Living Frugally: A Tale of Two Men

Here’s a simple statement many folks do not think about…once money is spent, it is no longer in your bank account.  I did say it was simple.

FrugallyWhy do I mention this obvious fact?  Because those who are aiming for the most expensive, high-priced status symbols don’t think to themselves that once they purchase that expensive luxury vehicle with all its bells and whistles, they are left with less money for retirement. This is a crucial piece of information for one simple reason: when you reach the age when you cannot physically work, that luxury sedan will not help pay your bills.  Let that sink in!

One motto I do my best to live by is this: I will do today what others won’t, so I can live tomorrow like others can’t.

A Tale of Two Men — Consider Jones and Zeke.  Zeke is a Frugalist; Jones is a stuff-accumulating spender.  Their take-home pay is exactly the same. Jones buys the fancy house in the best neighborhood while Zeke lives in a modest home, in a modest neighborhood, and wisely invests.  Jones leases a top of the line SUV while Zeke drives a domestic, used car.  Jones insists on taking annual vacations to places like Italy, Australia, and France.  Zeke vacations just as often but stays within the United States every other year.  This pattern persists for 40 years, from age 25 to retirement at age 65.  At that point, both men are forced to retire because their bodies just cannot perform like they used to.

Only one of them is prepared for the sudden change. One man has been accumulating wealth through his assets while the other spent away his wealth on status symbols.  One man Feeling Blueenjoys his mortgage-free home while the other wonders how he’ll afford his house payments without an income; he even considers selling the house he’s worked so hard to maintain.  One man has the freedom to allot a portion of his retirement fund each year for living expenses and observes that he has more than enough remaining for leisure activities.  The other realizes, with a heavy heart, that he has no retirement fund to speak of.  One of these men calls his children and arranges mini vacations visiting each of them at their homes across the United Sates.  The children of the other man see his number on the caller ID and refuse to pick up; he didn’t have time for them, so they have no time for him they think to themselves.

I don’t have to tell you which man is now living the best retirement life, do I?

Don’t let the traditional mindset of accumulating the most expensive ‘stuff’ rob you of accumulating the best assets, best mindset, and best memories which all will help you to achieve the BEST retirement possible!

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. Hellօ there! This blog post could not Ƅe written much better! Goіng through this post reminds me of my previous rоommate! Не continuɑlly kept preacɦing about this. I will send this article to him. Fairly certaіn he will have a good read. I appreciatе you for sharing!

    • Thanks for the compliment Teri. I hope to see you here often!!

  2. I like to think there’s a balance between living on bread and water in a cardboard box and being a stuff accumulating spender (although you didn’t use the first part of the example). I refer to it as being ‘wise with my money.’ For example, if both men walk into a marine shop thinking they want a boat, one guy would be signing the loan forms within the hour. The other will realize that he may use it 2 or 3 times a year and it’s not worth it. Have them both walk into a health club, both may sign up, but one guy may only show up once a month to sit in the hot tub, whereas the second guy would come everyday, get into shape and add years to his life. Both are spending the same amount of money, but the second is getting much more value out of their expense!

    • You bring up a couple good points, Travis. First is the idea of balance. I believe the reason so many people struggle to find balance is because they never fully articulate what it is they want today and what they want at some point in the future, namely in retirement. Someone with a fully fleshed out financial plan can tell you how much they need to save/invest today, at a given rate of return, over x number of years to meet their financial needs in retirement. Once that is established, they know how much they can comfortably spend today, which leads to the second point, value. If someone truly understands that they have finite resources (i.e. money) to spend/save/invest each month to meet their present wants/needs and their future wants/needs, they are more likely to evaluate – and subsequently choose – the goods and services that deliver the most value.

      Unfortunately, most people do not have a fully fleshed out financial plan and simply consume as they go. Have money? Will buy the brightest, shiniest object at that moment. Thanks for adding to the conversation and I hope you will drop by more often.

  3. This has been on my mind lately! I was thinking the other day how every single dollar you don’t spend, or every single extra dollar you earn, is one more dollar you can invest towards funding your future.

    • Exactly right, Adam. And every dollar that is invested, vice spent, can take advantage of the power of Compound Interest. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and dropping a comment. We hope to see you again.

    • Really great insight Adam Kamerer. Being financially responsible really is as simple as you’ve stated it.

  4. Everyone should live like Zeke, if everyone does that, I’m sure no one will be having a hard time with their finances. Being frugal do have a lot of benefits as opposed to being a huge spender, isn’t?

    • Agreed that practicing frugality pays significant financial dividends. Thanks for stopping by, Mark.

  5. I have to agree with Taz and I love that quote! I used to be a “stuff” person, I would go shopping every weekend just to be shopping not because I needed something. When I turned 40, I was divorced, living on about 1/3 of the money I was used to having. That was when I realized that something had to give. It was getting harder and harder to make rent. I ended up having to take money out of my TSP (401k) to pay off all those credit card bills, or at least the majority. I lost a lot of money by doing that and I hated to do it, but I had dug a hole that I couldn’t get out of. Since then I have realized that I don’t need to keep up with the Jones’ and I have to tell you that my life has become much simpler and less stressful. I won’t be competing any more!

    • Thanks for sharing, Karen. No doubt that getting addicted to stuff can negatively impact a retirement account and throw a serious monkey wrench into a retirement plan.

    • Great comment Karen. It’s so sad to see puerile trying to keep up with the Jones’ when, sadly, the Jones’ are broke!

  6. A comment from a reader on Google+

    “The problem with owning a lot of stuff (expensive stuff, cheap stuff) it doesn’t matter, is that it eventually breaks, goes out of style, is obsolete by a new model, needs to be stored, insured, etc. I understand that some people perceive their value based on what they own but I have found that experiences last a life time.”

  7. So true, so true. One of my more happiest moments was the day I sent my last student loan payment. I’d sacrificed so many things to speed up that date so I could build more wealth. Friends and family thought I was crazy. “What do you mean you sold your car?” “What do you mean you don’t get your hair & nails professionally done?” “What do you mean you can’t hang out?” But I’m debt free. Who’s crazy now? Thanks for the blog posts!!

    • “One of my more happiest moments was the day I sent my last student loan payment.” I can certainly appreciate that feeling. Speaking of student loans, you might be interested in checking out the latest SavvyRecommendation, The Scourge of Student Debt, which touches on that very topic. Thanks for taking the time to add to the conversation, Sofia.

  8. Thanks very much

    I agree that the frugal lifestyle is a happy, content and blessed one and all those attributes are sustained into our retirement years.

  9. I enjoyed reading this article very much. Nice work.

    The beauty of living frugally is that it supports both enjoyment in the present and enjoyment in the future.

    Cheers, Jason @

    • Absolutely, Jason. It seems to me that frugal practices help to find a good balance between living for today and preparing for tomorrow. Thanks for stopping in.

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