Is Frugality the New Superiority?

We’ve heard the stories before; a couple with average income who managed to rack up $200k in consumer debt, a guy who had to declare bankruptcy due to overspending or a woman who toted a Gucci handbag while lining up for the meal van. These stories are run on various TV shows, magazines, newspapers and PF blogs showing different angles of humanity.

Fear is the one of the major moods conveyed in those stories. The financial crisis is so bad, everyday people get into deeper trouble. Spending must be curbed, otherwise you’ll end up like those people.

Sometimes we feel sorry for them for a moment. It could happen to anyone including you and people you care about. And then you’re reminded about the fancy dinner you had last week and feel sick about it (okay, that’s me).

Another common reaction is self-righteousness and the feeling of superiority. This reaction is commonly practiced by some personal finance blogs (not all) and some people who apply personal finance principles. Whether we like to admit it or not, there’s that feeling of satisfaction and superiority (even just for a brief moment) when acknowledging other people’s stupid behaviours or mistakes. “Thank goodness it’s not me. That guy is such an idiot for buying a $60,000 car on an income of a mailman. No wonder he had to declare bankruptcy. What was he thinking? I would never do such a stupid thing.” I admit to lash out similar comment while watching that Gucci handbag woman feature story on TV. In a nutshell, here’s the motion I went through each time I watch, read or hear another money mismanagement story.

1. Amazement (Wow! What the? Are those three zeroes on the price tag for such an ugly handbag?)

2. Judgment (Was she on a crack when she bought that 17th designer jeans? How could one do such a stupid thing?)

3. Comparison (I bought my jeans from an Op-Shop last week for 5 bucks. I’m so much smarter than she is.)

4. Satisfaction and validation (Thank goodness it’s not me. I’m doing the right things)

Sounds familiar?

We human beings are not free from schadenfreude. The high we get from schadenfreude not only rewards us with the feeling of superiority but it also validates the values we believe in. In this case, the personal finance practitioners (myself included) again find the validation in believing the values of frugality, budgeting and careful money management. All the hard works of tracking your expenses and holding back the spending vice finally pay off. And all the people who violate the law of thriftiness will be punished in eternal damnation of poverty and horrible skin condition :).

Regardless, being frugal is not an easy task. It requires you to harness self-control, creativity and sense of responsibility.

So, what’s wrong about being proud of yourself for not spending money on stuff? Nothing, really. ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ has become a cardinal sin and can only be used if preceded with the phrase “I used to” or “They have always been” (always them, not me). Frugality is the trend, the cult, the right and sensible thing to do… until the economy fully recovers and we’re back to buying $150 designer mug.

So how about you? Has frugality awakened the smugness within?


5 Responses to “Is Frugality the New Superiority?”
  1. Good old schadenfreude, a topic that scrapes my heart every so often.

    It’s true, we can make ourselves feel better by improving ourselves or comparing ourselves to others less fortunate.

    In fact, one of the key strategies in blogging is to probably debase oneself in front of others. Whenever you see a blogger start getting all cocky and showing off, is when readers start to never return.

    I tried the “Samurai September” where I didn’t spend money for 30 days on stuff other than food and necessary transportation. It lasted for 65 days until the holiday season started. Frugal is in now, but next yr, it’s all about SPENDING BIG BUCKS!

    Best, Sam

    • Bytta says:

      Next year we’ll be told to spend big to stimulate the economy. And what a good and dutiful citizen to do? Lol. Ah, I’ll probably get sucked in anyway, so barriers now are in place.
      I agree that modesty and humility resonate better with people. Nothing turns you off more than excessive display of wealth and being cocky about it (

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] 151 Days Off presents Is Frugality the New Superiority? […]

  2. […] 151 Days Off, (how bout that name for a blog), has written a post about not getting too uppity( Southern Speak) , if you are making progress in your walk towards financial freedom.  I don’t think that is likely for me, as I dig my way out of attempting to be a real estate baron in Florida-before the crash.   If anyone says they have never made a financial mistake-then run, don’t walk to the nearest exit…. […]

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