Questions to Ask Ourselves about Frugality

FrugalityIn 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” GameOr 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?

Comments

  1. I totally feel the same way! Things that once semeed so important just don’t matter anymore. I used to want allthe electronic gadgets and other stuff, but I don’t care about that anymore. I have been selling, giving or throwing out the things that just clutter up the house and I just don’t want anymore. Less really is more. You feel like you have something heavy lifted off your back and it feels good.I have never been one to buy something I couldn’t afford. I would usually save up andbuy it outright than carry a credit card balance. And if I do use my credit card, I make sure I have enough money saved up to pay it off every month. I have been paying extra on my mortgage and will finally be done with it next month. I just like knowing I actually own my home and not the bank. And even though I will have more money at the end of the month, I still have no urge to go out and buy stuff. I will up my automatic payments into some of my mutual fund and other investments. The rest will go to cover the things that I really do need. Car and homeowner’s insurance. Health insurance and medical bills. Utility bills, gas and food. I can live very modestly and could care less about keeping up with what other people have. I amgood at fixing and building stuff and am gonna concentrate on fixing up the things in my house. I just felt paying off my mortgage was more important than re-doing some badly needed upgrades in the bathrooms. Leaking showers, bad wall paper and new toilets which will save money by using less water. I also need a new roof, but that is going to have to wait. Just living as simply as possible makes things so much easier. I think if you haven’t used something inover a year, it should be gotten rid of. I am not talking about everything, but maybe that blender you don’t use anymore or those clothes that are just sitting taking up space in a closet.I did splurge and redid my kitchen. I like to cook and I figured why not have a nice kitchen to do it in. I hired my own contractors and combining sale items with being able to do a lit of the work myself, I probably did the kitchen fir half if what it actually should have costs. But I did it in pieces. Doing the appliances one year than the rest of the kitchen the next. I was able to pay for it without having to take out a loan.Just having a nice little house that is comfortable, nice and everything works is a great feeling. I se my neighbors get the newest or best and I don’t even care. I fix everything in my house from cmputers to cars. I always felt I could do a better job than someone you could just hire. But since all my friends know this, I end up fixing all their stuff. It’s not a bad trade, they make me dinners and brownies and cookies for me. So I usually don’t need much when I grocery shop because someone is almost always feeding me. But I still like to cook and especially for friends. When you can have people over to your house and be able to entertain, that’s worth more than any new dangled thing. I still get busted about having a six year old Mac, but when something breaks or burns out, I have some other broken computers that I have and pirate the parts out of them to keep this one running. So I just think living simply and having no debt if you can is the best way to go. Now I can go on the vacations I want and splurge a little by staying at really nice hotels. You can’t take it with you, so why not just have what you need to be comfortable and enjoy life. Accumulating things just isn’t important anymore. Being with friends and family is better than all those. But having a big screen TV so you can have your buddies over to watch sports or movies is a must have!

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