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The limits of frugality

January 12th, 2009 at 11:42 am

Most of the time, I really do think people don't give frugality enough credit. However, I also realize that even frugality has its limits. Theoretically.

That is, I never thought I'd even see an example of its limits... until I read this.

I mean, this guy really has me scratching my head. Work a little so you can quit, travel, and even gamble until money runs out and you're forced to go back to work? You're 40 years old and you don't think you have the time to fix this issue? Is this guy even frugal?

12 Responses to “The limits of frugality”

  1. merch Says:

    Let's see: Lazy, addiction (gambling), and no goals. Yea I could see why he doesn't have money and meanders from one job to another. So now he wants to grow up? At 40?

    Yep good luck with that.

  2. disneysteve Says:

    Kind of an interesting theory, though. Work for a while. Live lean and build savings, then take a "sabbatical" and see the world until the money runs out, then go back to work and repeat the process. That actually sounds like a pretty neat way to live, at least for a while. It wouldn't work if you were older and married and had kids, but as a young single guy, not such a bad deal.

  3. baselle Says:

    Frankly, "its not what you make, its what you keep." I think what frugality does is maximize what you have. If you have 0, though, maximizing 0 is still 0.

  4. Nika Says:

    That was exactly my goal when I was graduating from college: to work and save money, than quit every 2 years to travel for 1 year. I was full of determination to accomplish that (I did 2 long stretches of travel while in college - once for 4 month, and once for 9 month).

    I did not follow through on that plan that because I found a good job and it gives me 6 weeks vacation each year, plus holidays and personal days. So I get a chance to travel every year. Not 1/3 of the time, as I wanted, but still...

    To suggest that we should only take 2 weeks a year until retired seems like robbing yourself of a lot. Having some freedom to wonder and experience the world is different in your youth than it is in retirement years.

    I try to find a balance between saving some for old age and enjoying what the world has to offer right now.

    But if I had a job that only offered 2 weeks a year, I would save my money aggressively and quit it in a heartbeat as soon as my savings goal was reached.

  5. Broken Arrow Says:

    That's true Steve. I'd be OK to if a single guy, ideally in his 20s, decided that he wants to see the world a bit before figuring out what he wants to do with his life and settling down.

    The downside with what someone like the author is doing though is that they won't establish much of a resume. And as such, they'll likely hurt their own chances into the future.

    Interestingly enough, the author has mentioned that, in retrospect, he should have and could have tried to work it out so he would be able to travel and yet stay employed at the same time. But by his own admittance, the lack of motivation kicked in....

    Still, I agree it's an interesting counter-point.

  6. gruntina Says:

    My friend did this to travel around the world for two years. While her traveling was an amazing experience and would not trade it for anything, she fell in a black hole (major depression) when she hit United States again. This was due to the drastic culture shock and actually hated being in the US for awhile until she got help. Now that she has recovered, she is not having luck find any permanent job.

  7. ceejay74 Says:

    It's true U.S. vacation time is generally super-miserly compared to Europe and other places. My poor husband gave up 4-6 weeks of vacation per year to live with us! (I can't remember if he got 6 or 8 weeks back in England.) If I were as averse to working as the guy in the blog entry, though, I think I'd try to find seasonal work or something, rather than blowing through savings and starting all over again. Still, if he really is a frugal guy, he should be able to do what he stated and live out the rest of his life comfortably.

    I'm not one to live for retirement--I think overall that having a job is good for me--gives me structure and some challenges, helps me be a functioning social being rather than my natural introverted self. And I do want to enjoy myself in the now, including with some stuff that costs money. But I do want to have some money socked away in case I do want to retire; after all, it's probably going to look more attractive when I'm in my 50s or 60s. Plus what if you get disabled relatively early and can't really work? Better to have something socked away.

  8. scfr Says:

    Hmmm ... Yea, as the song says "Nothing from nothing leaves nothing." His plan may have worked if he had reversed it: Worked his @ss off while scrimping for 20-30 years, then spent the last 10-20 years of his working years dabbling in a variety of jobs and taking time off in between. I'm sure it can be done, but I would imagine that it is MUCH harder to build a "serious" career later in life.

  9. Analise Says:

    Well, it is certainly possible to be frugal and still not achieve financial independence. Being frugal is simply not enough. IMO this man has other issues, and his lack of a work ethic is one of them (he admits he doesn't like to work hard). He worked only to get by and maybe a little ahead. He had no long-term plan, only to work a few years, then take off some time. Not a bad idea in theory (and if you have only yourself to take care of) but it is not sustainable. Since he wrote the post in February of 2007, I'd be interested in reading his later posts where he promises to discuss the two other reasons why he is still poor.

  10. Broken Arrow Says:

    For those who are interested,

    Here's Part 2.

    Here's Part 3.

  11. Nika Says:

    "Worked his @ss off while scrimping for 20-30 years, then spent the last 10-20 years of his working years dabbling in a variety of jobs and taking time off in between."

    CSFR, That implies sacrificing youth to enjoy more money in retirement. That is a very common strategy, but not necessarily the best one.
    Not everyone wants 2000sf house, 2 kids and a Lexus in the driveway and are willing to sacrifice most of their prime years to get it.
    Working only as hard to get the things that matter to you ... I don't see anything wrong with that.

    Grutina, it is a very difficult period of adjustment. I don't think people understand what it is like, after wondering the globe with your backpack for months, every day seeing new places, new people, having new experiences... having no schedule and so much freedom to go at any direction at any time. Not knowing in the morning where you'll be in the evening or the next day. Admiring beauty of the place that 2 hours ago you did not even know existed!

    I don't know how to explain that kind of freedom we had and the beauty we saw to people who have not experienced it. It is as if you went to a remote Afghan village and try to explain to a local girl in few paragraphs that there is more to life that what she has experienced, how big and varied the world is, and how restraining the social roles assigned to her by her culture are.
    Well, we too have these social roles and things to aspire to that are influenced by our society. We think of them as completely natural and right. And we more or less think that way of the amount of freedom we are given. To me working for thirty years straight with 2 weeks vacation a year is abhorrent.

    The "travel for a year" type of experience completely changes you, and you start to see beyond the norms of your society, and that makes adjustment back pretty miserable.
    And no, I really don't think you can do it as a 50-60 year old in the same way.

  12. Broken Arrow Says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Nika. It has made me see this subject in a different light.

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