This post is not typical content for my blog. Frugality. I’ve been a frugal individual pretty much my entire life. Somehow it comes naturally to me. I was raised by depression era parents, so that was likely influential. In recent years environmentalism and minimalism/simple living has become trendy, and I’ve found that my frugality makes me both. At least partly. I’ll see a list of 10 things to do to be more “green” and 8 of the 10 I have done for years for reasons of frugality!
Some people misunderstand frugality or minimalism. It is not about being miserable, unable to buy something or do something. Rather it is about freeing yourself so you are not encumbered by things you don’t value. Less can be more. Living with less can streamline your life in a variety of ways, actually enabling you to do more with your life.
There is also a difference between being frugal vs. being cheap. Everybody knows a cheap person, and probably dislikes them, but I think we can mislabel frugal people as cheap. However, there is a big difference between the two. Awhile back (2010) I surfed around the web looking for “frugal vs. cheap” explanations and shared them on facebook. A little edited, here are some I shared:
Living well for less money is frugality. Leeching off of people to get by is cheap.
Cheap people care about the cost of something. Frugal people care about the value of something. Example: Cheap is buying the least expensive cutting knife, which may break in 6 months and not cut well. Frugal is investing more money in a quality knife that will cut better and last years.
Cheap people try to get the lowest price on everything. Frugal people try to get the lowest price on most things, but spend a lot on items they really care about.
Cheap people think short term. Frugal people think long term.
Cheap people are inconsiderate. For example, when getting a meal with other people, if their food costs $7.95, they’ll put in $8.00, knowing very well that tax and tip mean it’s closer to $11. While the frugal person won’t order a Coke if they’re on a budget, so that when the bill comes, they can properly contribute to the tip and tax.
A cheap person spends money indiscriminately. They buy something they do not need, just because it is a bargain. A frugal person thinks more carefully about their purchases. If you buy something you don’t need just because it is cheap, this has not saved you money!
Frugality involves skimping on yourself. Being cheap means skimping on others. A frugal person still has a spirit of generosity. And may in fact practice frugality so they will have extra resources to help others.
Cheap people are unreasonable and cannot understand why they can’t get something for free. Frugal people will try as hard as cheap people to get a deal, but they understand that it’s hit or miss. Sometimes you get a deal, sometimes you don’t.
You get the idea…
And no one is perfect. While I feel confident that I fall on the frugal side most of the time, I know that on occasion I can drift into cheap. My spouse helps me here!
A last clarification is that living frugally or as a minimalist, does not necessarily have anything to do with your income level. It can be done out of financial necessity, but it can also be practiced simply because you want a streamlined life. You could spend more and have more stuff, but you don’t.
Frugality, minimalism, care for the environment…are different but connected. As a Christian, I feel that that these ways of living are beneficial for Christian living. So many people today are broke or busy or both. Of course, this can be for various reasons, and I don’t want to over simplify a complex issue. But living in a frugal and/or minimalist way can free you for things of eternal significance. It can allow you to be more generous with both your time and money.
*Update: I came across this blog post entitled: A Ten Point Theology For Decluttering.