Survivalism, Frugality and Frivolity



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.

survivalism, frugality, frivolity
Senior Suburban Survivalism, a Facebook Group

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.

survivalism, frugality, frivolity
The Best Travel Credit Card Suggestions from

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.

survivalism, frugality, frivolity
Homelessness is a state of survivalism | TEDxSyracuseUniversity











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.

survival, frugality, frivolity
Your Playbook For Tough Times Vol. 2: Needs and Wants Edition by Donna Freedman © 2017

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.

Your Playbook for Tough Times by Donna Freedman © 2016

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

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Senior Suburban Survivalism



Senior suburban survivalism has become our new way of life. The purpose of this blog post is to explain what this new way of life or lifestyle is. I also detail our need for it. In addition, I explore this lifestyle so that the knowledge of survival tools is made available to others members of The Poor Middle Class. I want to inspire hope in others who are in the same or similar financial situation to us. Learn much more about The Poor Middle Class on earlier posts of my blog and in the chapters of The Poor Middle Class Crisis eBook.

senior suburban survivalism
The Poor Middle Class Crisis eBook available at

Surviving In A Middle Class Suburban World As Part of The Poor Middle Class

Because we are part of The Poor Middle Class, life has become increasingly challenging for us. As seniors aka boomers and part of The Poor Middle Class, we have had to find new lifestyle tools to survive in suburbia. We strive for a good life in spite of our limited financial resources. We are proud because we are rich in resourcefulness and hope.

Both senior suburban survivalism and homestead/off grid living have contributed to our new life. By preference, we are adopting lifestyle changes that are intrinsic to homesteading and off grid living. By necessity, we have become suburban survivalists. In fact, one could say that Senior Suburban Survivalism is a new alternative lifestyle for suburban members of The Poor Middle Class. We are learning to balance these alternate lifestyles to create a new life that is affordable and that works for us.

What Is Survivalism?

senior suburban survivalismSurvivalism is defined in Wikipedia as “. . . a movement of individuals or groups who are actively preparing for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international.” Preparation tends to involve the ability to live in rustic, primitive conditions. It can include altering one’s relationship to the political, social and economic establishment.

For The Poor Middle Class, serious disruption to our social (economic) order has already taken place. It means that we are no longer middle class financially. But we still live in a Middle Class material world. There are steep financial requirements to live comfortably and securely in that world. But they are beyond our reach.

Additionally, the current political climate may cause our social order to be disrupted even further. Be that as it may, there are aspects of survivalism as well as qualities of homesteading and off grid living that we are applying to our suburban, poor middle class lives. Out of necessity, we have become suburban survivalist. Out of desire, we are also adopting homesteading and off grid living qualities. Our hope is that our new formula for living will work even when life is more of a challenge.

senior suburban survivalism
This is the new suburbs, camps of homeless people who find refuge in suburban wooded areas. Although not legal, this is a place to gather as a community for safety and survival. From


Homesteading and Off Grid Living

Homesteading involves living off the land, in a simple and close relationship with nature. Off grid living involves the absence of municipal utilities such as electricity, gas, heating and cooking sources as well as water. This elimination of this dependency is by choice.

Both of these lifestyles sound exciting and romantic to me. But these alternate lifestyles are for younger folks who are more robust than we are. Therefore, a compromise of incorporating homesteading/off grid qualities into our lives as senior suburban survivalists is one way we can live our dream. Below is the video introduction to Off Grid with Doug and Stacy. They are well respected ‘leaders’ of the of homesteader/off grid living community. As you can see from the video, Doug and Stacy have found great joy in their homesteading/off grid life.


Our New Life As Senior Suburban Survivalists
We have been forced into senior suburban survivalism rather than able to chose homesteading/off grid living for two reasons:
• our age-the rigorousness life of homesteading/off grid living is for younger folks
• our financial circumstances-we do not have any financial resources to purchase land or materials to create an off grid homestead

Senior Suburban Survivalism
‘Ali’s Kombucha Kitchen: Home of Healthy, Probiotic Food and Drinks’ is one of my pages on Facebook

In spite of our limitations, we still derive great pleasure from aspects of our new life. Here are ways that we have adopted into our daily lives what we can of ‘the real thing’ as homesteader/off grid type folks:
• Housing-our senior housing is affordable, we have no mortgage to pay and we would be homeless or close to it without this amenity
• Food-the weekly food pantry we get food from has become our personal vegetable garden
• Foraging-local parks and green spaces make foraging still possible in the suburbs
• Traditional food & beverage preparation and preservation-these techniques are totally viable, easy to learn, close to nature, full of healthy probiotics, are frugal and avoid food waste

senior suburban survivalism
Making Kombucha, One of my Favorite Drinks and Hobbies
• Living a simpler and slower life-we have chosen to slow our lives down even though we still live in the fast paced suburbs
• Budgeting-we spend very carefully and as little as possible while sticking to a strict budget
• Acquiring things like Clothes and Furniture-we utilize free resources from our food pantry, our neighborhood, flea markets and thrift stores



I am an eager beginner in understanding what homesteading, off grid living and survivalism are and how we can incorporate them into our lives. I feel that we have embraced the spirit of them and welcome whatever works into our home and lives. So far, we have found that as we simplify and scale down, our lives have become richer and fuller. We look forward to the bounty of adventures and discoveries that lie ahead on this journey of our new life.

Senior suburban Survivalism




Sources & Resources

The Financial Survival Toolkit from Viper Tool Storage
The Poor Middle Class
Poor Middle Class Financial Survival Resources
Definition of Survivalism
Off Grid with Doug and Stacy-Homestead Homies
Living Off Grid for Thirty Years: A Story of Isolation Through happiness
The Secret Shame of Middle-Class America by Neal Gabler
Fifty Five, Unemployed and Faking Normal by Elizabeth White
The Homeless Encampment in Howell, NY.
Ask A Prepper
The Lost Ways
Food Preservation and Fermentation
Survival Food Reserves

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