The reality is that many of us are frugal because we have to be. Yes, frugality is a mindset, it is a response to everything we don’t like about modern consumerism and a result of concerns for the environment. But more often than not, frugality stems from necessity. ‘I’m frugal’ is often a nice way of saying ‘we can’t afford the trappings modern living’.
Unless you’re living in extreme poverty, there are however, benefits to living within the constrictions of a very tight budget.
1. Frugality can make you strong. It takes a relative amount of fortitude to live without all the creature comforts of the 21st Century and by relative I mean that life’s pretty sweet compared to the middle ages, but a frugal person has to work harder than someone who has, say, a dishwasher and clothes dryer. Not only does that make you more physically active, getting the work done when you just don’t feel like it makes you more mentally resilient.
2. Frugality encourages creativity. Meeting your needs without going out and buying a readymade solution or paying someone else to do the job for you takes skill and creativity. Having less makes you more resourceful. I think this is especially true for children growing up in a frugal household. Kids benefit so much from having less: less TV, less toys that go beep, less gaming machines and less contraptions that are meant to keep them passively amused. Boredom is a good thing to be fostered not quashed. From boredom comes creativity.
3. Frugality is good for your health. You save money by eating less junk, you spend time in the garden growing vegetables rather than time in front of the TV, you vacuum your floors rather than pay someone else to do so, you walk to the park rather than drive – all of these things not only save you money, they increase activity and improve your health.
4. Frugality helps your appreciate material goods. When the budget is tight, what you have has to last. If it gets broken or trashed, it’s not likely to get replaced any time soon. Therefore you tend to look after your stuff more.
When you mend your clothes, make things for around the house or grow your own food you appreciate just how much work and skill goes into everything you buy. It is so easy to just go out and buy something. It’s a lot more demanding to produce something yourself, and you really begin to appreciate that fact when you make things.
5. Frugality gives you a strong sense of delayed gratification. At a time when everything is about instant gratification, it’s easy to forget that delayed gratification is important for happiness. Things that you obtain are more satisfying when you’ve worked hard to get them. Food tastes better when you’re hungry. Treats are treats when you don’t have them every day.
Discipline, rather than being a negative thing, can actually make life better. For example, when you are disciplined enough to exercise everyday, you feel healthier and fitter, your self esteem rises and you can get more out of your day. On the other hand, when you don’t have the discipline to exercise, you feel lethargic, possibly feel unattractive, and you can become depressed at your lack of motivation. Frugality isn’t the only means to achieve discipline and a sense of delayed gratification, but it can lead to both of these things.
6. Frugality provides a buffer against adversity. Back to the old mainstay, the emergency fund. Imagine: your car breaks down. Repairs are going to be around $800. It’s a tough blow to your budget, but you can dip into your emergency fund to get the car back on the road. What about the alternative? You have no savings. Your credit cards are maxed out. The bills are piling up and the mortgage payment is due. What position would you rather be in?
Frugality can mean less stress, more security and more freedom. Well worth the inconvenience of going without that doohickie everyone else has.
7. Frugality gives you more time. I read a blogger who recently claimed that frugal people are too busy clipping coupons to really enjoy life. But the opposite is often more accurate: you have more time when you’re not spending your spare time spending, and then working overtime to pay off all that stuff you bought to clutter up your house and which you’re too busy to enjoy anyway.
For us, being frugal has meant that we can live on one income (well below the average) and I can stay at home and raise the little fella, a seeming luxury these days. DH is home early and can also spend time with the little fella before bed time.
I admit that I have to write these posts sometimes as a reminder to myself. Like anyone else, I get caught up in ‘I wish I could have…’ thoughts. I need to remind myself to focus on the positives of what we have, not what we don’t have. What we do have is lots of quality time. We don’t have the stress of high flying jobs with long hours. Our frugal ways mean we don’t have to live from paycheque to paycheque or worry about lots of debt (although I admit things have been tough lately). And the little fella is growing up in an environment that stimulates rather than deadens the brain cells. All of those are good things. All are blessings of a frugal life.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.