Being frugal is absolutely a choice. It must be a conscious decision to spend your money wisely. Unconscious or status spending is what gets us in trouble! Especially with the economy settling into a new normal after the Great Recession, frugality is quite a wise decision.
Being frugal is spending your money wisely and not going into debt for things. Being cheap is always going for the best deal regardless of quality. Being a tightwad means not wanting to part with money under any circumstances. While many people have tried to rehabilitate the words “cheap” and “tightwad” (most notably The Tightwad Gazette newsletter and books from some years ago, and the America’s Cheapest Family series of books more recently), they still retain some of their old, unsavory meanings for most people.
Frugality is not about self sacrifice and denial any more than minimalism is. Frugality is about saving money and resources, and about good old fashioned ingenuity. Wear it out, make do, or do without. Sometimes the most frugal choice is to splurge on something that will last. Sometimes it’s to make it yourself. And let me tell you, there is a certain pride that goes along with solving your problems this way. I can’t wait to show off my frugal fixes to anyone who will look. Self-sacrifice is about not having something that you want, so is denial. Frugality is about rearranging your ideas of what you need to make you happy. Reduce, reuse and recycle are frugal ideas. If you want something, wait a little while. If you still want it, see if there’s a way to make it yourself, get it for free, or at least inexpensively. It takes patience, and that can be hard to come by, but it’s not about denial.
As I said above, it’s not about pinching every penny, it’s about wise spending. Spend only what you can afford without going into debt (keep a well funded emergency fund for those times you need the new thing Right Now), and explore alternative ways of getting what you need. And, I’ve said it before, I’m not much of a couponer anymore. I still save money by shopping store sales and being willing to go to more than one place to find deals.
Ha! This one cracks me up. Yes, we live in a world of excess in developed nations. This is where frugality, minimalism, and being environmentally aware meet. True frugality doesn’t necessarily mean doing without. It certainly means doing with less though. So does minimalism. If you need a bigger house to store all of your stuff, or a storage space, it’s not terribly frugal. By being more environmentally aware, we become more frugal in many areas. Composting gives wonderful garden soil for nothing but scraps and time. Organic gardening is less expensive than gardening with chemical fertilizers and weed killers. Having less stuff reduces the amount of space you need to store it all and makes you feel lighter in general. True frugality is more than possible, it’s probably easier than ever with the profusion of choices out there.
Frugal people do not have to sacrifice fashion and style. This is one I’ve said before, too. Thrift stores and consignment stores carry a profusion of name brands at amazing prices. My entire wardrobe right now consists of thrift store finds. Blue jeans, sweaters, dresses, slacks, blouses, all in classic styles (I’m not terribly trend conscious) bought for under $10 a piece. Even if you are trend conscious, skinny jeans are all over thrift stores. Sometimes you just can’t find it at the thrift store though. Department stores are always a season ahead of the weather, so if you wait a little while, not only will you see which trends are sticking around for the season, but you can get them on clearance when the stores start prepping for the next season’s clothes. If there’s a trend I particularly like I tend to buy the accessories for it on sale and wear those with my more versatile, classic pieces.
And finally, this is one I told myself for a long time. It’s just too hard. In my case it was sheer laziness that kept me from doing it, and a conviction that I wasn’t creative enough. After all, you need to be creative to come up with all of those frugal fixes for things, right? Wrong! Tutorials abound on the internet for everything under the sun. Instructables.com and ehow.com have a TON of instructions for just about anything you can think of. Google is a goldmine! Yes, frugality takes some patience and some set up time (I’m thinking of the price book here), but being able to get out of debt and start doing all those things you’ve dreamed about doing? Worth it! Being able to finally make ends meet? Worth a little time. I probably spend about two hours a week on average (that’s factoring in my one big cooking session a month as well as the 10 minute sessions of meal planning) doing frugal things and it’s already saved me hundreds of dollars.
Frugality is about doing more with less and learning to use what you have.