Frugality, schmugality

Frugal. Fruuuugal. What a fun word to say!  It almost sounds like you are speaking a Scandinavian language when you say it aloud. I can hear in my head the Swedish chef stating something along the lines of “borge booorga froogal noodles!”


While as fun as it is to say the word, it is not quite so fun for some people to practice frugality or even understand its true meaning or origins. One of the most misunderstood words in personal finance is the word ‘frugal.’ Let’s set the record straight with a simple Google search.

adjective: frugal
sparing or economical with regard to money or food.
“he led a remarkably frugal existence”
synonyms: thrifty, economical, careful, cautious, prudent, provident, unwasteful, sparing, scrimping; More

And according to Wiki: In behavioral science, frugality has been defined as the tendency to acquire goods and services in a restrained manner, and resourceful use of already owned economic goods and services, to achieve a longer term goal.[5]

So what this means is a person who is frugal is living a lifestyle with intent, purpose, and discipline in regards to their consumption. This doesn’t just apply to money, this applies to all inefficient areas of one’s life that can be made more efficient.  The frugal individual makes a conscious effort to determine how much value a good/service they purchase will add to their lives and those around them.  While some people may understand the true meaning of the word, others may turn their noses up and think frugal means cheap. I would be willing to put money on the table that if you asked your grandparents what frugal meant and what your friends think frugal meant, you would receive very different answers.  Frugal does not mean cheap.  Nada, nope, not a chance. An individual who is cheap is usually referred to as someone who places a higher value on hoarding their money for themselves, rather than spending on another person(s). People who are cheap are selfish and non-charitable, for whatever reason they justify in their own heads. People that try to save money for themselves at the expense of someone else receiving money for their good or service. The most classic example: People that don’t tip their waiters/waitresses at restaurants are cheap.

I started my second blog post with the topic of frugality because of how important it is to understand what currency and money is.  If you don’t understand the role money plays in your life, then it may very well spiral out of control.  Frugality and money should be taught at an early age, so children have a firm understanding of how this currency comes and goes in our lives.  In some households, children are given an allowance either for work they performed or work they didn’t do at all.  If I could meet any parents that gave an allowance to their children without requiring them to work, I would grab their hand and slap it.  Those parents have successfully trained their children to think entitlements are OK.  They will begin living the rest of their lives thinking that money should be given to them. Not a great way to build a society, huh? Fortunately, I was raised in a household where I received my weekly allowance for the chores that I did.  Thanks Mom and Dad.  I began to understand the value behind the currency.  If I use my body to perform these tasks for these adults, I will receive a piece of paper  or two that allows me to go by toys! Toys are all children think about.  What children don’t think about, is that it is not the toy that provides the happiness, it’s their imagination that lives vicariously through that toy.  I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about children getting all of these elaborate Christmas presents from their parents, only for their parents to find out the children are playing with the boxes that the toys came in.  This is the power of the imagination and this doesn’t cost any money!  I’m not saying you should just go get your kid a cardboard box for Christmas, however, what I’m trying to get at is that money used for material items provides a temporary high, only to go away shortly. Once a child understands how to use money, they are ready for the real world that involve real transactions.  They will understand that debt is bad and it means you have to work even harder to pay back the person/institution that loaned the money PLUS interest.  A lot of adults don’t even understand this concept.


Let’s talk about frugality in history.  Benjamin Franklin, the man, the myth, the legend.  He’s on every $100 that has come into and left your hands in your life. This man knew the value of money and the hard work it took to earn it.  He reminds us that spending money on material possessions will only bring us temporary pleasure. “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and triples that want another way.”  This was a common theme with the Puritans as well as guiding principles of the Amish. Lifestyles before the industrial revolution were very humble, simplistic, and non-materialistic.  People were able to live their lives on very little and still able to achieve happy lives.  If you have ever traveled to 3rd world countries, you will also notice people tend to be incredible warm, happy, and giving of their time and little money that they have.  It is not to say these people don’t endure hardships, death or loss, rather these people are able to enjoy the simplicity of life through love, laughter, and relationships.

I'd get coffee with this guy.

I’d get coffee with this guy.

While frugality is an admirable quality that every sensible human being should strive for, there can be frugal overdrive.  How do you know you are in frugal overdrive (F.O.)?  For starters, if you are denying yourself meals to meet your monthly budget or driving your car until the tires look like this then you have gone F.O. It’s not healthy for you and it is not healthy for your loved ones and friends.  Being F.O. only hinders your quality of life and is not sustainable.

I encourage you to think more about what frugal means to you and how it applies to your life.  Are you frugal, a spendthrift, or somewhere in between?  Think about things that you can begin cutting out of your life, and determine if those sacrifices decrease your quality of life and happiness.  If it makes you unhappy, then don’t do it.  If you realize you are still happy while you begin to cut things out of your life, then you are becoming more frugal, and saving your money for more important things in your life.  Always remember to be penny wise and never pound foolish, meaning, don’t save all of your money only to spend it all at once.  I’ll talk about the many ways you can save, invest, and eventually give away this money in future posts, so stay tuned!


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