Our primary objective as human beings is to be happy and fulfilled. Often times, our happiness is not achieved by a purposeful series of steps, but rather through some sort of karmic coincidence that pushes us towards satisfaction.
I believe that is what happened when I found the MMM forum. Frugality lives in the deepest, most opposite spectrum of the money=happiness debate. After all, frugal people devote to living simply and efficiently with half the consumer driven items as most people.
Frugal individuals will typically militate against the consumer’s perception of happiness as a monetary proviso, just like spendthrifts will always militate against temperance.
This website has become an insight into my wandering mind. Teaching me how to be frugal, what to do to become circumscribed to this category, accepted by the money hippy peers and perhaps telling other people why they should do it too.
I suppose that’s a nice way of saying it will teach squanderers what they’re missing when they shun away frugality.
What Does It Really Mean to Be Frugal?
Money is a constant in our lives, whether we like it or not, and money is beloved by a majority of frugal people. It is their freedom. From the context (and definitely what I saw when I first researched), it may look like being frugal means hating money. But this is far from the truth.
Simply put, when one is frugal, one focuses on saving money, rather than spending, or at least spending less than most people are. Those who live frugally, live according to reasonableness, to a moral code that doesn’t preach physical things that can be bought as bearers of happiness.
Given that Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la vida loca” was such a hit, you can probably imagine that the number of people living this lifestyle is quite small in regards to the general population. I suppose “Livin’ la vida frugal” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Fundamentally, being frugal means buying only what you really need, and subsequently saving money. Frugality is a mentality as well; a state of mind that can be acquired. “Gain” and “Profit” aren’t words that hint towards economy and economy only, but to spiritual enrichment, too.
All in due time. For now, I have been concentrating on the actual things that I can do to live a rich life for an altogether lower price.
Alternatives to Spending Less While Gaining More
Who wants to give up their morning latte? Their favorite restaurant on Friday night? Not me. Giving things up are hard and it sucks. But there are many methods available to live a rich life without wasting too much money on products.
I, for one, can make things that I would’ve previously bought. I already know basic house, car and computer maintenance, and have started to do some of these things myself, whereas in the past I would’ve paid someone else to do it for me.
It all goes back to our desire to learn new things and to become as autonomous as possible. This could be misinterpreted as egocentrism and antisocial behavior, but it’s the exact opposite. Of course, it depends on the perspective of the people who indulge in studying the issue at least to a minimal level.
If you grew up in a family that was committed to living simply and frugally then it was likely ingrained in you from a young age and now is natural. For the rest of us, it’s a struggle.
Here are a few things that i’ve thought about doing to become accustomed to simplicity.
- Use less toothpaste: Did you know that you aren’t supposed to put as much toothpaste on your toothbrush as you see in the advertisements? A grain the size of a pea is enough. This would have sounded crazy to me a month ago. Seriously, using less toothpaste? It still does sound a little crazy. But as MMM says, if you’re hair is on fire it’s time for drastic measures.
- Dry your clothes in the sunlight: You will save money, and they will actually last longer. Some of this depends how much energy costs in your area.
- Turn off the lights when leaving: We’ve become much better at this. We used not to care much if a light was turned off or not when we exited the house.
- Find ways of having fun without going out: This is the introvert in me speaking, but no party can be as exciting for me as it is to crash on the bed with a book, listen to music on pandora, write in my notebook (or on this blog), and watch movies on Netflix with my family.
- Brew your own coffee: We have always used a Keurig (k-cups). A can of coffee can last us 4-5 weeks.
- Patch up torn clothes: New clothes are ridiculously, stupidly expensive. One of the most costly habits is to throw clothes away just because they have some minor defects. It takes 10 minutes to learn how to sew, and a few weeks to really do it well.
- Commute by bike: If the distance to your workplace allows it, stop using your car. You’ll save tons of money on the gas and, on top of that, you work out at the same time, so you don’t have to pay for gym membership. Two birds with one stone. I’m fixing up my bike.
- Freeze vegetables: Vegetables can last more than a year and a half in the freezer. You won’t have to buy eggplants, peppers, beans, broccoli, mushrooms and others during the winter when they’re more expensive and tasteless. Or just eat them, instead of fried crap.
- Unplug electrical equipment: Whenever you leave, unplug the TV and the computer; they consume electricity even when in standby. This can become time-consuming. I personally decided not to do this, but it’s an option.
- Appreciate TAP water: first of all, sodas and carbonated drinks, in general, are unhealthy. Second, you don’t need bottle water. Unless you live in Flint, Michigan (sorry folks), tap water is free and healthy.
The hardest part of becoming frugal is not learning how to do it. You can learn the basics of being frugal in just one day; there are so many tips all over the place that it’s impossible to use not knowing as an excuse.
The hardest part is actually doing it. The moment when you have to make a clear-cut distinction between need and want.
If you just want it, you must do everything you can to resist the urge of getting that certain “it.”
This is extremely important because the two are the notions that sit at the foundation of life itself. They are not simple concepts we summon when we look for hours at an object, trying to decide whether we need it or not.
Need and want apply to any level of human experience: they apply to love, work, vacations and friendships. Everything in our lives is cleaved between the two, and just by mastering the art of needing can we become truly frugal.
Frugality, the New Philomathy
Philomathy describes the pleasure one gets from learning new things. It’s seen as an overly-bombastic term, but we will use it since it depicts something that we would otherwise put in more than one word.
Frugality – though not overtly, at least for inexperienced eyes – is directly connected to philopatry. And parsimony is a need for spiritual food.
The more we learn, the more we are inclined to see right through the dogmas of the world, according to which possessions are the heralds of felicity. You don’t have to be a Tibetan Buddhist monk to learn how to appreciate the little things in your life (those little things being, paradoxically, the most important).
Now, with all the risks of being deemed morbid pushed aside for a moment, how many people on their deathbeds ever confessed that they regret they didn’t accumulate more possessions? Or, for that matter, ever advised anyone to pursue happiness by filling their houses with as many glittering luxuries as possible? I don’t know any.
Frugality is getting the know-how in being happy with yourself, regardless of possession. Regarding your being, and your family and friends, as the entire extent of your treasure.
In this respect, we can learn from the victims of the Great Depression (frugal due to necessity) and, say, the hippie counter-culture (frugal by choice).
Of course, I don’t urge anyone to light torches and go caravanning through California, but rather to reach a spiritual wealth that each of us carries within ourselves.
Living with thoughts of “getting richer and richer” is good when the same sentence could be completed with: by making new friends, by trying once-in-a-lifetime experiences, by manufacturing things, learning new languages, making art, and many other aspects that truly enrich one’s life.
There is nothing wrong about satisfying our material desires once in a while. After all, even Mr. Money Mustache recently built a fancypants studio in his backyard.
But it becomes addictive if overdone. Excess in anything leads to addiction. You suddenly wake up with impetuous momentums (believe me, I woke up one morning and almost ordered a guitar I didn’t need just because I had the money for it).
More money tends to lead to illogical spending. Are you making a lot of money? That’s fantastic – there are people who don’t make a quarter of the sum you’re getting monthly, and they’re so happy that they almost look crazy to other people.
Nietzsche’s words are wildly appropriate in this circumstance:
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Envious people will be ubiquitous throughout your life; you just have to blow past them.
So, how can you make frugality a life-driving principle? What does that mentality consist of?
Getting Satisfaction from Learning New Things
This is so me. We are not talking about complicated things that require years of expertise, but minor things that anybody can do at home.
For instance, a simple search on Google will return tens of pages of car maintenance tips. Or how to make candles. How about soap. Or repairing an engine. You get the point.
The Internet is an incredible tool, but it’s seldom used for anything but trivialities like Facebook and YouTube. You can find tons of textbook-like websites for a stunning variety of activities in the online environment.
It is extremely rewarding to learn something new. You get an adrenaline surge that triggers an unquenchable hunger for knowledge.
- Learning How to Empathize
If empathy had a physical form, it would’ve been gold ingots. Learn to appreciate those who stick around you when things go south. Don’t turn away from people who are in need of help, regardless of their personal preferences. You might end up in the same position one day.
- Shake Off the “Want”
Oh, the already classic “need” and “want”! Buy stuff only when you absolutely need it. To some extent, it’s staying true to yourself. For example, how many times have you bought something you never used and just kept in a drawer? Many times, that’s for sure. Everybody does it until they hit the critical spot when they start musing whether they need certain things or not.
- Don’t Fall Prey to the Ebenezer Syndrome
Ebenezer from “A Christmas Carol,” of course. The Ebenezer syndrome is something I invented for this article, it doesn’t exist per se, but Ebenezer is the perfect avatar of the bad type of frugality – the one that doesn’t allow you to see anyone but yourself.
- Enrich Yourself Spiritually
Fortify your psyche with the presence of friends and loved ones. You don’t have to be a religious zealot to feel at peace with yourself, nor a guru. You can meditate as you walk, maybe during your lunch break at work? There’s the aura of mystique around the notion of “meditation,” but it’s more merely thinking of the good things in your life rather than the nonsense of connecting with the vibrations of the universe and other stuff like that.
- Frugal family living
Something that helps you attain frugality faster is to do it together with your family. Teaching your children to be frugal from a young age is a gift that I plan to pass onto my kids. It’s part of what keeps me going.
This may even lead to better time and money management skills, which, needless to say, will facilitate their lives. “Family” is synonymous with “support,” so your initiative is less likely to pass unheard and unseen. It would also be quite lonely, not to mention difficult, to be the only frugal in the family.
The Frugal Conclusion
I feel like my mind is expanding rapidly to this new way of living. Finding cheap ways to live a richer life doesn’t revolve only around seeking methods of spending less but also carving the right mentality and approach to frugality.
Like any lifestyle, it will become a habit. For example, if you want to learn a new language, you’re probably going to have to do a lot of studying and practice. Your brain needs the neural connections to fire and function properly, and then it becomes your life from then on.
It’s precisely the same with frugality. Once you’ve harvested a few of its benefits, it will never go away. You can model and design it to fit your personality.
Possessions and the ability to empty a wallet just to fill it up again at the next ATM doesn’t make someone happy.
Life is extremely unpredictable, and history is filled to the brim with examples of empires that fell in the span of a single blink. You can be filthy rich one day and end up on the streets the next.
Being frugal eliminates the element of surprise. Even if you lose your job, or if the economy takes a turn, you’re still going to have some extensive savings to pull you out of most misfortunes.
Start to appreciate the time and the chances that are given to you and use them wisely in acquiring more knowledge, more friends, travel more, take walks without destinations, etc. That is the key to living a rich life, all while saving as much money as possible.