Why Be Frugal?

Why Be Frugal?

I spend time thinking about frugal – what it is, how it gets acted out, how it makes me feel, why I am. I usually feel really good about it until someone comes along and is, you know, one of those people that wants to make everyone else around them feel bad for being who they are. Someone who thinks the only reason a person would be frugal is because I am poor and have to be. That if I had the money to spend to not have to DIY our house, I would. That if I had the money, hubby wouldn’t be the one doing work on our cars instead of a shop, that if I had more money, I wouldn’t thrift shop. That if I had the money, basically, I would spend it all. I am frugal for a variety of reasons, and yes, one of them is limitation of financial resources. But anyone who knows me knows I am responsible with money and don’t spend a lot of it because I see a variety of good reasons not to. I enjoy the process of living on less, living smaller, and living simply. I enjoy not paying an arm and a leg for a huge house that I have to clean. I enjoy the process of DIY remodeling (most of the time). I enjoy thinking about someday when my dollars will have compounded enough to send my children to college and hubby and I can retire early. By living on less now, it makes the future seem brighter since my dollars later will go further. Some need to save a huge X to retire because that is what they’ve learned to live on. My X is small because I have gotten used to differentiating wants and needs.

So there are a few of my reasons. Now I want to hear from you. Why are you frugal? Or if you aren’t, why not? Do you need to be? Do you want to be? Why do you like being frugal and what don’t you like about it? I’d love to hear from you!

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  1. You know, sometimes you just don’t need stuff. You nailed when you mentioned living simply. We know someone who bought a $6000 flat-screen TV years ago. They couldn’t afford it and now they have their paychecks garnished to pay for it. In all they are probably doubling the cost of the TV. Imagine that! And why? To say they had a state of the art TV. Oh, and the kicker is the TV broke down. Since they are spending so much they are making sure they get it fixed.

    Long story short, the fancy TV is just stuff that they’ve become attached to. And it’s developed into a lot of stress. And it doesn’t have to be something that expensive either. It can be spending on all sorts of little things too.

    I’m not afraid to spend money when I need to but the question becomes what is the “need?” If you can appreciate, I mean really appreciate, what you have then the fancy stuff becomes fluff that you don’t need.

    Hopefully my point made sense there. Not sure I always come through well in comments. Great article though!

  2. For us, it’s been a case of necessity being the mother of invention. Money was tight for me growing up, too so I think being frugal comes naturally to me. But then as an adult, the confluence of student loans and credit card debt has forced my family and me back into frugality. I can say honestly that yes, it bothers me sometimes that people like those you mentioned seem to have it easier or to have “better” stuff than me, but honestly, they might be up to their ears in debt to get that stuff, who knows. I’m actually grateful for the struggles we’ve endured because they brought me to truly understand what’s important to me (time with family, the ability to work from home doing something I enjoy and am good at, gradually working toward a clutter-free home and debt-free lifestyle), and I’ll tell you this: it isn’t STUFF.

  3. I started the frugal lifestyle so we could become a one-income family. I think back to all the money I wasted while I was working and just feel sick. Ugh–could have done so much with that money.

    Now, we are frugal so we can experience things–like going on family vacations and such. Also, we are trying to pay off the rest of our debt and then save for future home projects.

  4. @FFB – your comment made perfect sense – a lot of it does come down to stuff and differentiating between wants and needs. Once you go without, you often realize things you thought you needed were really just wants. Appreciation is a huge part of it.

    @Toni – “I’m actually grateful for the struggles we’ve endured because they brought me to truly understand what’s important to me (time with family, the ability to work from home doing something I enjoy and am good at, gradually working toward a clutter-free home and debt-free lifestyle), and I’ll tell you this: it isn’t STUFF.” – AMEN!!

    @ FloridaChic – I love the point you make about looking back on money spent. I have had my share of spending wildly and I think about how if I thought then how I do now, things would be so different. It’s a good motivator and reminder for me not to ever be that way again. It’s also a value of mine to spend money on experiences rather than things.

    Thanks for your input! I identifying the why in frugality makes it easier to be something we’re happy with than something to feel deprived about.

  5. Norma Hamilton says:

    At age 70, I have had difficult times where we needed to decide which utility to shut off and which to pay the minimum. And other times when I bought whatever struck my fancy, with no thought for the future.

    At this time of my life, I am blessed with a paid off home (400 square feet, but very nice) and a 10 year old car (dependable and efficient, using gas at the rate of 32mpg). By controlling my wants (and using my brains to get the few luxuries I carefully consider before deciding I need them) I am able to save for the time that my necessities become more expensive than they are today. My income will not increase like inflation is bound to, so I try not to be careless with what I have and keep everything in good repair.
    My biggest challenge is resisting “bargains” at thrift stores and yard sales. I have been working at organizing storage and getting rid of excess “stuff” that I had a use for at one time.
    Now I find I rejoice at having passed “stuff” that I once considered a “bargain” and feel a sense of pride when I discard the overloads at local charity thrift stores.

    An empty space is a thing of beauty in my newly revamped frame of mind. It was not an easy thing to change after so many years of celebrating all those “bargains” and a used book sale or yard sale sign still makes my heart beat faster. I handle it all by parceling out each week’s shopping money into my wallet and making it cover the groceries, gas, and spending only the rest in true necessities. If I really want something extra, I try to set some of each week’s money aside for “next week” until there is enough to get the extra goodies. It seems to be working pretty well.

    As to paying bills, I keep a multi-year ledger, with one page per month, and write down the regular and occasional bills and other expenditures on each month’s page, planning ahead for the routine and expected payments I am responsible for. Once in awhile, something unexpected comes up, that is bigger than the current monthly income will pay for. When that happens, I use my charge card (auto repairs; need I say more?) and then use my savings to pay it off each month. This has worked for several years and I have a good cushion for these “emergencies” which do not stress me out because I have provided for them.

    My joys in life come from family, friends, and church/community activities. I have made my solitary activities low cost, except for telephone and DSL computer use. The library’s resources and sharing travel expenses with friends helps a great deal. I do not subscribe to ANYTHING except DSL and find the limited advertising I am exposed to a great relief. Not spending time with newspapers, magazines, and TV really affects my “wants” and saves a lot of financial anguish. I read magazines and newspapers at the library and turn on the TV to see special broadcasts or high profile breaking news (like 9/11 or Katrina), so I am not isolated from the real world. I attend local meetings of government agencies as they interest me and chat with employees of local establishments. These sources of information I find more reliable than TV news or newspapers.

    I would be interested in hearing from any Seniors who have tips or concerns they would like to share or any links to Senior sites that reflect my philosophy of living style.

    I do enjoy your postings and many of the links to other frugal or simplicity sites, however I have found very little for the already retired, necessarily frugal, Senior.

  6. Being frugal makes me feel at peace and content. There is something psychologically soothing about hanging cloth diapers on a line, a couple of decorating magazines picked up at 10 cents a pop at goodwill, food that comes from our own soil and pastures, well made, well worn hand me downs versus cheap-o manufactured “new” clothes from the mall. It makes me feel cut off from the rat race and in tune with nature.

  7. i am a new convert to frugality so you’ll have to take what i say with a grain of salt– but i have been doing a lot of thinking on these matters lately and so I do have a thing or two to say!
    * one of the reasons we decided to downshift is that we managed our money poorly in the past. it got us into some trouble, and it is unpleasant to have to worry about money, especially if you have an income that should theoretically be more than enough to get by on.

    * we realized that most of the time, we weren’t even spending money on things that we really wanted, we were just spending money because the money was there.

    * i am the happiest i have ever been right now, as a newlywed, and during these two years that i have been together with the man that is now my husband. i don’t think a new sundress or a set of ramekins is really going to make me any happier, especially since i don’t need those things!

    * as i mentioned , we are newlyweds and i want our home, our family and our life together to have an ethos. and that ethos is simple, joyful, resourceful, colorful, and delicious, not decadent, “enviable”, splurgy and marked by conspicuous consumption.

    * i hate clutter and my life was getting cluttered.

    *being resourceful and thrifty and creative without a lot of STUFF makes me feel good about myself. which is a huge part of happiness (a much bigger part than MAC lipglass!)

  8. I find it humorous, in our current struggling economy, to watch people being “forced” to be frugal.

    Growing up in a large, frugal family (with parents who experienced the Depression,) I was able to adopt a lifelong lifestyle that includes reusing and “using up” (think squeezing every last ounce of shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) Not to mention portioning food. Because of this lifestyle, when gas prices rose, it was easier to adjust to making only one trip daily in my city from home to work, accomodating errands on the way, etc.

    I even benefitted as a single mom. Though I struggled financially over the last 25 years, I rarely was discontent – another big difference in attitude is knowing the Lord provides all my needs, and all that I have comes from Him. At first I struggled with tithing, not trusting that there would be enough for everything. As I got that monkey off my back, I learned how abundant and generous our Lord (and other people) can be.

    I have been debt free for the past three years, and own a duplex that will be paid off before I retire. I believe in the Lord’s goodness, especially as I don’t think I “deserve” what I have, but it is only by His grace and mercy.

    Lest you think I have it all together….I probably will always struggle a bit with impulse spending, or trying to manipulate my money, rather than sticking to my wise but tight budget. :)

    Thanks so much for your postings. They are well done, informative and affirming.

  9. I started living frugally to pay off debt, however its now become a way of life. I can’t imagine ever living any differently.

    Living a frugal life will enable us to have a life, a life we really want not a life obsessed with material things.

  10. I agree with Laura. Life is about so much more than things. I have not always lived the frugal life but staring debt in the face for too many years it causing me to change my ways. I like my new ways. And, I will like my life even more without our debt.

  11. @ Norma – I really enjoyed reading your story and the journey you have been on. I think you are right that your age is under represented online. It is good to hear from people who have lived a long and frugal life – it’s inspiring and full of lessons. Thank you for sharing!

    @PrairieChick – I could not agree more with the entirety of your comment. It’s really nice to hear others that are living and enjoying a simple life.

    @neimanmarxist – it is a journey – we all have our starting points. Your goals are great ones and I know that your plan will help you reach them. I am especially drawn to your comment “we weren’t even spending money on things that we really wanted, we were just spending money because the money was there.” I have been there, done that and it’s a very astute observation about how things can be if you’re not thoughtful of your resources.

    @Sharon – congratulations on being debt-free! It’s a wonderful feeling and it is so nice to see others aiming for it and enjoying it. I too will always struggle a bit but enjoy being totally debt-free and accept the struggle as part of the journey and a way to make me stronger.

    @ Laura – so perfectly put – “Living a frugal life will enable us to have a life, a life we really want not a life obsessed with material things” Thank you!

    @Denise – you are right – you will like it more and I know just what you mean about liking your new ways. sounds like a bunch of us stumbled upon simplicity and frugality and are enjoying the view. Congrats!

  12. I agree with Prairie Chick’s comments. Being resourceful is part of frugality, I think, and it feels good.

    The connection to nature is the biggest benefit; everything is reduced to focusing on my part in the whole circle of life. When I make sure to focus on my efforts as being CONTRIBUTIONS rather than any kind of deprivations, my resulting feelings are peace and contentment within myself and a greater sense of being a participating part of a beautiful “whole”. I feel like I’m in my rightful place, centered.

    It has taken me a while, but now I view handling finances and acquiring things as a game: how much can I give myself instead of to others who just want to sell me things I don’t truly need. It’s all so much more fun this way, at least for me.

  13. @ Julie – “When I make sure to focus on my efforts as being CONTRIBUTIONS rather than any kind of deprivations, my resulting feelings are peace and contentment within myself and a greater sense of being a participating part of a beautiful “whole”. I feel like I’m in my rightful place, centered.” – beautifully stated! Thanks so much for contributing here!!

  14. I agree with everything you said, it’s not being frugal because you HAVE to, but because your smart enough not waste your hard earned money.

    By the way, I’ve always disliked the word “frugal.” To me it sounds like its a smell. Man you really smell frugal.

  15. I don’t consider myself to be frugal, I just think I’m not materialistic. That is, I like to be comfortable and I’m willing to pay for that comfort, but I don’t long after the latest Gucci purse and 100 pairs of shoes. I guess I consider myself as being simple instead of frugal.

  16. Much of our frugality stems from necessity, though I’m sure there are things we could spend more money on, but don’t. In all honesty, I don’t want to continue living quite as frugally as I am now and I realize that in order to have that, I have to pinch my pennies now.

  17. I started being frugal in college, when I’d work over the summer and have to make that amount last all year for food, utilities, and entertainment. (I was so cheap I actually ended with a surplus each year.) From there, it just became habit.

    I also just have a contrarian streak. If everyone else thinks you have to have a nice car, expensive bags, and granite counters to be cool, I can’t help but try to prove them wrong.

    Fortunately, I enjoy it. But it goes beyond fun. There’s no way I’m going to mortgage my future away for stuff that I won’t care about by then. I want to live well all my life, not just the first half of it.

  18. @ Frank – LOL I used to hate the word frugal. I guess I’ve given in and it sounds better than stingy :)

    @Marelisa – it sounds like frugality has found you through other means. contentedness and not wanting the next best thing is pretty much how I define frugal – being happy with what you have.

    @ Alison – having less “things” now in exchange for more experiences later is a huge reason why I am content with frugality. I want more later instead of mediocre now.

    @ Sara – “There’s no way I’m going to mortgage my future away for stuff that I won’t care about by then. I want to live well all my life, not just the first half of it” – perfectly stated. I know too many who try to have it all at age 25 instead of being happy building up to something fabulous later.

  19. Living frugally to me means stretching my hard earned dollars to get the most out of them. We are frugal to try to stay ahead, or to make ends meet, and so we don’t fall behind. I echo everyone’s sentiments in that life isn’t about stuff, its about the simple pleasures, being able to feel comfortable in your life, and enjoy time with family and friends. But the simple fact is… life is expensive…. even when you aren’t trying to keep up with the Jones’.

  20. I’m with Marelisa. I’m not frugal, I just don’t want all this stuff around me. For a few reasons. 1. most of it is produced at the expense of someone else. There’s enough injustice in this world, why should I contribute more? 2. I sincerely believe that we are overtaxing the global environment. I don’t plan on having kids, but I do wonder what kind of craphole some parents are planning on leaving to theirs. 3. I’d rather spend $ on experiences and memories.
    And of course 4. I break/tear/drop/demolish everything in a week anyway. :)

  21. First I was frugal because I was happy living a relatively simple life, something I learned from my mum. Then came a period of over spending before I realised what buying (and thus being part of producing) all that stuff was doing to our environment as well as ourselves (removing us from the ability to truly appreciate the little things in life, getting into debt, having no funds to fall back on etc) so turned my back on spending and am much happier now that I’m living frugaly again.

  22. What a great post, sorry you’ve had difficult people. One sentence sums up for me why I am frugal:

    I want to be the change I want to see in the world!

  23. Even if I was a millionaire I’d still scour the thrift stores and the endcaps at Target. Why? Because it’s the thrill of a deal for me. The things I spent the most on- my dining room table and bedroom furniture, for example- I hate the most. Pricey does not equal worth it.

  24. @ Justine, you are so right. Sometimes I feel not so frugal but it is a fact that life is expensive so there is only so frugal I can be.

    @deepali, i like to think every teeny frugal thing I can do is a small token to help the world. And even I have a limit to my frugality – like I won’t shop at WalMart because the prices aren’t worth the global impact.

    @Sharon J, it is neat to get to a place where you turn your back on something and find yourself. congrats!

    @Frugal Trenches – beautifully stated.

    @ Marie – I completely agree. The most expensive furniture I own is sitting in a closed off unfinished room in my house because I don’t particularly like it – mostly because it’s shiny and pristine. Definitely not worth it when I don’t even use it.

  25. I’ve just discovered your blog, and so enjoy reading a kindred spirit. My husband and I have been blessed financially – he is gifted with finances, and that has served us well. But we live a very frugal life, because it is the right thing for us. We could afford to have someone clean our house, but what will that teach our children? Or say about how we care for it during the week? We could afford… well, we could afford many things, but things do not make a happy life, do not make for happier people. Living generously, simply, lovingly. Sometimes that means spending, but most often that means saving up and treating each day as a gift.
    Cheers to you – can’t wait to read down into the older days of the blog!

  26. I am naturally frugal. I value money and wouldn’t want to spend it on stuff I don’t value.

  27. First-Class post.Keep up the great work,You should definitely have to keep updating your site

  28. hi
    good luck

  29. If your arietlcs are always this helpful, “I’ll be back.”


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