The Frugal Lifestyle: What It Is and What It Isn’t

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Today’s guest post comes to us from Maria Rainier. Maria is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online schools. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop (one of my favorite activities as well!).

The Frugal Lifestyle: What It Is and What It Isn’t
Frugal is the new F word (sorry, Gordon Ramsey), and everyone thinks they know what it means.  It means something different, however, for everyone.  There are many who have misconceptions of those who call themselves frugalists.  Their varied philosophy is a surprisingly inspirational one.
Frugal versus Cheap

Being frugal isn’t always about being cheap.  Just because something is marked 20% down doesn’t mean the frugal individual will stock up on a cartload of it and consider it a day well spent.  He or she might not buy any of it at all, even if it is cheap.  He or she may have already found a way to do away with the product entirely. 
The frugal individual finds ways to make do without many items that others take for granted—paper towels, dryer sheets, designer clothing, microwave popcorn—because they have learned that not only do they not need these items, they don’t even miss them once they’re gone.  True, it might take time getting used to not having rolls of paper towels available for every spill and stain, but frugal people know that they can simply opt to use, wash, and reuse cloth towels and save $10 a month on a 6-pack of Scott paper towels.  In this way, being frugal is often being eco-friendly.

Frugal versus Penny-Pinching

By spending less on things they have decided they don’t need, frugalists have more money left over to pay off debts, save, or invest.  Some individuals insist that they’d simply rather increase their income rather than worry about penny-pinching.  Feel free to increase your income, but if you’re still spending more than you make, you’re still going to be in debt. 
Frugalism isn’t about pinching pennies.  In a way, it’s minimalism in action.  Capitalism has flooded most American houses with mountains and mountains of junk that never see the light of day.  Frugalists aim to spend less on products that could end up in this junk pile.  By keeping in mind what really matters—family, friends, hobbies, etc.— frugalists find ways to do without junk and live focused, truly enjoyable lives.

Frugal versus Fun

Frugal people aren’t necessarily extremists, and it’s a common misconception that they don’t have fun because they won’t spend money. These people have obviously never heard about the idea of cheap fun!  Frugalists know that there are countless ways to have fun on a shoestring.  For example, while others might cringe at the idea of cutting out cable, some frugalists choose to pay $10 a month for Netflix to get unlimited movies and TV shows rather than spending as much on a single movie ticket every weekend.  Instead of going out to restaurants, they try out new recipes at home and invite friends to come over with a bottle of wine.  Instead of playing the newest video games, they play soccer outdoors or learn new languages.
Frugalists insist that one of the perks of being frugal is being reminded daily of what’s important in life.  Just as they have decided that they don’t need or even miss spending hundreds of dollars a year on designer clothes or spending hours shopping online, they have decided that they’d rather spend time with their significant others or volunteering in the community.  Instead of holding their kids’ hands throughout the day at the mall shopping for holiday gifts, they’d rather spend a day with them in the yard or living room DIYing holiday cards, ornaments, and even homemade gifts.  Grandparents like heartfelt gifts more than retail items, anyway.
Frugalists aren’t reborn overnight; it takes time to learn what individuals value and what we need versus what we want.  No one is telling you to sell your car and ride a bicycle everywhere you go, even to your business trip across the country.  Small changes made daily, however, can change your life. 
How about you all? Are you a frugalist? Do you know any frugalists? What are they like? What do they have in common/different about them? Do they drive you up the wall or do you not mind them? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

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