Frugality is… having real goals

After college I had a dream of moving to the Northwest U.S. (Seattle/Portland area). To me, it was a magical place full of good music and movie theaters you could eat in.

So for a whole year whenever I thought of buying or accepting something offered to me, I’d think: “Would I move across the country with it?” Usually the answer was no. So I wouldn’t buy/accept a lot of things using that test.

That question stuck in mind and I never felt like I was depriving myself. My decisions were based on a goal that was real to me – living in the NW region for an extended period.

When you have a real goal that’s true to you, achieving that goal will matter more than what you’ll have to give up in order to achieve it.

Over the years, I’ve realized that goals that aren’t real (or in other words, unproductive) actually hold me back. They are driven by external forces rather than internal. An example of a goal that isn’t real is trying to impress others.

Like taking a job because you think other people would admire it (instead of doing something that you truly love). Or buying clothes based on a visible label (rather than quality or value). Things like that are counterproductive to achieving real goals. Progress on a goal like impressing others can’t be measured. And it’s unachievable because it depends on controlling the thoughts of others, which are incredibly transitory.

What helps me clarify and prioritize my real goals is writing things down. I don’t have a perfect system yet, but every few months I write down the different areas of my life that I want to work on. Then under each heading, I list what I’m doing to make progress in those areas. I can get a full picture of how I’m using my time and energy.

Sometimes you might lose interest in a goal and that’s okay too. I still like visiting the NW region, but I’m not so crazy about moving there anymore. But working toward that goal strengthened my practice of minimalism. It saved me a lot of money from not buying stuff I didn’t really want. And it prepared me well for my next possible adventure:


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  1. This is such good advice and well said, too! I wonder if it’s one of those things one has to learn through experience, though? If I had kids, that would be the kind of thing I’d like to give them on their way through life, but telling people how important real goals are doesn’t do much as long as they don’t really know who they are, right? How hard is it for you to tell real goals from fake ones?

    1. “I wonder if it’s one of those things one has to learn through experience, though?” Totally agree. “Real” goals are personal. I originally wanted to name this post “Frugality is… not trying to impress others.” I changed it to be more open/vague because working and spending to shape others’ opinions of me is something I used to do. But I know not everybody does that. I realized in my early twenties that nothing I was ever going to do to change what other people thought of me was going to matter in the long run. People go in and out of your life but knowing the progress you’ve made in yourself, community, world…stays with you. Now, a real goal to me is something that I would work toward even if no one else was ever going to know I had achieved it. It does take knowing yourself or at least separating what you think others/society/gender roles/etc. tell you that you should do versus what you think is worthwhile.

  2. Laughed pretty hard @ Portlandia. Great show.

    Next adventure sounds great! We’re actually scrapping our next big adventure to Australia. I think I’ll have a post about it because opportunity cost was a factor in our decision. Not purely opportunity cost, but that seems more connected with personal finance than a few of our more personal reasons for deciding to can it for this year.

    1. I just finished season 2 on Netflix! Does Vancouver look similar?
      That’s too bad about Australia. I wanna hear more about that. I have family there 🙂

      1. Vancouver is definitely very similar to Portland, but we’re not quite on Portland’s level. Haha I do laugh at a lot of the similarities though.

        Ya, Australia is on the backburner but it’s something we definitely will do in the future. I’ll mention it in the next email!

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