the art of thriving: why frugal living is just the journey

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the art of thriving: why frugal living is just the journey

Things get a little awkward sometimes when people in the flesh and blood world find out I write about frugal living.

What’s starts out as small talk soon turns confessional and all further conversations begin with an apology: “This isn’t very frugal, but…”

I’m not the frugal police!

Just the other day a friend admitted, almost embarrassed, that they wanted to hire a cleaner.

“This isn’t very frugal, but… I’m thinking of getting in a cleaner.”

And do you know what my response was?

Did I try to talk them out of such a spending transgression?

Did I implore them to stay the frugal course?


I said: “Awesome! If I had the spare cash, I would totally hire a cleaner at the moment too!”

And their jaw drops to the lino with a muffled thud, breaking the silence that suddenly descends the room.

After all, hiring a cleaner, or for that matter fine dining, getting a regular massage, home delivery, getting your hair done at the salon, resort style holidays, taking up yachting, or any number of extravagances aren’t very frugal, right?

Or are they?

Too often, those of us who are frugal can spend so much time focused on frugality, that we forget to consider the thriving side of the equation.

But frugal and thriving are two sides of the same coin:

You can’t thrive without being frugal. And there’s no point being frugal, if not to thrive.

When it comes to being frugal (not to mention the whole philosophy of this blog), it’s important to ask yourself two things:

  1. What does it mean to be frugal? and;
  2. Why be frugal at all?

What does it mean to be frugal?

“Without frugality, none can be rich, and with it, very few would be poor.” Samuel Johnson

There’s a common misconception about frugality and it’s that frugality means being cheap.

It’s not about being cheap.

It’s not about scrooging every cent. Or chasing rock bottom prices. Or holding on so tight to your pennies, that you squeeze any joy out of life.

Instead, frugality is the smart use of your money and resources.

You’re frugal if you don’t waste money, not if you don’t spend money.

That’s just being miserly. Which is not thriving at all.

Frugality allows you to be smart with your money not tight with it.

Being unwise with your money might be fun in the short-term but usually leads to long-term stress and heartache. 

The key is to find the balance between living today and saving for tomorrow.

But if you’re not saving money in the name of frugality alone, then why are you saving money?

Why are you frugal?

This is an important question to ask yourself.

Why do you live frugally?

For many of us, it’s out of necessity. We stretch our dollar because it’s the only one we have. 

But some of us are frugal out of choice.

Why make such a choice?

Frugal living is not always the easy option and it’s certainly not the popular, mainstream option either.

So why choose to be frugal?

I think for many of us, we are frugal because we want to make life a little better.

We want to maintain or improve the standard of living for ourselves, for our family members and of the community at large.

We want a healthy environment to live in and to leave to our children.

We want a content, healthy, stress-free life.

In other words, we want to thrive!

Frugality is the means to a better life.

So what will make your life better right now?

The answer to what will make your life better right now will be different from mine. After all, we all have different priorities.

That’s ok.

It’s a question that each of us needs to answer individually. There are no right or wrong answers!

Frugality isn’t about hoarding. It’s about prioritising what’s important to you and spending your money and resources accordingly.

For my friend, one answer was to hire a cleaner. By outsourcing the cleaning, it would allow her to do two things:

  1. free up time to spend on something of greater value (for her, it was more time with her family)
  2. provide someone else with employment, most likely in a local small business or in the ‘alternate’ economy.

Not only does my friend benefit, but her family and the wider community benefit as well.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to spend money to be happy. It’s still true that many of the best things in life come free. But you don’t have to stick to the popular misconception that frugality means going without either.

There’s just one catch.

Spending your hard earned money should help to make your life better, not put extra stress in your life. Added financial stress doesn’t make your life happier or healthier.

Instead, use all your frugal habits and smart money management techniques to save where it makes sense to you and spend, debt-free, on your priorities.

There’s enough stress in modern living without adding an extra financial burden that ends up making your life worse.

Being frugal is about making a better life for yourself, your family and the wider community. It is not a destination in itself, it’s just the journey – the means to a happier, thriving life.

the art of thriving, why frugal living is just the journey

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  1. AMEN ! I have been reading your blog for about 2 to 3 years now, but never commented before. I can’t count how many entries have inspired me, how many of your recipes I have now in my folder, ready to be used in a practical way (pages laminated/waterproofed, folder under the kitchen sink, right where I need it in a hurry !).
    But this post ! It’s like you are saying very eloquently what I am feeling and don’t have the talent to put it right in words.
    I like to thing myself as pretty frugal. I make my soap/washing liquid, cook from scratch, bake my bread, clean with vinegar/baking soda/lemon juice, go out very rarely, don’t smoke, have two library cards which I use intensely, attempt at gardening (not very successfully so far). Most of my furniture is made of pallets+a lot of elbow grease and recycled fabric.
    Do all theses choices mean that I am being cheap ? I dont’ think so, because on the other hand, I was able to buy my first home with a very small mortgage 8 months ago. Had an awesome solar system installed, which was pretty expensive but already saves me loads of money. Bought the best appliances I could afford. Especially a great freezer which allows me to cook in batches and freeze, buy in bulk/in season and freeze, freeze, freeze ! Also have a fantastic programmable bread maker and washing machine, that I can have “on” during the day for free thanks to the solar system.

    Having food in the freezer allow me to have a great organisation system when it comes to the everyday cooking. It works for me. I feel that I am on top of things, and as you know it is a great feeling when you have 2 kids and things get a bit wild around the house.

    As you said, being frugal is not being cheap. In my opinion, it’s a choice of consumerism, choosing to buy this instead of that, or not at all, but the most important is to enjoy your choices and that it does not make you miserable on the long run. I buy very little, but deliberately, and I really enjoy my life of little pleasures. Homemade jams, preserves, home cooked meals, new recipes, craft, good books, nature with the kids. This might seems very boring but I honestly, truly like every minute of it.
    Being frugal has allowed me to learn new skills, organisation systems and budgeting, be in control of my life, make choices that I am proud of, do my bits for the planet, spend more time with family. Although I might be considered being a “poor” person according to normal standards, I feel pretty rich.
    Thanks for your post, I will print/laminate it and add it in the all important kitchen folder !

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Hi Corinne,

      Thank you so much for commenting. It’s lovely to meet you and hear from you.

      Wow, your story is a great example of the benefits of being frugal (not cheap!) Thank you for sharing it. What’s wonderful is, as you say, you like every minute of your life. That is awesome! It doesn’t sound at all boring to me! But that’s not the point, the point is, as you say, it’s what makes you happy.

      (And I thought I was the only one who had two library cards ;) )

      Thank you again for sharing a bit of your story.

      1. Can I admit to having four library memberships. I also admit to borrowing the play my Year 12 student needed to study. Easy way to save $22.95

  2. Well said Melissa, after all there are no pockets in a shroud!

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      LOL, love that!

  3. I too love this post! I am so thankful that I am able to stay home with my son while hubby works. I see friends who have more money coming in than us and they’re struggling, why, because they also have so much more debt, they don’t have the option to stay home.
    I am proud that our only debt is our home.
    Staying home means we don’t have to pay someone to look after our son, I am able to cook all our meals from scratch and I’m not running a car every day to work.
    We still go out for dinner when we’re invited, we still go on holidays, we’re not missing out on anything and we don’t have the stress of making sure all our debts are being paid.
    We still have a lot of room for improvement, but we’re happy.

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Thanks Kelly,

      It’s wonderful to hear from people who are happy on their chosen path.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Eileen Miles says:

    Corinne has it right. Buy the best you can ,often the most simple is the best. When I was first married in the 70’s you had to have all the bells and whistles(gadgets) mainly made of plastic!!!!!.Not any more ,since becoming a devotee of Frugalism .When I remarried and moved to the country I have been replacing my gadgets with more suitable items, mainly stainless steel so I don’t have to replace them ever again!My one extravagance is a good set of knives ,cleaver and a steel.There are so many kitchen jobs that you don’t really need a gadget for if you have the right knife.I am in the process of down sizing,selling items of worth(and spending it on WORTHWHILE purchases,repurposing,donating and appropriately dumping.
    The weight of stuff for stuffs sake can take its toll .Its liberating to look at an item in the shops and say I don’t need that-and then put the money saved to something you REALLY!!!!!!! want,or just squirrel it away until the right purchase,holiday or splurge comes along

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Hi Eileen,

      I agree with a good set of knives! A good knife is essential. You’re so right, it’s great to save for something you really want!

      Thanks for your comment.

    2. I agree Eileen, a good set of knives. And also a principle : if something is coming in, something has to go out. When you are happy with what you have, you don’t have choice but leave all these gadgets at the shops as you don’t want to replace the good ustensiles you have at home. Simple but effective !