ethical consumption, whatever. It may be a distinction lost for many years on kids. But ultimately, I think kids do come to understand and appreciate the deeply held values that their parents live by.

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife´s last blog post..Your Turn, Dear Reader

11 Kristy @ Master Your March 17, 2009

I usually tell people that I can't afford to buy this or that, or go out here or there. With a couple of close friends, I may going into more detail – I had this or that come up, etc. – but I don't go and spend the money if I don't want to. It's funny, you'd think my spendthrift friends would be the ones to influence me the most, but strangely enough, my biggest challenge with spending is myself. I don't stop myself from the impulsive spending.

<abbr>Kristy @ Master Your Card´s last blog post..Weekly Round Up</abbr>

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