“Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying.”
– Elise Boulding
Minimalism isn’t just about having less stuff. It’s about having more time and money to spend on the things we value. Frugality allows us to focus our spending on our top priorities, getting the most satisfaction from each dollar we spend.
To be clear, we’re talking about being frugal, not about being cheap. Frugality means spending money in a way that makes you happy in the long-term. It’s about getting good value, taking into account not just your budget, but also your time and relationships with others.
Someone who’s cheap, on the other hand, will spend the least amount possible, even if they can afford a quality product. For example, a cheapskate may buy the cheapest pair of shoes, even if they don’t provide good support and won’t last long.
“By sowing frugality we reap liberty, a golden harvest.”
So how might a minimalist practice frugality?
The first thing to do is make sure you have a clear understanding of what you value. For expensive purchases or for oft-repeated smaller purchases, do some research about your options. Next, think about the context of the purchase.
What does this look like in real life?
Taking an hour to research the best washing machine for your needs is likely well worth the time you spend, but spending an hour cutting out coupons that save you $3 probably is not.
Most of us enjoy going out to eat once in a while, but if you do it regularly, think about whether the money you spend on restaurants might make you happier in the long run if you saved it for early retirement or remodeling your kitchen.
Splurging on a $4 Frappuccino once in a while may be just what you need for a quick pick-me-up, but for the nearly $1500 a year a daily Frappuccino will set you back, you’d probably get more enjoyment out of taking your kids on vacation or paying your mortgage off early.
If all beer tastes the same to you, there’s no point in buying craft beer for yourself when you’d be just as happy with Bud Light. On the other hand, if you’re having friends over who like craft beer, you should probably spring for the more expensive stuff.
What if I’m buying yarn to make a sweater for someone else? Should I buy silk because it’s beautiful or pick up whatever’s on sale at Michael’s because it’s cheap? Neither option would be frugal.
Before choosing, I need to think about whether the recipient will be willing to handwash it and how they’ll wear it – out gardening or in an office? Will the yarn be so stiff it hurts my hands when I knit?
Frugality isn’t buying what’s cheapest. Like other minimalist practices, it’s about spending your money in a way that brings you and your loved ones long-term happiness and inner peace.