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A Case Against Blind Frugality

This is a guest blogging post by William Trent, editor of Stock Market Beat [3].

As an investor, I frequently look at things from the contrarian perspective (or maybe I’m just disagreeable.) So when I was considering what to post as a guest blogger on the home of the Festival of Frugality, I thought maybe a contrary perspective on the frugal life might be in order.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for being thrifty. In fact, I think “Live well within your means” is an excellent motto. It can be read two different ways – live well, but within your means or live well (far) within your means. If you strike the right balance between those two ways of looking at it you will be happy and, eventually, wealthy.

So my contrarian perspective on frugality is that I don’t think some people are doing the cost-benefit analysis. You know the ones I am talking about – they spend three hours combing through the coupons in the Sunday paper to save $10 on their groceries, when they could have made $25 or more by working those three hours instead. Taking a second job or working more hours at your primary job benefits your finances in two ways:

  1. You earn money
  2. You are too busy to spend it

You can’t get more frugal than that – 100 percent savings rate on your extra time. Even if you work in a salaried job (and thus don’t get paid extra today for the extra hours you work) in the long run hard work will pay off. When the next promotion becomes available, the conversation will go something like this:

Your Boss: “I think we should promote (your name.) (S)he is always working long hours.”
Big Boss: “What about Fred?”
Your Boss: “He is always trying to catch the early bird special at El Burro Barato.”

So don’t be Fred. Stay frugal, but make sure the time you spend doing it doesn’t have a more productive use.