Are Frugal People Loners?

Frugal and LonelyHumans are social creatures. Deep down we all strive to interact with others – to connect with each other in meaningful and fulfilling relationships. From casual acquaintances to intimate friends, our social lives are one of the most important elements that make us who we are.

When it comes to our personal finances and reaching our financial goals, many of us strive to live a frugal life. We are thrifty and extremely mindful not to waste. Being frugal means we are always looking to be economical – extravagances are rare. In essence, we do our best to “pinch pennies.”

What happens when being frugal collides with trying to live a full and satisfying social life? What trades off have to be made? Which ultimately wins out?

When Your Frugal Ways Conflict With Being Social

We live in a consumer based society. Social activities are centered around money spending activities. Just stop and think of all the social events that, if not properly managed, can gobble up your money. Here are just a few of countless possible examples:

  • Co-workers and managers regularly go out to lunch and ask you to join them
  • The same co-workers always meet up for happy hour on Fridays
  • Extended family likes to go out to dinner frequently (darn those in-laws!)
  • Your girl friends want to go clothes or purse shopping and invite you along for the full day spending spree
  • A close group of friends invite you and your significant other to go on a wine-tasting tour

Thus, a conundrum is created. If you are socially active by participating in events and get-togethers such as the ones listed above, then you are prone to violating your frugal objectives. It becomes all to easy to blow your budget and waste your money. Sure, you can try to be as fiscally responsible as possible in such social activities (and you should!), but that’s often easier said than done. Are you going to just order a $5 appetizer and water every single time you’re out to lunch with co-workers? Will you be able to say “no” to dinner when your un-frugal in-laws want the whole family to go out?

On the other hand, you can let your frugality take over and shy away from being social. This will most assuredly require you taking a hard stance which will oftentimes be difficult (and require discipline). However, in doing so, you run the risk of ostracizing yourself, not fitting in, or being deemed a loner. What’s the lesser of the two evils? Spending more than you’d like to or being on the social fringes?

Making Frugality Mesh With Your Social Life

One can certainly live frugally and still achieve a satisfying social life. There are countless ways to have fun and do so in financially responsible ways. This is particularly true when you are planning social activities for your immediate family or with close friends who understand or share your frugal ways.

When dealing with your greater social circle, including non-frugal friends and co-workers, the challenge between staying frugal and maximizing social interaction remains. So, what can you do?

One option is to make it known you are “cheap.” Of course, you wouldn’t phrase it like that! Instead, you could let it be known in a more casual manner that you are “saving up” or “trying to stay within your budget.” Depending who you’re interacting with, this approach may only be marginally effective. These particular social contacts may not understand or simply not care. It’s also possible that you might be interpreted as being “cheap” anyway.

Another tool you can use is to plan ahead as best you can. If you are going out with friends for an evening on the town, you can pre-party at home thus reducing the need to spend as much when out. In addition, perhaps you can be the initiator/organizer and plan a cheaper yet still fun activity.

Are Frugal People Inherently Antisocial?

Being frugal and socially active are not mutually exclusive. They can co-exist although it is often extremely challenging to satisfy both at the same time. It seems that, yes, the nature of being frugal lends itself to antisocial outcomes or tendencies based on how the cultural environment defines ideal social activities.

Truthfully, it is a fine line to walk. The best strategy is probably to pick and choose the specific social events in which you want to participate. Be selective. For example, maybe just go out to lunch with your co-workers once or twice a week instead of every day. Or tell your in-laws that you’d rather have a peaceful and less expensive home cooked meal rather than constantly eating out. Be sure to pass on events you know will be out of control.

As with most things in life, the key is to find a proper balance.

Do you think being frugal conflicts with being social? How often do social events challenge your frugal lifestyle? Do you have any strategies or techniques to cope?

Image courtesy of Yun Huang Yong at Flickr.

35 Responses to Are Frugal People Loners?

  1. moneystepper September 17, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    I would say that frugality *could* lead to people not including themselves in activities.

    The key, I’ve found, is to drive the social interaction yourself. For example, preempt a lunch time restaurant meet-up with colleagues and organize a stroll, and picnic lunch, in the park.

    People can then buy deli sandwiches and other expensive items, whilst you munch on your packed lunch. Win win…
    moneystepper recently posted…Is eating out worth it? You decide…My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

      Makes sense. Taking control of social activity planning is a good way to help ensure you stick to your frugal goals.

    • September 20, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      Great thought – if you can design lower cost interactions, then you’ll be more in control of your finances and won’t be put in that tricky situation of trying to chose between being frugal and social. recently posted…Life Insurance and Short Term Disability Insurance – RecapMy Profile

  2. Thomas | Your Daily Finance September 17, 2013 at 4:46 am #

    I agree that it could cause you to be a loner but it also depends on what you plan yourself, what type of friends you have and just how frugal you are. I know for us I use to not go to anything for a time because I was saving. Then I met more people like myself and we found things to do that were less costly. At the same time I changed and devoted some of the money to doing things with friends. Just making sure I didn’t over spend and didn’t go as often.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted…Your Personal Finances – Its All About Your AttitudeMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

      It probably also matters what stage of life you’re in too. As you point out, you “use to not go to anything” and now you’ve branched out and find others “like yourself.” I would imagine that’s somewhat easier to do as you get older, settle down, start a family. It can still be a challenge though.

  3. Michelle September 17, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    I would say that at times I am frugal, but I still love hanging out with people. Luckily most of my friends are starting to realize that things cost money, so we are no longer doing super expensive things anymore.
    Michelle recently posted…Fun Things to do in St. Louis – FinCon Fun!My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

      The level of frugality that one desires to adhere to comes into play as well. If you’re hardcore frugal, then you’ll likely find a majority of social activities challenging to participate in. If, on the other hand, you only wish to be frugal in certain aspects, then your social life might not suffer as much. Sounds like you’re balancing it out well, Michelle.

  4. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply September 17, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    I agree with you…you just have to pick and choose. I wouldn’t want to be anti-social and never go to events that cost money. Sometimes the cost is worth it for the social interaction. Fortunately for me, my friends and family for the most part are somewhat frugal too. When I’m faced with these social events conflicts, I’ll pick and choose the ones that I will go to and if I feel bad for rejecting an invitation…I will try to find an alternative event that will be more affordable but still enjoyable for everyone.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Are you Lured in by Sales?My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      Good approach on trying to create or suggest a cheaper alternative when you decline expensive invites. I can see how that might wear thin with your social circle if you are always doing that, but it’s still a good strategy to help balance things out.

  5. Untemplater September 17, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    Perhaps a lot of frugal people are loners, but that definitely isn’t a hard rule. One girl I work with is always talking about frugality and personal finance tips and she’s a ball of energy and is always around other people. It’s refreshing to see people excited about PF!
    Untemplater recently posted…Managing Perception In Business Opens DoorsMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

      You’re right, it’s not a hard rule (and I hope I didn’t come across that way in the article). My premise was that, in general, being frugal is incongruent with so many social activities and events simply because those activities/events often involve spending lots of money. It’s for sure not a rule though…

  6. The Warrior September 17, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    I don’t believe financial frugality leads to being a loner.

    However, the people that I know that are extremely financially frugal are also not as creative as I would hope. They aren’t loners by they choice but mine if you get my drift.

    I had two friends in college that were well off financially but were the cheapest frugal guys anywhere. I stopped hanging out with them because they would put us in social settings where we would need to spend money to enjoy wherever they took us, but wouldn’t spend a dime. I didn’t mind that they didn’t want to spend a dime. I minded that they weren’t creative enough to put us in a situation and/or environment that we could enjoy frugally.

    That’s my take at least.

    To all frugal people: I like to hang out, but be creative.

    The Warrior
    The Warrior recently posted…(Financially) Surviving a VacationMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      Creativity is an important trait/skill to have when planning social activities. I’d say that creativity is important even if you aren’t trying to be frugal, but it’s especially critical if you are trying to be thrifty. That’s just a bad combination – frugal and unimaginative!

  7. DC @ Young Adult Money September 17, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    I like the idea of frugality within reason. The fact that I spend time trying to save money and increase my income makes me enjoy social outings more because I feel like I “deserve” to go out to eat and feel good about how I’ve fit the outing into my finances. I think sometimes you need to say no but offer an alternative – what about a bonfire instead of going out for drinks? What about watching a movie at your house/apartment instead of going to one? There are frugal alternatives that are still very much social.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…Great Sweepstakes: How to enter the Cub Foods $4,500 Gift Card SweepstakesMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Those are good suggestions, DC. Based on the way you’ve described your situation, I’d say you’ve found a nice balance.

  8. Pauline September 17, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    It does not conflict but you have to hang out with like minded people, otherwise you’ll have problems. most of my friends used to call me cheap for not going out but I always invited them over so they were happy. now that they still haven’t got their finances together they are happy that we have dinner at home and even offer it.
    Pauline recently posted…Risk and Reward are NOT RelatedMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

      Sounds like your friends have come full circle and respect your frugal ways now, Pauline. That’s good. Although, I would say, that it can be difficult sometimes to find like minded frugal people whose company you also enjoy!

  9. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life September 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    Social events are definitely a challenge to the frugal lifestyle- that’s why I try to take the reigns as often as possible when planning. Potlucks, game nights, and clothing exchanges are my favorite activities for frugal socializing. And good call on being open about your frugality- when people know you’re trying to budget, they’re more apt to suggest cheaper options.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…“Oh Shit, Yeah That Thing” BudgetingMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

      I think the real saying goes “if you can’t beat them, join them.” That phrase could be rehashed in this case to go something like “if you can’t beat them, lead them.” Taking charge seems to have direct benefits by allowing you to ensure sensible expenditures are made. Although, I suppose a potential drawback could be the extra effort involved with constantly having to do the planning…then again, I’m sure many people love to be the “party planner.”

  10. Martin September 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    My frugality has made me more social! Friends know that if we’re hitting the town, there’s going to be a pre-drink. Many times the pre- is better than the actual event!
    Martin recently posted…The Most Powerful Step to Take to Increase Your Income or Reach Any GoalMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

      Developing a reputation as the “pre-drink” guy isn’t too shabby of a situation. Does that mean they buy for you when you’re actually out or do you just go along for the ride at that point?

  11. John September 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Its good to save money, its people who save that truly get a head in this world. However its hard to go out and enjoy yourself when you are on a budget.

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      Yep, that’s pretty much the dilemma. I do think there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself when you’re on a budget. By that I mean personal enjoyment though (like reading a book, riding your bike, etc.). When it comes to social activities, it gets much more difficult to walk that line. That’s why you have to balance things out and make trade-offs as needed.

  12. Janine @ MoneySmartGuides September 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    You are right – you just have to find the right balance. It also helps if you are fortunate enough to find people that are on the same page as you. For example. are just as happy going for a walk in the park or staying home for movie night than going out for dinner and drinks. Another good pointer to actually getting out and spending money is finding good deals – going to bars during happy hour specials, sign up for Living Social where you can get amazing deals, and things like that. Just find ways to make your frugal ways work for you!
    Janine @ MoneySmartGuides recently posted…Top Money Saving Tips for the Techy GenerationMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

      Excellent point about capitalizing on happy hours and other specials. Such deals might not always be available, but if they are then it can be the best of both worlds.

  13. Blair@LifeDollarsandSense September 17, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    This is such a good point. As someone who just moved cross-country, it can def cost money to be social and try to build new social relationships. However I do think who you surround yourself with can make a big difference. You can spend time with groups of people who are also on a budget for various reasons and go out and do budget friendlier activities together.
    Blair@LifeDollarsandSense recently posted…Fight To Freedom Report- August 13′My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 17, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

      That can be a tough spot to be in, Blair. Trying to establish a new social network while also staying true to frugal endeavors. It sounds like you’re on the right track by being mindful of the types of people in which you’re associating. I hope the move went well and that you’re settling in nicely!

  14. Madeline September 18, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    I’ve found that talking bluntly with my friends about my budget has great results. The more I talk about it, the more my friends begin to propose budget friendly outings, for both my sake and theirs. People tend to keep their personal finance goals/life secret and thus, project this idea that their financially affluent. Once you acknowledge that you are in fact trying to watch what you spend, you’d be amazed how quickly someone will chime in “me too.”
    Madeline recently posted…Hobby Shopping: The Pitfalls of “Stocking Up”My Profile

  15. Suburbanfinance September 19, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    I remember thinking about how expensive working in an office environment was because I was always being invited to lunches, and as somebody new to the career I always accepted. I am not inherently frugal, it’s work to remain frugal, so I am not sure if there are antisocial traits with frugal people
    Suburbanfinance recently posted…The Good Ol’ Expensive Hockey GameMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

      Any time social activities potentially involve spending money, then I think antisocial traits of frugal people have the opportunity to present themselves. If you aren’t frugal by nature, then it may not be as apparent. However, just think of any overall effort to save money – most social activities are going to conflict from the very get go because they involve spending money.

  16. KK @ Student Debt Survivor September 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    My strategy is inviting friends to places I want to go (place that are affordable and/or places I have a coupon or gift card). Fortunately my friends are also budget conscious so they don’t mind.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…I’m 30 Without Kids, Do I need Life Insurance?My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      That’s good, KK. Hopefully you can remain “large and in charge.” Are you always able to call the shots though? I would think there would be equal weight in activity planning among your social circle. Do others plan more expensive social activities? If they do, how to react?


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