Why I’m Frugal

So the other day at the barn I was talking to one of the dressage ladies about my path to foxhunting, how writing was a big part of it, and how I’ve continued to blog (sporadically) about my adventures as the Frugal Foxhunter.

She asked, “Why are you frugal?”

I told her, “Because I’m in my 20s and I have half a horse.” Which is true.  And also, I think my husband would have a heart attack if I didn’t at least try to be semi-responsible about the cost of my horse habit. But the question kept popping up in my mind this week.

I work at a wealth management firm, so I literally get paid to think about money. In the time I’ve worked there, I’ve realized that wealth is about so much more than money. It’s about creating a life of fulfillment, whatever that means for you. Unfortunately a lot of people are rich–they earn a big income, they have a huge house , they spend a lot of money–but they’re not building anything. They’re burning through cash for whatever reason, so they’re not truly wealthy in their portfolio or their life.  The cost of living is high in the D.C. area where I live, so it’s easy to justify the idea that you need more, more, more without really thinking about what makes you happy.

Like this kind of happy. On-the-buckle happy. (photo courtesy Pat Michael)

I think the same thing happens in the horse world in general and the equestrian blog world specifically. Obviously we’re all in it because we love horses. But it seems to drift away from that sometimes. Maybe it’s an epic search for the CWD or Antares saddle that turns into a giant headache somehow. Or maybe you’re sticking with an awful horse because you feel like you have to.  I just notice a lot of the time it seems like people are going through the motions and it’s not clear if they’re really having FUN or not.

So how am I frugal? I try to get as much bang for my buck as I can, and I always try to think about what different experiences are worth to me. Admittedly, as my income has grown and I don’t have to ride any bucking bronco with 4 legs, or work all weekend writing freelance articles, I don’t do that anymore. I do spend more on my horse habit than I ever have in my life. I pay for half of Lefty’s board and my hunt subscription, and that’s not insignificant. But it’s way less than the cost of owning a horse in my area. I never buy riding clothes new. My saddle is an old Crosby, basically a postage stamp. The Chevy truck, admittedly, is a total luxury and a total gas guzzler. But the idea is to pay it off, then save up to buy a horse and trailer so I don’t have a car payment and a board payment on top of that.

I know–it’s a total justification, like saying drinking a Miller Lite is “responsible drinking”. (Which I do, by the way.) But it’s worth it to me. And I always try to think of my horse spending this way. Am I going to get $150+ worth of enjoyment out of an event?  $45 worth of education out of a lesson? This is how I make my horse decisions, and of course I weigh it against what is responsible for my budget. (Sometimes I get overly excited and throw caution to the wind–but it’s always burned me, like when I bought an $800 saddle, sight unseen, and the tree was broken. That HURT.)

Horses are not for the extremely frugal–like the kind of personal finance bloggers I follow who retire at age 30 to go live in the wilderness or travel the world in an Airstream eating only granola bars for sustenance. But there is a way to do the horse thing–and have a LOT of fun–in a way where I’m “acting my wage” and not living above my means.

How do you make the horse habit fit into your finances?