Frugal, Not Poor

Aldi sardines

On the weekend I was speaking to a friend of mine about finishing my PhD and starting a real job and I said “I’m sick of being poor”. My friend replied “You’re not poor”, and he’s right, I’m not.

My PhD scholarship is the highest income I’ve ever had. This year I have been able to afford to live alone, I have enough money in my “Fun money” account to go on a holiday, and I have never had to worry about whether I had enough money in the bank to buy groceries. I enjoy scouring op shops for clothes, shopping at Aldi, cooking from scratch (and taking my lunch to work), and seeing how long I can go without putting petrol in my car. 

So I started thinking about what would actually change when I start working, and the major thing I came up with is an increase in saving for my house deposit. Even though I am currently saving some money every fortnight, at this rate it will take me around 25 years. So I guess what I should have said is “I can’t wait to be able to save a big chunk of my income”.

How about you? Are you frugal or poor?

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  1. Well said, Economies! I’m sure I’ve said this before (hopefully people aren’t tired of my repetitious theme) … I have everything I need and a lot of what I want, so therefore, I’m rich. I have food, shelter, clothing, and health. My family is doing well. It IS tempting for me to whine about the massive amounts of rainfall we have had in the past few months (my basement finally dried out but not sure it will stay that way this week) but after my phone call to my mom this morning (in which she told me a tornado touched down within 5 mils of their home last night–it destroyed a home but no injuries, thank God!) I am re-shifting my thoughts and am being grateful for my blessings. It really is about our mindset, isn’t it?

    • It really is 🙂 I’m not sure if you were reading my blog back in January, but I was doing fieldwork when a cyclone hit the coast. We had four straight days of torrential rain and cyclonic winds, and we were camping. The road to our camp flooded, so we were stranded for two days, and then the highway flooded so I couldn’t get home, even after finishing all my work. It was not a fun experience, but when we drove into the next town (maybe 2 miles away), they’d had tornadoes come through and rip houses apart. I didn’t even know we got tornadoes in Australia! Suddenly being wet and cold for four days didn’t seem like such a big deal.

  2. Oops, that should be “miles” not “mils”. Thought I proofed that better than I did.

  3. I’m with Kris, I try to be happy with what I have. By other’s $ terms, I am also rich. But I try to limit my wants, and live within my means, growing my ‘assets’ (like my house, or savings), for the future. It’ll be great when you’re earning more to see your savings goals come to you at 100kmh rather than the 10kmh you’re used to (I remember those days, when I went from piddly pay, to huge pay + overtime!!). But thinking (and saying) you’re poor makes you feel deprived. Embrace the good, frugilista!!

    • I think limiting your wants is key. I’ve trained myself pretty well to think about everything I buy and whether I actually want or need it. Then when something comes along that is a want (like a dinner out) and I choose to spend money on it, I don’t feel guilty because it is my choice. I hope that won’t change when I start earning a decent salary.

  4. Lost my comment somewhere. Let me try again. Basically, I have never felt poor no matter how much money I had. I think I always made my expectations meet my money. However, I have always been lucky to have some kind of income coming it. I remember well going from my grad student salary to a professional one. I couldn’t believe how big my check was and that it kept coming every two weeks! In retrospect, it wasn’t that much, but it was a big change.

    Good luck with your frugal lifestyle.

    • Hey Live and Learn, your comment did come through but as an Anonymous comment so I had to approve it. I don’t know why it does this with you sometimes 🙁

      I was speaking to a friend who’s an undergrad student recently about money and I mentioned my income and she was impressed by how high it was compared to what she was making working casual jobs. Whereas some of my friends who are working earn three times as much as I do! Making your expectations meet the money is a good idea 🙂

  5. Yes, I agree that the best approach is to be happy with what you have and even though more would probably make you even happier, always think that there are people who do a lot worse than you and are still happy. As long as you have a house, you’re healthy and you have food to put on the table, I think that there is no reason to complain – it’s not a thing of being frugal or being poor, just being who you are!

    • You’re right, I’m happy with what I have, and there are a lot of people worse off than me. Even other PhD students, since I am lucky enough to be able to teach at the university for some extra cash. I chose to do a PhD, which is a luxury most people don’t have, but I am looking forward to getting a real job sometime next year 🙂

  6. I hate to admit it, but I do feel poor sometimes. Mostly that’s when I look at my massive student loan debt and my paltry paycheck. If I didn’t have that debt, I could have a very comfortable life, but I borrowed it, so I have to pay it back. Other than that though, I am content. If I had more money, I would probably fritter it away on stupid things, and I like having to have some ingenuity. Delayed gratification and having to decide if I REALLY want something makes the things I choose to buy that much more precious.

    But yeah, it would be nice to buy a house someday…

    • Hey Frugaler, thanks for stopping by 🙂 The more I hear about student loans in the US, the more I appreciate the system we have here. My debt is under 10000, and I don’t have to start paying it back until I start earning over $50000 a year. In the meantime it doesn’t accrue any interest, and is just adjusted for inflation.

      I agree about the delayed gratification, and choosing to buy things making them more valuable to you. I spent ages deciding on a food processor and finding the best price, and I love it so much 🙂

  7. Now that I am very comfortable financially, the biggest differences I see when looking back are: I hated spending money on a dinner out or an entertainment event that turned out to be disappointing – because I couldn’t afford another one for a long time; I quietly resented work events and work gifts that I had to contribute to (and then felt bad for resenting them!); I never had savings for big or small emergencies so something small like permanently staining a sweater got me frustrated; and most of all, I couldn’t afford to travel to important life events like weddings or even funerals. Happily, money does solve some problems 🙂

    • I feel exactly the same way – if I’m going to spend money on food out, I want it to be better than I could make at home! I understand about the work gifts too, everything adds up.

  8. You know, I think that you had a very important revelation – what you’re looking forward to is being able to save more money, not spend more! I started out broker than broke, but one of the things that has served me so well over the years was to keep my lifestyle simple even as I earned more money. I allowed myself a few luxuries, but nothing like the perpetual spending spree that I watched my peers descend into. If you do that, you’ll end up with money in the bank and you’ll ultimately have soooo much more happiness, security and freedom than any amount of stuff could ever buy.

    • That’s such good advice, to keep your lifestyle simple. I think it will be easier for me, being a bit older than most graduates, because I’m already set in my frugal ways. A few luxuries are definitely important, but if they’re treats I really think you appreciate them more!

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