Life, Money

What If Frugality Is Not In Your DNA?

Sometimes, we (frugal bloggers) make frugality sound so easy!  SPEND LESS, SAVE MORE, BE FRUGAL, such a simple concept! If you can’t afford to buy stuff, then don’t.  It’s not rocket science! So why do so many people struggle with it? What If Frugality Is NOT In Your DNA?

**News flash** We are not all created “equal”, some of us are born frugal but others are not. Some of us were taught frugality, others weren’t. Or maybe they did but nature took over! What if frugality is not in your DNA?

I used to get “upset” at people who, to me, wasted their money when they couldn’t afford to! I know so many of them. They will tell you they struggle with making ends meet, can’t pay their bills but they eat lunch out every day or they go out and buy a brand new car, the examples are endless.

It took me a while to understand “them”. How could they not be, or become, frugal knowing it is preventing them from becoming financially independent. Then it dawned on me. They are not wired the same!

Food Analogy:

If you have been following my blog (if you haven’t , you should), you know I love sweets, especially chocolate.

Last year, I was diagnosed with diverticulitis. I suffer from major abdominal pain and discomfort on a regular basis, in addition to other digestive health problems, usually caused by certain food I eat. And whenever I indulge myself with chocolate or other sweets, I fully expect to suffer from abdominal pains and discomfort for days afterwards.

Also as I get older, it’s getting harder to keep the weight down so eating sweets is not helping at all.

Overall, sweets are definitely not a healthy choice for me.

I Still Eat Sweets!

But you know what? I still eat them!

I know it’s bad for me, I know I shouldn’t do it but I can’t help it. Lack of will power? Probably. But when I am craving that chocolate, I tend to forget about the future pain! It comes back quickly, as quickly as the cramps! Then  I totally regret it , until I repeat the cycle again!

I tried to eliminate all sweets from my diet but it was a FAIL! I thought about it so much I ended up eating a lot more, like “binge eating” the day before you start a diet!

These days, I set smaller and more realistic goals. I try to limit my intake by being more selective about what I eat. If I am going to eat sweets, I make sure it is something really good and worth it. And I set boundaries, such as how often I will allow myself to eat some. That way, I have something to look forward to and I don’t feel like it’s gone forever. Some weeks it works and some weeks it doesn’t but overall I am making progress. For every week I meet my goal is one week better than before. I even keep track of it in my monthly reports, “only eat sweets on Sundays!” because it is important to me and makes me more accountable. Baby steps:)

It would be totally different if it was life threatening, I would have no choice but to stop eating sweets at once.

So this is me and my struggle with food (it’s not just sweets!). For some of you, to not eat sweets or chocolates is no big deal. Maybe you don’t even like eating them. And you definitely can’t relate to my daily struggle with it.

What Does It Have To Do With Frugality?

Everything! It is no different for frugality, some people don’t have it in them and it is a constant struggle for them to be frugal, while for others it’s like second nature. If it was life threatening, it would be a totally different story, same as with food. But not being frugal is not going to kill you but it may potentially kill your financial independence dream.

What If Frugality Is Not In Your DNA?

Non-frugal people often know they shouldn’t spend their money the way they do, but they can’t help it. For some of them it’s a lack of knowledge and for others it is too hard not to spend. Many of them will make excuses to justify their purchases. They need to buy things, experience the thrill of instant gratification, even if it is a temporary reward (check out Helen’s post Delayed Gratification).

Sometimes they just need to keep up with the Joneses. They suspect the Joneses can’t afford their lifestyle either (or they are really naive and think they do) but they have to keep up anyway, they HAVE to!

They may justify not saving with a multitude of excuses but the fact is they struggle with frugality.

Some do pull it off but it is HARD work. It is not easy for them but they keep at it. They fight their own little demons every day, the same way I fight my urge to eat sweets daily. And they learn to live with it and try to focus on the rewards, short and long-term.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, we forget how difficult it is for some people to be frugal and how much more work they have to put into it.

So for all of you who may not have frugality in your DNA, hang in there. Take baby steps, set smaller goals to get you to where you want to be and be realistic about your goals. Don’t forget to reward yourself along the way. Don’t compare yourself to others for whom frugality may come easy because it is in their DNA!

And for all of us, frugal bloggers, let’s acknowledge that frugality can be a lot of work for others and not make it sounds so easy in our future posts! What if frugality is not in their DNA!

So what about you? Is frugality in your DNA or do you struggle with it? How do you manage it if is a struggle?

Frugality not in your DNA

30 thoughts on “What If Frugality Is Not In Your DNA?

  1. I so agree with this Caroline – we’ve got our own personal and unique challenges, and other things just come to us naturally.

    That’s why sometime I think people who are naturally good make terrible teachers, they just don’t understand how much harder it is for everyone else.

    1. Good point Ms Zi You:) I don’t think I would make a good teacher, trying to tutor my daughter is a perfect example, I couldn’t relate to her struggle and got frustrated very quickly! Have a great week-end.

  2. Hi Caroline, thanks a lot for the link.

    You made a very good point. Sometimes we may have to put ourselves in someone’s shoes, before making a quick judgement. Luckily frugality is in my DNA. Spending is not a joy to me most of the time (except getting a brand-new car). But I saw many people struggling on saving money, because spending is so hard for them to control. You are right, take one small step a time, and that makes a difference.

    1. And sometimes it is really hard to put ourselves in someone’s shoes, because it seems so foreign! I know I have frugality in my DNA (to a fault) and I can be very critical of others who waste their money. Using some analogy, like the food one, is helping me be more understanding and also find better ways to help. Thanks Helen

  3. Frugality definitely doesn’t come naturally to me, I’m a spender at heart. I’ve learnt to deal with it by being strict with my budgeting and not making spending a bad thing. I build some ‘free spending’ into my budget each month so I don’t feel like I’m always sacrificing. It works the same as dieting for me. If I don’t let myself eat anything delicious I’ll binge, same with spending. I think it’s similar to how I was brought up. I also wouldn’t call my parents frugal but they obviously put savings first (their comfortably retired now) but I don’t remember many sacrifices growing up.

    1. Wow, very impressive Sarah:) I know what I am like with my “strict” diet and I miss the mark often enough. I can’t imagine what it must be like with money. It sounds like you are doing it the right way by allowing some “free spending”, equivalent to my cheat day on Sunday:) Hang in there…the reward is totally worth it!

  4. Being frugal goes against every fiber in my being haha. Most of us know what we should be doing with our money, save it, invest it, don’t spend it! But it’s such a mental mind game. Just like dieting, we all know sweets and junk food are bad, and we should be active, but it’s so much harder than it sounds!
    Great post!

    1. Hi Steph. Yes, what is it with human nature? We know it’s bad but we still do it! Do you have anything specific you do to motivate you along the way?

  5. Hi Caroline, I don’t think being frugal has ever really been in my DNA. My parents were frugal almost to a fault and I’m not like that. I always thought about it differently. Spending less than you make, living within your means, etc. and saving/investing the excess. Tom

    1. Thanks Tom. My parents were definitely not frugal. **Spoiler alert! Post coming soonish**
      You did bring your lunch to work for many years, was that a struggle or part of your DNA? 🙂

  6. I’m frugal to a fault about certain things (not replacing appliances when the break, having no opinion on fancy cars or electronics…) but man can I spend on food and drink and gifts for other people if I’m not careful. I tricked myself for years thinking I was super frugal for a lot of years by opting out on the big stuff but ignoring the constant stream of little stuff.

    1. Same here Angela, I was ignoring the small stuff for a long time! But we all learn:)
      I am not into cars or electronics but I don’t know if it has anything to do with frugality or lack of interest. As I get older , I am trying to select better what brings value/joy to my life and spend the money there (ie: travel).

  7. This is a good post! I am the same! I can be quite judge-y about spending habits (my ex always complained he didn’t have enough money to go traveling and yet he smoked 1/2 pack a day and also bought a BMW and also ate out for lunch every day) but when it comes to my sweet tooth and chip habits I am really lacking.

    So thanks for giving me a bit of humble pie to munch on 😉

    Sorry that you got diagnosed with diverticulitis! I wonder if you have a bite of chocolate and also add some fibre and water maybe it will decrease the attacks. I am still eating about 1-2 squares of chocolate a day it’s terrible.

    1. One of my co-workers is always broke! She complains non-stop about it, but she smokes a pack a day and eats lunch out regularly!!! Drive me crazy but I have been trying to help her and the first step was to understand her way of thinking. She is now saving a little (very little) using major baby steps! But then within weeks, she blows it all…not sure it is progress?
      I bough two praline hedgehogs yesterday:)

  8. Great post, Caroline! It’s so true that we’re all wired differently. I thought your food/sweets analogy is the perfect example to explain why everyone is not wired to be frugal. We all have different values and we all have our own things that we probably shouldn’t do that we can’t stop. I also shared that similar feeling you had about getting irritated by people wasting their own money. I just didn’t like hearing them complain about it when I watch them waste it. But I have to remember that we’re all wired differently.

    As for me, I think I’m naturally frugal in the sense that I’m basic. I waste money a select few things: electronics, wine (sometimes), chocolate and junk food for sure. But overall, I don’t have a lot of expensive wants. To be honest, most of the time I’d rather buy dividend stocks. Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!

    1. Hi Graham (and the BoD?), thanks for stopping by:)
      I am like you, I am not extreme with my frugality (well my kids may disagree!) but I am frugal in nature. I also don’t enjoy spending a lot of money on stuff except travel. I am definitely not into electronics or cars, more like chocolates and wine:) Cheers

    1. I think it is key, to remember we are all on our own journey. There is no right or wrong but we need to be mindful that we are not all the same. Thanks for commenting:)

  9. Re: eating sweets, sounds like you are more of a moderator than an abstainer!

    I think I genuinely am naturally frugal but my partner is not, and I’ve come to sympathise a lot more with him over the years!

    1. Moderator? I like that! At some point I may have to become an abstainer as I get older:)
      It must be difficult to have a partner who is not frugal. My husband was a spender and we had to set some basic financial rules (so I wouldn’t go crazy!).

  10. I’m pretty frugal and don’t really have a hard time with it. I don’t know if it’s genetic or upbringing. It’s probably 80% nurture. My parents are very frugal too. I can see that our son is picking up our frugal habit early.
    Moderate eating is a lot more difficult for me…

  11. I’ve gotten pretty frugal these last few years with the help of wife who has demonstrated to me various ways to stretch our money. When I was single, I would spend money left and right on various items without thinking that I could do it without spending any money at all like paying for cable TV or going out to lunch everyday. Now I don’t have cable TV and eating at work for free or bring food from home.
    I used to eat a lot of peanut M&M’s chocolate, like a one bag a week. It’s my favorite candy, I couldn’t help it…lol!! But I realized that if I keep eating them at that pace that my health would deteriorate because I ate so many bags of peanut M&Ms. So last year I kept tabs and ate a bag once a month or even every other month. Whenever I felt the urge to eat them, I would replace that urge by eating a health bar just simply let it pass. And now to this day, I gotten a habit of doing this.

  12. This post was awesome. It really made me think beyond my own thrifty ways to the challenges our readers might experience. I unfortunately have a lack of control with sweets, so I can relate to your challenges with chocolate.

    Thanks for challenging me, and see you soon on This Week’s Thriftiest Content!

  13. Great post Caroline.

    Frugality was something I had to teach myself, then reteach myself, then continue to remind myself. Its very easy to forget something of such importance, especially when we are given a little dopamine rush with every purchase. Sooner or later, much like any high, it becomes a craving. Nowadays, I stick to the basics and avoid the shopping as much as possible. I can honestly say iv trained my mind to receive that rush from buying investments. Although, there is no harm in spoiling ones self every now and then.

    1. I find the analogy is allowing me to be more understanding towards people who don’t have frugality in their DNA. I can relate to their struggle a little bit more:)

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