Frugality for Beginners

Getting started with spending less

Frugality gets a bad reputation. Like any practice, it can be taken to a comical extreme. But I think there is a lot of merit to trying to live a more frugal life.

The first handful of synonyms in the thesaurus for frugality are: thrifty, economical, careful, cautious, prudent, provident, unwasteful. That last one in particular stands out to me. Not wasting. That’s a very noble quality. Not wasting money or food or resources in general.

So let’s shift our perspective on frugality. Let’s run with it being an admirable way to approach living a healthy and balanced life. How does one even be frugal, particularly in respect to finances?

It’s simple: buy less stuff you don’t need.

Even though it’s simple, it’s difficult in practice. We’re bombarded with advertisements and emotional attachment to stuff.

You’re going to end up spending money, even on stuff you don’t absolutely need. And that’s another time where frugality can make a big difference. So when you do buy something (regardless of whether it’s a need or want), be intentional about the money you’re spending. There are a bunch of ways to do so:

  • Do you already have something that does pretty much what the thing you want to buy does? I’ve often purchased things that serve the same purpose as something I already own. It’s exciting because it’s new, but then the perfectly good thing I already had just sits in a bin.
  • Can you buy it used? This is great for pretty much everything like clothes, bikes, vehicles, houses, etc. The higher the cost, the more you can usually save.
  • Is what you’re buying going to last you a long time? You may think that being frugal means being cheap and buying the lowest cost item. If you reframe it to be about not being wasteful, in the long run it’s cheaper and better for the environment to buy something that will last you years instead of months.

Having a budget will help tremendously with being frugal. You’ll be able to review your spending in certain categories and see where you can improve. Then you’ll have a frame of reference for how much you’d like to spend, particularly on the wants instead of the needs.

Illustrated flowchart of decisions being made when buying something
These are the questions I ask myself before I buy anything, and it’s been a big help

Being frugal, to me, isn’t about couponing or obsessing over getting the best deals. Constantly search for sales and clipping coupons means you’re spending a lot of time thinking about the stuff still. That’s not how I want to spend my time. It’s about avoiding buying stuff altogether. And when you do buy something, see what you’re options are in terms of price and quality, and make the most informed decision you can.

One person’s idea of being frugal may seem lavish to someone else. It’s not a competition to see who can be the most frugal. It’s about what’s right for you. Experiment, try different things, and keep being mindful about how you’re spending your money. I’ve found frugality to be a core aspect of thriving financially.

Author: Brett Chalupa

day: software developer, night: comic artist

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