Have You Ever Been Embarrassed To Be Frugal?

We are preparing to host Thanksgiving dinner at our house tomorrow. Over the weekend we did a quick walk-through and I noticed a lot of things in need of repair or replacement. We did recently pick up a garage sale recliner to replace a broken one, but our sofa has been missing a leg for some time and is propped up by a couple bricks, well hidden by the skirt around the sofa bottom. The cushions are pulling away from the sofa back, and the cushions are just about at the end of their useful life.

We could afford a replacement sofa, but have decided to put off another furniture purchase until we are debt free. The decision means we will have to live with the way things are for a while. It doesn’t bother me at all since it isn’t like we do a lot of entertaining inside our home. Still, I admit to being a little embarrassed when we do have visitors.

Forget About the Joneses

When you think about it, worrying about impressing others is what gets many people into a financial mess in the first place. I drive an 18 year-old van back and forth to work. It has zero sex appeal, but I don’t care. I’ve had people ask me why I drive “that old van” and I tell them because the payment is right. It isn’t to impress people at a red light, or to feed my own ego. I’m perfectly content driving my van the few miles back and forth to work, and will continue to do so until the wheels fall off.  When they do, I’ll probably find some replacement wheels and keep driving!

We aren’t the only ones who have felt a little embarrassed by our frugality. One Frugal Girl wrote about a similar experience recently, but came to the same conclusion we did:  while feeling this way was perfectly normal, we both decided we had other goals for our money besides forking over thousands of dollars to a furniture store, or a car lot.

What Impact Does this Have on Children?

mysterymachine112608.jpgKids can be a little more cruel than adults, and they have thinner skin, too. I remember taking my daughter to school one day and the boys on safety patrol (they open doors during morning drop off) told her, “I like your Dad’s Scooby Doo van!” It was actually pretty funny to me–it is a big blue van, and minus the hippie flowers, does resemble The Mystery Machine.  I knew they were being little smart-alecks, but I wondered how it might affect my daughter. Resisting my fatherly instinct to thump each of them on the forehead, I drove off and decided to talk to my daughter later that evening.

Fortunately, she laughed it off, too, and even said to one of them, “Well, my dad is a frugal dad.” That’s my girl!

Photo courtesy of tlianza


  1. I think a lot of people feel this way merely because when you buy new stuff, you feel confident and you look like you have money and having money in people’s mind’s looks good.

  2. I think everyone feels this way. I am new to the working world and basically a lot of money kids in my age bracket make go towards nightlife. I have no problem having a low key night on a fri/sat to save money. Of course my friends give me a hard time because of it.


  3. I tend toward the type to look like I’m doing well while spending much less than others. The dining room and living room furniture? Purchased at almost 65% off. The 42″ LCD TV? purchased at 55% off because it was an outgoing model — and I still have it 3.5 years later! The big computer monitors for me and the wife? DELL refurbished models picked up at non-holiday time reduced prices. We have gotten many compliments on the appearance of our house when we entertain and I love to tell them about the deals we got on the stuff. I hope it helps them to see that they can do it too and hopefully they don’t waste a bunch of money purchasing at the wrong time.

    On the van though, you probably should paint it or something. About 6-7 cans of Rust-oleum spray paint along with 8-9 cans of Rust-oleum clear sealant should get the job done. A nice semi-gloss black color would go a long way to lessen the embarrassment factor. 😉

  4. @DavidK: Realize, the van featured in the post is not my van, but looks very similar to it minus the decorative paint job. My fan used to be blue, but is now a two tone faded blue/gray.

    I like your strategy of upgrading at a discount. That’s probably what we’ll do in a few months when he hit debt freedom and can free up some “house upgrade” budget.

  5. LOL FrugalDad, give me SOME credit here. I know you don’t drive the Mystery Machine but after 18 years, the “blue” is no longer representative of any real blue it may have been. Whatever the faded color scheme is now, I can’t imagine it looks too appealing.

    I suggested the Rustoleum or Krylon special because I’ve done that to a car I used to own. I bought it for $800 from a friend and it was quite a deal for the 16 months I drove it. It was a 1995 Ford T-Bird that had faded from blue to purple and the paint on top was basically coming right off. With a pack of metal sandpaper and some cans of spray paint, I scuffed the existing paint and painted the top half of the car a semi-gloss black. It didn’t look half bad. It was definitely better than the chipped purple!

    Hey, if you paint it black and have a little time you could put some red stripes on it and call it your A-TEAM van! Almost no one will know what it means, but a black van speaks for itself.

  6. @DavidK: I definitely like the idea of painting it black (and like the A-Team idea!). I don’t know if you were reading at the time, but I painted the roof of the van Rustoleum gray (it was the closest match to the faded blue). It is barely noticeable and has stopped the spread of rust creeping along the roof for the time being.

  7. Yes, I’m often embarrassed around my parents and family, because living high on the hog is so customary that anyone who does differently is the odd person out. Many people in my family can afford to live it up, and those who can’t afford it or who prefer to live frugally are pressured to keep up appearances. But since I’ve always had a reputation for eccentricity, I get off lightly.

    Three generations back, when the empire was still in the last stages of being built (so to speak), it was different.

  8. I agree, sometimes there is pressure to not look frugal, and sometimes being frugal is associated with being ‘cheap’- definitely not a positive social attribute.

    However, it seems that one of the (few) benefits of this down economy is that frugality is coming into fashion. So, you could always just take comfort in the fact that you were ahead of your time 🙂

  9. For the most part I’m frugal and unafraid. If I had a bunch of stuff that was beyond my current standard of living, I’d feel like a doorknob. I’d feel like “Insecure” was stamped on my forehead.

    My car is 10 years old with a chewed up front seat (yay puppies!), and I don’t give a second thought to how it looks. On the other hand, if I notice a tear in a piece of clothing I’ve been wearing, I’m mortified.

  10. I have actually been laughed at about my coupon book. ha! I didn’t think adults did that sort of thing. I didn’t care though…who laughs last is what counts. ha!

    “Live now like no one else so you can live later like no one else.” I loved that quote when I heard it!

  11. I’m never embarrassed to be cheap. Nobody out there is going to pay for my stuff if I can’t afford it. I only get embarrassed if i find someone who can out cheap me. I learn and move on. I also love to help others to be cheap.

    when i was a kid the called me diamond Jim after Diamond Jim Brady. If you do not ask for a discount you will not get one.

  12. Growing up, for a period of time, we didn’t have a couch in the living room and I was embarassed to bring friends over.
    Flash forward 20 years and now I’ve learned to not care what people think.
    Being an accountant, I’ve gone through people’s finances and seen the financial devastation that being ‘snooty’ can cause.

  13. About the Jonses – I like to say I don’t want to keep up with them. They are soon either going bankrupt or dying of a heart attack just trying to stay ahead of everyone!

  14. I just want to applaud you on your very practical and extremely smart outlook on money.Its great advice and should taken seriously by more people.It will be somthing for me to begin doing immediatley.