What ‘frugal’ means to me
The official definition of the word ‘frugal’ sits somewhere between ‘simple and ‘sparing’, but until quite recently, it’s a word that many have associated with meanness, deprivation or just plain dreariness. I was one of those people, until last year. It wasn’t that I was living particularly extravagantly – no designer handbags or sports cars or trips to far-flung locations – just that I didn’t really understand why people would deprive themselves of all of the everyday luxuries that make life fun.
Only through the pursuit of a more pared-back existence – necessitated by a difficult financial situation - have I realised that knowing how to live frugally is not just about counting pennies, no-spend days and shopping at Aldi. It’s about learning what makes you happy and committing to prioritising that over everything else.
It’s about cutting out the purchases that feel good for a moment, but soon end up cluttering up both your home and your brain. It’s about acknowledging that you have limited resources in terms of time, energy and, of course, money, and deciding where you want to channel those things.
Here are my tips for how to become more frugal without it feeling like a chore:
1. Use and enjoy what you have.
This is the cornerstone of my brand of frugality. I know all too well the lure of something new – the way that things whisper to you from their place on the shelf or your screen, promising you much better life will be once you possess them. But there is so much joy to be found in things that you already own, and have either neglected or forgotten about. Since swearing off unnecessary purchases, I have rediscovered clothes and shoes that have been easy to clean and repair – and wearing them feels even better than sporting something new.
2. Slowly introduce new habits.
I am not a naturally well-organised person. I’ve lost count of how many diaries I have tried to keep, and of how many strict ‘regimes’ I have laid down for myself before failing miserably to keep up. I have found, though, that new, better habits are possible to work into your life if you don’t try to do them all at once. For example, if you want to start taking a packed lunch to work, why not start by doing it a couple of days a week?
3. Plan your meals.
And not just dinner. Meal-planning is essential in order to waste as little as possible – again, one of the tenets of frugal living – but I found it really difficult to begin with. I found that I was needing to ‘pop to the shop’ all the time, because I hadn’t allowed for things like snacks, so you might like to keep a log of what you/your family normally eat in a day, and base your meal plan on that.
4. Look to others for inspiration.
In the last year or so, there has definitely been a swing towards a more frugal or minimal way of life for many people, and one of the happy consequences of this is that there is lots of useful content out there. Frugal blogs like The Frugality and The Money Fox have money saving tips mixed in with other content, and will help you to feel like you’re part of something. This can be useful when faced with all of the excess and consumerism on social media.
We could all probably stand to be a little more frugal, but the good news is that there are plenty of small changes that you can start making today.
About the author:
This article was written by the creator of the @myfrugalyear Instagram account which is described as "a place to have honest conversations about finance and wellbeing". The author's book "Real Life Money: How to find financial freedom when you've got other sh*t to worry about" will be released in May 2020 and is now available for pre-order.