I didn't intend to write about frugality again this week, but the responses to recent columns on the issue keep rolling in, and several offer new takes on the subject.
One reader, who did not give her name, wrote in an e-mail that she thinks every person has different financial needs.
"I have observed that my husband 'needs' to do things he interprets as 'normal,' while I can adjust my 'needs' to whatever level is necessary to stay within the budget," she wrote. "For example, when we were first married, I frequently skipped lunches or worked through them to save money for other things. My husband has never been able to work for eight hours without a meal without getting extremely cranky."
I can relate to that my waistline shows that I don't miss many meals. But I digress.
The e-mailer continues: "He also did not like any of the lunches I tried to pack for him. Part of it was the socialization he felt he missed when he didn't go to lunch with co-workers. Part of it was that he's somewhat picky. Whatever the reasons, we all perceive our 'needs' differently. This is especially true when we are not faced with hard and drastic choices (i.e. eat bugs or starve)."
The e-mailer goes on to mention an 8-year-old she knew who was "shocked and dismayed" to find out this reader had never had a pedicure.
"Her family lives quite differently than mine, obviously," the anonymous e-mailer wrote. "I recognize our frugal lifestyle is a choice we sacrificed my income to live on my husband's because our children needed me at home. His income is pretty small for a family of six, so we live with my parents in their basement apartment. I will eventually have to return to work, since we can't depend on my parents helping us forever they may need us someday. But at the current time, we have made the choices we have made and understand why we live the way we do.
"We are not forced, by any means, to do this, but we do what we feel is right. Others do what they do because that is what they have chosen.... Yes, we sacrifice some things we would really like to have, but it's a choice. And I can live with that."
I think this reader makes a good point about financial "needs" varying from person to person. In the end, you must be able to live with the choices you make. And hopefully those choices will keep you financially healthy.
Some commenters on the deseretnews.com Web site took a different look at the issue. One wrote about feeling sorry for himself when he was going to college and working.
"I would often pass by a young man sitting in a lawn chair drinking lemonade and reading novels," he wrote. "I couldn't figure out why I had to work so hard and he could afford the life of leisure. Years later, after graduating, I found out: He had accumulated over $50,000 in student loans during the pursuit of his exercise- and sports-science degree. After graduation, he found himself qualified to work for a local rental-car company for $10 an hour. I stopped feeling sorry for myself when I learned that.... Working all those nights seemed worth it."
Another commenter agreed but pointed out that sometimes, those "leisure people" are successful.
"I had roommates whose parents paid EVERY expense of theirs. All they had to buy was clothing (and did they ever!)," she wrote. "I worked very hard in college, and I'm now seeing it pay off. However, the girls I lived with are also doing very well.... It wasn't fair. It's still not. I have student loans and they don't, because their parents paid their tuition.
"The hard part is not feeling sorry for yourself when you don't get your 'Little Red Hen' moment of vindication. Often, lazy people still get rewarded sometimes more than us hard workers. Life is ironic and unfair. Learning that it's OK for life to be unfair is the obstacle for me, and I'm sure for others, too."
As I've written before, and as our first e-mailer wrote, it's all about being satisfied and happy with the life you're making for yourself. Hopefully, that life will include wise financial decisions that will allow you to meet your real needs now and in the future.
E-mail: [email protected]