When I tell people I meet that I write a blog on frugality, they inevitably say that they too would like to become more frugal. And frugality is definitely the hot topic of the moment, as people try to ride out the recession as best they can. But what is frugality all about, anyway?
Wikipedia describes frugality as the practice of:
- acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner, and
- resourcefully using already owned economic goods and services, to
- achieve a longer term goal.
My mother, queen of self-restraint and frugality (at least until it comes to buying books) says frugality is:
“Being careful how you spend your money, for example not going into a bookstore unless you’re prepared to spend $50 to $100. Paying your bills on time. Really thinking about what you’re going to buy and why you buy it.”
She also only ever pays cash, and never uses a credit card unless she needs to buy a plane ticket online. She’s a big fan of the envelope system, thanks to a reader tip from a past post on Almost Frugal, and now she has envelopes for her gardener, her house cleaner and her new computer fund.
I also asked the question on Twitter. Here’s what people had to say:
- Mmmeg says “frugal is waste not, want not.”
- MonroeOnABudget answers the question “What is being frugal to you?” with the answer “saving money how and where I can, so I can take care of expenses that I can do little about.”
- Swoopup says ” I think it’s being smart with your money.”
For me frugality is acquiring and using goods and services in a restrained manner in accordance with ones beliefs and situation.
I think that people are not necessarily frugal to achieve a long term goal. For me, that implies that once that goal is met, you will no longer be frugal. I also think that people can be frugal in different ways, to different degrees. And these differences will be very much in accordance with their starting points. Learning to be frugal, and becoming frugal after a life of excess looks very different from being frugal from childhood.
I am learning about frugality- I fully admit that I’m not there yet, although I think most of the choices we make are frugal enough. But I think that in fact a lot of my problems come from having a lot of debt and not always enough money to pay my bills every month, not from a problem of not being able to control my spending or always needing to have the best and the latest of everything.
Frugality isn’t about deprivation, nor about buying the cheapest things or spending the least amount of money. It goes beyond money and spending. Frugality is about not leading a life of excess, about appreciating what you have, about making do, about letting go.
What is frugality all about for you anyway? Can anyone be frugal? What does being frugal look like to you?