Frugal Grad Student

One of the examples of frugal living I saw online was that of a graduate student who was swimming in mounting credit card debt but then adopted the frugal living principles, paid down the debt, and started investing her savings. I was curious because I used to be that grad student who, in spite of a very generous stipend and no kids, was accumulating credit card debt and had zero savings.

It turned out that this graduate student “ate down her pantry” and cancelled her subscriptions, which was quite bizarre because I had no pantry and no subscriptions until I was well into the tenure-track. These savings allowed her to pay off her credit card debt. I’m guessing the credit card debt was about twenty bucks total, if she could pay it down by eating down the pantry for a month. My credit card debt in grad school was up to $16,000 at its highest point, and to pay that off, I would have needed almost my entire yearly stipend.

I wasn’t frugal as a grad student (and that’s an understatement of the year) and I’m not frugal now because there are 3 things I can’t deny myself. First of all, I always eat well. Tons of fresh produce and never anything frozen, boxed or canned. I just can’t make myself, it’s not happening. Today I made a five-bean chili with ground turkey breast, a bit of crackled wheat, asparagus, kale and crushed tomatoes, and oh, goodness. It’s heaven. I can’t make it spicy because Klara is too small for that but it’s still great.

The second thing is that I go on beach vacations and not the kind where you sleep in a crappy motel and schlep 20 minutes to a ratty old beach filled with garbage. I come from a Soviet past where people thought that extreme discomfort was the price you pay for enjoying a beach. And I just can’t do that any more, I’m traumatized by my past.

And the third is that I buy all the books I want and can’t make myself feel bad about it. I wear the same clothes for 10 years (if I can fit into them) and use out the shoes until they literally fall into pieces. But my book needs are sacred.

Frugal Living

Another consumerist hobby that I discovered is frugal living. The frugal living website a ran across yesterday starts with a long list of items you need to buy in order to be more frugal. I didn’t get to the end of the shopping list, so I never discovered the secrets of frugality the shopping is supposed to open up to you.

I always thought that most dogmatic and preachy people ever were reformed smokers and recent religious converts. But it turns out that the frugal living folks are easily the most smug and condescending bunch of all.