What differentiates survivalism from frugality? What distinguishes frugality from frivolity? When is it appropriate or necessary to practice which? Is my lifestyle necessarily by choice, survivalism, frugality or frivolity? These questions stuck in my mind after reading a comment made by a member of one of my Facebook groups.
She wrote, “This is a good idea for a group. But, to me, flying anywhere is not what a person on a budget will consider as being frugal.” This was her response to my mention, in a page post, that I had taken a trip to Colorado recently. The trip was to visit family we hadn’t seen in six years. This included three great nephews and a great niece we had never met. I did not consider this frivolous. We needed to visit our family. In fact, the way we managed our trip was by a savvy use of travel rewards credit cards.
She continued, “To me, BEING FRUGAL means saving your money for unforeseen emergency circumstances. To me, it means getting the most from every dollar you spend and not wasting even one penny. To me, SURVIVALISM means not spending money needlessly for things you can live without so you will have money when you really need it.
She concluded, “So, for me, it would be good if you taught me how to SAVE MY MONEY and how to stop spending it on every little thing that catches my eye which ultimately becomes clutter which ultimately hampers my enjoyment of life. You know … kinda, sorta like … learning how to minimize my carbon footprint, as they say, so I can enjoy the pleasures of not being tied down to so much stuff. What do you think?”
A state of survivalism can result from a crisis, disaster or state of emergency. In other words, survivalism is a situation where one has to learn to make due in an unfriendly environment including minimized access to the modern conveniences.
Perhaps, in retrospect, the name I gave my group, Senior Suburban Survivalism, favored alliteration more than an accurate definition of survivalism. In any case, a senior who lives in suburbia faces a survivalism type challenge. It has been a continual test to live frugally. We do have an occasional slip into frivolity.
Six Lessons on Surviving and Thriving in Rough Times is by author Donna Freedman. Lesson 2 is “Stop seeing frugality as a punishment”.
“Freedman emphasizes that frugality is not punishment, but rather, a power move. Controlling your spending urges, scaling back a bit on entertainment and dining out, and other frugal strategies will ultimately help you reach your financial goals. So while the road to reaching those goals may seem long, you shouldn’t view your careful money habits as restrictive and misery-inducing, especially if they lead you to paying off your mortgage and retiring early. Because isn’t that the whole point?”
Clearly, there is a substantial difference between survivalism and frugality. Survivalism is having to make due without, not by choice. Frugality is a choice to limit or postpone immediate gratification as well as self-indulgence towards a greater, usually longer term goal.
In my view:
• the difference between frugality and frivolity is a choice. For example, I am wearing an old dress to the party rather than buying a new dress.
On the other hand:
• the difference between survivalism and frugality is not a choice. As an example, I am homeless with no roof over my head or I have a place to live with a roof over my head. To her next comment. “So, for me, it would be good if you taught me how to SAVE MY MONEY and how to stop spending it on every little thing that catches my eye which ultimately becomes clutter which ultimately hampers my enjoyment of life.”I answered, I would like to quote from Lesson 2 in Donna Freedman’s second book, “Frugality is not a punishment”. In terms of compulsive spending, it might be best to take a deep breathe then ask ourselves:
• ‘Do I need this or just want it’?
• Will this bring me immediate pleasure but then gather dust and become clutter later on?’
The answers will determine if this is frugality or frivolity.
I am not totally opposed to frivolity. in fact, I think part of the joy in life is a little treat once in awhile. But here are the parameters:
• A treat should not cause harm to the environment by increasing my carbon footprint
• Something special should not unbalance my budget
• I still need to pay my bills in full as well as on time
Therefore, I hope I have clarified my position and brought more transparency to these lifestyle differences.
Sources and Resources
Your Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul by Donna Freedman © 2016
Your Playbook For Tough Times, Vol. 2:: Needs And Wants Edition (Volume 2) by Donna Freedman © 2017