What Exactly is the Frugal Lifestyle?

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The Frugal lifestyle

Like many things it takes discipline to live the frugal lifestyle. Frugal living has been a very popular topic especially in the last several years or so, with economic downturn, major life changes and so forth. Some of us had to make lifestyle changes in order to move forward with everyday living. Let’s take a look at what it means to be frugal, gain clarification by dispelling myths and look at how you can live the frugal lifestyle.

Being Frugal Means You’re Smart About Spending

The main point to living a frugal lifestyle is that it means you are smart about how, when and where you spend money. You have to make a conscious decision to live frugally. It is a decision to live more deliberately and to be more proactive. It is also a decision and great opportunity to dump bad habits as well!

People who live a frugally are not poor or cheap – I personally prefer the term money conscious.  Frugal people are disciplined and spend wisely.  They chose to make the conscious decision to live below their means and they spend on what’s important first.  They also don’t go out and buy all the latest and trendiest gadgets.  If anything, the frugal person is concerned with quality over coast (“How long will this item last?”) This is one of several reasons why they are not drowning in debt. 

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Characteristics of a Someone Who is Frugal

  • Unwasteful – simply put, nothing is wasted. Everything is used for something.
  • Aware – being aware of where you are financially
  • Prudent – being careful and thoughtful of your spending
  • Resourceful – able to overcome difficulties, usually quickly and cleverly
  • Proactive – always thinking ahead (but, not to the point of insanity)
  • Goal oriented – sets realistic goals for self and/or family
  • Patient – willing to wait for results, is not of the “I want it now” mindset
  • Sensible – usually practical, realistic and responsible
  • Learns from past mistakes – in its simplest terms, not repeating the same mistakes in the past and expecting different results…thinks rationally

Frugal vs. Cheap

There is a HUGE difference between frugal living and just plain being cheap…I know cheap people and more often than not, they’re being cheap either to not spend money; or, to inflict hurt on those around them.  In a way, if you’re being cheap and purposefully withholding resources (a.k.a., money) from people, charities, etc you personally miss out on helping those around you.  I look at being able to help others as a blessing and a gift. With the main goals and tenets of the frugal lifestyle in mind, I hope to be able to help others decipher the differences between the two.

Being cheap, at its core, is merely about spending less! The cheap approach can hurt others – I call it the Scrooge mentality. This person is always looking to spend the least amount on something, or on someone. They probably could care less about the quality of a product or service. It comes down to “how little can I spend on this good or service?” This is not at the core of the frugal lifestyle. In fact, this is the absolute opposite.

It is Possible to Be Frugal and Happy at the Same Time!

You certainly can be frugal and be happy. It all boils down to how your approach. A frugal person is more likely than not to have certain financial goals (savings, investing, charity, etc). I think it takes more discipline to live frugally as opposed to being cheap.

My husband hates the subject of money – he has different ideals about money than I do and we have separate bank accounts at this time. He views it as an ugly subject and yet likes to spend at his whim; but, to the contrary, it can be a very good subject. I choose to look at money as somewhat of an ally, as opposed to an enemy. I believe that this is where embracing the frugal lifestyle will help.

It is all in your overall attitude. If you approach the subject of money (any subject for that matter) with disdain and preconceived notions, guess what? You may as well have not approached it at all. Your overall approach will determine the outcome – approach the subject with negativity, you’ll get a negative outcome. Approach in a positive light, need I say more?

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How to Become Frugal

You can become frugal by first eliminating the words cheap and the latter from your vocabulary. Remember, just because you wish to be more frugal in life does not mean that you’ve become Ebenezer Scrooge. As stated previously, it’s a lifestyle change and, depending on your thoughts on where you are financially, a change for the better.

Be sure to set financial goals for you and your family. Get your family involved with clear understanding that you’re not losing your home, you will be able to eat tomorrow, etc. Explain to them the what the frugal lifestyle entails and the wonderful ideas and goals that you’re thinking of. Get them involved and see if they have goals as well. You can even make it fun by setting up challenges.

Is Being Frugal Good or Bad?

Being frugal is bad to people who do not know the true meaning of being frugal. Unfortunately, I think that being frugal has been unfairly equated to being cheap. It’s best to prepare yourself from the flack you may face and grow a thick skin. Unfortunately, frugal people and cheap people are the same to those who don’t know the major differences between the two.

The frugal lifestyle, if implemented correctly and without driving yourself nuts in the process, can be a very good thing. However, if you take frugality to the far extreme end of things, you can hurt yourself and those around you, as well as find yourself alienated from those you’re close to. It’s best to keep in mind a growth mindset when approaching this for the first time.

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The Many Advantages to the Frugal Lifestyle

  • Can be good for the environment – using less helps the environment because there’s less being tossed away everyday. Chances are you’re also reusing and repurposing items (containers, furniture, etc). You also may be donating to places like Goodwill and Salvation Army. I am not sure if all Goodwills do this – but, one of our local Goodwills encourages repurposing on their website.
  • Less stress – if done correctly, this can lead to less stress for you, at least financially. You’ll know that you have that “safety net” and that you did not overspend.
  • More resources to share – you’ll be able to donate to your favorite charities. You’ll also be able to help a friend, a relative, a neighbor…the possibilities to help are endless!
  • Fosters creativity – let’s face it, shopping at the fancy schmancy places can cost an arm and a leg. Personally, I love to check out Pinterest and see what other creative people are doing to decorate their homes, or repurpose their wardrobe. It is amazing what you can do with Dollar Tree items these days. And don’t get me started on the Cricut creatives!
  • Makes you evaluate priorities – this is one of the hardest things for me. I am a workaholic; but, I am taking steps to curb this. Taking on the frugal lifestyle is making me re-evaluate a lot of things, including my family and how much time I spend with them. Overall, I believe that I will be able to spend more quality time with family without going broke in the process.
  • Better overall health – healthcare is expensive; but, it is a necessity…you’ve got to take care of yourself. There are simple things that can be done to help keep you healthy, like walking, riding a bike, eating right, etc. I cut out a lot of soda, I only drink ginger ale once or twice a week. The advantages to this alone are twofold – I save money and lose weight (dropped seven pound just from this simple task alone, hollar!)
  • Less guilt about spending – have you ever bought something that cost way more than you were willing to spend? Thoughts of “I could have put that money in savings!” starts to creep in a bit. Being disciplined enough to just say “No!” to impulse buying and overspending all-together will help cut down on those guilty feelings.
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