Wealth is a relative thing.  One person may value family and faith, while another finds value in material things.  This is especially true when talking about financial wealth.  Some seem to live on what others consider walking around money and they seem to live on it happily.  No fancy cars, huge homes or stylish clothes.  They drive used cars, live in small homes and buy clothes at Target.  Many of us consider these people poor, but many are living like that on purpose.  They call it frugality.

Why would someone choose to live a frugal lifestyle? Well, they might well be poor and are making due with what they have.  Others, have decided that chasing dollars isn’t as important as living on their own terms.  Still others have decided to retire early and live on what they have saved even if that means a severe change in lifestyle.  These people, who have decided that money is not the central focus in their lives, are generally happy.

Let’s face it, working for a living sucks!  Sure some people truly love their jobs, but most of us don’t.  After a couple of decades, we don’t even like them anymore.  Working causes us stress, takes a toll on our physical and mental health and steals time from the things we really want to do.  However, we look at our retirement savings or our pension benefit and think we can’t retire for many years.  So we keep working.

We do this for many reasons.  We are told that success means owning big houses and fancy cars.  Financial advisers tell us we need millions saved to maintain our lifestyles in retirement.   We are inundated with marketing urging us to buy things we probably don’t need and to buy them on credit.  But remember, this consumptive, extravagant lifestyle is a new thing.  Prior to the boom after WWII, may people lived simple lives and were happy.

An therein lies the secret.  Stop living to earn another dollar and start living for yourself.  This doesn’t mean we have to live a spartan life.  Many frugal people live well on very little money.  They find ways to save money.  They spend their limited funds on only the things that are important to them.  They don’t buy on credit.  They buy used.  They live in smaller homes, condos, RVs or on sailboats.  They move to areas with lower costs of living, even other countries.  When you aren’t spending money on the things you don’t need or want, you have more to spend on those things that you do need and want.

Do the math.  Sit down and figure out what you could do without and not really notice.  Calculate what a smaller house would cost you.  Look at other places to live.  Cut your food bill.   Then subtract all the money it costs you to work, professional clothing, commuting, lunches, etc.  Now when could you retire?  5 years?  Two years?  Now?  You might be surprised.

Then what would you do?  Pursue your dreams?  Travel the world?  Reconnect with family?  Suddenly it’s your life again.  Not your boss’s, not your credit card company’s, yours!  You will find that you miss very little.  You won’t miss the car payments, the home maintenance or the toys you never had time to use anyway.  You will, however, have the time and money to do the things that are important to you.  You’re new job will be figuring out how to stay retired by saving money because it feels so good not to go to work.

Frugality isn’t a radical idea.  It’s common sense.  It’s using the money you have wisely.  Many of us aren’t taught to live this way and society as a whole urges just the opposite, but it isn’t hard to become frugal.  Being frugal, however, can allow you to retire and do so earlier and better off than you thought.  It can mean the difference between a life of work, stress and debt and a rich life on your terms and not feeling deprived in the slightest.

Further reading:

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free

Your Money or Your Life

Find these titles at your favorite book store.  Or better yet, find them used or borrow them from your library.