What is frugal living?
Frugal living is a term heard frequently, but what exactly does it mean? Well, a really workable definition would be
“efficient and effective living”. It’s not a one size fits all type of thing. And it’s definitely not the same as being miserly. Frugal living is making the best use of your money pursuant of a goal. Efficient, effective living encompasses a diversity of applications: What measures are appropriate and expedient for you? You determine how you will proceed, what measures you will take. That said there are two attributes common to successful frugal living plans: Attitude and Money Management.
Your attitude—your perception of your success—has to be resolute: It will be. “Maybes” must be eliminated; they quickly undermine the progression of a goal-oriented financial plan with too many changes that are distractive rather than productive. This does not mean that you will never revise your plans or methods. It does mean that you are aware of circumstances as they affect your long-term goal and adapt your plan accordingly. Success—prosperity, quality—is a lifestyle, and just as being a miser is not requisite to frugal living, success does not require excess.
By necessity, money management partners with your attitude. The handling/employment of your money is the implementation of your success-oriented lifestyle. It makes your goals more than a mere wish list. It is the life of your resolution. It will change your lifestyle. As your “can do” attitude of success becomes entrenched, your progress in money management will guide you in your search for waste and make it easy to eliminate. You will practice frugal living.
Frugal living characteristics
You need an emergency fund to deal with unexpected expenditures without having to go into debt, or decimate your other financial resources. Saving 3 to 6 months of living expenses is considered to be a good buffer against calamity. If you are just beginning your practice of frugal living and don’t have an emergency fund, begin (now) to build one. Designate a set dollar amount (or percentage of your income) each time you are paid. Building your emergency fund will take time, but it is an important first step.
Avoid debt, the amount you pay in interest is money gone forever. Paying interest is a waste.
Shopping around, finding the best deals you can, and saving what you can when you need to purchase something are attributes of frugal living. Don’t be in a hurry. Plan ahead. Have funds designated.
When something needs to be replaced you’ll want to consider if new is necessary. Would used work just as well? If so, then buying new is a form of waste; waste is contradictory to frugal living.
Be willing to DYI—do it yourself. Many automotive and household projects are simple enough and don’t require much expertise or many tools. Changing the oil in my car is fairly easy, painless, and much cheaper than the $60 they want for doing it in town. My daughter makes her own laundry detergent and cleaning products. She spends considerably less on the ingredients than she would if she bought the products at retail prices. Are you anticipating a repair or an improvement? Do a bit of research. You may be able to do it yourself. On the other hand, if it’s a big, complicated project the fugal action might be to call in the experts from the beginning. You don’t want to have to pay for disaster clean-up and a professional job.
Frugality should be geared to meeting the long-term goal of financial security. Your short-term goals should move you in that direction. If doing this or buying that does not get you closer to your goal, consider: Will your financial plan be set back? If not—go for it. If so, delay or an alternative may be better.
Why frugally living
Knowing you are in control is a rewarding part of frugal living. Control your destiny; decide where you want your life to go and how you will get there. Make and follow a plan. You can have what you want.
I’m a firm believer in frugal living. I’m retired military, and I work in a factory. I make enough to get by on, but no big bucks. I do, however, enjoy living and I’m not afraid to have a LIFE. For example, this year I spent some time in Dallas, Texas—paid cash for travel, hotel, food, entertainment. I also, purchased a decent car—for cash. Now, I’m finalizing plans for next couple of years—and considering goals beyond that. It’s taken time to get to this point. Attitude and money management continue to set my parameters. I still make regular contributions to my emergency fund. I still avoid debt. I still research my purchases (The trip to Dallas was enjoyable, not hedonistic.). I’m making dreams that were once just wishes into memories, and I will continue to do so because I’m in control of my finances. Frugal living—living efficiently, effectively, purposefully—is a huge component of quality living.