When someone is frugal, it may be that they do spend less money than the average consumer. But they’re not miserly – or extreme with saving. Being frugal means one is less wasteful and more resourceful and people who live a frugal lifestyle are simply happily living with less.
The key is striking a balance between spending and saving. You don’t want to be a mindless consumer, attempting to keep up with the Joneses; you want to practice conscious spending. Frugal individuals still spend, but they prioritize their purchases to ensure money going out is being used to acquire what is truly important and valuable.
Doesn’t it make good sense to cut back on the things that aren’t important to us, in order to save for what is? That’s the real meaning of being frugal.
Cutting Back on Expenses
The act of cutting back on expenses can be interpreted by some to mean you’re being “cheap.” The average person might not be able to fathom a life without cable, going a year without buying clothing, or limiting dining out to once or twice a month.
However, plenty of happy people have cut back on these expenses – without eliminating them entirely – and they are able to maintain a happy, fulfilling existence.
Lessening your expenses can save you a lot of money in the long run. Let’s circle back to cable TV and use that cost as an example of how a little tweak to what you consume can lead to a big, positive change for your finances.
If you are paying around $80 per month for cable, your yearly TV cost adds up to nearly $1000. Which means that in ten years of paying for cable, you’re looking at $10,000 going out the door. For TV!
Is television truly that important to you? Are there not other cost-efficient options that may help you save without completely depriving yourself of some good ol’ tube entertainment? (I’m talking about internet streaming services like Netflix here, folks.)
The same goes for things like expensive gym memberships. Workout at home, for free, via bodyweight exercises and save your money while you’re at it. Or instead of going out to three movies at the theater per month, grab yourself five RedBox rentals and enjoy an even more movie nights in for much less money.
You don’t have to live like someone in a starring role on TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates. Being frugal simply asks that you make a few changes and choose options that are less expensive where you can.
It’s pretty easy – and painless – to do when you know the importance of knowing exactly what you value and prioritizing your spending.
What Do You Value?
Cutting expenses in one category is going to make it possible to spend more in another. That’s the beauty of spending on what matters to you. If you place a high value on cable, but not dining out, then cut dining out completely. You’ll still be saving by not going out to eat, and you’ll be able to enjoy cable. Again, it’s all about balance and understanding what you personally value.
Have you ever taken a moment to consider what you truly value? Not what your parents might have valued. Not what your friends value. What you value.
Try this exercise. Create a list of items you regularly spend on (coffee, breakfast, lunch, cosmetics, and so on), and then order them from most important to least important. Cut out the ones that are the least important, and be honest with yourself: does going without one or two things on the bottom of the list make you miserable or feel deprived?
Chances are you’re just as happy living without them. And if you’re not quite sure, give it a try. Even if it’s only for a month, try going without something that you placed as least important on the list. You may surprise yourself.
Prioritizing Your Spending
Put your money where your values are, and don’t spend on things that don’t bring you happiness.
Look around your room – are there things laying around that you could do without? Make it a game to only purchase things that will add value to your life. Whatever comes through your front door, it better be worth the money. This will naturally cut out the things you don’t need in your life, and will save you plenty of money as well.
Frugal-minded individuals are all about being resourceful, and not wasteful.
And don’t forget, material possessions are unlikely to make any of us feel fulfilled and satisfied. When we buy more stuff, it’s only a temporary, fleeting happiness that we experience and that feeling is quickly replaced by wanting after the next material thing we’ve had our eye on. Frugal folks understand that experiences and relationships are far more valuable than more stuff we don’t even really need.
Don’t Knock It Until You Try It
It’s easy to view frugality as a pointless endeavor if you haven’t tried it before. Maybe you think couponing is a waste of time (it could be, if you make more money in the time it takes), maybe you believe in the “you only live once” or “you can’t take it with you” mentality, or maybe you think you’re managing your finances just fine so there’s no need to take another look at them.
But if you’ve ever felt a pang of regret over financing purchases just so you could have the latest and greatest, not because it truly made you happy or a better person, but because you were caught up in keeping pace with the elusive Joneses… it may be worth giving a more frugal lifestyle a shot.
What it really means to be frugal is that you understand how to optimize your finances, especially your spending, so you can have a better future free of debt and rife with choices. It’s about creating a good relationship with money, and shedding the stress associated with it. Embrace frugality for what it is: a way to put the focus back on getting the most out of life by saving for what matters and discarding what doesn’t.
By Kali Hawlk, Staff Writer