Photo courtesy of Michel Filion
At least a couple times a week I get asked some version of the following question, “Have your thoughts on frugal living changed since you started your blog?” The direct answer is a resounding, “Yes and No”. Yes, writing about frugal living has helped make me more accountable to a more simple way of life. No, interacting with thousands of readers has not changed my own personal opinions on frugal living, but it has opened my eyes a bit to how society as a whole views the practice of frugality.
In just over eight months I’ve received over 5,000 comments from readers here at Frugal Dad. That does not count the dreaded spam comments, but it does include links from others who referenced pieces here at Frugal Dad. I didn’t take the time to filter out those for purposes of this article. I have attempted to summarize the comments into ten “truths” about frugal living–some for, and some against, the lifestyle of simple living.
- Living frugal is not for everyone. To the self-righteous frugalist this news is disappointing. After all, if they can live frugal and be happy, then so should everyone else! That is just not the case. Turns out everyone is different (shocking, I know). Personalities, life experiences, and personal situations often drive how people choose to spend money, or not spend money.
- Everyone has a different level of tolerance for practicing frugality. Not everyone is as gung-ho about rinsing out Ziploc bags, making homemade detergent, or line-drying their clothes. Some people pick and choose frugal tips to implement, but don’t go all out. Others try to save as much as possible in all areas of their lives.
- Frugal living is not just about saving money. The most obvious benefit of frugal living is reduced expenses, but there is another benefit that motivates many to live frugally. Those who make a conscious effort to reduce waste are making an impact in the environment around them. Actually, a better way to say that is they are making less impact on the environment around them.
- There is a difference in being frugal, and being cheap. I dedicated an entire post to this idea a couple months ago, because I saw a lot of comparisons to the two types around the web, and I fielded questions on the subject as someone who wrote about being frugal. Cheap people are often consumed with deals–finding the cheapest bottom line price available. Those following a frugal lifestyle will invest more up front to get a quality product that will last longer, and require less repair/maintenance costs over time. Frugal people will often pass on buying something they don’t need, even if it is a deal.
- Frugal types are spiritual types. I am a Christian. I suspect not everyone who reads Frugal Dad shares my same beliefs, and that is perfectly fine. However, I do believe most of the people who follow a life of frugality are “spiritual” people, whether that means they are Christians, Buddhists, or a non-denominational believer in some form of higher power. Most frugal followers I’ve interacted with receive as much comfort from their spirituality as their frugality.
- Frugality is about being good stewards of resources. There is a connection between frugal followers and the environment, and not just because we are into square foot gardening. The connection goes deeper, and is centered in the idea that we should be good stewards of our resources, natural and otherwise. Frugal people tend to be less wasteful, and more concerned with environmental issues, but not overly critical of those who don’t follow these ideas. In other words, your average frugalist isn’t out beating people up for not setting the recycling bin by the curb on Friday morning! They simply live this way because it lines up with their own personal beliefs.
- Frugality and debt don’t mix. It is hard to live a simple existence when you are struggling to keep up with credit cards and car payments. Debt forces us to stay in bad jobs. It drains our mental resources, zapping creativity and inspiration. It cheapens future earnings thanks to interest. It adds unnecessary risk to our lives. One of the very best things you can do for yourself is become debt free.
- Frugal people don’t watch a lot of television. Strange, but true. We just aren’t big television viewers. Don’t ask us who won American Idol last season, or who got kicked off the island, because we don’t have a clue. Most television shows today are overly sensationalized dramas depicting people living lives free of any responsibilities. The shows are full of plugs for things we don’t really need and have a way of making us more materialistic that we would be without seeing everyone else doing so well.
- When someone sends frugal people $10, they keep it. Coupons are your friend. If your Sunday paper came each week with a $10 attached, would you simply throw it away? That’s what most people do with coupons. Sure, it takes some time to sit down and clip them, organize them, and plan for their use, but if it knocks several dollars off your ever-increasing food bill it might just be worth the effort.
- Most frugal people can afford not to be. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? It’s true. Most frugal people can afford to live much more extravagant lives, however they choose to live well below their means. This does not mean that all frugal people are wealthy, or all spenders are poor, but I have noticed a general trend that frugal people live “rich” lives, regardless of their income.