If you’ve been reading personal finance blogs for some time, you’ve probably seen the words frugal or frugality used quite a few times.
Frugality is not just a fancy word for being cheap. Frugality is actually a lifestyle and has its own separate meaning.
There are quite a few official definitions of the word frugal and they include: economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful; requiring few resources; entailing little expense.
To me, frugality means being resourceful and mindful of how you spend and save money whereas being cheap basically involves doing whatever it takes to avoid spending money at all.
Being too cheap can also put you and your family in a scary situation if it puts their health or well being at risk. Being frugal allows you to utilize the resources you have and stay in your comfort zone so you can make financial choices because you want to make them and not because they’re the cheapest route to take.
The Benefits of Adopting a Frugal Lifestyle
When you live a frugal lifestyle, you’ll naturally spend less at time because you’re being resourceful and mindful about how you spend money. Frugal people often opt to cook and eat at home instead of go out to dinner multiple times per week.
They may choose to shop for clothes that are on sale or at consignment shops instead of going to the mall and buying designer clothes. This is why there are so many benefits of being frugal. Being frugal can allow you to:
- Spend less than you earn
- Pay off debt faster
- Potentially retire earlier
- Live a life with less financial stress
- Reduce your chances of getting back into debt
- Enjoy a simplified lifestyle
In addition, living a frugal lifestyle may provide you with more time to do other things outside of work since you won’t feel the pressure to earn more money to meet the needs of a demanding lifestyle. If you’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses, you might feel better about taking an off day especially if your living expenses are low.
Starting When You’re Broke
So is it hard to become more frugal? Won’t you feel like you’re depriving yourself? Adopting a frugal lifestyle is something I think most people should do because contrary to popular belief, it’s pretty easy especially if you become frugal by necessity.
When I started embracing frugality, I was broke so it was easy to want to spend less and make the most of what I had. I didn’t have the many expenses to cut, and I wanted to live a comfortable lifestyle while I increased my income.
Being frugal allowed me to relieve myself from the pressure to spend money on everything society was telling me to spend it on. I set a budget, and realized I didn’t need to purchase a new phone or car every other year and that I could travel and entertain myself without spending an arm and a leg.
I also started making simple changes like bringing my lunch to work each day and realized it freed up more money than I originally thought I had.
It’s best to adopt frugal habits when you don’t have much money so you can become accustomed to the lifestyle and avoid lifestyle inflation when you do start to earn more.
Get Clear on Your Values
Ready to adopt a frugal lifestyle as well and enjoy all the benefits it provides? You need to get clear on your values first. Even if you are being frugal out of necessity, it’s still a conscious choice you have to make.
Decide why you want to become frugal and what you want to get out of it. Do you want to pay off debt or stop living paycheck to paycheck?
Do you want to retire early or take mini retirements? Are you ready to start controlling your money.
It’s funny, from the outside looking in, frugality looks like it sucks. It doesn’t seem fun to say no to the things everyone else seems to have fun doing. In hindsight, frugality is all about having more control over your money and choosing how you want to use it based on your values.
Once you get clear on your values, you can practice value-based spending. If you value family, you might not mind flying out to visit some of your relatives over the holidays. Again, a cheap person probably wouldn’t do this but a frugal person has full control over their money and would find an economical way to travel since it’s something they value.
When you practice value-based spending, it feels much better than spending money on something someone else values.
Eliminate the Clutter
When you become frugal, you may start to realize that less is more. It’s important to declutter your life every now and then so you can ensure you never lose sight of your main vision.
Once you get clear on your needs and values, you may realize that you don’t need some of the clutter that sounds you mentally and physically.
This may mean cutting some variable expenses that aren’t important to you like cable, your cell phone bill, monthly subscriptions, etc. Take the time to organize your finances and make sure you are setting realistic goals that you are eager to achieve.
When it comes to physical clutter, feel free to get rid of items and clothes you are not even using or that aren’t adding value to your life.
Frugality will allow you to embrace a creative side you never thought you had. Since being frugal allows you to have more control over how you spend and save your money, you have the freedom to choose how you manage your finances and your life without spending a ton of money.
Since we choose to eat at home most of the time, I’ve found and created some great recipes over the past few years that my family really enjoys. I’ve also found creative ways to have fun with family and friends by utilizing coupons, local deals sites, and just doing things differently.
Instead of running out to the store when I need something, I check to see what I already have at home and how I could make it work to meet my needs. I’m not going to lie, finding creative ways to live frugally and save money is actually kind of fun.
It also feels great when I can put more money to important goals like paying off debt and saving.
To answer the original question about whether a frugal lifestyle is different or adapt and maintain, I don’t think it’s that hard at all. I actually think it’s pretty easy and very beneficial because you make your own choices and set your own rules.
Whether you live in a big city or a rural town, declare what your values are and do what works for you. There is no right or wrong way to be frugal.