In the current economy many people are cutting back on “extras”, or at least attempting to. But are we as frugal as we think we are?
Maybe we should start by getting clear on what frugality means to each of us. As we know, frugality can have a full range of definitions and connotations which range from the negative, i.e., being a Scrooge-like miser, to the positive, i.e., being a monk-like minimalist.
In general, as expressed in this blog post entitled: “Frugality – Not Just for the Poor”, frugality is described by The Frugal Goddess as a positive, i.e., “it is about getting the maximum out of available resources.”
Clearly “cutting back” is not the same as adopting frugality as a lifestyle, but it is definitely a step in the right direction, especially if building up savings and digging out of debt (or similarly: trying to lose weight; or getting healthier; or managing our time better; etc.) is our ultimate long-term goal.
Is there value in being “only sometimes” frugal? That all depends on: which definition of frugal we are using; what our goals are; and also if we are as frugal as we think we are.
For example, let’s say we are “frugal” on 90% of our supermarket shopping (or dieting; or exercising; or time management; etc.), but then feel we deserve to splurge on some extras which end up costing us more than we initially saved. Is that maximizing resources? Or is that being “penny wise and pound foolish”, i.e., “overcareful about trivial things and undercareful about important ones”?
Can we really be happy being frugal in a world of plenty alongside “the Joneses”? Excess spending (or, over-eating, or mindless TV watching/gaming, etc.) can quickly become a lifestyle choice without us even realizing we’ve made those choices. Cutting out (or at least cutting back on) those things that we don’t “need” shouldn’t be considered a sacrifice or deprivation (though it may seem so at first) because those are things that are not adding real value to our lives anyway.
Maybe the question we should be asking is: Does this “Excess Stuff” (or Fast Foods/Snacks, or Time Killers, etc,) truly make us happier in the long run (though it may seem it does in the short term) and does it get us closer to achieving any goal(s)?
Is frugality an “All or Nothing” Game? Or can we strike a balance between the two extremes? What if we filled the voids created by what we cut back on with a new appreciation for the simple things of life that would become more apparent if we only believed they existed and we made the effort to find them (e.g., calm; peace of mind; patience; relaxation; awareness; etc.)?
Articles that I recommend which further exemplify the benefits of frugality include:
(1) “Simplify, and Savor Life” by Leo Babuto, Zen Habits.
(2) In “Black Friday: The World Tells You to Shop, We Ask You to Stop” by Inhabitat, consider this quote: “We may live in a world governed by consumerism, but next time you’re standing in hour-long queues with a cart-full of goods, you should really consider whether or not this is something you could skip. We think those hours could certainly be spent more wisely with the same friends and family you happen to be shopping for.”
(3) “What Is Frugality Really?” by The Frugal Goddess.
What questions would you ask yourself (or others) about frugality?