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Old 05-19-2009, 07:52 AM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,250,526 times
Reputation: 18984

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I have a group of friends who enjoy frugal living. We like to go to yard sales together, buy things in bulk together, that sort of thing. One member of our group has gotten a bit extreme. She says she's happy, so my attitude is to mind my own business... but yesterday we got an e-mail that seems alarming.

This girl used to own a house and work as a manager for a software company. Three years ago she decided to adopt a very simple life. The first thing she did was stop buying much of anything, including new clothes. She was very excited about this new life, even going to the length of e-mailing her monthly budget to her friends.

At first we were all thrilled to watch this adventure into simplicity. But there are limits to how frugal you should be.

About six months into this adventure, simply cutting back on shopping wasn't enough. She sold the house and bought a camper to live in full time. This was really frugal... but it turned out to be more difficult than she first thought. It was hard to find parking places, and she had to move around a lot. As a result she began missing work and getting into trouble at work. Also, her boss began hinting that her clothes weren't appropriate for business meetings, since they were starting to look worn and stained.

Finally she got a part time gig as a ranger in a national park, which allowed her to move the camper permanently to the park. But that started another bunch of problems. She was late to work, the ranger duties took more time than she expected, etc. For one reason or another she had to move to different parks, eventually moving so far from work that she had to leave the job. (This was the news that we found alarming.)

The good news is, she got more ranger duties. But it doesn't pay much. Because she lost her higher paying job, she decided to sell her car. She's proud of this, says it's the ultimate in frugal living. And she still has a motorcycle, which she says is enough... but IMO, that's carrying frugality to an extreme. And it's not really that frugal. For example, she can't carry much so she can't buy in bulk. And a motorcycle isn't that helpful if a serious storm blows in or if she has a medical emergency. If she had a car and a storm destroyed the camper, at least she could sleep in the car.

Meanwhile, she's burning through what's left of her money. So she cut the food budget down to $150/month. Some of the cheap food she's eating isn't that healthy, IMO. She has a little garden in her campsite, but one of those little square foot gardens doesn't produce enough to be a main source of food, IMO.

She goes to the local library to send e-mails. So far that's working, but the library is cutting back on hours.

She says she's happy, and she's very proud of her frugality. I respect that. But I can't help wondering--if she changes her mind, how difficult will it be to return to a more typical life? Without a computer or access to media her skills are deteriorating, and she's losing track of what's going on in the world--it sounds ideal in a way, but won't that hurt her if she wants to come back?

Opinions?

Last edited by normie; 05-19-2009 at 08:12 AM..
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Old 05-19-2009, 08:04 AM
 
596 posts, read 2,494,037 times
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If she is in a permanent RV park, her monthly utilities and site fee will be very low. With this stability, she CAN maintain employment but somehow all of her moves messed up her good job. Otherwise, she could have been saving a ton of money.

If she just wants simplification, it sounds like she's got that for now. Does she have an income now? If she does, she might be ok. Having bulk groceries isnt necessary and her camper should hold enough for 1 person. She's in such a simplified lifestyle right now, if she has to walk to the grocery store and pay a bit more for those groceries, it may be an ok trade-off given that she's saving in such big ways in other areas.

If she says she's ok, and its not in her character to say something if it werent true, then she's probably ok. She can come out of that if and when she wants to. She can get a stable job, sell the camper, get an apartment, etc, at her will. Sounds like she's good with this for a while?
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:11 AM
 
Location: Apple Valley Calif
7,475 posts, read 19,561,668 times
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She's a nut case, and all of your worring won't change anything, so write her off and forget her. If and when she ever comes to her senses, re-establish your relationship then, if you still wish to..
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:12 AM
 
15,187 posts, read 16,035,343 times
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Not to be too heavy-handed about it, but it doesn't sound like her situation is as much about being frugal as it is a compulsive disorder. Sounds to me to be the same type of behavior that is involved in an eating disorder, or hoarding, or hyper-cleaning or something along those lines. Her desire to save money for some purpose--freedom from worry, retirement, more free time--has been eclipsed by the act of saving money itself.
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:18 AM
 
Location: SW Missouri
15,527 posts, read 29,228,109 times
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The secret to frugality is to live WELL on less. When your lifestyle deteriorates significantly then it is time to step back and take a good hard look at what is going on.

Of course, you cannot control what this person does. But it is obvious that she jumped into this lifestyle without fully understanding the ramifications of doing so. She did not prepare well enough to make the transition seamless and the bumps in the road that she is discovering are hurting her more than they are helping her.

As a friend, offer her your support (emotional, not financial), and assist her whenever you can in making things better. Her heart is in the right place, but I think she made the decision prematurely. Like so many people who adopt a frugal lifestyle they discover that it is NOT easy unless you prepare for it and are emotionally and financially ready.

I wish her the best of luck. Living frugally IS wonderful!

20yrsinBranson
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:34 AM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,250,526 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jctx View Post
If she is in a permanent RV park, her monthly utilities and site fee will be very low.
She's not in an RV park, she's in a campground. That's one of the problems, it's too far from everything. As far as I know the only work she can get is ranger duties at the campground. And if you've ever gone camping, you know that the stores that are near a campground don't carry the healthiest foods--they carry a lot of marshmallows and stale cookies and battered fruit and they don't have the lowest prices. (But, who knows, this is a guess on my part. Maybe she found a good store.)

But the bigger problem, IMO, is safety. I think campgrounds are safe for a week or two at a time, but a person camping year-round seems vulnerable to me. Someone wanting to commit a crime would target her, IMO.

Oh well, on the positive side maybe she could write a best selling book about her experience.
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:37 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
16,836 posts, read 51,286,023 times
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What a fascinating story. IMO it could be the core of a dissertation or even a book. I think there is more going on than meets the eye, and that a lot of people could learn a lesson here.

To put things in perspective, the obvious balance with frugality and work is income in vs. expenses out. To loosely quote Mr Macawber, "Annual income 20, annual expenditure 19 shillings and 6d, result happiness. Annual income 20 shillings, annual expenditure 20 shillings and 6d: result misery." Living frugally is a means of increasing the real spendable income or savings. Somehow, this woman missed part of that message.

Why has she gone the route she has chosen? That is the larger question. In my opinion she has fallen into a trap, partly of her own making, and partly made of outside forces and influences.

There is currently a reward system for certain behaviors that can be as self-destructive as the one that traps gamblers. Not only is there an endorphine rush when one realizes "I don't need to buy this, and I'll have extra money if I don't!" but a cultural reinforcement for "having a small carbon footprint" and "not using up natural resources." The person who works to minimize the effects of their existence on the planet is rewarded by a feeling of superiority, a feeling of being "in" with a group that is making a difference, and membership in an "elite" group of people that are morally superior to the rich.

If a person has little chance of being a leading member of the real elite, then this "frugal, low carbon footprint" group is a means of inflating apparent self-worth. It doesn't matter if it is an illusion, the reward chemicals from the brain are still being produced, and depression and despair about the situation being denied.

The insidious aspect of this is that she doesn't obviously fall within any of the current classifications of the DMSR, because the society sees such behavior as positive. If she were to go for therapy, she would have a difficult time finding a therapist who could untangle the web of conflicting needs and emotions and have her understand what she is doing to herself. As you have already surmised, she is quite literally destroying herself.
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:38 AM
 
Location: southern california
55,237 posts, read 72,392,137 times
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losing employment and getting fired is not frugal behavior its fatal behavior.
so is not eating properly
every person living under a bridge and holding a cardboard sign is being frugal
that is not what dave ramsey is talking about
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:40 AM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,250,526 times
Reputation: 18984
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marlow View Post
Sounds to me to be the same type of behavior that is involved in an eating disorder, or hoarding, or hyper-cleaning or something along those lines.
Actually, I had the same reaction. It's almost like alcoholism. Something about the frugality is giving her pleasure--which is great--but she's gotten carried away to an extreme point. Oh well, it's her business. If she decides she wants to stop, maybe she can work a 12-step program on it.
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:49 AM
 
Location: Southwest Nebraska
1,297 posts, read 4,022,980 times
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My wife and I live very frugal to but not by choice. I am disabled and no income, and wife makes 7.50/hr at her job and lucky to have it.

There is nothing wrong with living like this but I don't know why anyone would want to live like this on purpose.

It sucks and is depressing, and you are unable to do anything other than exist.
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