“Countercultural” is one of the last things most people would call me, but the description that fits me well. Chances are, if you are reading this article, you are countercultural, too. Living within your means and saving for the future are pretty radical ideas in our culture of easy credit and instant gratification.
In addition to having a way of thinking that differs greatly from the predominant culture, frugal people have some characteristics in common with other countercultural groups. Though we hold a broad range of political and religious beliefs, we share some important ideas. In addition to living within our means and prioritizing saving, we believe in making wise use of our resources and eliminating personal debt.
Frugal people don’t have a particular style of music or clothing to distinguish us, as many countercultural groups do. Most of us don’t wear long hair and long skirts like the hippies or dress in black like the beatniks and the Goths. If you look closely, however, you might be able to identify us by our clothes — they’re likely to be a little worn around the edges and a few years out of style. Then again, some of us wear new, highly fashionable clothes, but pay less for them than everyone else.
The frugal counterculture might not be organized enough to be called a movement, and we have no formal recruitment plan, but we welcome anyone who wants to join us and are willing to teach new members of our group about our way of life. We also teach frugal principles to the next generation and are thrilled when our children grow up to be frugal, too.
I am not aware of any plans for a frugal revolution, but if frugal living became mainstream, it would change the world — many businesses would find themselves losing money, and a lot of people would have to find new ways to make a living. (Thankfully, having converted to the frugal lifestyle, many of these people would already have saved for a period of career transition and would find that they could live on a lot less money than they previously thought.)
As with any way of thinking that goes against the norm, people who live frugally can be seen as strange, particularly when we are asked to explain our reasons for doing some of things we do. Ordering water at a restaurant is considered healthy if you do it because you don’t want to drink caffeinated or sugared beverages, but you’re seen as cheap if you do it to save money. Sometimes, our frugal lifestyles are mocked, and we are called insulting names, like “tightwad” or “cheapskate,” or even “Scrooge” (whether or not our motives are mean-spirited). Yet, even these names can be turned into proud labels when we apply them to ourselves. I think of two well-known publications catering to the frugal lifestyle: The Tightwad Gazette and Cheapskate Monthly.
If you identify with these descriptions, welcome to the counterculture! When you tire of continuously going against the popular way of thinking, remember that frugal living is a rewarding lifestyle. When you live within your means and save for the future, you are less likely to worry about money and more likely to be able to afford what you really want. What a great way to live!