Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Does frugality limit ambition?

I recently received a comment in the about me section of this blog. I thought I’d reply to it here:

I’ve read your blog and although you are full of ideas. I think you are going overboard with your frugality. Is it really worth sacrificing your lifestyle so save a bit more? You know, we only live once. From the your ideas and your writing, you seem like a decently smart person so I’m sure wealth will eventually come to you. Why not spend your efforts on something more constructive like making more money?

This is why I always stress that personal finance is personal to everyone. Just because one person does something a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. For me, when I was getting out of debt, I was as frugal as possible. I had gotten myself into a lot of debt by living beyond my means, and I wanted to correct it as quickly as I could. Not only was I cutting out expenses, but I was also working TWO full-time jobs and a part-time job in order to make as much money as I could. Living frugally, combined with making more money helped me to get out of $20,000+ worth of debt in 12 months. If I had kept up my spending, and just looked at trying to earn more to fund my lifestyle, I might still be in debt!

If you look throughout the PF blogosphere, you will see some bloggers absolutely agree with my strategy of getting out of debt. While others prefer a more balanced lifestyle over a longer period of time. Both ways are fine, and both ways are for certain types of people. If you don’t like my approach, that’s cool.

Now that I am out of debt, I absolutely live a more balanced lifestyle. While I’m conscious of every dollar I spend, I wouldn’t consider myself to be overly frugal. If there is something I want to do, you will see that I always make room in my budget to do just that. A vacation, concert, or electronic gadget that I really want? Sign me up! In fact, last summer I spend almost $3,000 on a new laptop, $1,200 on a trip to Hawaii, and hundreds of dollars on another trip to Mexico – all within a 3 or 4 month period. Because I value those things, I knew I had to cut out spending in other categories of my life that I deem less important.

As for your comment about spending my efforts on something more constructive, like making more money – well I’ve always had either a part-time job or my side business on the go – most of the time, I’m utilizing both. And this year my goal is to increase my income by 50% ($25,0000). So to me, I think I’m being extremely constructive with my time. With a little bit of hard work, I’m taking steps to live a frugal lifestyle AND make more money.

Also it is sad that you were willing to sacrifice your friends to live this scrooge-like type of lifestyle. You only live once and having friends is one of the most important things in life. There’s those who would argue and say that “Oh forget about friends if they can’t accept your frugal lifestyle”. Well how will you make friends in the first place? I know I wouldn’t want to be friends with a cheapskate.

Just because I choose to live my life differently than you doesn’t make me sad. Yes I saw my friends less, but it doesn’t mean they still aren’t my friends. I just chose to hang out with them when they were doing less expensive things. You don’t make or keep friends by spending a lot of money. If your friends were holding you back from something you really wanted to achieve in life, would you just give up on your dreams because they didn’t understand? Or would you do it anyway, because it’s your life, and it makes you happy? Friends should be supportive of your financial situation, regardless of what it is.

In the process of changing my attitude towards money, I’ve made many new, great friends who understand where I’m coming from and enjoy the same things as me. I am absolutely not a “cheapskate.” I just choose to spend less in certain aspects of my life that I don’t value as much as the other aspects of my life. No matter how much money you make, you can’t have it all. Even millionaires want things they cannot afford. For example, I choose to cut down on groceries, dining out, and clothing (among other things), so that I can spend more on what I really value in my life – traveling, buying a home of my own, and playing sports. That’s not being cheap, that’s being smart with my money, and understanding the value of a dollar.

You should check out the site below to open your eyes a little on how being frugal can save you so much.… Instead of trying so hard to save an extra $1000/month why not spend that effort to earn an extra $1000/month? I really hope that young people who are still trying figure themselves out don’t get influenced from your lifestyle because this will only limit their ambition thinking frugality is the only way to go.

It is true, that you can get to a point where you can only cut out so much in your budget by being frugal. At that point, you will have to start looking at ways of increasing income in order to save more. But being frugal doesn’t limit ambition. Don’t you think the definition of ‘ambitious’ would be trying to save  AND trying to earn extra money each month? If your goal is to be ambitious, why limit yourself to JUST trying to earn more? You can get much farther ahead in life if you try and do both at the same time.

Understanding your needs vs. wants is an extremely valuable tool to achieving financial freedom. If you choose to live a less frugal lifestyle than me, go for it. If you want to focus on making more money so that you can live a larger lifestyle, that’s absolutely up to you. I’m not here to tell you what you should do with your money. Everybody handles personal finances differently, and nobody is exactly the same. I’m not here to influence anyone with my lifestyle choices. I’m here to provide a window into my life and how I handle my money on a daily basis. It’s not for everyone, but it is certainly working for me.

Thank you again for your comment, I really appreciate your perspective on my situation.

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Money Beagle says:

    I think that as long as you're happy with the choices you make and all, that you're doing the right thing. The one thing you should do is to make sure that you will not have any regrets about spending less time with people down the road. It seems like you have a pretty good balance, but I know that time and relationships with others is often the one thing people wish they could have changed when they look back on their life, even though it wasn't apparent at the time that they might be missing out.

    I think you have nothing to apologize for or feel bad for. I love your blog and think you have a great balance.

  2. I was just reading somewhere else that if you write about personal finance you have to remember it is PERSONAL. This particular comment is pretty short sighted in my opinion as the choices you made regarding debt are PERSONAL while the commentators choices are also PERSONAL. Neither is right or wrong and to flat out tell you you're improperly influencing young people is short sighted and blissfully ignorant.
    My recent post Sustainability Tip 39 – Shower with a Partner

  3. Daisy says:

    I found that coment extremely contradictory, assuming that it is all one comment.
    First of all, wouldn't it be hard to maintain your friendships is all your time and effort was going into making extra money?
    Also, I think it takes a lot of ambition to save money and pay off debt.
    Lastly, I wouldn't consider you frugal, but I'm just basing this off of your spending reports and blog posts. I know some PFers that are frugal, I just think you're smart with your money.
    My recent post I &lt 3 Rewards Cards

  4. Fox - says:

    In response to the comment above, being frugal is being smart with your money. You are cutting out unecessary purchases, yet not always opting for the cheapest option, but rather the option with most value.

    Krystal, comments and questions like that will always arise and over the time I been following your blog, I have read my share of questions readers posed to you. In terms of being frugal, you are that. You are smart with your money, shop around, don't always buy the cheapest thing, but rather buy the product/service that has most value. Not to mention you did an awesome job eliminating your $20K debt in 12 months. Keep up the frugal life, you will only benefit from it, just like you have thus far!
    My recent post LOWER YOUR BANK FEES

  5. Frankly, there is a limitation in both "strategies".

    You can only make so much money, and you can only save so much money.

    If you make as much as you can, working overtime and busting your hump, you will make more money but have less time and perhaps more expenses because you're out there working.

    You will also hit a ceiling in earnings. No one can say: Gee I'd like to make 6-figures this year, and then POOF it happens.

    If you save as much as you can, you will also hit a floor of savings. You still need to pay for rent, groceries and living.

    I think the real trick is in the balance of the two.

    I'm of the mindset to maximize my income to a certain point (life needs a balance too), but also making sure my expenses aren't out of control (also another balance).

    Frankly, I could easily spend twice my expenses if I wanted to, but I choose to spend less or nothing on what I don't care about (going to bars, clubs) and more on what I do enjoy (umm traveling and eating macarons for instance? :P)

    I wouldn't consider myself uber frugal for some areas (I don't wash plastic baggies to reuse for instance), but I am frugal in other areas, like owning a secondhand, used old car rather than buying a new one. It's just what I think is of value to me

    It all boils down to priorities and what you want to spend on what you think is important and everyone has a different viewpoint of what is important, which is why it is personal finance.
    My recent post Can you really get rich off playing the Lottery

  6. Clare says:

    It sounds like this person has never actually read your blog. Excellent response though.
    My recent post The Only Thing I Shred IsLettuce

  7. Melissa says:

    Great response. I think people sometimes forget that the key word in "personal finance" is "personal." You seem to be working to supplement your income all the time, so I'm not sure the comment about ambition even applies. From the looks of it, you're a very goal-oriented person. For me, sure, a six figure job would be great, but I'd rather focus on getting to a stage where I can work for myself or in a more flexible situation that allows me to set my own hours. People also forget that not everything is about money. It's about time, too – and while many of us can predict and control our income, NONE of us can predict or control how much time we have on this earth. Anyone who has goals and works towards them is on the right track. That's my two cents. :)
    My recent post My 1-000 monthly goal – savings update

  8. TWG says:

    Yes, personal finance is personal and what works for someone might not work for another person. Just because I live a frugal lifestyle does not mean I'm unhappy or a scrooge. One of the biggest lessons I learned through this journey was that spending does not equal happiness. It's a combination of living frugally and working to increase my income that makes me feel happy and secure in my future. Maybe someone elses priorities are not the same as mine but I'm not going to judge them for it. I think your response was great.
    My recent post Meal Plan Monday

  9. I also live a frugal lifestyle with my wife. Everyone's reasons are personal.

    I do this so I can achieve early retirement and better lifestyle.

    I don't know how frugality can limit ambition.

    My recent post London Drugs Coupon Stacking Guide February 11-17

  10. I like your response! I don't agree that "Frugality limits ambition." I think frugality fuels ambition. I don't know about other people, but I work harder and study harder to get a better paying job or a promotion / raise so that I can achieve what I want in life. (i.e.) I work hard now and be frugal to save up money to go to school where I can come out and earn double of what I am earning now.

    Anyway, if we "understand the true value of a dollar" and our "wants v. needs." then why can't we have a balanced lifestyle? Besides, if your friends are your "real true friends," they'll be your friends whether you have money or not! If I my friends are with my only when I have "the money"…. well they are really not my friends!
    My recent post Non-Sufficient Funds NSF

  11. Lindy Mint says:

    I used to feel the same way as your commenter – why bust your butt on saving money, when you can bust your butt to make more and still get to have everything that you want?

    Now I know that a good plan has elements of both saving more and earning more. It's kind of like diet and exercise. You can exercise until your legs fall off and still eat everything in sight – but you won't be losing any weight that way. And if you're going to take the extra effort to work out, don't you want it to be worth something in the end?

    It's the same with finances. And each person gets to choose how much of each effort they are going to partake in.
    My recent post Twitter Has Spoken

  12. ShoeGal says:

    I really do not agree with this person’s comment. The part that I have the biggest issue is that of influence.

    Krystal, I owe you a long overdue thank you. 2 years ago I came to the conclusion that my spending was out of control and that I finally needed to do something about it…I knew for some time that I needed to get better with money and pay off my debt but this was the point when I decided to do something about it. Like for many others, I turned to the internet. And after several searches I came across your blog. This was shortly after you had paid off your debt. Yours was the first personal blog I have ever read. I was so intrigued that I ended up going back and reading all the entries. You were a major catalyst in me trying to get control of my finances. I am still not there completely (although I am now consumer debt free!) but I have read your blog every day since!

    Along the way I did not agree with every single entry but I still found your posts to be motivational and they helped keep me on track. I have recently started my own blog to allow me to document my journey to financial freedom. Personal finances are just that and mine were influenced by you. I can honestly say it was the best thing to happen to my finances…personally.

  13. Sara says:

    Just want to say thanks for giving your readers insight to your personal finance. I particularly liked your replies to others' comments. It gives me more perspective and choices on how to get my own personal finance organized.

  14. Brooke says:

    "you were willing to sacrifice your friends to live this scrooge-like type of lifestyle."

    wow i can't imagine having friends so shallow that they don't understand sacrifices in my life. you can pick up a pizza for $5 and have ppl over to your house. my friends and i are fun enough that we don't need a distraction (like a pricy concert) to entertain us.

  15. munchkin says:

    normally people are saying you spend too much money, and now this person thinks you are too frugal! LOL what a joke.
    My recent post 7 Deadly Sins- Day 2 – Envy

  16. LC says:

    I would like this person to know that I know you in real life and don't think you lost any friends because of your efforts to get out of debt; and seriously, if you had, wouldn't it have made you realize that those friends didn't support you in the first place? Jeez. That part bugged me.


    You know you're the extra push I needed to start BOAB, so thanks for everything you do, Krystal!
    My recent post Week 18 Spending Report

  17. *scratches head*

    First your readers say you're not frugal enough and say that you over-spend.
    Now you have readers saying you don't spend enough?


    You can't win!
    My recent post Living At Home

  18. Colleen says:

    I found this comment offensive. I'm working to get out of debt and I have cut out as much as I can. One friend said to me, "Unless you're not planning on driving or eating, there's not much else you can cut out." With that, my friends have been more than supportive of my journey. We get together when we can and more often than not, plan potlucks instead of going out. It's more fun.. the wine is cheaper (to bring a few bottles vs. buying a glass or two at a restaurant) and we don't have to vacate our table according to the restaurant's schedule. Also, they are understanding in coordinating our schedules so we can get together as I work 2 jobs (that includes nights and weekends).

    I love your blog because it keeps me inspired to stay on my journey even when I feel like I'm not making progress.

    And out of curiosity, I wonder what the financial status is of the person who posted the comment… when people feel the need to make such comments, it makes me wonder where they are coming from and what's going on in their lives that they would feel so compelled to write something like that.

    PS: I really liked Brooke's comment!

  19. Kim says:

    I agree with FB. I can see the logic in yours and the (rude) commenter's reasoning. But in both situations,there's a limit and some risks, so it's up to each individual how they want to make the fine-tuning in the balance btw the two. I think the commenter fails to recognize the benefits of doing less, even if that means earning a little less. There's a mental and physical cost that come with the "make more" attitude – work stress, the impulse to spend more "because I deserve it", and the ensuing increased amount of crap that may accumulate in ones home. Sure some people can avoid it, but a lot of people can't.

    it's rude and extremely unhelpful to cast such blanket judgments on another person's personal choices – perhaps the rudeness is a side effect of the commenters' extremely busy and profit-yielding life? :p

    My recent post You are not your youth

  20. Kayla says:

    That comment is awful. Especially the part about friends. I have friends who are hanging out less not to save money but for SCHOOL. They are sacrificing friends for school. And saving money.

    There's so much I want to say but everyone above me already said my thoughts. Excellent response to that comment, and I'm glad you blogged it so the rest of us could see.

    Everyone's lives are different. And with the friends thing, we have YEARS to have friends. If we're not close with our friends now, we will be in the future.
    My recent post goals for twenty-eleven

  21. Erica says:

    I find the comment very immature and totally not needed. The fact you are free to chose how you spend your money is totally up to you and he has no right to criticize you for what you choose to do. If friends do not want to be friends because they can not understand why you are saving money/paying off debt are they really friends to begin with?

  22. ww1 says:

    I think your response was excellent. However, I do think that some people do hinder their ambition by focusing solely on frugality rather than earning money. I never spent the $ to increase my skills via training or conferences and my career has stalled. It was partly a lifestyle choice but partly because I never felt comfortable spending money to "potentially" make more money. At the same time, I know many people who spent on degrees or extra training and never reaped the rewards. I guess what I'm saying is that I can see the point of the commenter even if it may not apply in your case.

  23. affordanything says:

    In that second blockquote, the commenter used "frugal" and "cheapskate" as synonyms. To me, these two words have totally different meanings. "Frugal" means getting good value for your money, and making conscious spending choices. "Cheapskate" means pinching pennies at the expense of quality, integrity, or a lot of your time.
    My recent post Forget Your Debt. Just Forget About It. Really.

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