What Frugality REALLY Means: It’s Not About Being Cheap


Frugality. It’s not exactly an alluring word, is it? Most of us worry that being frugal means living a bleak, depressing life, missing out on “normal” society.

The truth is, frugality simply means applying a bit of thought to how you spend your money. It’s not about being cheap or miserly; it’s about taking control.

Why You Should Give Frugality a Second Chance
Don’t you just hate it when you end up wasting good money because of a dumb mistake?

Maybe you left your phone on the bus and had to buy a new one.

Or you forgot to deposit that check into the bank for so long that it wasn’t valid any more. Or you had to pay a fine because you forgot to take your library books back.

And don’t you just love it when a bit of cleverness saves you a ton of cash?

Maybe you found a fantastic dress on ebay – for half the price as in the shops. Or you compared the price of that new television in a couple of different stores, and saved $100. Or you found out how to fix something, instead of buying a new one.

Well, hey – you’ve got the hang of the frugal mindset already.

Being frugal means:

  • Caring about your money, and trying not to waste it – whether that’s in noticeable ways (like losing your wallet) or less obvious ones (like paying your bills by check when you’d get a discount for using direct debit)
  • Stocking up on your favorite foods when they’re on sale.
  • Borrowing books from your local library or using Amazon’s second-hand sellers, instead of buying every single book new.
  • Cutting out things which are pricey but which you don’t really enjoy.

It’s about valuing your money and getting the most from it – ensuring that you get to spend on the things which you really want.

Do You Want to Be Rich?
I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t say “no” to having more money in the bank, without working a single extra hour. That’s what frugality can bring you – even if you’re on a pretty low salary.

Conversely, even if you earn hundreds of thousands, you could still end up with huge financial problems if you’ve got no idea about how to control your spending.

Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe these two guys:

“Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.” (John Tyler, 10th President of the United States) – 19th century


“The way to wealth depends on just two words, industry and frugality.” (Benjamin Franklin) – 18th century

Being frugal isn’t some newfangled 21st century idea. It’s a tried-and-tested way to live a happy, rich life.

But … Frugality Doesn’t Mean Being Cheap

Cheapness is different from frugality.

Cheapness is when you have enough money but you still:

  • Refuse to spend money on things which you really need (like new clothes).
  • Buy shoddy, low-quality goods – which end up costing you more in the long run.
  • Let friends foot the bill when you go out.
  • Act unreasonably, expecting or demanding a discount (negotiating is different).
  • Refuse to tip in restaurants.

That might mean cutting out the daily latte which you barely even taste, so that you can have an extravagant meal out once a month. It might mean buying one great quality pair of shoes instead of three so-so pairs.

Being frugal means having more money for what you really want. So tell me, what’s so bad about that?

Written on 2/16/2011 by Ali Luke. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Photo Credit: Frugal Yankee
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