Answer: For the better.
At the beginning of our more extreme frugality, I thought that the most difficult things to give up would be 1) housekeeping and 2) dining out. But given how much we save by not having a cleaning service, I can’t see ever justifying the cost again. And interestingly, whenever Mr. LL and I clean, I don’t even hate it anymore. I start my music, bust out my supplies, and get to it. Like any habit, it just becomes routine. It’s like the opposite of the hedonic treadmill.
This has also held true for dining out. We now only go out for social occasions, like pub trivia or post-hike burgers. When it’s just the two of us, we’ll splurge on some steaks that we pan-sear and eat with some of my homemade sourdough bread. In fact, I have done a lot more cooking and baking since we stopped dining out, and it is incredibly satisfying. Shaping boules by hand, cultivating starters, growing basil and making pesto, making yogurt, etc. It feels really…wholesome. There is something powerful about making something with your own hands. I have started dabbling with knitting and sewing, and I get the same satisfaction out of it.
Frugality has made me more mindful of what I value in life – time with my loved ones, cultivating relationships, learning new things, being engaged in useful and/or interesting occupation, a sense of community, and physical and mental health and fitness. I have probably always been a frugal person simply by default, since I have never liked shopping for anything except books.
Now, I often approach a purchase (or potential elimination of an expense) with some questions in the back of my mind, “Will this improve my quality of life? Can I justify this based on the things that I value? Is there a better value? (If applicable: Am I willing to save money by spending more time on an alternative to this?)”
For example, I am willing to forgo the convenience of buying books or having a Blockbuster Online subscription, and being able to read or watch DVDs whenever I want in exchange for checking out the books and DVDs from the library for free, even if it means that I have to wait a long time. There are plenty of interesting things to read, watch, and do in the meantime. However, I like having a smartphone, which I pay about $27/month for 300 minutes and (theoretically) unlimited data, and texting. I can text, call, and email people from wherever I go (in my service area, anyway). I can look something up on the go, or check the bus schedule or store hours, or deposit checks, or put library books on hold. If I could get all these things for less (including a new smartphone), I would do it. However, if I lose these things, I’d have to be able to save a lot.
The decisions I make may be different next month or next year based on my changing perspective, values, and experiences. But it is important to me to be able to make the best decisions that I can so that I don’t act contrary to my values or short-change my present self for future benefits – in other words, weigh short- and long-term considerations in a way that makes the best sense both intellectually and emotionally.