Frugality is a lifestyle choice of cutting back on spending to save more and live on less but frugality isn’t for everyone. In a world obsessed with consumerism, and yes, we are obsessed, just check out the multiple shopping channels hawking everything from blenders to vacuum cleaners, gym equipment and much more. There’s a fast food chain on almost every corner of every suburb and advertisements showing us how easy it is to get a loan just by picking up the phone.
Being frugal means saying ‘no’ to the above and saying it proudly. It means not being persuaded or swayed towards opening up your wallet for non-essential purchases. And let’s face it, much of what people buy these days is non-essential. Do you really need a fourth pair of jeans when the other three pairs sitting in your wardrobe are perfectly fine? What about the ten pairs of heels that are crowding your entryway? Could you have made a cup of coffee at home instead of going to the drive thru for a double shot caramel soy latte?
Living frugally is being economical with your money, your food, and whatever else you might buy. It means finishing everything in the fridge and pantry before heading out to the grocery store. It might mean starting your own vegetable and herb garden. Or it might be cycling to work instead of driving. Frugality can effect one lifestyle variable or it can effect multiple variables. The choice is yours.
It definitely has its benefits but also its drawbacks. It’s easy to see the reasoning behind making frugal choices every day – making money last beyond your next pay packet, increasing the savings account and not being wasteful. Because let’s face it, the developed world is extremely wasteful.
What are the pros and cons of frugality?
Saving money is one of the biggest perks of being frugal. You spend less you save more. Your bank balance grows and you become financially free or independent or wealthy sooner rather than later, or at least you hope you would.
Frugality can also make you healthier. Since going out to dinner at a restaurant or stopping for fast food on your way home from the office is not an option it’s likely that you are cooking more nutritious meals at home and it’s so easy to make nutritious meals that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
Another benefit is the reduction of waste. Less plastic bags, less paper towels, more composting and recycling. We are a wasteful society and frugality often results in lowering our personal wastage. Can you relate to the cutting up the toothpaste tube to scrape out the last bits of toothpaste on the packaging for a few days?
But just like everything else, frugality does come with some disadvantages too.
Consumerism makes the economy go down. As soon as people stop spending the economy seems to dwindle and the media goes into a frenzy panicking about a recession and hinting of another great depression. Let’s face it, if we want to keep the economy turning and ensure unemployment levels stay manageable we need to spend.
Frugality can also have a negative impact on our level of happiness. Sure you’re saving on your grocery bill, your using solar to heat your house, you’ve started a vegetable patch and you’ve sold off your car. Your bank balance is growing but your life revolves around going to work, coming home, pottering around, ensuring you haven’t exceeded your daily quota of oats or water, going to bed, and then repeating the cycle. You’re saving and that’s great, but is it at the expense of living?
Can you be a personal finance blogger and not be frugal?
A while ago I wrote a list of things to do that are mostly free. They bring me great pleasure and satisfaction and don’t involve breaking the bank or even opening up my wallet. That doesn’t mean I’m frugal. I’m not, far from it. Just put me in a shopping centre and I’ll always find something I need and I will buy it. Going out for a coffee with friends or my other half a few times a week is a must, especially now that I’m on maternity leave and spend 100% of my time with an infant who is not yet the greatest of conversationalists, plus I need a reason to get out of my comfy pyjamas in the morning.
I’m a personal finance blogger, I’m a consumer, I love spending as much as I love saving, and I’m happy to say, I’m far from frugal.
I do however make choices and sometimes these choices result in me saving money. I love shopping when the sales are on. I prefer to go out for breakfast than dinner. I love to experiment in the kitchen. I like the idea of growing my own herbs. I don’t need an expensive gym to stay fit. I love seeing my bank balance grow each fortnight. I really like it when we keep our grocery bill under $150 per week but I won’t sacrifice a delicious salmon fillet for it.
The truth is that there are many successful personal finance bloggers out there who aren’t necessarily frugal. They know where to cut spending without sacrificing on life satisfaction. They focus on making more rather than just spending less. Here’s just a few that don’t focus on being frugal but more on lifestyle design:
IWTYTBR – Cut out coffee to save $3 per day. Ramit will laugh at you. That’s why I like him. It’s all about making more and living more.
MSOC – I love Michelle’s post on her income goals and successes. Raking in 5 figures each month in freelancing income in her twenties is fantastic effort and it means having more choices when it comes to spending and saving.
Afford Anything – I started reading this one not too long ago and I love the idea of creating a passive income through real estate investing, spending more time travelling and being location independent.
You can be smart with money without resulting in self deprivation. Ok, so a little self deprivation or as I like to think of it as delayed gratification at the start of your journey can be beneficial but remember you don’t want to be the richest dude or dudette in the cemetery now, do you?
Frugality is beneficial when you’re working on eliminating personal debt or saving for a house deposit or a six month overseas adventure or whatever your goal may be. By cutting down on your every day spending you can reach those goals much faster but in the long term frugality is overrated nor does it make you a martyr of finance world either.
It’s foolish to think that we all can or even should live frugally. Spending keeps the economy turning. When too many people stop spending businesses lose money which leads to job losses and an increase in unemployment. An increase in unemployment can increase the crime rate and drive the economy into a recession. Neither of which scenarios are good.
That doesn’t mean we should spend everything we earn either. Personal finance is personal and needs to be adapted to individual needs. There are thousands if not hundred of thousands of personal finance bloggers around the world sharing their thoughts, knowledge, world views, opinions and experiences. Not all might agree on everything or they may just agree to disagree on certain theories. In the end whatever you read you need to adapt to your own circumstance and personality to reap the most benefits.
Sometimes frugality isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity whether it’s by the poor choices you’ve made in the past, the loans you’ve taken to maintain your level of lifestyle, the life hurdles you’ve had to face, or something else. So in the end or at the beginning, you have to figure out what works best for you. Spend less than you earn, aim to earn more, enjoy the simple pleasures but don’t bereave yourself of all indulgences. Find a balance between hedonism and self denial that makes you happy and enjoy the journey, wherever it may take you.
How important is being frugal to you? Do you think being frugal is necessary to become financially free?