Extremism in Personal Finance
I just read a whole thread on Twitter “bashing” FIRE and extreme miserliness. The gist was “Why be miserable just to save money?”. It then started veering into the mentality of “If I can’t/don’t want to be miserly then why shouldn’t I spend/waste tons of money?”
I rarely get political but I think we have the same issue with politics today.
THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE WITH PERSONAL FINANCE AND POLITICS TODAY IS EXTREMISM ON BOTH SIDES.
FIRE VS Frugality
The problem with extreme blogs and subreddits (though why anyone uses that as a barometer is beyond me) is that the extremism is broadcast and amplified on social media. At the other end is the extreme materialism that has permeated our culture. Those that show off their extremely lavish lifestyles. This, too, is broadcast and amplified on social media. I know that I sound like a grouchy old lady complaining about today’s ills and “social media” but I am just a millennial who is seeing what is going around in the world. There is no moderation. There is no “middle ground”, there is no “balance”. There is either good or bad. Extreme one way or extreme the other way.
In terms of finance, there is either a miser or a lavish spender. Pay off all your student loans in 2 years or never pay them off. Never buy deodorant or buy $11 deodorant. Analyze each purchase or never look at the bill.
This is not only in the Personal Finance World
I think that “we” (as in people who live today) often tend to look at things and then either hate or love them. If we have an idea with which we disagree, we automatically take up the opposing stance without considering that there may be a middle ground. There may be a balance. There may be good and bad mixed up together. We are so desperate to label everything “good”, “bad”, “tolerant”, “intolerant” that we can’t see that maybe there is a middle. Maybe there is a mixture of both.
Problems in the Personal Finance World
Now, since this is a personal finance blog and I don’t want to sit and complain about “what is wrong with the world today” I will turn my rant to personal finance.
There is a way to be financially responsible without becoming a miser. There is a way to enjoy life without spending all our money. You can be financially stable without being a millionaire or retiring at 40.
Now, if you choose to practice extreme frugalism, out of choice, (there are many people who must do this out of necessity) than I guess that is your choice and right. Just be aware that extremism can often lead to abuse and then it is no longer your choice or right.
This Shouldn’t Stop You From Being Responsible
My message is this: don’t be turned off from being financially responsible by extremism. Don’t stop listening or doing the best you can just because you heard/read/saw/experienced the other end. Allow yourself to find the medium and the balance that works for you.
You can stick to a budget and still buy things you enjoy.
You can cut frivolous spending and still do things you enjoy.
You can use hand-me-downs and not traumatize your children.
You can save money and still spend some.
You can be careful about going into debt and still go to school.
You can make careful financial decisions and still have children.
You can choose to stay home often and still still go to a family wedding.
You can not buy a brand-new Audi and still have a decent car.
You can shop sales and use coupons without driving you and your family crazy.
It does not need to be all or none. It really doesn’t. That voice in your head? The one that is telling you that it’s not worth doing unless you’re doing it completely? Realize that extremism is rearing its ugly head.
Let’s not let extremism of any sort ruin our lives and our futures.
I rant some more about the world of personal finance. I sometimes feel that personal finance bloggers can be out of touch with those who truly are struggling and are not frugal by choice.
It seems that Dave from Wealthlenial has a similar complaint specifically about the Financial Independence Community. Here is what he wrote about The Problem I have with the Financial Independence Community.
Be wary of extremism when it comes to getting your financial life in order. That’s pretty much why I don’t like no-spend days.