What is Frugal Living?

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

“Frugality is founded on the principle that all riches have limits.”  –Burke

Definitions 

If I want to know what a word means, I usually run to my dictionary or do a quick search online.  Keeping true to my normal mode of operation, here’s what I found in my first search for the meaning of “frugality.” According to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) , frugality is “the quality of being frugal; prudent economy; that careful management of anything valuable which expends nothing unnecessarily, and applies what is used to a profitable purpose; thrift; — opposed to extravagance.” 

If I sat down to choose a catch phrase to define frugal living in today’s world, I’d probably say frugal living equals “living within your means.” The reality is all riches have limits.   Some of us live with more limitations in the riches department of life than others, but even the largest fortune can still run dry if no restrictions are set on spending.   After all, how many mansions, yachts and private jets does one billionaire really need? 

By cutting back on basic expenses, it can enable you to live out your dreams, get out of debt, and find yourself on the road to enjoying a financially stress-free life.

Why Live Frugally? 

I’ve found over the years that people choose to live frugally for one of the following reasons: 

  1. Limited income — Whether someone’s just starting out in an entry level job, or perhaps a young family choosing to have one parent home full-time, there are a variety of situations that make it necessary – either temporarily or long term – to live on a small paycheck.

  2. Emergencies — Unemployment and medical emergencies are two common – and usually unexpected – difficulties that can throw even a financially well-off family into the “we-have-to-reduce-our-expenses” mode of living.

  3. Debt reduction — With consumer debt rising each year, many find themselves juggling debt, maybe even borrowing money from one credit account to pay the monthly fees on another.  Reducing debt can seem like an overwhelming prospect, but for people who are serious about getting out from under the heavy weight of monthly installment payments, frugal living can be the perfect solution.

  4. Stages of life — College students, young married couples, single moms, and retirees can all be in stages of life when there’s a lot more month left at the end of the money and it becomes needful to examine the budget to look for ways to pinch a few pennies here and there. 

  5. Philosophical — Many people look for ways to reduce their spending as they voluntarily choose to simplify their lives, maybe to allow more time to connect with their families, community, and hobbies.

Benefits 

Reducing spending can have far-reaching benefits beyond just today’s grocery bill.

  • Achieving dreams — By cutting back on monthly expenses, many people are able to fulfill dreams they may have decided were out of reach:  Going back to college, being home full-time with their children, working from home, buying a home, starting their own business, pursuing a favorite hobby, or acquiring acreage in the country.

  • Becoming debt-free — The first step for getting out debt is to stop going further into debt.  Choosing to live within your means is the beginning of debt reduction.

  • Easing stress — Pinching pennies in daily life can allow you to reprioritize your expenditures and have more available for things like vacations and hobbies, and if you don’t have to work as much just to meet basic expenses, you’ll have more time to spend with your friends and family.   If you’re in over your head financially, a huge stress reliever is putting an end to phone calls and letters from bill collectors.

  • Reducing ecological footprint — One way that frugal living helps the environment is when someone chooses to use more homemade food items, it cuts down on relying on over-packaged convenience items.  Those items may make life a little simpler in some ways, but the packaging adds a huge amount to local landfills.

So whether you’re a single mom trying to make ends meet, a middle-income family deeply in debt, or you have life dreams you’d like to accomplish but think you can’t afford, frugal living is just the ticket to get you on your way to accomplishing your goals.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough (free-lance writer and mother of three grown-up kiddos) is the author of Frugal Living For Dummies® (Wiley), A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity and the bestselling Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month (SourceBooks).


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