Finding Your Frugal Superpower
There comes a time in everyone’s life when something truly amazing happens — they encounter the financial independence movement. You either love it or hate it.
While I think most people can get on board with the idea of achieving financial independence, it’s the getting to it that’s the big problem. A lot of folks balk at large savings rates over very long periods of time, suggesting “I could never save that much for a decade or more!!!”
Savings rates of 50% (or more) are often touted by FI blogs (including my own). This level of savings may look like a gigantic hurdle to folks who’ve spent a lifetime spending 90% to 100% of their income.
On the surface, it looks achieving Financial Independence means you either have amazing financial super powers, OR you live a life of extreme deprivation.
This observation is not entirely false. I’ve met a number of folks in the FI community, and many of them really DO have super powers. Frugal super powers!
Today I want to start you on the path of finding your own frugal super powers, and eventually busting-out some of that sweet Financial Independence for yourself.
Decide On Your Frugal Super Power
Unfortunately the first step in getting a frugal super powers is NOT about getting abducted by aliens, or being bitten by a radioactive spider. As cool as that would be, the first step is actually about making a choice — You need to decide what your Frugal Super Power is going to be.
Yes, you get to choose!
Most Frugal Super Powers revolve around what I like to call The Big Three expenses (housing, transportation, and food). These are typically a person’s largest expenses and the ones that will benefit the most from your soon-to-exist super powers.
Which of those expenses, and how you attack them is going to be entirely up to you.
Let’s say for example you want your fugal super power to tackle the ‘housing’ expense area — You could go about this a number of different ways:
- Maybe you become a master renovator and do live-in flips, generating millions of dollars with your incredible talent for frugal (yet stylish) renovation.
- Perhaps you’re single and have several roommates to cover the cost of your mortgage. Eventually you leverage this landlording skill to power your future real estate empire.
- Or, maybe you don’t need a large house, and prefer a tiny house. Living small can dramatically cut-down on housing expenses… but, since we’re not about deprivation it’s going to be a really damn fancy tiny house!
These are just a few examples of how a frugal super power could tackle a housing expense. There’s literally dozens more ways I didn’t list above that could be developed. The one you choose is going to be your frugal superpower.
The important key ingredients when choosing your frugal super power are:
- Pick The Right Area. Tackle one or more of The Big Three expenses with your frugal superpower. You’ll get the best ‘bang for your buck’ in those areas.
- Visualize Your Success. Carefully visualize how this frugal super power is going to work. You should believe in that vision and it should be awesome!
- Endure. Your frugal super power is going to need to be sustainable if it’s going to last. Meaning you must be willing to do this for 10 years or more. Think carefully about the longevity of your efforts.
Once you’ve decided upon your frugal super power, the hardest part is simply taking the first step. Getting started. I won’t lie, this does take some willpower.
Want a little advice? Start small. A frugal superman/superwoman isn’t built in a day.
Super Powers Aren’t Built In A Day
Like any skill or hobby, unless you’ve some past experience, you’re going to start out a total newb. (A complete beginner.)
Don’t despair, we all start here. Unlike the superpowers you see in the movies (or in comic books), frugal super powers are not something you’re born with or realize from accidental radiation exposure.
You have to build-up a mastery — From the ground up, through hard work and dogged determination to eventually realize that vision you had when you decided to adopt your frugal super power.
Isn’t that a lot of work?
Yes, it is a lot of work… at first. Like any new exercise regime, it starts out being hard work. This early stage can last months or even a year. But eventually you get stronger and smarter. You build-up enough of the muscle memory, strength, intelligence, and technique such that the “hard work” becomes almost effortless.
Kind of like learning to ride a bike the first time. At first it seems really hard — nearly impossible to ride a bike. Kids often will shed tears and say things like “I can’t do it” when they’re first learning to ride.
Which is ridiculous of course, us adults know they can do it. With practice, most kids build-up the necessary skills to ride a bike. They eventually get there. We’ve all done it at some point in our lives.
Is bike riding still “work” once you learn how? Yes, but that “work” now becomes no big deal. What used to be work now becomes fun. Frugal super powers are like this. You simply endure past the painful beginnings and what was once hard work becomes an enjoyable challenge.
(Incidentally, some individuals have even made bike riding into a frugal super power. No joke. They absolutely annihilate their transportation costs by riding bikes everywhere.)
Multiple Super Powers
Ok, if you’re still reading this far, you’re probably starting to “get” the idea of having a frugal super power. Maybe you’re still a little skeptical. That’s totally understandable. And to be perfectly honest, having just one frugal super powers is only going to get you 75%-80% of where you need to be in order to achieve a 50% savings rate.
It helps to have more than one frugal super power. Two or more will get you the remaining 20-25% needed to reach that proverbial 50% savings rate.
There are plenty of options of course — Maybe you can bike everywhere AND grow your own food. Perhaps you live in a tiny house AND fix-up-old cars to sell them for a profit. The super power combinations are as endless as your imagination.
The only real limitation is having enough time to develop them. IMHO, This is the biggest challenge — finding the time to build frugal super power level mastery in more than one area.
I personally think it pays to have a few ‘easy’ secondary frugal super powers. Ones that don’t suck up a lot of time, yet can still save plenty of money.
One of my own “easy” frugal super powers is called, “Stuff I don’t give a crap about”. This frugal super power was simple as deciding on stuff I don’t care about, and then spending as little money as possible on that stuff. For a decade!
This list of “stuff” includes: Clothes, Cell Phones, Entertainment Services (Cable, Netflix, Hulu, etc), and Collections (collectables, mementos, etc). I spend practically nothing in these areas, and it drives people crazy when they read my spending reports.
“Where’s your monthly cell phone expense?” they ask. And, “Where is your clothing expense?” Sorry folks, I mostly don’t have these expenses.
How do I get by without these things? That answer, my friends, is where the super power lives.
This secondary frugal superpower certainly didn’t make me millionaire, but it did help. I’ve saved thousands of dollars every year for nearly a decade by deciding what didn’t matter to me. It all adds up.
Why I Like This Story
Critics often argue that frugal super powers and financial deprivation are really just different sides of the exact same coin, but I beg to differ. It’s more than putting a fancy spin on finding ways to cut back. It’s so much more than that.
It’s about turning yourself into a powerful and skilled human being, not cutting-off the bits of yourself that you love. Deprivation and frugal super powers couldn’t be more different.
For example, I love to eat delicious food. Instead of pushing myself into a life of freeze-dried ramen to save money, I chose to life a life where I get to eat at a incredible foodie restaurant every single day.
It’s a great place to eat, and the cost of eating there is surprisingly low… because these edible delights of foodie goodness spring forth from my own two hands — I eat food entirely cooked at home. Every single day. And it’s fantastic!
It’s often the case that my food is even better than most restaurants and far cheaper. Why? Because I’ve taken the time and effort to hone this craft. It’s taken decades of practice, and experimentation. I’ve built-up my frugal super power and it totally kicks ass.
The point is, frugal super powers are actual skills. They’re like muscles built-up by lifting weights at the gym. You start out scrawny, small and weak. Then, you build those frugal muscles… until eventually those skills become monstrously strong expense crushing powers!
If utilize properly, frugal super powers will provide you with an incredible financial advantage throughout your entire life. The only question you need to ask yourself, is if you’re going take the time to build one.
[Image Credit: Flickr, Flickr2]
8 thoughts on “Finding Your Frugal Superpower”
“Incidentally, some individuals have even made bike riding into a frugal super power. No joke. They absolutely annihilate their transportation costs by riding bikes everywhere.”
Yessirree, and this is only one of my superpowers. But it’s one of the most important as it keeps me thin, healthy, and with a strong immune system.
Like you I have also built frugal skills in many areas over the years. Focusing on the big three like you said will get you the most bang for your buck. Also fixing things instead of tossing them out and buying another, when possible, is a superpower and just good for the planet. Great post
In a way, moving to Panama was helpful in finding our frugal superpowers. The cost of living is definitely cheaper in a lot of aspects, but since we moved to a small, walkable town we were able to eliminate a vehicle completely as well.
That means no car payment, no insurance, no repairs, no registration fees, etc. Sure there are a few downsides, but it’s pretty rare that I feel we’re missing one – and we do take taxis or buses periodically… well, before the pandemic we did. 🙂
I harnessed those superpowers by picking the right job. Not only did it pay metro wages in a rural location but housing costs were very low and they gave me a company car and unlimited free gasoline. My wife was a cooking teacher, so we always cooked at home stunningly good food, and because I traveled and had a lot of local business lunches many of my meals were paid for on expense accounts. But having to buy cars, getting a nice house for cheap(still in it 40 years later) and holding food costs down all made financial independence inevitable.
Love this post.
Having a frugal superpower or two is definitely what paved the path to early(ish) retirement for me.
Like you, the biggest saving was simply working out what I didn’t give a tinker’s cuss about, then spending as little as possible in those areas.
Four weeks to go before I’m freeeeee!
I love that you start with the Big Three. So often we end up focusing on tiny little things that feel like progress, but don’t tackle the big ones. I meet people all the time who spend more than half their take-home pay on just two of the big three (housing and transportation), and absolutely cannot get ahead. In their cases, it is often mathematically impossible to be frugal without reducing housing and transportation expenses. It turns out, the $5 latte wasn’t the problem after all.
It really is a superpower. Some people can increase their income and some people can be frugal. You just have to play to your strength.
Mrs. RB40 and I are both naturally frugal so it isn’t hard for us to avoid spending. We’ll probably loosen up a bit as we get older, though.
Another fun one, Tako! I feel like this goes hand-in-hand with the scary Halloween monsters. 🙂
Although, I’m not sure how I feel about that Stormtrooper. You can say it’s OK to mix them—but, boy that looks wrong. 😀
I think we’re in a similar boat. Jenni and I cut a lot of the same things that we just don’t really care about. Those particular expense categories end up being near zero. Clothes/fashion, digital entertainment (so much is free!), kitsch around the house, and any showy signs of wealth. It also helps that I work(ed) from home and her pharmacy is just 2.5 miles away.
Love it Mr. Tako. Frugal Superpower isn’t gained and mastered in one day. It takes years to develop your superpower.