One of the fears about frugality I’ve heard frequently is that it might turn us into a hermit.
According to Cambridge Dictionary, a hermit is “a person who lives alone and apart from society.”
You don’t have to live on an isolated island or off the beaten path to be one.
I am a prime example of what it’s like to be a hermit in a civilized society.
And the reason is that I have let frugality take over my social life. In many cases, I have prioritized money saving over my relationships.
Related: When Frugality Goes Wrong
Despite growing up in a poor family, I got accepted into a good high school in my city and went to school with a bunch of wealthy and privileged kids.
Their parents were the opposite of what my parents were.
Their parents were well-educated, wealthy, and powerful.
That also means that my classmates had a large allowance which they usually spent on the food stalls and restaurants right across the street from my school.
We also had a cafeteria on campus what sold overpriced snacks.
My classmates didn’t mind any of that and usually got a lot of delicious-looking snacks during break.
They hung out together and talked about their family, their experience of living abroad, and topics that I couldn’t relate to.
I didn’t have an allowance at the time.
The pocket change I got was from collecting the random empty beer cans and bottles from my grandfather and my dad and selling them for less than a cent each.
By the time I went to America, I had saved up about $100 after years of selling cans and bottles.
I remember hiding that money in one of my books. I sometimes would count them over and over to make sure I was actually adding more money to my piggy bank.
It was difficult for me to make even a couple of cents, and I wasn’t willing to spend that on a snack.
I couldn’t go get food with my classmates and couldn’t join the conversations that they had during break either.
Related: When You Are Ashamed Of Being Poor
When I was in college, I lived on campus. Our college was on a hill and was relatively isolated from the rest of the downtown area where mugging and shooting happened on a regular basis.
There were a couple of restaurants that the students went to, including my friends.
I had a meal plan which was part of my scholarship, so I rarely felt the need to eat out.
Some of my friends, however, wanted to explore the downtown area and take a break from the campus food which they always complained about.
Coming from a poor family in Vietnam, I saw how hard it was for my parents to make ends meet.
Dropping $10 on a meal just to have fun with my friends wasn’t something I wanted to do.
It would be what my parents made after working for hours. I declined their invites and opted to stay in my room.
We had many parties on campus where the students dressed up (i.e. Halloween, dance parties), but I just never went to those events. I didn’t want to spend money on an outfit that I would wear once a year. I wanted to save money for myself and my parents.
The thought of having to ask my parents for their hard-earned money was always the greatest source of motivation for me to save money. I missed out on many fun activities on campus just because I didn’t want to spend money.
By the time I went to grad school, I had gotten used to the exchange rate in the US and no longer converted US dollars into Vietnam Dong and gasp at the price of something in America.
However, I continued my frugal lifestyle in grad school. My classmates would go to trivia nights and dropped $5 or more on a drink. I thought to myself I could just stay at home and drink water for free instead.
To be fair, I did go to sushi nights with them because I love sushi and there was a steep discount on Tuesday nights. We would also go check out some new restaurants in the area.
Some of them would also spend $7-12 on lunch at the cafeteria on campus and asked if I wanted to join them.
I always packed lunch to school and declined their invites most of the time. At one point, they just knew my answer and stopped inviting me.
However, we would then eat together in the kitchen in our department, so I didn’t feel like I had missed out on a lot of opportunities to talk to other people during those short walks to the cafeteria (or maybe I did).
Sometimes they would also go to get coffee and spend $10 on coffee and a pastry. I usually just didn’t get anything.
$10 was enough to buy me food for two whole days. I didn’t want to spend that much on a snack. I don’t snack.
Related: The Poor Life Of A PhD Student
I am in a much better financial status than I have ever been in my entire life. After getting a full-time job, I felt like I have entered a new chapter of my life. I am no longer a poor student who has to worry about cobling bunch of part-time jobs together to get by.
I supported our family for more than two years while Mr. FAF was still in school. I no longer think or worry about money as much as before since Mr. FAF now makes a good income and provides a cushion in case I lose my job for whatever reason.
However, after being frugal for decades, I still don’t want to part with my money for something that’s not an absolute necessity. Mr. FAF and I hang out with our friends and eat out with them more.
Many of us would agree that we don’t have to eat to catch up with our friends. However, I feel that if I get together with friends without eating something, the fun is not really maximized. In other words, we and our friends love eating and usually catch up over a delicious meal.
I LOVE having hotpot with friends!
Now that Mr. FAF is in DC, we have hosted hotpots at our house and had a great time. However, before throwing more parties in the future, I can’t help but think about the impact it might have on our monthly food budget.
Also, one thing I’ve been wanting to do every weekend is going to different Meetup group events with Mr. FAF where people get together and eat at a new restaurant. A non-food meeting just doesn’t appeal to me as much.
Yet, I haven’t been able to do that on a regular basis since I don’t wan our eating out budget to go through the roof.
Related: Our Monthly Food Expense Reports
As you can already tell, I have turned myself into a hermit under the guise of frugality. Usually, it was because I wanted to save money. But it’s also because I refused to choose free or cheaper options to meet new people or hang out with friends.
Mr. FAF and I are financially stable now, so I should have no excuse to put myself out there and enlarge my social circle. Yet, I still find myself not willing to go to an event because I don’t want to spend money on food or even gas.
I end up confining myself to the comfort of our home and just continue with activities that are free: staying at home and blogging by myself. Meetup groups don’t have to involve eating out all the time, but I set the rule for myself that I only want to an event if it has food.
Sometimes I feel like I am just reinforcing my anti-social behavior under the guise of frugality. I want to save money for my family and think it’s important. But I also think it’s time for me to step out of my comfort zone and spend a little money on myself.