I believe in the power of frugality. Its power derives from what it delivers: freedom from debt, low stress about money, and, ultimately, financial independence. I’ve witnessed all this firsthand. When I retired at age 48 and my wife at age 46, it wasn’t because we were smarter or luckier than most. We weren’t. We were able to retire because our frugality had become a deeply ingrained habit. We were set in our ways and our ways were modest.
As I define it, frugality is the habit of living well below your means by spending less. Few chart this course. Too many workers live paycheck to paycheck (68 percent of those surveyed). Too many households carry credit card debt (55.1 percent of card holders). And too many shoppers support far too many stores (46.6 square feet of retail space per American). By habit, most consumers race powerboats for gilded shores. Also by habit, a frugal fringe rows merrily in the opposite direction—gently down the stream, and well clear of hazards that sink many overspenders.
Many consumers hear about frugality, and some give it a close look. But it’s hard to change boats in the middle of the stream. A switch to frugality produces great upheaval in anyone’s life. It requires an almost obsessive commitment to new ways. Over time, of course, these new ways ripen into ingrained habits and life gets much easier. Most people, however, lose interest long before then. They return to their old familiar routines, leaving frugality to its small crew of obsessed oarsmen. Sooner or later, even devoted frugal fringers have got to wonder: with so few onboard for the ride, could the rowboat be ready for an overhaul?
When it comes to frugality, I’m frugangelical. After retiring, I had time on my hands and fervor to spare. I brooded for hours over how to win converts, and kept returning to a central idea: somehow, the transition from unfrugal to frugal needed streamlining. Eventually, I found what I was looking for—a reliable vessel that would convey frugality’s benefits to newcomers, but do it faster and with far less upheaval. This fresh approach to spending less appears in the following pages. Welcome aboard!