Frugality, Patience and the Digital Age Comments37 Comments

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Frugal living requires you to shift your thinking about our consumerist culture. You must seek fulfillment through experiences, not from products. But to believe you can always transcend earthly desires is akin to believing you can sustain a strict diet that never allows for sweets. As someone who attempted such diets in my formative years, I know they all end with you staring into the bottom of an empty pint of ice cream, with several empty containers of [take your pick: oreos, cheese puffs, gluten-free brownies] hidden at the bottom of the recycling bin. Hey, at least you recycled!

Even a frugal shopper will be hit with the urge to consume. Long-term frugal living requires you to reframe the desire for material goods not as a blemish on an otherwise minimalist record, but
as an unavoidable part of living in our modern world. You must set limits, but not such extreme limits that you end up seeking retail therapy once a month.

With a little patience, frugality in our technological age is within reach.

Patience is quaint these days. We expect next-day shipping; we expect instant internet connection; we expect to be able to get a latte at a drive-thru even with an infant asleep in the backseat. The generation coming of age today will never know what it is like to wait days for film to be developed, nor will they remember the early days of the Internet, when you had time to make a cup of tea while your modem noisily dialed up AOL. Twenty years ago, to stick to a budget, you may have had to muster the self-control to write your desired items on a list, and stick it in a drawer for a month, during which time your craving may have subsided.

These days, we have “hacks” for everything. The Internet allows us to crowdsource to share shortcuts for everything in life. You can still have that microwaved popcorn– just buy kernels in bulk and put them in a brown paper lunch bag; you can still watch the shows you want without cable–just cobble together Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, and make friends with a geek so you can beam it to your TV. (hint: they look like hipsters, but they take more showers, wear better shoes, and they frequently talk about something called ‘Linux’)

But have we hacked patience? I think we have, in a way. We haven’t made patience irrelevant or obsolete; instead, through technology we have given patience super powers. Technology exponentially increases the rewards for our patience and it makes frugality easier to maintain, even as we are bombarded with more advertisements and more opportunities to make impulse purchases.

These days, you can take the same list you may have stuck in a drawer twenty years ago and instead enter it on a website that will automatically search sales and deals and then notify you when one comes along, giving you space to see whether you really need that [tablet, camera, pair of Frye boots], while at the same time finding you the lowest price if you still pine for it weeks later. You may still have to wait an entire year for Mad Men to pop up on your Netflix queue, but once it’s there you can watch two episodes a night for one glorious week. And if you forgo a trip to the glowing Ikea, replete with $1 ice cream cones and 50 cent hot dogs, you can find the exact same kitchen table you covet a few days later on Craigslist for half price.

It can be argued that patience is no longer a virtue in the digital era–that, in fact, it breeds complacency instead of progress. Surely, the people who were patient enough to make tea
while logging on to the Internet were not the ones who pushed to make it faster. However, I contend that to live modestly in a society shaped to our desire for instant gratification, a small amount of technology-enhanced, super-powered patience goes a long way.

Author Bio: Rhea P. is a freelance writer. Rhea and her husband recently launched a hot deal search engine with email notifications, which can be found at www.stealengine.com.

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This entry was posted in Financial Advice, and tagged Comments37 Comments
By : Adam | 6 Mar 2013
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37 thoughts on “Frugality, Patience and the Digital Age

  1. John S @ Frugal Rules

    Good post! I agree that it can be difficult to be patient these days with ever newer products being hawked at us with the idea that we must have it. This is why I think it’s key to not be led by our emotions when looking to buy something, that combined with a little patience can go a long way.

    Reply
  2. Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank

    It really saddens me when I see people buying up everything in sight. Consumerism in western culture has become so ingrained in every facet of our lives that most people don’t even see what they are doing and accept it as normal.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Glen, I don’t recommend visiting palm beach Florida, then. We did a road trip down here to see family and we are shocked by the amount of very conspicuous consumption.

      Reply
  3. Listen Money Matters

    My fiance is looking to switch professions to be a professional photographer so we got her nice refurbed (we aren’t stupid) SLR in the mail yesterday. Silly me I forgot the SD card! I had my jacket and shoes on about to run out to Radio Shack (*vomit*) and then I calmed myself down and decided that we didn’t need instant gratification. Instead I got it super cheap from Amazon and it will arrive with free shipping in 5 days. My patience and inaction is definitely worth $20!

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      You probably have more patience than I do. I would first see if my local Best Buy would do a price match, which they have started doing in recent months.

      Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Thanks Grayson. I think less patience is entirely doable these days thanks to all the advances in technology. But our patience in 2013 is more effective than it was in 2000 for sure.

      Reply
  4. Money Bulldog

    It is possible to enjoy technology while at the same time remaining frugal, you just have to be content to be behind the technological curve rather than ahead of it.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      That is true in many ways. Although, there are so many ways to get good deals on gadgets nowadays. Additionally, many times you can get better or similar results with less technology. Keurig is a great example. Those machines are very popular but very expensive and they don’t last long. You can easily get a single cup pour over with a paper or metal filter that will last forever and cost a fraction. Sometimes less tech is better and cheaper.

      Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Haha to be honest my husband and I are the same way. We haven’t quite watched a season in a day but 4 days is not terribly uncommon. And I suppose I was being generous with the shoes.

      Reply
  5. Jose

    Patience is something that I have always been short of. I have gotten better over the years, probably from just getting worn down with age :). But we do live in an age of instant gratification. If you want to buy something, a few clicks of the mouse will have it at your door in a day or two. Need to watch a favorite show? A few clicks of the remote will typically let you watch the whole season (unless your waiting for “revenge season 2 on Netflix). So here’s an observation on my part, I think that technologies ability to give us things quicker and almost immediately FEEDS impatience and that it makes us more impatient as a society. Any thoughts or comments on that?

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Yes! I definitely agree with you. It becomes especially apparent when we encounter situations that we cannot “hack” or expedite, like going to the DMV or flight delays. I think any type of frugal living requires an ability to take a big picture view on life, which helps in moments when we feel compelled to consume. So in thinking about patience in our tech era, being frugal still requires that same sort of transcendent perspective in order to avoid the kind of impatience that can undermine one’s goals.

      Reply
  6. Lou Rodriguez

    What you are referring to here is the psychology of consumerism and with the lack of patience, especially given the technological advances, today’s consumer perceives they have more control than ever in purchasing decision but nothing could be further from the truth!

    The marketers and the corporations know that if they help you choose what you think you want, when you want it, and on your own terms, then you think you’re in control of the entire purchasing decision, but you’re not. Way too much to get into in the comment section here but an excellent post Rhea :)

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Thanks! Yes I hear what you’re saying, so true about the illusion of control. I am often frustrated by it!

      Reply
  7. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    People are funny. I work in a rural resort town that is almost impossible to get overnight shipping on anything, but still people get upset is they can’t “overnight” it. You either choose to live in convenient area or not, but you can’t have it both ways all the time.

    Reply
  8. Nick @ ayoungpro.com

    Great post! I think this brings to light and undiscussed problem that we are heading towards. In this age where almost anything we want is within our reach almost instantaneously, patience is becoming a lost art. I particularly see this as a problem in our youth. The entitlement culture is running rampant in our culture with people wanting everything immediately with very little effort.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Thank you. On the flip side, I see a lot of potential for young people to be unrelenting in their search for innovation and progress, which is incredibly exciting. For example, I don’t think we should patiently wait for electric cars or wind power!

      Reply
  9. Darnell Jackson

    Excellent post.

    Now this is what I’m into to Frugal living.

    That is waste not want not.

    Old school knowledge is what people are rejecting the time they need it more than ever.

    Reply
  10. Canadian Budget Binder

    Great post and so very true. Our children of today will shake their heads in disbelief when they hear what we had to do growing up. I love photography and I remember having to wait a week to get photos back, not any more. You are right many will never know what it was like to have to “wait”. It’s no different than listening to our own parents and grandparents. Gone is the “patience is a virtue” saying and “what do you mean I can’t have it now”. I remember a bit ago Mrs.CBB pulled out a 1$ Canadian Paper Bill from her wallet while looking for money to pay a young cashier. She laughed to herself and pulled the bill out and said to the cashier do you remember this, and she says no, “what is it”. A paper $1 note Mrs.CBB explains. Wow, we used to have paper Dollar bills, she says. Mrs. CBB says, “yes and $2 bills as well. NO WAY, her face in awe. I couldn’t stop laughing.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Thank you for the comment. Yes, I think about this a lot because I have a young son. Will he ever even “dial” a phone? Things are changing so fast!

      Reply
  11. John Bathias

    Patience and frugality are virtues. Things change at a much faster rate of change than they did in the past, and the observations about our children are so true. Think about the stories we here from our parents, there will be an even bigger gap going forward. Great read.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Thank you for your comment, my husband and I reflect on that frequently. I think I am part of the last generation that will have experienced life without the Internet. It is hard to fathom.

      Reply
  12. Integrator

    The interesting thing here is that I think the technological age can actually help you live a more frugal lifestyle if applied in the right way. Comparison shopping, daily deals & offers can all be powerful tools in your arsenal if you are disciplined about how you spend, and are all enabled by technology. Unfortunately, many are just in search of the next hot gadget as you point out.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Yes! I agree completely. Hot deals and offers like groupon are designed to compel people to buy on impulse, so the new ways to save are simply new ways to spend as well. For people who are very deliberate about their purchases, they are powerful assistants, but it’s a double-edged sword. But this is true for many things, old and new. Credit cards are similar in that they give great offers like no interest or payment for 18 months, which can be helpful for people who are careful and will be able to pay off their bill in total, but the offer is truly geared toward people who will make minimum payments and rack up interest down the line.

      Reply
  13. Greg@ClubThrifty

    I would agree with some of the previous comments: when used correctly, technology can help you to be frugal. Unfortunately, many of us have trouble curbing our wants and desires, so we are constantly wanting new and more expensive things/gadgets. It is a lot harder to be patient and wait to get something you want rather than just buy it now.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      I agree. I try to envision whether I will remember whatever the product is 30 years from now and if it will be of any significance in my life. That has really helped me decide on [big] purchases.

      Reply
  14. Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin

    I consider myself a very patient and methodical person. When I witness friends and family members make huge lavish purchases I take a mental note of the date. Fast forward a year later, without fail that item they spent a pretty penny on is now out of favor. They hardly ever pay it attention or marvel in it like the day they purchased it. Such a waste.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      So true. I think it’s so easy to get swept up in trendy items. Sometimes I think it’s the result of our desire to be our ideal selves, for instance–”I’m going to buy this super amazing blender system and drink super healthy smoothies every day”…and then we don’t actually follow through. I think this is why people end up with nice treadmills, bread machines, and other appliances just sitting around collecting dust.

      Reply
  15. Jeremy Norton

    Love this post. In these days, we tend to be spending much on what we actually want instead of what we actually need. It does take a lot of courage to resist the temptation of spending more than what we can actually afford.

    Reply
    1. Rhea P

      Thanks Jeremy. Totally true, it takes a lot of willpower. But I think often it’s just about getting a little bit of distance from the thing you want to buy, because so many purchases are made on quick impulse. I find that even when I take one day to think about whether I really need to buy something, I don’t feel the same need for it. And if I do still want it, I can then set about finding the best price and feel less compelled to buy it right away. I do think people are buying what they need though, and perhaps it is because so many people are living paycheck to paycheck that they seek comfort in impulse purchases. Retail therapy is real!

      Reply

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