You can easily be misinterpreted when you give advice or advocate a particular point of view, so I thought I’d clear up any confusion before it arises. That way I can refer people with queries here and won’t have to keep spending time explaining things (mwaaahahahaha!). This is what I’m NOT saying:
- That cheaper is always better. Very often when you buy an expensive version of something, what you’re really paying for is a brand name or features you don’t need. Judge a hand cream by how well it moisturises your skin, not the manufacturer’s claims about the magical properties of its ingredients; choose a TV with features you’ll actually benefit from – are fantastic resolution and sound important if all you watch on TV is the news or soaps? Sometimes, though, cheap products are a false economy because they’re poor-quality or they don’t do everything you need them to do.
- That you should live a hard life. How many of us in developed countries really live a materially hard life? How does your life compare to that of your grandparents at your age, or of people in poorer countries? It’s almost certainly far more luxurious. Of course there are people who genuinely do have it tough, even in rich countries, but if you’re lucky enough not to be one of them then forgoing some meals out or intercontinental holidays won’t turn you into Bob Cratchit.
- That being frugal means not giving to charity. Actually, I’m all for giving money to where it’s really needed, and I think we could all benefit from being more aware of the world around us instead of just our own lives. At the moment I’m trying to think of better ways I could give to charity: I tend to give money when I see collection boxes, but that probably means I’m giving to the most visible causes, not the most deserving. There’s a similar problem with standing orders: charities that ask for them tend to be the ones representing mediagenic causes. Suggestions welcome on this one!
- That you should try to get out of paying your fair share. No way! Do not save money by sponging off others! If someone buys you a meal, stands you a round, whatever, do the same for them. If you can’t afford to reciprocate, don’t accept the offer in the first place. Being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap.
- That tax is sneaky theft of your hard-earned money. This is the same principle as paying your fair share. Public services – schools, hospitals, street-lighting, that kind of thing – are funded by tax money. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could have them without needing to pay for them? But we can’t.
- That you should always focus on money. Money’s a means to an end, not an end in itself. Knowing how to get the most out of your money should help you do the other things you want to do, but that’s all.
- That I know better than everyone else and am infallible. I know perfectly well that I make mistakes, and that the people I admire do, too. If I weren’t finding out so many new things all the time, I probably wouldn’t be interested enough to blog about them.