Why Live A Frugal Life If You’re Always Going To Be In Debt?


I’ve never heard anyone say that they LOVE living a frugal life where money becomes the centre of attention. Behind every frugal person there is a reason why they spend and save the way that they do.

Carrying debt is not something to take lightly so choosing to watch where the dollars are being spent is better than the stress of  debt collectors calling.

Nobody wants to struggle with their finances. Nobody wants to budget but many of us do it so we can make ends meet and save for the future.

We do what we believe we must do to get ahead, but not everyone thinks this way. Anyone that can add and subtract should realize that if you continue to spend money that debt will mount, especially if it’s not being paid in full every month.

I’ve had the painful luxury of listening to a conversation between two guys who said there’s no point saving money because we’re all going to die before we can spend it.

I’ve also been in the middle of a conversation where an acquaintance was saying to his wife that he doesn’t care about debt because he will never pay it off before he dies.

Insert head scratch here. Doh!

I’ve come to the conclusion that some people are clairvoyant and can see into the future, which is a wonderful gift to have. Some people say there is a difference between being cheap vs. frugal but ultimately they both do one thing, save money.

Imagine that.

I bet there are times you recall saying, “I want to find the cheapest brand” ,”The cheaper one will do” or “Let’s go to the outlet stores, they’re cheaper” simply because you want to save money.

Related: Frugal vs Cheap

That’s right, I bet you use the word cheap more than you think.

The word frugal is just a somewhat nicer way of saying you are cheap for some people. Being cheap may be perceived that you are broke, collect used or crappy junk or do it to survive because you have to.

Being frugal on the other hand is just a smart way of shopping where even the wealthy can take part without being looked down on. A crock of you know what if you ask me.

You can’t bundle shoppers into two groups when two words mean the same thing! That’s like saying this Kit Kat tastes better than my other Kit Kat that was made in the same factory, with the same ingredients on the same day from the same batch.

I know a woman who has a gorgeous home, stunning actually finished top to bottom with over 4000 sq ft of living space.

Coincidentally she furnished her entire home from Kijiji, garage sales and free stuff she re-purposed. She earns a decent living and has no debt but chooses to be frugalcheap (I made that up) because she can and she will.

Extreme cheapskates (a.k.a Frugal Fanatics) are everywhere and maybe your friend, loved one or family member. They do this because that’s their happiness or sadness depending on their situation. If they want to save on every little thing they need, so be it.

Whether someone decides to save their extra packets of ketchup from fast food restaurants or use coupons to slash their grocery bill it only ends up saving them money which they can use for something else.

Are they being frugal or just cheap? It doesn’t really matter. The way that someone decides to save money may be their road map to debt freedom. It may not be the way you want to live but you don’t have to, it’s their life.

A couple of months ago a CBB fan and I were chatting on Facebook and she said something to me that I’ve heard many times over the years of saving money.

You’ll read that the use of the words “Cheap and Frugal” in the same paragraph…(don’t tell anyone but…they are the same thing) and she knows it.

There are always going to be people who look down on those who live a frugal life whether they have to or not.

I’ve been told that I’m cheap and that we will always be in debt so why am I worrying about being frugal? Believe me I get tonnes of comments. However, I have lots of friends and family that ask for help on how to be frugal. It balances out.- CBB FAN

Related: Why clearing debt is like dieting

What makes me laugh is the people who are dishing out advice likely spend more money than they earn, have debt they don’t care about or more money than they know what to do with.

Either way they clearly don’t understand how important it is for some people to pay off their debt. Living a frugal life is more about getting out of debt and the only way to do that is to pay it off.

Frugal Life vs. Shop until you drop

Let’s quickly deconstruct the Frugal Life…

  • You earn an income
  • You budget your expenses
  • You live a frugal life and always find ways to save
  • You pay your monthly bills and debt (maybe not in full but you pay them)
  • You stop creating debt (ta-da)
  • You eventually pay off your debt (mission accomplished)

If you forget about the frugal life and opt to just spend money freely…

  • You earn an income
  • You spend your money
  • You run out of money (oh, now what?)
  • You use credit to pay for your expenses (you mean you’re just giving me money?)
  • You create debt (yes you have to pay that money back)
  • You pay bills when you can, if you can
  • You continue to create debt
  • You never get out of debt as it’s a revolving door. The money comes in and goes out. You never get ahead and you struggle to live the life you want.

You see the frugal mindset is a powerful tool to hold even if some people believe it’s a waste of time.

Related: You don’t have to be budget poor to live a frugal life

Eventually those that shop until they drop will hit the ground hard because they may end up losing everything. It can happen to ANYONE. Was it worth it? I bet you’d take a look back and wish you’d made better choices and weren’t so critical of those who chose to live a frugal life.

Living debt free

When I was young my financial goals were to become debt free as early as possible so I could focus more on what I wanted from life. Thankfully my wife and I were both cheap and frugal or whatever you want to call it and we are debt free including the mortgage.

Related: How we paid our mortgage off in 5 years

Just the other day we were told that the stock market has been horrible and the best thing to do was to clobber the mortgage. The mortgage pay down vs investing has been an ongoing debate in the financial world but ultimately we chose to rid of it.

I opened up (which I rarely do) and said we paid our mortgage off and boy did we ever raise some eyebrows. Honestly, it felt good to say it. They were in awe that we were able to pay it off so fast at our age. That’s ok, so were we but we did it.

Without hesitation one person wanted to know what the secret was or whether we were simply earning 6-figure incomes. There is no secret. No we weren’t earning tonnes of money rather we were investing in saving it for our future.

Living a frugal life is the only way that we were able to get where we are financially today. We still went on vacations, road trips and did what everyone else does but we always sourced deals and never spent above our means.

Most of all, we used a budget but only after we realized the benefits and continue using one today.

Related: Free Downloadable Tools<<< Get our free budget here!

We chose to get rid of our mortgage 5 years after buying our home while continuing to invest to balance the two out. Just like the CBB fan above who told me that the good and bad comments balance out for her, the same could be said for the stock market vs. mortgage payments debate.

Questioning the aftermath…

Was it worth it for us? It sure was and debt free feels good. Were we being frugal?

Sure, we saved money. Were we being cheap? I would not disagree because all we did was save money. We did what we had to do in order to achieve our financial goals by using money smart strategies in our 30’s to erase debt.

It’s your debt now pay it off!

You might know someone who lives the frugal life and even consider them cheap in comparison to your own standards. Whatever the reason is that someone chooses to watch how they spend their money is their business.

They might be debt free and love living a frugal life and that’s fine as long as they aren’t hurting anyone or themselves in the process.

If anything you should be happy that they are taking a stance against debt and not wanting to go bankrupt like so many people do.

The CBB fan may be saving her dollars any way she can but I bet in the long run she will be the one batting the home run! When her friends are busy trying to make ends meet she’ll already circle them twice over.

I’d rather get rid of debt even if it takes years because if you choose to ignore it you’ve already given up on your right to debt freedom.

We aren’t owed anything in life and when in debt whether it’s the fault of our own or not we must pay it back. Don’t live a stressful life worrying about when you will eat next or whether your electricity will be turned off. It’s not fair to you or to your children if you have any.

Related: Does having debt mean you are having too much money fun?

So, if I had to do it all over again you bet I’d live the frugal life with a blast of cheap in my budget. Call me “frugalcheap” or whatever you want but you can’t take away the freedom I enjoy every morning when I get out of bed.

Don’t let anyone intimidate you when you put your financial health ahead of wants or when you don’t conform to their standards.

The choice is obvious…. can you see it?

Discussion: What would you do? Pay the debt by living a frugal life or forget about it and just keep spending?

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  1. Frugalcheap!!
    I love it!!!!!!!
    Glad I found this page, get to read all these posts and continue learning!
    Thanks Mr.CBB

  2. We paid off our mortgage in 5 years too. Thst was when interest rates were 13.5%!! Yes we were cheap at that time and even now. But there is a huge satisfaction in being selfreliant. Even when we travel we still like to look for deals anf plan most of our vacations . Retirement is great, no debts, no worries.. And this was after semi retirement in our 40’s. How much do you really need?

    1. That’s great!! It is a wonderful feeling owning everything. I don’t think we will ever stop being frugalcheap unless we win the lottery but even then plenty of winners go broke!!

  3. I actually think there is a big difference between being cheap and being frugal. Although, I think I understand the underlying message you’re trying to convey here. I always think of frugal as being smart with your money. You could easily afford an $800,000 home but buy a home for $400,000 because you just don’t need all that space and glitz. But if you’re cheap, I think you would try to avoid tipping at a restaurant or not put in for a group gift at work, etc. We love to be frugal, as that’s just who we are, but would never be cheap. Does that make sense?

    1. I understand your points as well and I believe it’s all a matter of perspective. When all is said and done the end goal is the same… saving money. Yes that was the message. 🙂

  4. I’ve had some of my co-workers tell me that they would rather live now rather than later. This was after I said that I’m working to become debt-free. I want that debt freedom so that I can enjoy life to the fullest of my budget, especially after I retire (not that’s anytime soon). You never know what the road holds for you so I want to be prepared as much as possible. There’s still many things that I need to straighten out so that should that road stop happen now, I’m not up a “s””t creek without a paddle” but I’m taking it one day at a time and doing the best I can right now.

    You bet, if I could do this all over again, I would so not repeat these mistakes that I’ve made, I’d just make a whole bunch of new ones 😀

  5. your chronicle of your family’s financial journey is inspiring. Several years ago, through a change in domestic arrangements, I became much more interested in advice and readable blogs to learn about budgeting and investing. your site is of special interest with its free share templates and recipes. The discipline in budgeting to pay off a mortgage, in fewer years than the average term, was shared in my household. I paid off my mortgage in 2014. Despite sharing the challenges of balancing a Full time job, joint custody, new mortgage with some close work colleagues; there was very limited support of my frugal lifestyle when it came to regular workplace socializing by going out for $15 weekly lunches and daily $4 coffee breaks. Initially, I passed on the work outings, but then, since the conversations and gossip took place in the common area of the food court, I just made my coffee at the work kitchen and brought it along in a reusable mug. Win-win. As for lunches …bag lunch,for 4 long years. Occasionally, i organized pot lucks at work where colleagues participated and at least once a year I joined work friends for a lunch at a sit down restaurant. Today: mortgage is paid off, RRSP and TFSA and RESP topped up. just started a non registered investment account this past summer. While the equity markets are suffering and so is my paper worth, I am holding on and collecting dividends. I still fill in my monthly CBB budget and am grateful to see the net worth progress. Financial freedom has arrived! Thanks CBB!

    1. Hi Carmen,
      Thanks for sharing this with us. It’s a great feeling being debt free and like you we gave up going for those expensive lunches and coffee runs which saved us a tonne of money. I still bring my lunch to work everyday and make a mug of coffee to go. I like how you managed to get in on the conversation without spending money to do so. Very smart!! I’m glad you like the budget. Which budget do you use? -With or without projected expenses? – MR.CBB

      1. Hi Mr. CBB: I use the projected expenses. why? well because that is the version I downloaded. bTW| Since 2016 will be a leap year, which version of the previous templates do you recommend?
        Best of the season and keep up the great analysis and writing ! Cheers

        1. Hi Carmen,
          We use the projected expenses as well and will continue to do so. The only changes I’m working on with the budget are our projected expenses so we can have the budget tally them up at the end but since I am working so much right now I am working on it slowly. For the one extra day I’m not going to make any changes to the budget. February is already a short month as it is so it shouldn’t make too much of a difference if any at all.

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