From embarrassed to empowered: why I'm now proud to be frugal


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Most of us know that it's not what you earn, but rather what you save. Most of us know that saving money is a good thing.

But in modern Australian life, it can sometimes feel hard (almost impossible) to save money.

No sooner do you almost get ahead, then your car needs some expensive work done to it, a big energy bill comes in, or you have a bad day and spend too much on retail therapy. Or chocolate cake.

serina bird the joyful frugalista

And sometimes, focusing on your savings can seem kind of boring.

If your friends are posing on Instagram in the latest fashions, with photos taken with the latest $2000 (!) iPhone, while enjoying nights out on the town doing interesting things and eating amazing food, it is hard not to have twinges of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

Surely, it doesn't hurt just to treat ourselves? After all, it's so easy just to tap and go and isn't life too short anyway? At least until the credit card bill comes in.

But fear not - being good with your money does not mean that you must be a scroogy, stingy second-hand Rose who saves 5 cents by crocheting retro brown sofa covers.

(Although that said, I don't mind a bit of stitching and bitching. Crafting can be therapeutic and fashionable - just ask top fashion models.)

Nor does it involve imprisoning yourself at home and refusing to see friends in the quest to save a few dollars.

You can still treat yourself, and enjoy time with friends and family, following these money saving hacks. Without the credit card hangover.

Embrace the frugalista lifestyle

A frugalista is creative, stylish, savvy, smart, popular and focused.

A frugalista knows how to dress to impress, negotiate the best deals, cook fabulous home-made meals, find great vouchers for dining out and entertainment, and above all, knows how to leverage compound interest to grow tiny savings into a river of abundance.

Looking at a frugalista from the outside, she (or he) might look no different to anyone else.

Perhaps the packed lunchboxes and absences in morning coffee lines might be a giveaway, but she/he is probably wearing the same fashion brands, albeit bought at less than full price.

The main difference is that a frugalista is becoming financially independent, and one day soon she will have the power to be off exploring the world, writing zen poetry or becoming an artist rather than sitting behind her computer with a dazed look in her eyes.

Money can't buy you love - but it is empowering

Money is important. Money buys us power and choices. Money can't buy us love, but money mismanagement is one of the leading causes of relationship breakdown.

A frugalista lifestyle, on the other hand, can be rich and fulfilling and lead to lasting happiness by:

Helping the environment

From walking and cycling rather than jumping into a late-model car, to reducing food waste by menu planning and using up leftovers, frugalistas are environmental warriors.

A frugalista is involved in helping achieve something is greater than just her or his wallet. A frugalista has every reason to feel proud of her/his frugal choices.

Reducing waste

A frugalista appreciates what she/he has rather than slavishly buying more to try to find happiness. This reduces waste because you are not buying more 'stuff' that you don't need to begin with.

Frugalistas are generous souls, and love to do things like host swishing (clothing swap) events, having people over for impromptu potluck dinners, or donating to charity or share books that they have read.

Experiencing less stress

Frugalistas sleep well at night knowing that they have enough money to pay for their bills and that they have a good financial plan.

If their boss is a jerk, they have the smug satisfaction of knowing that they have a secret pot of gold that could fund an escape route.

Choosing and enhancing relationships

Romance can, at first sight, seem bound up by the need to flaunt money.

Whether it's paying for an online dating app, choosing a nice restaurant for an important date or buying an engagement ring, money seems to be the magic aphrodisiac.

But I find a frugal man with a frugal plan much sexier than someone who drives a luxury car that he can't afford.

Frugalistas value respect and shared financial goals more than stuff and know how to attract partners who share similar values.

Building greater community interaction

Compassion and generosity come from the heart. Frugalistas like to connect with others in their community because they enjoy sharing things and helping others - and receiving free things in return!

Frugalistas are not attached to stuff and so are able to develop real and meaningful friendships with people.

Becoming fabulously wealthy

Have you ever noticed that many of the world's richest people are inherently frugal?

Think Warren Buffett (who has lived in the same house he bought for $31,000 in 1958), Bill Gates (who wears a $10 watch), and Mark Zuckerberg (who drives a $30,000 Volkswagen and ate McDonald's with his wife on their honeymoon).

The uber-wealthy respect money and understand the importance of saving to invest.

Frugalistas are on the path to creating their own pool of abundance - one dollar at a time.

I'm a frugalista - and I'm proud of it!

serina bird the joyful frugalista ms frugal ears

I used to feel like my frugal lifestyle was a guilty secret.

If complimented on my clothes, jewellery or shoes I would say that I bought them on the Gold Coast - rather than admit my Goldie dwelling sister gave them to me or I bought them second hand from an op shop.

I felt embarrassed that I took leftover soup to work in Vegemite jars, that I made my own yoghurt, or (before I got rid of it) about the state of my 17-year-old car.

I didn't talk about how I survived (and thrived) on a weekly grocery budget of $50 a week.

And I would make excuses to avoid joining in the morning coffee pilgrimage to the work cafe.

But now, I am proud to own my frugalista lifestyle. I am proud that I can support my two young boys, and I am proud that I am building a strong financial future.

My frugal ways have enabled me to invest in five properties and build up a substantial superannuation fund. I am proud of what I have achieved, that I want to share my secrets with you.

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Serina Bird is a proud frugalista who has amassed more than a million dollars through frugal living. She is the author of The Joyful Frugalista and The Joyful Startup Guide. Serina blogs at The Joyful Frugalista, and her podcast is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. She is also the founder of the The Joyful Business Club.

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