Keeping Up with Those More Frugal

If you’ve been reading personal finance blogs for very long I’m sure you’ve come across at least one post about how keeping up with the Jones family down the street can harm your finances by causing you to spend more money on things you may not even truly value.

But did you know that swinging completely the opposite direction can be harmful for your finances too?

I never thought about what could happen if you tried to keep up with those more frugal than yourself until I wrote this post on my own blog.

In my process of becoming financially real, I’ve taken the time to sit down and evaluate what things in my life that I love and want to continue to spend money on.

Some of the things I decided I wanted to keep spending money on include:

Of course I realize that this is NOT the popular opinion among most PF bloggers. Frugality is the norm among members of our community, sometimes even to the extreme.

While I’m in no way bashing your frugal ways, I just want you to know that is never going to be me and I’m no longer going to try to keep up with you!

Trying to keep up with the Jones family may cause you to spend more on things you don’t value, but trying to keep up with those more frugal can cause you to avoid spending on things you do value and that’s not okay.

Instead of trying to be uncomfortably frugal to keep up with the “standard” in our community, I’m admitting to myself and to you all that I’m never going to be the most frugal blogger you’ll read.

I’d much rather find ways to earn more money so I can afford my lifestyle and continue to pay off debt instead of cutting the things I love out of my budget to save a few bucks.

Keeping up with those more frugal is not a good habit to get into. I think my competitive nature may have led to me trying to “fake it” so I could fit in with the other PF bloggers. But the truth of the matter is that I’m not ever going to be prone to the frugal ways of others.

The best thing going forward to quit trying to keep up with anyone. From now on, I’m resolving to be true to myself instead of trying to keep up with the Jones family or those more frugal. More of a middle-of-the-road approach to finances and spending is my plan to continue to enjoy my life and money while still reaching my financial goals.

Do you find yourself trying to keep up with either the Jones family or those more frugal? How has it affected your finances? What do you plan to do to fix it going forward? Are you naturally frugal? I’m certainly not!

Rockstar Finance

About Kayla

Kayla is a mid-20s single girl living in the Midwest, USA. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. You can join her on her journey at ShoeaholicNoMore or follow her on Twitter.


  1. I hear ya! For me, being frugal enables me to spend money on the things that are important to *me*. I try to go to the cinema once a month (if there’s something worth seeing) and I like to be able to buy good quality products (shoes!) when I need them. But… I budget for the movie and I only buy one pair of good quality every day boots every few years.

    If I didn’t take a frugal approach to life, I wouldn’t be able to have those things AND save money. I’m a bit radical when I need to be but I wouldn’t be happy if that was my life every. single. day. And, I never intent to try to keep up with the ziplock-bag-reusers of the world. πŸ™‚

    • I’m glad to know that while you are frugal on some things, there are others where you feel it’s ok to spend more money. πŸ™‚ That’s how I try to balance it out most of the time too.

    • I thought the point was to do what’s right for u. What’s wrong with reusing zip locks?! I’m hurt! I feel I save $ (painless saving for me) by using cloth napkins, reusable containers & cheap dollar store laundry soap so I can afford high quality shoes, eat out, save $ & go to the salon every 10 weeks. Be careful not to bash an idea that for many doesn’t “hurt” to save on. My kids refill their zip locks on their own for 2-3 days, so proud of them!

      • That’s great that you are using lots of ideas to save money Joni. You are right, everyone saves with different methods. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Aw, don’t take her comment personally. Ziploc reuse is a bit on the extreme end of frugality to most people, she’s just making the point that she’s not that far into it. I reuse ziplocks, and cut dryer sheets in half. Among a zillion other things. Not so I can afford a night out, but so I can afford ziplocks and dryer sheets. The article says to me that Frugality communities should be about sharing iideas and support, not one upmanship or shaming, and the lady above was just sharing how she relates to that.

  2. I think this is why it’s important for your spending to be in line with your values. If I completely cut out spending on the things I really enjoy forever, I would be really unhappy. I do think that it’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of comparing spending values with others, especially in the PF community. I know that I’ve let thought about what I “shouldn’t” spend my money on (ok, clothes :P) make me feel guilty rather than enjoying it.

    • I feel the same way Jessica. I definitely don’t want to be unhappy because I cut spending on things I care about and enjoy. I’m glad you agree. πŸ™‚ Keeping up can be detrimental on both ends of the spending spectrum.

  3. I think this a great post that brings up very valid points! I only started in the PF blogging community back in October of last year. My main goal initially was to strengthen my financial game plan, and empower those in my generation (and more!) to feel empowered by their finances. As I started immersing myself more & reading all the content, I started to feel like I was shrinking in size. All these real accounts of wanting to retire by 30, or living way below means were bombarding my mind. I give incredible power to those people, but it just doesn’t quite fit what I’m trying to accomplish! I want to be conscious, build wealth, but also reward myself & spend money on what I value along the way. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Alyssa, I’m glad you are trying to inspire those of your generation to do better with their finances. I too give kudos to those who will be retired by 30 and other huge accomplishments, but I guess that’s just not my goal or intent. πŸ™‚

  4. Every person interprets frugal in their own way and my frugal my not look like yours. There are things that I refuse to give up so I have found alternate ways to keeping them in my life but for cheaper. Also I think that how frugal a person should be should be determined by how much of a hot mess their finances are. If you cannot afford to buy chips it might be best for your to not eat out at all, but if you can afford a couple beers maybe you should only eat out twice a month.

    • You make a good point Petrish. Frugal will look different for everyone. My frugal is probably not nearly as frugal some people’s frugal, haha. Thanks for sharing!

    • I love this post and Debt Free Martini’s comment! My husband and I LOVE eating out, especially if a new restaurant opens up. I started to feel like a frugal imposter because all the frugal people talk about how they never eat out. On the other hand, I don’t care at all about having my hair cut in a salon and I have my husband cut my hair. We all have different values and different interpretations of frugal.

  5. I consider myself thrifty but I refuse to buy cheap toilet paper, or shoes with cardboard soles from some cheap store. I like nice things. I like cable TV. I like having more clothes than I need. So sue me. For me, the point of being frugal is to have money in the bank (security) and to afford the nice things I do want (satisfaction). What is the point of saving money if you never have any thing to spend it on.

  6. This was such a great post!! I sometimes get caught up in the “not spending anything outside of absolute necessities” mentality in part because it’s just who I am and in part because I feel like since I write and blog PF, I have to live up to it! While my “goal” is to become a millionaire (my blog tracks this, though so far I’m no where close haha), the more I think about it…the more I DON’T want to retire early like everyone else. I DO want to be financially independent, but more than that I want to enjoy my life NOW. The present is all we have πŸ™‚ Plus, I really like my work! I can’t imagine not having work. So that shift in mentality (it’s been in the recent months) has allowed me to be a little looser with the purse strings. Nothing extravagant, but I’m all about enjoying my life now!

    • I’m so glad you liked my post Sarah! I feel the same way as you are describing here. Glad to know I’m not alone in this way of thinking.

  7. One of my worries about being a PF blogger is that people will feel like I’m judging their spending. You’re so right that the important thing is to actually evaluate and decide where you want your money to go, rather than almost accidentally inflating your lifestyle as you go with the flow around you. I heard another blogger (can’t remember who) recently write why she is no longer worrying about “keeping up” in the race to early retirement, either. It’s another form of keeping up with the frugal Joneses, and while no one may be trying to send a competitive vibe, constantly reading about people’s early retirement can make those with different income or expenses feel behind. It’s important to enjoy the journey! Thanks for writing this.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post Kalie! I loved writing it and finally coming clean about how I’ve been feeling lately. You’re right, I don’t think they are trying to create a “who’s most frugal” competition, but sometimes it still feels like one. Keeping up with the spend Jones’ or the frugal Jones’ are neither one a good option!

      • Oh I’ve seen plenty of frugality groups that have degenerated into “who wins” competitive frugality. I Left the last one when I let them make me feel guilty for spending 8 bucks on a $40 item when just “2 emails and another coupon could have gotten you down to $5”. now my circus only has my monkeys and not theirs anymore.!

  8. Thank you! Finally someone agrees with me. To me, being frugal probably started as a way to break away from the “group think” that goes along with consumerism. What is the point of breaking from one form of “group think” just to subscribe to another? To me, the whole point is to quit listening to what society tells you that you should want (both consumerists and frugalists) and focus on spending where it truly makes you happy.

    There’s a quote out there attributed to Bill Vaughan: “If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it’s another nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity.”

  9. Good for you! I think we all have stuff that makes us happy – and we should be allowed to splurge on it or consider it one of our necessities! Who cares what other PF peeps say – its your life and your money! I know my husband and I could spend less, and save more, but we are at a happy place right now…. we can splurge and have some luxuries without getting carried away. Maybe to some getting your hair done, or having some excessive spending is like a gateway drug… and then they just can’t stop!

    • I do find myself having to be careful to avoid the slippery slope of spending sometimes, but overall I’m pretty happy with my balance of frugal and non-frugal budget categories.

  10. I came to your blog from Rockstar Finance — great post! Last year I got really into my finances and started getting things in order. I love going to blogs for information, so it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon early retirement/financial independence bloggers and I could not agree more with what you’ve written. While I have drastically cut my spending, I still spend money on going out to eat and occasionally buying new clothes. And even Starbucks once in awhile πŸ™‚ For me, having a little fun money is the only way I can stay on track with my financial goals. A little reward goes a long way! I think the most important thing is making mindful purchases. I think before I spend a lot more now and that works for me. It can be tempting to read about the frugal ways of others and somehow think you are doing something wrong, but in the end who cares what they think? Everyone is different and you have to find a way to manage your finances that works for YOU. Kudos to you for owning that. πŸ™‚

    • I agree – you have to do what works for you. I know that if I cut out all spending 100% I’d go crazy and probably end up un-doing all of my financial progress. That’s not what I want. So I make progress a little slower than some, but I still get to enjoy my life and some of my money along the way.

  11. Bravo! I think we each have to find our own best way to financial success and retirement security. Surely denying ourselves things and services we love is not sustainable and hurts our quality of life. Choosing to earn more so that we can afford a few ‘luxuries’ is a great way to go. Others want to work less and are happy with a minimalist lifestyle. Whatever works is the best choice I think!

    • THIS: “Surely denying ourselves things and services we love is not sustainable and hurts our quality of life.” Perfect summary of what this post is about. πŸ™‚

  12. I agree with you that with frugality, there can be a certain one-upsmanship that can cause people to focus so much on being the best at it that they eventually find that they are unhappy and abandon it. The same is true for almost anything people “resolve” to do. To some, you will never be frugal enough, environmental enough, geeky enough, thin enough, attachment parenting enough, healthy enough, charitable enough, etc. I think you are very smart to keep balance in your life and identify things that you love that you are going to hold on to even if they are somewhat counter-productive to your frugal goals. On the other-hand, I would be cautious about choosing “shopping and fashion” as one of those areas. It is dangerous for anyone who wants to be frugal because fashion can expand to fill any budget, and to shop in most stores that are “fashionable” you have to expose yourself to billions of dollars worth of advertising, and an environment designed to get you to “desire” more and “spend” more. And what is fashionable always changes, so 3 years later, you end up discovering Khan Marie and all of that formerly fashionable stuff ends up going to Goodwill. If you love shopping and fashion, I would suggest you learn to love thrift stores, and keep your wardrobe on a “one out, one in” basis. I think that you will find that you can be just as well-dressed, if not more, this way. I say this as a 36 year old head of household of four who is financially independent.

    • I definitely am striving for a 1 in 1 out mentality and don’t spend much on my “trendy” pieces to help cut down on money waste as styles change over time. I think you can still be fashionable and without spending a fortune on clothes. I also would LOVE to shop at thrift stores more often, but alas in my very rural area that’s just not an option. We have 1 thrift store and it’s generally full of Walmart-quality clothes. πŸ™ I appreciate the suggestions!

  13. Good post! I agree with Petrish, that my version of frugal and anyone else’s aren’t going to be the same. That’s because we have different goals, priorities, and income. I don’t strive to be MMM or other “extreme” frugal-ites out there. I do what I can and save/invest the rest. It works great for our family and we still plan to be “retired” in our early forties! Woo-hoo frugality (whatever that means to you)!

    • Frugality definitely means different things to different people. I know I will never be frugal on an MMM scale!

  14. Well said. The best part about being in control of your finances is that you can make your own choices. Wanna go on vacation…go. Wanna go out to a fancy restaurant…do it. Don’t want to retire at age 37…don’t.

    I’d rather read 10,000 posts like this than 1 more post about generic cereal vs brand cereal and how it will save you $10,000 over your lifetime. Either way, cereal will also give you cancer so there. πŸ˜‰

    • haha, this made me laugh! I have pretty much given up on only eating or using things that don’t give you cancer. Seems like there’s at least one source stating everything from cereal to pineapple to sunscreen will give you cancer.

  15. Aah a kindred spirit! I can’t stop spending money on barista made coffee, pedicures or travelling. And yet I still consider myself a money blogger. Money should be an enabler of the lifestyle you want but I definitely see a lot of our peers living what I would consider a restricted lifestyle in order to remain frugal.

    • Ok Emma, I LOVE the name of your blog! I’ll go check it out now as your philosophy about money sounds just like mine πŸ™‚

  16. I love this post! It makes so many good points! All of us frugal weirdos have our “things” although some may never even mention them. But we all have something that we indulge in that makes us happy! Being frugal isn’t a competition and we shouldn’t be judging one another…we should encourage! I’m with on going out to eat. It’s a social thing that my friends and I do when we get together. I just try to curb going out to eat alone, and save it for times with friends. And I still try to find a coupon or two. πŸ˜‰

    • Great tips to make your eating out a bit more frugal πŸ™‚ I do agree that most frugal people probably still have a thing or two that they like to “splurge” on. Thanks for stopping by.

    • I also am aiming to not eat out unless I’m with friends (and even then try for cheap if possible). I don’t need to go swing by a restaurant or Starbucks by myself. Sometimes I want to, and remind myself I’m trying to get out of debt and buy a friggin house! πŸ™‚

  17. Great perspective! Everyone’s frugal is different. I love reading how others are frugal because it forces me to evaluate what is really important to me and can open up my mind to other ways to be frugal or realize I’m ok not cutting back in one area. I don’t care if I could get cheaper coffee, I love the coffee I drink. πŸ˜‰

    • That’s the spirit! Sure, we all like to save money and find new ways to save money, but there are just some things we love that we shouldn’t compromise on (in my opinion). If it makes you happy and you CAN afford it, I say go for it!

  18. It’s hard to not feel guilty from certain types of spending when you’re working so hard to pay off debt. For us, the problem category is food. I read over and over again how other bloggers cut down on their costs and it usually involves less meat and more beans. I hate beans and Mr. Smith loves meat, so that’s a problem for us. But instead of being overcome by shame after our total pops up on the cash register, I focus on the areas where we are making progress. Even with food, we have really cut down on trips through the drive-thru. Nobody is perfect after all. We just need to be aware of the consequences of our decisions and try to limit our spending as much as possible. There is no need to torture ourselves.

    • This is a great summary: “Nobody is perfect after all. We just need to be aware of the consequences of our decisions.” I like to say progress is progress and as long as I’m headed in the right direction, I’m not going to beat myself up about it in the long run.

  19. Love this post. I have struggled with this as well and it all boils down to spending money on things that are important to us. My biggest cost other than rent is eating out and sometimes I feel guilty that my food bill as a single person can rival some families. However, I enjoy eating out with friends and otherwise have a more than healthy financial life, so I try not to beat myself up about it too much. Finding the middle ground is always the difficult part.

    • I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who enjoys eating out, haha. πŸ™‚ Thanks Raymond!

  20. Nice post.

    Being frugal is down to the individual and what works for one person may not work for another.

    But it is very hard not to compare yourself to others – the Frugal Jones can be a tough act to follow!

    There are certain things that I do that are not considered frugal – I drive a car to work, I have a gym membership, I eat out with friends, I have overseas holidays every year. I even buy one lotto ticket each week!

    These are things which are important to me or which I enjoy. Everything else is pretty unimportant and that’s where I’ve been frugal and it’s working for me.

    Someone mentioned cheap toilet paper – tried it…never again haha!

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