You Only Live Once (and other bullshit cliches)

Hello Dear Frugal Readers!

Does it annoy you when a friend, family member, or passing acquaintance hears about your frugality and says one of the following trite cliches?

  • You can’t take it with you!
  • You only live once!
  • What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow?
  • You’ve got to enjoy it today, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed!
  • Spend it while you got it!

Now, I am not a financial professional, but I play one on the internet. And so, I would like to help you combat these ridiculous statements that are usually made in good-faith by well-meaning idiots.

But first, some background: Why should you listen to me? My husband and I are debt-free including the house, and are currently on track to retire in our 30’s (about five years from now). We do not make giant incomes – together less than six figures. We’ve done a fair bit of research, saving, investing, and just general butt-kicking to get where we are. Huge fans of Mr. Money Mustache, Dave Ramsey, Frugalwoods, The Mad Fientist, Budgets are Sexy, etc. I like to think we are part of a silent minority of “frugal weirdos” that are quietly following these money gurus, but that the general population never hear from.

So let’s first debunk these statements that all follow the general spirit of #YOLO. As in, Life is short, buy the shoes! These statements seem to justify spending every last penny (and some of the bank’s pennies) in order to enjoy your life in the present. A short-term viewpoint, it rests on many assumptions:

  1. You must spend ALL THE MONEY in order to enjoy your life.
  2. If you do not spend all the money, you are depriving yourself, living like a desperate hermit.
  3. Saving money is boring and does not provide happiness.
  4. You will probably die young.
  5. You will (somehow) regret not spending all your money when you die young.
  6. There is no one to whom you would want to leave excess money when you die young.

As you may have guessed, I disagree with all of those statements. We are proof (as are many, many of you) that saving money is actually really fun, and breeds security and contentment. I can enjoy my life just as well on $50k as on $500k – and there’s science to prove it. Let alone the freedom money will buy when we can quit our jobs!

On the deprivation mentality – we are coming from this place of crazy abundance and gratitude. We live lives of amazing luxury and you may only be able to fully appreciate that if you step back for a second and look around (the world). We’re not depriving ourselves of anything. If we won the lottery the only thing that would change is our early retirement date – we wouldn’t buy a mansion or something. And for those of us already early retired, like Mr. Money Mustache – if he did something so stupid as play the lottery, and won a substantial sum, I am betting all the hypothetical lottery money it would change his life 0%.

And actually – no – you probably won’t die young. And even if you do – you will be dead. No regrets possible. And even if you die young with enough notice to harbor regrets – not spending all your money will not be on your list, I promise. Not spending more time with your loved ones – yes, perhaps. And lastly, I can think of many family members and non-profit organizations that would greatly benefit from an endowment of my Frugal Fund, when I do kick the bucket.

So the rub – how to respond to broke-ass Joe Schmo when he hears of your crazy debt-free lifestyle and plan to retire in five years, and tells you that “you can’t take it with you”? (Because that was obviously my plan, Joe. I want to be buried in my 2005 Honda Civic with a 10 lb bag of lentils in one hand and all my Vanguards in the other.)

I have begun to patiently espouse the following line: The funny thing is – I feel like “you can’t take it with you” is an excellent argument to only work for someone else as LITTLE as you possibly can, and to enjoy your time on your own terms before you do eventually die, instead of working 50 hours a week toward filling your life with meaningless plastic stuff. “You only live once” is literally my reason to pursue this FIRE lifestyle in the first place!

You may be met with a blank stare, but at least you will feel good that you did not perform a frugal flip out, while still sticking to your guns.

And lastly, fellow frugal weirdos, I leave you with one of the truisms of life:

Always you have to contend with the stupidity of men. Henry David Thoreau


After majoring in Business Finance in college, Samantha became a Financial Advisor with a big five investment bank. Becoming quickly disillusioned with the emphasis on sales rather than advising, she left the industry. She and her husband have paid off over $180k in debt and she has since obtained her MBA. Samantha is passionate about helping other women take control of their money! She has no conflicts of interest and is not getting paid to recommend any investment products.

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