I Am Fastidiously Frugal And Exorbitantly Flagrant (Because: Balance) (And: Parents)

Ways in which I am fastidiously frugal (father’s influence):

• 80 percent of my wardrobe comes from thrift stores, second-hand shops and sidewalk free pile foraging.

• I live in a tiny shoebox closet bedroom in a house with three other people and a single bathroom—because the rent is unbeatable, and because my housemates are sweeties.

• I haven’t bought shampoo in years—I wash my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

• My hairdresser is my friend who went to beauty school once. She cuts my hair in her kitchen. I lighten it with Sun-In and a hairdryer, $4.68 for a bottle that lasts months.

• I have a personal rule to pack my lunch four out of five days of the work-week, with an allotment of one restaurant-bought lunch to be used at my discretion.

• I don’t have a smart phone. My phone is of average intelligence.

• I travel much less than other people I know, partially because it seems like such a hemorrhage of money (airplane tickets, WHAT?).

• I run in the park. Can’t stomach the cost of yoga classes and gym memberships.

• I don’t buy books, I go to the library.

• I don’t eat meat. You can save SO much money this way, I can’t even believe how much fresh meat costs at the grocery store. Beans is where it’s at.

Ways in which I am exorbitantly flagrant (mother’s influence):

• The other 20 percent of my wardrobe is made up of exquisite artisan-made goods and one-of-a-kind vintage treasures, all with pricetags to match.

• My therapist doesn’t take my insurance any more so I pay his full rate out-of-pocket, because I like him too much to find a different therapist who does take my insurance.

• I buy art. I have spent hundreds of dollars, significant chunks of my budget, on special pieces that I could hear whispering my name. I took a big wad of cash I was going to spend on a tablet and bought a sculpture instead. No regrets, it’s fucking beautiful and I look at it every day and think about how much I love it.

• Expensive makeup is just better. I pay top dollar. Same for bras—I get the nice ones, the ones that cost an arm and a leg. Worth it.

• Organic groceries.

• When I do go out to eat, I go OUT. (That means I get dessert.)


Lily Hudson lives in Portland, Ore.

Photo by: conny lundgren


79 Comments / Post A Comment

Lily Hudson, I like your style.

@cuminafterall Heartily seconded!

PicNic (#3,760)

This made me try to remember the last time I bought clothing. No idea. I’m wearing a shirt right now I bought in 2007, a cardigan from 2011, pants from 2011, and cheap, beat up flats I bought last summer.

But 3 weeks ago I spent $65 on an iphone case at a fancy store


probs (#296)


eliza (#3,161)

“I haven’t bought shampoo in years—I wash my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar.”

This is one of those things in the same genre as The Latte Myth, where it’s like… that’s nice… you’re probably saving $20 a year by doing this.

boringbunny (#3,260)

@eliza I think you only save money if you buy expensive shampoo or if you shampoo a lot. My shampoo costs are probably $5/year. (My conditioner costs, on the other hand, are insane.) Plus baking soda and apple cider vinegar have costs as well.

I’ve never understood this – how do people save that much money by not eating meat? My meat costs are maybe $7/month and if I didn’t eat meat, I’d have to eat a lot more produce. Is it just that I’m supposed to replace meat with pasta and beans? Does this only work because I don’t eat organic meat?

j a y (#3,935)

@eliza Agreed with the shampoo – it falls under the “I buy what I want, because it’s $20 a year”.

However, I’ll take issue with the lattes… people really are spending repeatedly on small things that aren’t that small (it’s just a coffee… a $5 coffee), are bought often (7x per week)… without considering what else that money could buy ($1850 could go toward an annual vacation).

Will $1850 change your life? Probably not. But there are a lot of people spending it who can’t afford it. Spend it consciously, is all I ask :)

Carneiros (#4,007)

@eliza I’ve been using baking soda and vinegar for a couple of years now. Not using commercial shampoos has the added benefit of making my hair super healthy and strong. I don’t need to use any other hair products and I can get by with fewer hair cuts because I don’t get split ends as easily. My dandruff problem has also completely disappeared, so I’m not spending money on that or dealing with the aggravation. It’s not just the cost of shampoo vs gallon jugs of vinegar being factored in here.

themegnapkin (#444)

@Carneiros I’ve been using baking soda and ACV (we just discussed this in a Hairpin thread) for nearly a year. It works better on my dandruff than the expensive medicated shampoo I used to use (although to be fair, I probably only spent ~$120/year on that shampoo, so not massive savings). But mainly I like not putting so many chemicals on my scalp.

Christy (#3,892)

@boringbunny I spent $30 on meat this week alone! Sure, it’s me and my gf, but we eat meat 6 nights out of 7, and it’s not hot dogs and ground beef. Meatless would be much cheaper. We already eat lots of produce.

zimm (#2,228)

@eliza yeeeeah. my old roommate tried to go “poo-less” in part to save money. i was so confused when she said that. i mean, i used mid-grade shampoo (really frizzy and thick hair) and it’s maybe eight bucks every two or three months for a big container.

readyornot (#816)

So maybe I’m just tripped up by the semantics, but as far as I know, what Lily is doing is simply optimizing. We all have unlimited wants and limited resources, but we have priorities, and we choose to spend our money according to those priorities.

limenotapple (#1,748)

@readyornot Yeah, I think you are right. But it made me think: sometimes, people can be very pushy thinking that if they don’t like spending for something, then it is certainly stupid for anyone else to spend money on that thing. Also, there are things that other people splurge on that I would never consider. So we all have things that are worth it and things that are not. I do like seeing what other people’s priorities are.

@readyornot I found this interesting because her spending seems either very frugal or very expensive. I have priorities and allocate money accordingly, but there’s less deviation from the mean.

j a y (#3,935)

@limenotapple I don’t criticize other people’s priorities, I just want them to HAVE priorities!

Exception: cigarettes etc. I guess I’d want people to include non-financial factors in their prioritization…

@fo (#839)

@limenotapple “people can be very pushy thinking that if they don’t like spending for something, then it is certainly stupid for anyone else to spend money on that thing.”

Like a financial adviser, perhaps…?

I cut my own hair, haven’t used shampoo, conditioner, or bath-soap not brought home from a hotel in probably 4 years, mow my own lawn, want to pick up furniture rather than pay a delivery charge, etc, etc.

But I don’t think that anyone paying for any of those things is ‘wasting’ money.

limenotapple (#1,748)

@j a y Oh yeah, totally! Having priorities means that you have thought enough to know what money is worth to you. Prioritizing made a huge deal in my life.

I don’t get cigarettes at all.

limenotapple (#1,748)

@@fo How do you cut your own hair? Did it take practice? Did you invest in good scissors? Were you nervous at first? I would love to do this.

@fo (#839)

@limenotapple “How do you cut your own hair?”

I’m (1) male and (2) older than you (aka, balding), so it’s just a Wahl clipper job. Best part (ok, 2 parts) about it is not having to take the time to go someplace and being able to wake up on Tuesday, decide “I’d like a haircut now”, and not be late for work.

Oh, also, you would *absolutely* need to invest in good scissors. 100% necessary. And with longer hair, I (really) couldn’t see doing anything more than the in-between trim–to maybe shift from every 4 weeks to every 6 weeks or something.

AitchBee (#3,001)

@limenotapple I’ve been thinking about how, well, everywhere, including The Billfold, people seem to fetishize living simply order to save for big items. It almost takes on a moral dimension: you skip lattes and pack lunches (frugal! self-denying!) and save money to “travel” (which is one of few forms of consumption that also takes on a dimension of self-righteousness). That’s great if that’s what you really want, but probably some people get more utility out of having a goddamn latte every morning, you know?

@fo (#839)

@AitchBee “That’s great if that’s what you really want, but probably some people get more utility out of having a goddamn latte every morning, you know?”


Ellie (#62)

@limenotapple I agree – it’s interesting! And I think it’s impossible to get away from thinking that the way we do it is better. There are some things I would never in a million years spend money on that other people do (books, DVDs, Apple products, expensive underwear) but I spend a ton of money on hair stuff and shop at Whole Foods. I honestly think that anyone who buys more than a book or two a year is an idiot, but they probably think I’m an idiot for not shopping at Market Basket.

limenotapple (#1,748)

@AitchBee Yeah, I get that. I was actually thinking about my father when I wrote that, who thinks I am crazy for not wanting to spend the one day I am not working at my job pulling weeds, or painting some room in my house, or any number of things I could do myself, but it gives me a better quality of life to throw money at. His stance is that if I didn’t spend money on these things, then I could afford a house in his neighborhood or a luxury car (neither of which I want), and he presents his stance in the most condescending possible way, as if it is a moral imperative of some sort. If buying a latte or having lunch out enriches your life, cool!

@@fo I might look into this for my husband :) I’m not as invested in his hair.

probs (#296)

@AitchBee yes, exactly! You win. The moral dimension is really interesting to me. I think it’s true that some people haven’t taken the time to prioritize and consider how little expenditures add up, but if they have and small daily comforts win out over big-ticket items in their cost-benefit analysis, who cares? I say this as someone who packs his lunch every day and makes tea in the office pantry microwave.

@limenotapple I am completely with you here. Identifying key wants and then learning about how to get them for less is so important. I’m also in the non-smoker who can’t stand it category.

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

@all the anti-cigarette people


highjump (#39)

@AitchBee Yes! The author kind of does this too but given all the emphasis on travel on The Awl network, especially The Hairpin, I enjoy this counter balance. No only does the author not travel she saves money to buy objects with no practical purpose! Because art is rad and wanting to own art rather than fly to Paris is a super-valid life choice!

Ellie (#62)

@aeroaeroaero I rarely read The Billfold, but I’m kind of a smoker. I recently quit for health reasons (like, because of other unrelated health problems, not because I finally realized it is really bad for you). But I always thought it made just fine economic sense to me personally to spend money on cigarettes, because I enjoy smoking them so much.

readyornot (#816)

@TheclaAndTheSeals @limenotapple Maybe it’s too late to jump back in here; this thread went nuts! I do see a lot of judging other people’s spending habits around here, which I find really hard to take. Can we all agree that that’s crazy? Preferences are totally individual. Even for Mr. “I make $570,000 a year.”

As far as whether this kind of spending is a significant deviation from the mean, I don’t even know what average household spending is for makeup or art. (and in the nitty gritty, are we talking about some total annual dollar amount? percentage of disposable income?) But back to my first point, I’m not sure why it matters.

All this is not to say I don’t find it interesting to see how people spend their money or why they do. I just wouldn’t call it frugal or flagrant, both of which imply some sort of consistency of behavior.

readyornot (#816)

@aeroaeroaero @Ellie I think the smokers hang out on the Awl!

hellonheels (#1,407)

@aeroaeroaero I was until about two years ago. I’m not like, forever quit though. I still smoke in Vegas and anywhere on the continent of Europe.

chic noir (#713)

@Matthew Gordon@twitter @limenotapple I am completely with you here. Identifying key wants and then learning about how to get them for less is so important

*Raises cup*

chic noir (#713)

@readyornot Can we all agree that that’s crazy? Preferences are totally individual. Even for Mr. “I make $570,000 a year


SuperMargie (#2,628)

@aeroaeroaero I just quit, but I will totally hang with you. You and your sweet, sweet tobacco smoke.

j a y (#3,935)

Oh yeah – I don’t mean to moralize one type of spending over another. If is something you truly love, and you know what it costs you – that’s really the whole point – prioritize so that you can maybe get MORE lattes!

On a personal level, I prefer expensive aeropressed coffee, which is actually cheaper/easier to make at home – so I go for that. But for people who value the café experience, or the convenience of K-Cups – hey go for it.

@Smokers – I can’t think of many things that would justify the health risks of smoking. But if you’re not affecting other people (single? no kids?) and you really enjoy it and are willing to accept the potential costs, then I don’t have any moral stance against it.

limenotapple (#1,748)

Expensive bras=so totally worth it! Last so much longer!

I am frugal about cell phones (no smart phone, no monthly plan), clothing, haircuts (very simple style), eating out, makeup, fashion, home decor, and entertainment (I use the library, prefer house parties and game nights to bars, don’t have cable, etc).

I am not frugal about shoes…I don’t buy shoes often but when I do I go for the quality and arch support. Also: paying someone to do the one thing I hate more than anything: yardwork.

snoopygirrl (#1,710)

@limenotapple I agree – cheap bras are the worst thing ever.

ThatJenn (#916)

@limenotapple You are kind of me! Well, OK, I have a smartphone but I don’t pay much for the plan, and I do eat out too much, but I spend buckets on having just a couple pairs of quality shoes and bras, and also pay someone to do my yardwork despite being the kind of person who does her own home improvements and makes her own laundry soap. I also don’t pay for haircuts, makeup, etc., but that’s not really due to frugality so much as lack of desire (I really wish I weren’t a girl).

I like this, but three things you may not be considering:

1) Sun-in is notorious for making people’s hair break off in chunks. Not saying this means you need to go to a salon but a box of Clairol is only a few dollars more.

2) Plane tickets are often worth the money and they’re the only thing on your frugal list for which you don’t actually provide an alternative. If you don’t want to travel, don’t do it, but traveling:not traveling is not the same as gym membership:running in the park.

3) Expensive makeup is often but not exclusively better. Revlon lip products, Maybelline mascaras and Wet n Wild eyeshadows are great. (Especially mascara, since it runs out/has to be thrown out so often.) Also L’Oreal owns like half the big luxury brands anyway, and a lot of their stuff is the same as the luxury things, repackaged and released 6 months-1 year later.

(Not telling you to not spend your money how you want. Spend it how you want! Just pointing out possible blind spots.)

rightclicksave (#2,662)

@Amanda@twitter #2 is relevant to my interests! If you don’t mind, can you say more? The reason I tend to buy more expensive products is because I’m picky about the ingredients in my makeup (lead/talc/you name it) but of course more money doesn’t always mean a safer/better product.

hellonheels (#1,407)

@rightclicksave L’Oreal owns Lancome, Giorgio Armani Beauty, YSL, Shu Uemura, and Urban Decay, as well as a bunch of skincare and fragrance brands (and Maybelline and Garnier on the low end). Basically what happens is they sink all their product development money (especially in terms of skincare, but makeup too) into the upscale brands, then a year or so later they apply the same or similar advances to their consumer brands.

They don’t really have to worry much about cannibalizing their own business because most people who go to Lancome for their cosmetics and skincare are unlikely to go out and buy a cheaper, perhaps slightly less effective version from L’Oreal, and vice versa.

hellonheels (#1,407)

@Amanda@twitter I am admittedly partial to luxury cosmetics (I’m a sucker for packaging, I guess), but I firmly believe that anyone who buys mascara from an upscale brand is a fool.

chic noir (#713)

@hellonheels – I use Maybeline mascara. I once purchased a Chanel mascara, what a fool. The stuff flaked into my eyes after one hour of wear.

jane lane (#281)

@hellonheels idk if Clinique counts as “upscale,” but I’m going to keep buying their $16 mascara until a drugstore brand starts selling something similar to the one that only comes off with warm water

hellonheels (#1,407)

@jane lane If there’s technology involved that no one else has then that is totally reasonable. Especially since Clinique is an Estee Lauder brand, and they don’t own any mass-market brands so you’re not likely to see it trickle down to the drugstore. I am mostly talking about all these brands that are charging upwards of $25 for mascara. It’s a tube full of black gunk, and with a handful of exceptions like the Clinique you mentioned, you are paying for a slightly differentiated brush.

chic noir (#713)

@jane lane – Clinique is a mid priced brand like MAC. I have a Clinque mascara (I forgot) that comes in a greenish/grey tube. It works as well as Maybeline Great Lash on my lashes.

The one thing I hate about mascara is the removal process.

Cosign on the art buying.

I get weird looks from family members when I tell them about a new painting I just bought instead of buying new (desperately needed) sneakers. But looking at them just makes me SO. DAMN. HAPPY. Happiness>>> arch support.

So…tips on how to explain to well meaning/friendly co-workers that you do, in fact, enjoy your packed lunch? OR that just because you ate out yesterday (say, Tuesday), it doesn’t mean the rest of the week is now a restaurant-free-for-all?

Because I normally just go the *mumble, mumble, please stop giving me pittying/guilt-tripping looks* route…

probs (#296)

@germanwordfor_kichererbsen I don’t know if it’s because I don’t work with young people, or because my office is in a post-industrial wasteland and food options are limited, or what, but I’m baffled that so many people here have coworkers that are so judgemental about bringing lunches. If I had a tip, it would be bringing appealing-looking lunches with lots of colors, which is often good for you anyway. Tuesday I had a bunch of cherries, a sliced cucumber, apples, a salad, and an orange, and one of coworkers said “you always seem to have the best lunch!”

@probs I work with mostly young people, and none of us go out for lunch. Several people go home for lunch, the rest of us bring it to work. I’d have no money at all if I tried to eat out every day!

Slutface (#53)

@germanwordfor_kichererbsen Don’t explain anything and enjoy your food?

cryptolect (#1,135)

@germanwordfor_kichererbsen I always bring leftovers to the office and people comment on how good they smell. No judgment—well, except for when my boss says something like, “Doesn’t that have a lot of fat?” I tell her, “If you don’t eat fat, your hair falls out.”

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@cryptolect I’ve had coworkers comment on the amount of food I’m having for lunch.
“Wow, hungry are we?”
This only happens when I eat inside the office. I’ve stopped dignifying it with a response.

Halifax Machine (#4,006)

Lily Hudson could you please recommend some art???

I love it everybody, optimization, prioritization, blind spots!

@Amanda@twitter My hair DOES break off in chunks! Is that not cute, should I do something about that?

@Halifax Machine I have a Pinterest where you can look at ALL the art that is my favorite art! http://pinterest.com/petitesophist/art/

highjump (#39)

@Halifax Machine Omg I would love a post about entry-level art buying! I want to graduate past buying letterpress prints and into like sub $300 art and maybe in the next year or two a $1000 piece? Paintings specifically. Anyone got advice?

@highjump I love this idea, it must be done!

Good shoes are well worth it and, if you can find good deals, don’t cost a fortune. Think of the money you aren’t saving when you have medical bills from chronic back problems…

@Matthew Gordon@twitter or from buying new shoes allll the timmmmme!

I’m pretty frugal about entertainment (I haven’t been to a bar in over a year, I don’t go to movies, I get most of my books through the library, I don’t do sports that require lots of equipment) and eating out (maybe once every week or two? including dinners and lunches). On the other hand I spend a pile on food, do not have roommates, and while I don’t have many items of clothing most of them are not cheap. I’ve mostly come to terms with my splurging/saving priorities. I could spend way less on food, but it would significantly cut into my happiness.

Mrs. Beeton (#320)

I get compliments on my skin all the time, and I fully credit it to using expensive makeup and cheap cleansing products. Cetaphil is your friend. Witch hazel is your friend. Wash your face grandma-style and enjoy the smoothness.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@Mrs. Beeton I exfoliate with a powder made of oatmeal, corn meal and camomile run through a food processor. It WORKS.

hellonheels (#1,407)

I’m frugal in the sense that I generally refuse to buy anything that isn’t on sale (apart from things like groceries, and even then, I am not brand allegiant at all and will usually go for the one on sale). My mom is a bargain monster and passed it on the me from a young age. I do, however, have expensive taste, especially in the realm of apparel and accessories. I balance this out by only buying things I absolutely need. For instance, I need to buy a dress for a wedding next month, and it will probably be Diane von Furstenburg or some other label of that ilk…but it it will also be the first article of clothing I buy this year. I used to be really into fast fashion and thrifting but found again and again that you get what you pay for, so now I just buy nice things when they are necessary.

orangezest (#317)

Ooh, this is a fun game.

I’m frugal about:
-Clothing/shoes/accessories. I buy less than one piece of clothing a month on average and can vividly the remember the two times in my life I bought something that wasn’t on sale. (Sundress, Gap, 2007. Chambray shirt, J.Crew, 2012.) I’ve also never bought a purse that costs more than $50.
-Entertainment. I spend about $100 a year on books and music combined. Some years I go to no movies at all, although that’s ticked up lately.
-Food (alone). I’ve gotten pretty good at taking my lunch to work and not going out to eat by myself.
-Home decor. Maybe a stage in my life thing, but I don’t ever really buy stuff for the home if I can avoid it.

I’m frivolous about:
-Travel. Mint says I’ve spent $5,200 on air travel in the past 2.5 years, which… wow. but still.
-Drinking/eating out. I don’t go crazy but I don’t ever really say no if friends want to meet up at a restaurant.
-Personal care. Most of my makeup is from Sephora, my haircuts are $75, I use shower gel instead of soap and the most expensive razor blades Venus makes (the last two are a real thing that my mother has criticized me for not being frugal enough on)

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@Emma Peel Soap is bad for your skin anyway.

I use exfoliating gloves w/ a tiny bit of coconut oil on them. I also use the oil as conditioner. Way more effective than the expensive stuff I was using before and I’ve been getting lotsa compliments from Mr TARDIStime about my skin!

raw money (#3,975)

My parents are the same way. My dad taught me to collect and roll all my change when I was about 3 years old, and it’s one of my favorite annual activities. Never use Coinstar–what a rip-off! Through my mom’s influence, though, I willingly spend $300 on nice work pumps. I am entering her career, so she taught me that it’s important to look the part!

Beck (#2,269)

Oh wow, in every way we are the same. Right down to the baking soda shampoo and vinegar rinse. Is it because of Oregon? Can we get together sometime? Maybe do some thrifting then stop at an organic microbrewery for drinks?

@Beck Um, yes! I DID come here to make friends!

chic noir (#713)

I like all the frugal tips, except for the travel tip. I love and I need to travel often.

I haven’t bought shampoo in years—I wash my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar.
This is where it’s at for curly, kinky-coily girls and ladies with dry scalp issues

chic noir (#713)

@chic noir – Expensive makeup is just better. I pay top dollar. Same for bras—I get the nice ones, the ones that cost an arm and a leg. Worth it.

Here here! I have a soft spot for NARS lipglossses and blush. Chanel lip products, Chanel has the best packaging.

On the bra front does that mean you purchase Stella McCartney or Elle Macpherson bras? I love Stella bras and they are often on sale at Gilt and Saks.

chic noir (#713)

@chic noir – I forgot the Laura Mercier cavier sticks(eyeshadow sticks) are the best thing since sliced bread.

chic noir (#713)

@chic noir – I love this post. Jezebel had one at the start of the recession. It was called “Neccessay Luxuries”. I would like to see this sort of post become a regular coluom like “How Other People Do Money” or “My Last One Hundread Bucks”.

Megano! (#124)

Wait, where do you keep all this fabulous art if you live in a closet?

Moinefemme (#4,021)

What I find particularly hard about the moral superiority/judgement thing when it comes to spending priorities in spending is negotiating it in romantic relationships. The hardest thing is knowing someone is judging you for your choices, and sometimes they might be doing so validly, sometimes not. I honestly feel like the Billfold could really benefit from a regular column called “money and relationships.”

@Moinefemme UGH I know what you mean. I had a boyfriend who made more $$ than me and he got butthurt when I declined to spend three months traveling Asia with him. Not because that didn’t sound fun, but because… I couldn’t f’ing afford it! PLEASE somebody talk about healthy communication between couples about money.

Megano, I keep trying to respond to you and it keeps… disappearing? I don’t understand the comments section, obviously. I am rapidly running out of wall space, and some of my pieces are stowed away in my closet. I swap them out every now and then. I believe in the importance of negative space for well-being.

Beck (#2,269)

Okay, next time you are in Ashland look for me. I’m the person with the basket of expensive CSA cheese in one hand and a bag of empty soda cans in the other (from work, I fish them out of the recycle bin at work for the bottle refund – hey, that’s free money!).

@Beck Ashland, I love it, my mother is from Ashland!

haverwench (#7,400)

Hey, this is what being frugal is all about, isn’t it? You spend as little as possible on the things that don’t matter to you so that you can spend as much as you want on the things that do. Makes perfect sense to me.

I save on: clothing (nearly everything secondhand or sale-priced), personal care (I buy $1-a-bottle conditioner and haven’t had my hair professionally cut in years), some food (almost no meat or processed foods in my diet), travel (I don’t enjoy it, so I don’t spend money on it), exercise (I walk, don’t run), and technology (my phone, too is “of average intelligence”–perhaps even a bit on the dim side, but I would never hurt its feelings by saying so).

I splurge on; other food (organic produce, Fair Trade coffee and chocolate), home (we own our house and are always involved in some project or other to fix up either the house or the yard), and music (we go out to a folk show about twice a month and to festivals maybe twice a year). In other words, the stuff I care about.

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