What does it mean to be frugal?

There is more to frugality than penny-pinching.

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What does it mean to be frugalThe dictionary defines frugality as "the quality of being economical with money or food," but there is far more to it than that. It is a word worth examining closely because it embodies values and principles through which we can improve our overall quality of life.

Most basically, frugality is about getting maximum bang for your money. It reflects a conscious effort to allocate your resources (that is to say money) in ways that offer the most value. A major part of getting value out of an investment is how well something does its job, and the cheapest item does not necessarily offer value if it generates more work, nor if it last only for a short while and then breaks.

Let us use, say, garbage bags as an example. If you purchase the cheapest bags, at 5 cents apiece ($5 for 100 bags), and they can only be filled halfway and occasionally split open, creating a huge mess on the kitchen floor there may greater value in the 20-cent bags ($20 for 100), which can be filled much further and are stronger, thus not having the mess on the kitchen floor.

There are more costs to the things you buy than just the initial dollars and cents. Using things costs time and energy, too. If you are saving money on something that is going to end up requiring additional time and energy to use, you need to make sure that the saved money is worth the extra time and energy.

Frugality means allocating resources toward things that matter to you; this can also be called “voting with your wallet.” The money you spend reflects values of many different kinds. In the example above, it it time and effort spent cleaning and taking out the trash that matter than saving 15 cents on each garbage bag and not just that, because if you need two or three bags to do the job of one it is also the resources and energy that goes into making those that you save. Other values could also be choosing plastic-free packaging, supporting a local food co-op, buying organic food, etc. Though, in general, frugality means making the pennies count and getting the best value for money and not just the cheapest product.

But frugality and being frugal is not just all about looking after our money when we buy things. It is also about making do, reusing and repurposing all the way up to upcycling, making things for your use from packaging waste, for instance, including glass jars, which are often the obvious choice for reuse. Alas, some people need reminding of that and the way our parents and especially their parents and theirs reused every jar they could and so many other things. Those jars were often the receptacles into which the other saves items for reuse where stored; buttons from worn out garments, reclaimed nails, screws, nuts and bolts, and so much more.

While with some of us frugality was put into the cradle many today have to learn it and cannot even see, for themselves, the reuse potential, say, of glass jars. As far as they are concerned those jars belong into the recycling bin and storage jars, for they have to match don't they, have to be purchased but then they have to be of recycled glass. The brainwashing has worked well. The brainwashing about recycling and buying recycled, that is.

© 2018