On my first date with my boyfriend last winter, I mentioned to him that I write a blog on frugality and he gave me a nervous look. His response took me by surprise. Most people, when I mention the blog, nod their head or give a word of encouragement, but I had never seen someone look seriously worried. It turns out that he was initially concerned because to him frugal meant cheap. In his mind, the girl who was sitting across the table from him was a stingy person who avoided spending money at all costs. She was among the likes of those who don’t leave tips for wait staff and those who give complimentary hotel toiletries as Christmas gifts. Boy, doesn’t that sound like second date material? I encouraged him to take a look at the blog and he quickly discovered that my brand of frugality was far from cheap.
So, why frugality? What does ‘frugality’ mean? And, why is it important? I realized that I have been writing this blog for almost a year and a half and I have never answered those questions. So, here is my story.
I created this blog while I was in my final year of my Master’s studies at Luther Seminary. I was looking for a forum that I could use to share the wonderful tips and tricks that I had learned from my financial coach. She taught me that I could still live a fun, social life enjoying all that the Twin Cities had to offer and still stick to my budget. With such great news, you can’t help but share.
My coach taught me that frugality isn’t just about saving money, it is about balancing your sharing, saving, and spending. Frugal people are creative people who know that saving money in small ways makes a big difference. But, unlike cheap people, they know what expenses are worth making so they can spend with pride. While a cheap person might skimp on a Valentine’s gift for a loved one by just buying a cheap trinket to save money, a frugal person might invest his/her time in a homemade gift or save their money over a few months so that they can give something special. While the frugal person is certainly conscious of their spending, they know that the most important thing is not saving a few bucks but showing their love for this person. Frugality is intentional.
In his book, The New Frugality, Chris Farrell writes, “Frugality isn’t cheapness. You can be frugal and a generous host. Cheapness doesn’t take the needs and feelings of your guests into account. The frugal approach seeks out quality, not quantity. ‘Cheapskates aim to buy as much as they can for as little as possible, not caring for the quality or environmental or ethical virtues of the items they’re consuming,’ writes Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist for the online magazine Slate. ‘To be frugal, on the other hand, is to consider the full ramifications of every purchase.’” (p. 8) Frugality is sustainable.
Similarly, frugality is generous. Frugal people are intentional that the way that they use their money reflects their values. They don’t just say talk about world hunger, they invest time and money into the cause. In some ways, you could say that frugal people are the most generous because they know the true value of a dollar and they still choose to give it away.
While this blog is primarily geared towards graduate students, frugal living is a positive way of life for anyone no matter their life circumstances. Frugality teaches us the value of money, helps us to form good money habits, and aids us in aligning our values with the way that we use our money. Frugality has changed the way that I live my life. I hope that it has changed yours as well.
Join the Conversation: What does frugality look like to you?