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Is Frugality Overrated?

In the personal finance world, there are many different types of bloggers. There are bloggers who are getting out of debt, bloggers who are focusing on early retirement, and pretty much everything in between. It’s actually pretty amazing that there are a million ways to talk about something as “simple” as math.

I mean, when you get down to it, personal finance is just math. Make x dollars, spend less than x, save/invest the rest. Done!

But we all know it’s not that easy. And it’s not just math.

You must spend less than you earn. That much we can all agree on, right? So which side of the equation do you put more effort into? Spending less? Earning more? Both? Neither?

The Argument Against Frugality


You can only save so much before lowering your quality of life. You have to eat. You have to sleep, preferably inside, on a bed. So without resorting to living on the street, and eating out of dumpsters, there really is only so much you can cut. But, some would argue, there’s no upper limit on the amount of money you can make. So, don’t waste your time worrying about buying a latte. Instead, buy that latte and use the caffeine to help fuel your next big money-making idea.

To be honest, I’m not buying it. It sounds like a flimsy excuse, really. An argument for spending more money. In fact, if you click that, the author is trying to sell you something. Of course he is. I won’t argue that there are ways to make money on the internet —there are — but debt relief programs wouldn’t exist if we weren’t faced with a HUGE spending crisis. And the fact of the matter is, when you’re building a new business, you’re most likely spending money. If you’re overextended, holy cow, don’t go into more debt just to try out an idea!

My Argument FOR Frugality


My goal is a simple, frugal life where I don’t have to worry about money. And in my mind, frugality is a way of life. NOT a temporary stop on the way to total world domination (or whatever). Because, let’s be honest with ourselves, here, friends. If somehow you woke up tomorrow with a lot more money than you have today, what would happen?

I’m not a betting woman, but I’d wager that an influx of money would be seen as something that needs to be spent.

Frugality Teaches Restraint

When you’re on a journey out of the weeds of consumer debt, you’re exercising a lot of restraint. When I was close to seeing the light at the end of the credit card debt tunnel, I withheld haircuts and new clothes until every last bit was paid off. I got creative with that restriction. I started shopping in thrift stores, and that ended up being so fun that 90% of my clothes are from thrift stores and garage sales (pro tip: garage sales in fancy neighborhoods are the best!). There was no hope for my hair, though. Thank goodness for pony tail holders.

My point is, exercising your frugality muscles while you have to helps you stay strong when your financial situation improves. And it will improve. I promise.

Focus on Net Worth, Not Debt Level

Think of the equation as something liquid. Cut expenses. Live frugally. Learn what it means to have more than enough. When your bank balance rises, resist the temptation to upgrade your lifestyle! Instead, keep working toward your goals. Hide that extra money in a retirement account. Focus on building your net worth. Relax frugality muscles a little (get the haircut, holy cow you need it), but don’t relax them too much. You’ve gotten this far, now why not keep saving?

Your future self will thank you.

About the Author

Kathleen O’Malley writes at Frugal Portland about living simply, increasing productivity, and saving money.

About Ronnie E.

Ronnie is the frugal Latina of the group. Hailing from the beautiful Andes Mountains in Bolivia, she lives and breathes frugality. She loves to figure out how to spend less money and takes on the challenge of finding great deals and cheaper options every day.

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  • Debbie Lamb

    It is amazing how much money is wasted. I live frugal and am very happy. Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose are very important to me. I can find a new life for just about everything.

    • I am SO MUCH HAPPIER choosing to live simply. When you make that a conscious decision, you stop comparing yourself to others who seem to “have it all” — because you no longer want it all.

  • Elizabeth Towns

    I love the way you talk about frugality. I have to say this is the first time I’ve read about it in this light. I also read completely through your post. Although I am a fan of living frugally, I got more incentive from your post, and my future self is already thanking me!

  • Virginia @thatbaldchick

    We make a practice of living below our means so that we can give generously. Frugality works.

    • I love that! I really enjoy giving back, and frugality helps teach me how good I have it.

  • I try to live frugally. I like that idea of putting the focus on net worth.

  • Debbie Denny

    We work hard to live within our means.

  • Pam W

    I always try to be frugal. It helps save money in case an unexpected expense comes up.

    • I enjoy having access to money much more than I enjoy having useless things.

  • Ave T

    Living frugally is something I like! It’s great to find good deals and consume less, recycle and reuse.

  • brett

    we live frugally so we can save for the future 🙂 and, we really just don’t like to waste.

  • Love this post. Pinning for future reference.

  • Cynthia L

    Love this post. Frugality should be a way of life and not a sometimes thing.

  • Debi@TheSpringMount6Pack

    Love this. I am working hard on being more frugal.

  • blm03

    I do what I can here. I am frugal with some things.

  • I am trying to be a bit more frugal. I love shopping and really can’t help myself at times. I am going to have to do so much better.

    • Hey! What if you went through your closet and only kept the things you absolutely loved? That really helped me change my mind about having a closet full of things I don’t like.

  • Brittnei Washington

    I can definitely identify with this post because my husband and I since we got married almost 3 years ago now have been on this “need to be frugal” lifestyle. The last time I got something new was probably when I was pregnant with my son almost 2 years ago now. We honestly can’t afford not to be frugal. My husband had an unexpected huge pay cut and I’m a stay at home mom so we had to do what we had to do. I’m grateful for going through this because it has taught us so much about what’s important and what’s not. He’s on the upward ladder in the direction of gradually making more for our family so as more money comes in, we plan on shaving off debt and saving of course. I’ve also been able to start bringing in a little from my blogging which is nice.

    • Wow, you have great perspective — I’m glad you’re able to see your need to be frugal as a positive.

  • Simply At Home Mom

    I do try to be frugal and am in certain areas of my life but not so much in others! Great post!

    • That’s one of the keys: scrimp on things you don’t care about, splurge on things you do!

  • Amy Desrosiers

    I love saving money and have recently cut back on frivolous purchases. I want to spy cash for my families next car!

  • Elizabeth @ Food Ramblings

    great article– hubby and i definitely have conversations about how frugal we will be!

  • Nicole L

    I am all about being frugal especially living on one income and being a family of 7!

  • Danielle @ We Have It All

    I love this post! I have to be frugal with 6 kids – it’s the only way for us.

  • Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell

    I love your point about frugality teaching restraint. That is so true. It’s very, very important to learn not to buy on impulse and at first inkling you want it.

  • sarahhirsch

    Frguality also helps us from waste and excess. This culture of spend spend spend…well, really most people just spend on stuff they don’t need, and much of it just ends up being a big waste. Just buy what you need.