Fomo is real. But.

You Won’t Regret Your Frugal 20s

The topic of regret is a controversial one, especially in personal finance. Whole treatises have been written on the premise that if you live frugally during your twenties and make sound financial decisions for the future, you’ll regret wasting your youth as a joyless loner.

We reject this characterization of a frugal youth for a couple reasons:

  1. It doesn’t take a lot of (or any) money to have fun with your friends.
  2. You can (and should) pursue fun long past your twenties.
  3. You’re at more risk of regretting not saving for retirement than you are at risk of regretting not going out to da clerb that one time.

And yet fear of this kind of regret persists.

I get it! No one wants to constantly feel left out. FOMO is real! But I also firmly believe that no one wants to get to retirement age only to realize that all the money they could’ve lived on for another twenty to thirty years got puked out after a night of binge drinking.

Depending on a single, barely funded income stream after retirement, one that could easily go up in a puff of smoke… that’s something worth regretting.

I firmly believe that no one wants to get to retirement age only to realize that all the money they could’ve lived on for another twenty to thirty years got puked out after a night of binge drinking.

One of our adorable and beloved Tumblr babies asked recently:

“I’ve been reading this blog for the past three hours or so and just finished the post regarding financial vampires. This reminded me of a dilemma I’ve been struggling with. I’m young and I want to have fun. I don’t want to be 35 and realize that I wasted my 20s worrying about saving money and being responsible. But on the other hand… I really want to be financially well off. Help me convince myself that I won’t regret not going out every Saturday night.”

Honey child, we are here for you.

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14 thoughts on “You Won’t Regret Your Frugal 20s

  1. All of these anecdotes are totally true and giving me life.

    As I sit here, in my rocking chair, darning the shawl of the woman I married after Mister Kitty passed on from The Gout, I reflect upon all the fun we had when we had to make our own. It really was like a second childhood. We couldn’t afford to participate in the sanctioned, suggested forms of fun, so we made castles in the air. (And by castles in the air, I mean we replayed ever Final Fantasy from VI to X, naming all characters things like “BUTTS.”)

    If you have forged real and true friendships, you don’t need money to have fun. And the loneliest people I know have some of the best Instagram accounts.

  2. Great post Bitches! I love it! Well to be completely 100% truthful, I actually love the writing style. The content is just the cherry on top :). Anyway, you guys nailed it here. Everyone goes to bars and clubs – but how much of problem this is depends on where you live. My experience was 50 cent drafts, and dollar well drinks. I used to go clubbing with like $5 in my pocket. (yeah that was within the last 10 years) Wasn’t the best drink… but you were there with your friends. This being said, most of my best experiences were in a quieter setting where you could actually hear your friends. You’re just built to enjoy people, not clubs.

  3. Totally off topic but that author you linked to at the very beginning is ridicuclous. Just read some of her other articles, like about how if your gf/wife is happy, she’s actually cheating on you. This is satire, right??? No way she could actually believe that haha

    But totally agree on the good memories I have not being about spending money. Sure money may have enabled them in some cases (like vacations) but not going out to da club all the time. Key is to find a healthy balance. I do regret not saving more in my 20’s – that’s something you can’t get back. I can always make more memories though. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I cannot tell if Lauren Martin is a savvy entrepreneur harnessing clicks with deliberate nonsense, or a shallow self-contradicting contrarian troll. Either way I’m not into it.

    2. I think she’s sincere! When that article first came libertine lost their minds. I think she defended herself too. And I believe Broke Millennial has a good takedown of the original. But holy not damn, what a misguided premise.

  4. We should regret nothing or we shouldn’t free the harbor seals in the middle of the night? The last sentence was a bit unclear and I want to make sure you’re telling me it’s ok to free the harbor seals.

    1. I see where the confusion lies. Mea culpa. Just to be clear: you should never feel regret… AND you should absolutely try to free the harbor seals. They are yearning for deliverance. Do not deny them.

  5. I think the 20s are the easiest time to be frugal. In my 20s all of my friends were broke students like me! I used to periodically go for $10 sushi, and I felt like I was totally ruining my budget when I did. Most of the time we would get chips and pop and maybe a pizza and hang out in my apartment because I was the only one who didn’t still live at home. It was wonderful!

    In my 40s, now that all of my friends are doctors, being frugal is hard!

    1. I definitely agree that I am seeing more of this split in my friends as we hit our late 20’s and the differences in our incomes are becoming more pronounced- I imagine it will get worse over time. I am very lucky that most of us have retained our frugal instincts from college, so our habits haven’t drastically changed since then. I have seen this scenario play out among former friends/acquaintances, and I think a lot of it is due to a) people not being open about their financial situations and goals and/or b) others just not respecting that. Sometimes we are embarrassed to admit that we are making so much less than our friends. Sometimes when you mention that you are focusing on saving for retirement/kids/grad school, others will see you as acting superior or judgey over their own habits and try to guilt you for “not being fun” in retaliation.

  6. No-fun, boring 20-something here to say I hate da clerb anyway and doubly hate paying cover charges (I have to pay to walk in the door? Fuck outta here with that bullshit!) so I guess I’ll just sit alone in my apartment counting all my pennies and wasting away my youth and charm and good looks.

    Oh wait, just kidding, I’m an awesome person who definitely knows how to have fun without spending her meager earnings. Whew, so glad I’m not wasting away my 20s!

    “I have to smile remembering when we sat around our tiny kitchen making up songs on my guitar and laughing so loud the neighbors pounded on the walls.” Ah, so you were THOSE people that I hate living under/near! 😉 But you’re forgiven for that by your attempts to free the seals!

  7. We followed a similar path when we were in San Diego: shared houses with roommates to keep the bills down, avoided the things we couldn’t afford, and made our own fun. And it WAS fun. I had a blast.

    We kept a lot of the same tactics in our early thirties, too: renting out a room in our first house until we paid off the mortgage…and then found out we were good friends with the renter, so she stayed a few more years.

    There’s really no direct correlation between how much money you spend and how much fun you have. Considering how much fun people tend to have during the decades where they didn’t have or spend much money, there might be an inverse correlation.

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