What does it mean to be frugal? There are some definite misconceptions among many on what it means to be frugal or live a frugal lifestyle.
Many people who have not yet embraced a more frugal way of living equate frugality with being cheap. This is, of course, not to say there aren’t cheap people in the world because there are. The world is made up of a variety of types – from the spendthrift, those who have to “keep up with the Joneses” right on down to the miserly and cheap with everything in between.
Understanding what being frugal means is key to embracing a lifestyle that is often misunderstood. A frugal lifestyle is not a “less is more” way of living in all aspects. Frugal living is in keeping with making the most of what you have. It’s using your time, money and resources to their best possible means. Everyone has at their disposal a set amount of money or income, a set amount of time in a day (24 hours) and a network of resources that can provide ways to get more for what you have by creating a more frugal lifestyle.
Frugal, by definition, is characterized by or reflecting an economical use of resources. While these resources most often equate to money and income, this is not totally the case. Your time and other resources have value as well. Those who embrace the frugal lifestyle know it’s about weighing out all the options and what is best. It’s about thinking smart and savvy and figuring out what is best in the long run. People who live a frugal lifestyle know that cheaper isn’t always better. They balance that concept with the old adage “You get what you pay for” to determine what provides the best value for their money, time and resources.
The term frugal, according to Merriam-Webster dates all the way back to it’s first known use in 1590. It is derived from Middle French and Latin. Frugalis means virtuous and frugal comes from roots in French frux (meaning fruit) and akin to it’s Latin counterpart frui, which means to enjoy. One could safely conclude by the root of the word that the saying “Enjoy the fruits of one’s labor” might be in keeping with what people are doing when trying to live a frugal lifestyle.
Synonyms of the word frugal include: economical, economizing, provident and thrifty. It does not mean being cheap but rather making good decisions about the use of one’s resources and how to stretch the family budget. Embracing a lifestyle within one’s means while finding ways to save and find added value is truly what frugal living is all about. It’s striking a balance between learning how to live with less, which equates often to spending less, with still finding contentment in life and meeting your personal and your family’s needs.
Frugal living is about living and making decisions that are smarter. Making the decision to attempt to live a more frugal lifestyle does not equate to living the life of a church mouse. It’s not about deprivation and extreme sacrifice. It’s about finding a way to make your money and resources go further so you can actually embrace a simpler, less complicated life that actually helps you achieve the things you want in life. Frugal living begins with smarter money management, budgeting and making sound decisions of what gives you the most value for your money, time and resources.
Smart money management begins with knowing what you can afford and vowing to live within your means. It’s taking what you have, making the necessary decisions to provide for your needs but yet stretching the family budget as far as it will go. Often times, it means opting for less convenience, like do-it-yourself options. It also means figuring out a way to find the best deal on everything, or as many items in your life and range of needs, that you possibly can.
Frugal living is the polar opposite of a “shop til’ you drop” mentality. It doesn’t mean you do without, it just means you exercise some judgement, due some research, delay gratification and perhaps find it online for cheaper or wait for sales. It’s about self-control and knowing what does not fit in your current budget and then figuring out a way to either delay the purchase or find an alternative way to purchase it that fits into the budget.
Those who embrace a frugal lifestyle still live a normal life. They eat, they clothe themselves and their families, they have all the necessary things in life. They own cars. They run their air conditioning. They have bills just like everyone else. But those who vow to live a more frugal lifestyle make those little changes that can add up to savings. When you are saving money, time or resources in one aspect of your life, you open up the possibilities of having more money, time or resources in another area of your life.
Doesn’t that make good sense?
In today’s world, one can not escape the dismal news about the economy, unemployment and the like. Many found themselves in debt because they did not live a frugal lifestyle. That is not to impune anyone because it’s hard not to live in an instant gratification mindset when everywhere you turn society pushes the concept of having it now, buying on credit and the like. Temptation is and has been everywhere. Stores are designed that way. They purposely tempt you to spend and buy more. They sweeten the deal with offers of discounts for taking out credit cards and such. Society has anything but taught us about delayed gratification or the art of bargain shopping.
In years past, our grandparents or ancestors did not live in an instant gratification society. They lived a much simpler lifestyle. Their’s was a life where they paid cash as they went, lived within their means and didn’t have access to or believe in things like credit. They were true do-it-yourselfers, more self-sufficient and less reliant on things like convenience. We could learn a lot from generations past!
The good news is it’s not too late for anyone who wants to make a change in their life and embrace a more frugal way of living. It can start as easily as today and with daily action steps can bring about a new way of life over time. It begins with taking assessment of your money, time and resources and creating a budget and way of living that gets you more for less. It will require a shift in thinking for many but if you can achieve that, you can begin to crawl out of the things like credit card debt and the like that have bogged you down for years. When you take the fruits of your new frugal lifestyle and use them to pay down the mistakes of the past and move forward, you are well on your way to living a lifestyle that is in fact simpler, smarter and more savvy! Here’s to a journey to a more frugal lifestyle!