Experimenting in Extreme Frugality Comments30 Comments

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I have always considered myself frugal, but when I stumbled upon the concept of extreme frugality I felt like Rob Schneider at an awards show—out of my league. I have cut my cable, negotiated my internet contract, and sparingly drive. I use the public library, Redbox instead of the Cineplex, and online pornography instead of strip clubs. I am so frugal, burglars break in while I am at work and leave wish lists. Comparatively however, those in the extreme frugality vein make me look like Gordan Gekko.

Extreme Frugality Defined

Extreme frugality is based on the notion that it is far easier to attain financial independence by reducing expenditures than by increasing income, and that this is a “purer” life than can provide an equal or excessive amount of happiness when compared to the norm. Make your own stuff, trade, and eat naturally—seems reasonable—spending roughly $12 thousand or less annually. All in, vacation included.

The Proposal

Always interested in trying different ways to cut my budget, I decided I wanted to try the whole extreme frugality thing out myself. If anything, I would save a bunch of money I could spend on crap later, right? In the spirit of things, I laid down some ground rules: I would continue to drive to work with all other trips being of the manual sort, I would move out of my apartment to reduce my rent (which is already insanely cheap for the area), and I would not cancel my cell phone contract as I need it for the various businesses I run. Essentially, the only portion of my budget I could “extreme frugal” like a sex move was my food budget. The prospect of this was depressing, because by all assumptive accounts those in the extreme frugal lifestyle eat like hippie vegans, and hippie vegans are smelly people.

Farmers Market, Round One

After surfing through some extreme frugality forums written by people at their local library, I learned that a great place to get free food is a farmer’s market that is about to close up shop for the day. After walking around for a while I realized that a farmer’s market provides the incredibly low prices of Ocean State Job Lots but without the poor people, making it my new favorite place. However, despite the low prices I was there to snag free food. After about an hour, when the farmers began packing things in, I walked up to a man who looked like the gay love child of John Candy and Jerry Garcia: fat, funny, and out there. Seriously, if this guy had taken any more acid in the 1960s he would have levitated off the earth. I asked him if he was going to throw anything away before he returned to his nude commune in the Berkshires, and he motioned towards a crate of yams. As we all know, yams are’ black’ for sweet potato, and I love sweet potatoes. He handed them over to me, told me he had no idea who John Candy or Jerry Garcia was but that gay marriage is an Obama-nation (his pronunciation) and I was on my way home with free food. I ate sweet potato fries, cheese and beans (which cost me under a dollar) with leftovers for work. I am not normally one to judge, assume or otherwise make blanket statements, but perhaps I was being a little overly judgmental towards the extreme frugal diet.

Grocery Stores

My first trip to the farmers market a success, I thought I would try my hand at applying the extreme frugal diet to the supermarket. Since the average extreme frugal lives on about a $60/month food budget, I had combined this with any farmer’s market expenditures and extrapolated outward to a month. To meet this budget most meats represented frivolity, and anything pre-made outlandish. I decided I wouldn’t rely on beans and cheese for substance, but would make a pasta meal for myself including homemade pasta sauce. I should mention at this point that my cooking skills are on par with Kim kardashian’s talent for witty repartee. In the end, my meal was $1 dollar pasta cooked with crushed tomatoes, spices, and a little bit of cheese. I was hungry before I went to bed, and resisted eating my own bicep. I call that another win.

The Results

I can’t say that the extreme frugality diet is one that I would maintain full time, but I plan on incorporating it into my regular diet which should cut my monthly food budget modestly. It is a start. For most, I would imagine the diet of extreme frugals is the most intimidating aspect of the lifestyle. While it is important to recognize the merits of such a lifestyle, it is equally important to recognize that we are all lucky enough to live in a society where anyone, should they have the money, can be served a meal only kings were privy to only a century ago. Extreme frugality shuns most all of the things modern society has given us, but it also it healthier, more sustainable, and incredibly affordable. I would recommend anyone try it, so long as they stop short of stealing bread from ducks.

Author Bio: The following is a guest post from our friends at Snarkfinance. Snarkfinance is what you get when you mix insult humor and pop culture with a finance blog. Always entertaining and informative, Snarkfinance focuses on unique, applicable approaches to financial concepts and business in general. Its main author is a successful professional investor and financial analyst for Fortune 500 companies, and enjoys nothing more than a cringe worthy joke. Join their email list or follow them on Twitter @snarkfinance to stay up to date on any upcoming articles.

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This entry was posted in Financial Advice, and tagged , , Comments30 Comments
By : Adam | 20 Jun 2013
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30 thoughts on “Experimenting in Extreme Frugality

    1. snarkfinance

      Be sure to check out the website, Snarkfinance.com were there are plenty of funny and satirical AND helpful articles posted several times a week!

      Glad you enjoyed the article.

  1. KC @ genxfinance

    We want to be frugal but we don’t want to be cheap. It’s ideal to lower your expenses rather than increasing your income to budget your money. But not too much that you already feel deprived. That won’t be healthy as well.

    1. snarkfinance

      I would actually say that it is ideal to raise your income rather than lower your expenses provided you keep your expenses to a reasonable percentage of total income. Income can go up in unlimited amounts, while you can only cut so many expenses (even if your going to the extreme frugality level).

  2. Tonya Rapley

    I find that extreme frugality causes me to revolt, and revolt extremely. For me, financial changes that are too extreme are like bad fad diets. I’ve found that my best financial plan is slow, steady, and sensible.

  3. Tanya

    I consider my family frugal but I wouldn’t go as far as saying we are the extreme! 60 bucks a month! That would be difficult to manage.

  4. The College Investor

    I agree with KC. It’s good to maintain a certain budget to be frugal, but not to go through extreme lengths to do so. We can also cut down our food expenses, but make it a point to learn how to cook meals that are still delicious despite being cheap.

  5. Jacob @ iHeartBudgets

    Lulz. Also, extreme food budgets are what happens when you do extreme couponing and have 16 bags of rice left at the end of the month. If food is the building block of your health, skimping on it to the point of nutritionless meals is probably a bad thing. I love the idea of using what you have and maybe making some chea-@$$ meals every now and then, but full time would suck :\

  6. Pauline

    I prefer to try to make more money for a couple of hours than hang out at the farmers market waiting for a handout. It is a question of pride and with simple math, you could make $10 per hour as a waiter instead of waiting for $1 of sweet potatoes. I like the idea of limiting waste though, and not consuming any more than you need.

  7. Edward Antrobus

    I’ll definately be checking out your site. Really dig your style.
    Maybe if those extremely frugal hippie vegans took up the frugal act of making their own soap, they wouldn’t smell so bad!

  8. Yuen Tuck

    Loved this post. In fact, this line:

    “a man who looked like the gay love child of John Candy and Jerry Garcia: fat, funny, and out there”

    made me snort coffee over my keyboard..

  9. Budget and the Beach

    I think my definition of frugal is spending money on only things you value, so to me I could never do an extreme frugal diet. Although we do eat too much in general as a society, I think good food=good health=good life. or something like that. Basically when I’ve seen extreme cheapskates I cringe at what their choices are. It’s an interesting experiment though!

  10. Jeremy Norton

    I would want to try that extreme frugality, but unfortunately, the rest of the family members would protest. I cannot have them on a diet with some vegan foods at all times. They would definitely freak out.

  11. Evan

    Sounds inspiring. I would never try it because I’m too urban human but still that is something everyone should check out once in a while))) Thanks for sharing the experience.

  12. Sue | London Life Coach

    This makes a lot of sense to me “it is far easier to attain financial independence by reducing expenditures than by increasing income” no matter how big our income is, if we don’t learn to live below our means, we will still end up with debts. It’s just a matter of self discipline.

    1. Simon

      I think over time I have come to realize that attaining financial independence is more a matter of habits and temperament than the income one is earning. As you aptly say it, its a matter of discipline.

  13. David @ PBC

    Frugality does not hurt. It helps. Although the term “extreme frugality” may be frightening, what matters is that you are able to cut down unnecessary expenses. This can ultimately lead to financial independence.


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