40 Comments

  1. I started this journey of financially wizening up without a lot of frugal tools in my arsenal, but I, too, have been accused of being frugal as of late. My reaction is similar, “but our trips?! And we spend way more each month than any other frugal financial blogger I know.” That latter fact makes me feel like a frugal fake. I vacillate between wanting the title and not. Frugality is such a great tool, though. It’s made us happier with less. We’ve learned to substitute. We’ve learned to borrow and to share. And we have money around if we ever need to spend it. Frugality, as Vicki Robin said, used to be a foundational value of this country. So why have we tossed it out like yesterday’s bathwater in favor of rampant consumerism? Why, indeed? I don’t know, but I do continue flexing my frugality muscle and trying to get better at spending less, especially where we don’t need to spend.

    • That’s the crux of it, Laurie. We used to value it, and now we don’t even CONSIDER it. Or we talk about it like it’s a contagious disease. Ha!

      I really appreciate it because it makes me appreciate what I have. I have so much. Usually, I am overwhelmed (not in a good way) with what I have. But frugality and my gratitude practice really go hand in hand.

  2. If I could insert a standing ovation gif as a comment, I would. Being frugal to me is about not spending money on things I genuinely don’t need so I can spend more in areas that are important to me. Aka I’m not going to ever be the person who buys a car brand new, but I will spend an above average amount of money on supporting local businesses whenever I can. I’ve been called frugal before too- and I wear it like a badge of honour!

    • That is an excellent example, Britt! I, too, try to shop small or shop local when I can. I am also starting to opt for my eco-friendly options. For instance, I am a thank you card junkie. I used to pick up whatever was cute and cheap. Now, though, I look for soy-based inks and recycled papers. (I also do digital cards, but I think there’s real value in snail mail!)

  3. I don’t know why it still gets a bad name. I can always tell the friend who is upset with themselves about how THEY spend money, by the tone of their voice when they say I’m frugal. Usually, it’s said with disdain. But no matter HOW it’s said, I take it as a compliment every time!

  4. Monique

    Well said! I chose frugality as a means to increase my cash flow and love reading frugal blogs for inspiration on how to save more money. Whether you are trying to retire early or just save a few extra bucks the end game is the same. Keep up the great posts!

  5. Professor Kate

    Donna Freedman, my patron saint, has said it well: “Frugality is saving where you can so you can spend where you want.” I also think that, like being organized, there is no one universal definition of frugality. I’m frugal because I make my own coffee/tea at work, we carry our lunches, and we only eat out once or twice a month. Another person may be frugal because they shop at thrift stores, make their own yogurt, and grow most of their own food. You do you. The point is, the less we spend/buy/have, the less we waste, and that is good for our wallets, our waistlines, and our Earth. Don’t let ’em grind you down.

    • So beautifully said! It’s about being intentional. As someone who was straight up reckless for so long, it is a refreshingly important change.

  6. I consider myself to be frugal, even though many people don’t. I’m very cheap in tons of areas that other people aren’t. I actually think I have a lot in common with Frugalwoods: buying secondhand stuff, not caring what people think about you, etc.

    I do think that frugality has a major marketing problem, though. Often when you read about someone who’s frugal, they don’t present their lives as being joyful and exciting. Lots of people don’t want to stay home and take camping trips. For example, where you mention food and innovation, lots of times I see frugal meals as mostly being brown sludge and eating the same thing all the time. If people make frugal meals that look restaurant-quality, well, I’d be a LOT more interested.

    • Agreed! It’s true that money blogs (and frugality blogs maybe even especially) spend too much time talking about money. Money isn’t the endgame. It’s the tool that is supposed to bring the joy, the happiness, the contentment, the opportunities, you know?

  7. I agree wholeheartedly. I’m not the typical PF blogger. I’m retired (not early retired but regular “old” retired), my health is suffering, and I don’t have a lot of avenues to earning more money available to me. But I can control how I spend the money I have and that power is called frugality! Even if I did have those other avenues of earning, I’d still want to save where I can save so I can spend where I want to spend. As I said when I wrote about this subject, “But am I really too cheap? I don’t think so. I ‘m careful, because I need to be. I also don’t have the need to spend for spending’s sake. Those days are behind me and I’m glad they are.” Thanks for writing this post.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Gary, AND for writing your blog. It’s invaluable. I love your ideas and your advice.

      Not spending for spending’s sake used to be my number one hobby. How sad. I’m so glad I found this pathway!

  8. Heck yes lady! To me being frugal is being thankful for what you have, and mindful and purposeful of how you spend the money you have.

    “frugality blog …people who didn’t want to make more money or something.” UH WHAT? I want ALL the money, so that I can spend it on the things most meaningful to me, aka my future freedom, travel, and food! And *not* give it to marketers / big pharma / cable / car companies / clothing companies etc.

    I don’t get called out for being frugal often, but I know I am and am damn proud of it. But neither do I judge people as good, better, or equals based on how they spend their money.. It’s theirs, and they can spend it according to their values, which likely aren’t the same as mine. And I expect the same in return.

    • I love the idea of thinking about not just what we get in exchange for our dollars but WHO or WHERE our dollars go to after we part with them!

  9. Uh yeah I’m somewhat of a frugality blog by necessity but I’m not pretending I don’t actually want to make MORE money! Attention, universe: I want to make more money!

    Frugal, not cheap, is the way to go, and I’ve got one family member in particular who is the definition of cheap and is a good reminder of what not to be in case I ever forget. I love frugality for its environmental benefits (good lord, reading that stat about the amount of food wasted in restaurants hurts to read!) and for the way it can supercharge your savings rate. I love spending freely on things that make me happy and not on things that don’t, plus I like the idea of being happy with what I already have and not forever looking for the next better thing 🙂

    • Your last statement is so profound, Erin. I was constantly looking forward to the next opportunity to buy or have or shop or get. And I amassed so much STUFF that’s all just waste. Wasted earnings, wasted savings, wasted resources. Sigh. I’m just glad I figured this out eventually!

  10. Ah was this the highly awaited post! Lucky I was ho-huming on Twitter to remember and checked.

    I am on the same confusing plane as Luxe (if I could compliment myself…) where most people don’t understand “our brand of frugality.” But the answer is so simple: we do what makes us happy/fits our visions. What in the world is there to trip up about that?

    Anyone thinking frugality is one-sided, one dimensional has it very wrong and closed minded. This should be RSF featured.

    • Oh, Lily. As always, you are far too kind.

      I love your brand of frugality (and Luxe’s!). I think I feel similarly. Saving on certain things opens up opportunities to splurge a bit or focus on quality on others.

  11. I am finally starting to see frugality as a compliment. It means that I have figured out how to spend on what I value and ignore what I don’t. I’ve also finally found the right balance where I’m not depriving myself of things that bring me joy and reduce stress. Not everyone means it as a compliment though and that’s more on them than on me.

    I find it to be a bit of an oddity that people preach frugality and then others get upset with them for having created wealth. That’s math – over time, frugality creates a gap and the remainder turns into wealth. I’m impressed with what you and your husband have created! I know my husband was very proud when he surpassed that half million dollar mark. That was the point at which he really started to realize that wealth is a thing he has.

    • We aren’t quite there yet with our net worth (and it’s collective, not just mine!). But I do think frugality is part of why we’ve really picked up steam. I never landed in consumer debt, but I pretty much spent everything I didn’t save or use to pay bills. I used to be so puzzled why my savings (and then our savings) really wasn’t growing. I knew not to spend more than I made, but I never really focused on growing that gap and saving as much as I could!

  12. I learned from the best, and I’ll never be anywhere near as good as my mum but I am naturally frugal (it kind of pains me to spend money). For me as an originally low income earner who now makes more, and aspires to more as well, it has always been a necessity. It’s about spending on things that matter to me and not on things that don’t, prioritising the limited dollars. You are so right that every increase in income packs a punch. Raises and bonuses were just not A Thing for me previously and now that they are a possibility, it’s really exciting.

    • I am so excited for you for the new possibilities! It does help to have a frugal teacher, doesn’t it? I feel the same way about my nana. I also remind myself that her resourcefulness came out of sheer necessity, not just joyful and purposeful living.

  13. Thanks for this post Penny, I’ve been working on one myself about the topic. I’m sick of those out there saying it’s only about what you make, and not about spending wisely. It’s about both, plain and simple.

  14. I feel like I’m one of those people who doesn’t consider myself frugal because of the negative bias towards frugality.

    I’m certainly frugal when it comes to certain things but then I cancel out the benefits in other areas. To me that’s more about balance than being frugal. My definition would include investing the money you save by being frugal, and not spending it elsewhere.

    But, if I compare my saving/spending to others (maybe not PF Bloggers though 🤣) I would come out looking pretty darn frugal. Basically, I have no idea what it means!

    • I was actually totally floored when I got the Plutus nomination. I kept asking myself, Am I really frugal? I am. But not compared to some (many?) bloggers, at least that’s how I perceive it. I suppose I look at frugality as intentional. I was so reckless with my spending and consumerism and waste. I am still paying the price in terms of clutter and emotional baggage. Maybe I’m not the most frugal person out there, but I am so much more intentional than I used to be!

    • Exactly! Being frugal mostly lets you be not-so-frugal with things that really matter to you!

      I think we could also argue that spending more on things of a higher quality also aligns with frugality. Buy it once for life.

  15. I think the word frugal gets over-used and abused, but I get why. Its practical meaning is relative and even personal.

    Thanks for pointing out the inaccuracy of pitting spending less against earning more, as if one couldn’t be doing both. And it’s so true that one or the other may take precedence for different people based on their circumstances. I’ve had a lot of comments about how earning more is more powerful than frugal cost-cutting. But what if we don’t want to pour extra time & effort into earning more, and are already earning plenty? Or what if we’re making bank but saving nothing? Or what if, like you, we’re working simultaneously on both?

  16. I love making money too! Being frugal though to me means that we are able to take that vacation, we have the money in case of ER, or we can buy the new/used car by living within our means. I think we all have that frugality in us no matter how much we make. We should never be ashamed to be frugal.

  17. I am out and proud about being frugal – I value the freedom money brings far more than cluttering up my house with unnecessary stuff.
    To me, the peace of mind from being debt-free is worth so much more than having a fancy car / fancy holiday / fancy clothes (though I can’t pretend our home is remotely frugal). I’m also concerned about the environmental impact of rampant consumerism. However, I share your frustration when ‘spending less’ is touted as a route to riches, without adding in the ‘earning more’ part. There’s only so far it’s possible to cut household spending. I just try and promote how frugality can accelerate the ‘earn more’ side too, by for example searching for low cost funds and low cost platforms when investing. Fewer women invest than men – I’m hoping that by presenting investing alongside frugal money saving tips, more women might consider it.

  18. Frugal to me means being money conscious and trying not to spend money frivolously. And being frugal is a great thing! As you mention, being called cheap is the insult, but being called frugal is a compliment.

    I wouldn’t necessarily call myself frugal, although I certain am when it comes to certain things. For example, I only get my nails done 1) if I have a gift card or 2) before I go on vacation. Even though it may not be that expensive and I am a super girly-girl, I just can’t justify the cost of a manicure frequently. However, on the other hand, I have no problem spending $200+ on a dinner out with my husband twice a month or more.

    I think a frugal person focuses more on cost and value than convenience.

  19. david

    To me, the most attractive part of being frugal is that is a subversive act! Not buying-in to the prevailing social model is an iconoclastic manoeuvre. Not everybody wants to be different but the surest way to do it for those who do, is not to conform to economic norms. In modern western society we measure everything by economics and frugality provides for a life that thoughtfully diverges from that model.

  20. We are frugal and proud of it in my hime. Heck people probably call us cheap (we have am annual dumpster dicing tradition), but our spending mostly aligns with our values and that makes me so proud. Sharing our frugality is what landed us free housing for six months (in exchange for labor), lots of international travel, and the chance to try out new careers. Yes, we grew our combined income from $30k to just over six figures. But let’s be real, plenty of people have no problem spending six figures each year.

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