Are you stuck making your own soap because you can’t afford to buy dish soap? If you are, you may have been disappointed to hear what some personal finance bloggers had to say today. I know I was.
Being Frugal-not-by choice
This week on Twitter, I let off a little rant. (I hope you are following me!)
I saw some personal finance bloggers making fun of a frugal tip: a video showing how to make your own dishwashing soap to save costs.
They were making the point: It’s stupid to spend time trying to save a few dollars on dishwashing soap. The return on these types of hacks is small and negligible.
In a way, they are right. Making your own dishwashing soap will not save you more than a few dollars. Those few dollars will not make you rich. It won’t let you retire earlier (which has slowly become the ultimate goal for many bloggers). It gives you very little return for your efforts.
This is all true but missing a very key point. Some people actively choose to live frugally. They are frugal-by-choice. But there are very many people out there who aren’t lucky enough to have a choice. They are frugal-not-by-choice. The difference between the two is vast.
Frugal-by-choice versus Frugal-not-by-choice
Those arguments only work if you are frugal by choice. If you don’t need to be frugal, but you are being frugal regardless then its worth it to calculate how much money you are actually saving versus the time and effort you are expending on the frugal action.
However, what if you are not frugal by choice but rather frugal because you have to be? What if you are frugal-not-by-choice? What if you are not saving a few dollars for the sake of saving money but because you LITERALLY do not have a few dollars to spend? What if those few dollars are the difference between debt and no debt? Or between food and no food?
That changes the conversation a bit, doesn’t it?
My take on all the popular advice given to those struggling and forced to be frugal out of necessity and not a choice.
Get a JOB
This is the best advice ever. Seriously, the absolute best. The reason why it’s the best advice is that it’s true. There is no better way to have money than by actually making money. We do that by working at a job. Everyone who needs money should get a job. I don’t disagree with this advice AT ALL.
What I disagree with is that jobs are just handed out to whoever wants one. What I have a problem with is the simplistic way this advice is dispensed. I need money. So go and get money. Great!
Some people are not able to work. Some people want to work and can work but are simply unable to find work. This may be for a very long time or for a short amount of time, but the fact remains you can’t simply wake up and decided to get a job and then have the job by the time night comes.
Even if you are given a job interview the day you apply for it, there is still an interview process and a starting date. This is usually not a matter of hours but days and, more commonly, weeks.
Additionally, many factors go into finding a job. There are geographical limitations, childcare limitations, physical limitations, etc.
The conversation on Twitter evolved into a discussion over the merits of increasing your income versus saving money with extreme frugality. I don’t think anyone disagrees that increasing your income gives you more bang for your buck, so to speak.
If someone offers me $100 to work for 30 minutes, but I decide to spend that time making dishwashing soap and saving $3- that would be ridiculous. But real life doesn’t work that way. First of all, the trade-off is not usually so clear-cut. Second of all, what if increasing your income is not an option? What if increasing your income requires hours of unpaid labor in the hope of increasing income?
Meaning that first, you have to expend significant time and energy, hoping that maybe, someday, you will see a profit? What if increasing your income means laying out money? Investing in yourself or materials? What if it means taking out debt (if they will give you a loan) that you will have to repay? Assuming it, all works out. The options are not so clear-cut.
The Duty of a Blogger
One of the hardest things about giving advice is understanding that not everyone has the same life and circumstances as you. It understands that the view that you have of the world may be a small snippet of the true story. It is understating that there are so many layers of nuance in every circumstance and decision. It understands that your personal circumstances are not universal.
We Need Different but KIND Perspectives
I think it is crucially important to have many bloggers speaking their experiences and trying to dispense advice that they think is helpful. I have gained tremendously from bloggers from all walks of life and income levels, even if they are not speaking directly to me.
What I AM NOT OK WITH is mocking or making fun of people’s circumstances.
Specifically about people who are frugal-not-by-choice. If you can’t identify or relate- that is OK. There is nothing wrong with having a high income or having opportunities that others don’t have. What is wrong is making fun of or light of those people who do not have what you have.
Having to be frugal-not-by-choice is not easy. I don’t think many people enjoy counting every single penny and finding ways to cut their expenses beyond possibility because they don’t have the money to do otherwise.
I have lived on a ridiculously tight budget when I was unemployed, and let me tell you. I would not wish it on ANYONE. I fully believe that everyone is doing the best that they can with the tools that they have. They do not deserve to be mocked or be made fun of by people who have it better than them.
Now, in the interest of putting two sides to every argument, here are some blog posts that came up in this conversation:
Contrarian Saver: Does Financial Independence make Inequality Worse?
Financial Wolves: How to Make Money
Are you frugal-not-by-choice? I would love to hear from you!
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