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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.
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.
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.
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.
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