I have never been what people would consider an optimist. I’ve never been able to look at anything and see the happy shiny pieces in anything much less a flaming bag of poop on my doorstep. On the other side, I could never bring myself to be ok with being called a pessimist.
Oh world, there are so many bad things but I know there is good in you…right?
When people ask I would say that I wasn’t a pessimist but a realist, they would just laugh saying that isn’t a thing. I couldn’t explain the difference other than I felt like I wasn’t a pessimist or an optimist.
A few months ago I was sitting down with my manager for one of our every-other-week meeting to discuss my personal development (1-on-1s as I know them). It was towards the end of the meeting my manager turned to me and asked, “are you an optimist or pessimist?”
Sadly I said, “Well… I would like to say realist but usually am just label pessimist.” *Did someone complain about something? Maybe it was Angela or Oscar from accounting*
Apparently, that was the right answer. He had just come out of a meeting with someone else where they determined this:
They had decided that a realist isn’t a BS term but has a very nuanced meaning that is more important.
Optimist: a person that ONLY sees the good in things.
Pessimist: a person who finds the problems and does nothing.
Realist: a person who sees the problems and works to try to mitigate their effect.
Moment Of Clarity
Great Scott I’m no longer full of shit! 😀 In a 20-minute conversation, my manager was able to shine a light on my whole life without even trying. I looked back at all the times people called me a pessimist only to realize that I was pointing out the problem but I was trying to fix it too.
Without missing a beat this 30-year-old personal finance fanboy turned the conversation right to where you ALL knew it was headed!
I asked him, “What is the opposite of cheap?”
I continued… If we take the triangle, replace the pessimist with cheap, realist with frugal, and replace optimist with…Again I asked, “What is the opposite of cheap?” A few Google searches later:
Spendthrift: a person who spends money in an extravagant, irresponsible way.
Just like realists and pessimists, cheap and frugal get pushed into the same camp but they very much aren’t the same thing.
Cheap: a person who spends as little money as possible regardless
Frugal: a person who spends their money wisely and with purpose
With their powers combined, I am a frugal realist!
What Is a Frugal Realist?
A frugal realist knows that there is a lot to of things in the future you will need to take care of or they will end badly. You are choosing to spend your money wisely now so you will have an easier time in the future.
Problem: I cannot keep writing code for another 30 years. It just won’t happen. I love my job and what I do but in the last 8 years I’ve had to learn well over 12 different languages or platforms to stay competent in my field. I’m not sure I can keep this bus running over 55 MPH forever. I also haven’t determined if I would be good as a manager or an architect programmer.
Solution: Frugality. Making sure we are spending our money wisely so we can plan for a safe financial future.
Do we buy the cheapest item in the grocery store all the time? HECK NO! 6” tortillas my butt! I also like when my “honey oat circle” cereal tastes like honey! Not like someone forgot to add flavoring to Apple Jacks.
Are we going down every aisle and buying whatever looks good? No Ms. Blue Ribbon and I have a menu for the next week and that’s all I’m picking up from Target.
A frugal realist is saving their money for retirement. Maybe they don’t want to achieve early retirement but know that they ought to get to financial independence in case they need or want to retire early. Both of these labels get an epically bad rap. Don’t stay in hiding and embrace your frugalness and realist.
So what do you say? Shall we put that blue pill down because there is nothing wrong with being frugal or a realist?
Have you ever heard of the word spendthrifts before?!?! Did you catch any of my 7 movie references?