I originally wrote this to help others understand the difference between Frugal Living and Simple Living. As it turns out, the research I had done to write this article has done more for my mindset than anything I have written about frugality prior.
It made me realize that I am seeking more than just frugality; I am seeking a mix of a frugal life and a simple life.
The inspiration for this topic stems from the overwhelming amount of websites and blogs that use “Frugal Living” and “Simple Living” interchangeably. It confused me when I first started the frugal lifestyle, and I imagine it is still confusing others.
The terms Frugal living and Simple living do not mean the same thing and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Sure, there are more similarities than disparities, and even the dissimilar traits are minor, but they are still separate ideologies.
As frugality becomes a lifestyle choice for a larger amount of people, a differentiation between the notions of “frugal” living and “simple” living is due.
Frugal Living vs Simple Living
Let’s start with Frugal Living.
Simply put, frugality focuses on saving money, increasing your net worth, and shortening your time before retirement.
A frugal life can be more or less extreme, but this depends on personal preference, the initial purpose of embracing a frugal life and other aspects that can supervene along the way.
- Consumer driven shopping is removed or reduced
- Grocery shopping is done according to a budget, typically using a strict list
- The use of electricity, water and gas is often monitored and maximized (keeping heat low in the winter and A/C off for much of the summer)
- A percentage of each paycheck is saved (and often invested)
- And a variety of other measures to save money…
These are just basics, but every cost that can be reduced or completely removed ends up being so.
Frugality often times becomes a creed; the spiritual implications of frugality can be observed and studied in monks, hermits, priests – in particular in the religious environment, where possessions are thought to be a far-cry from being harbingers of happiness.
Frugality and simple living often go hand in hand, mainly due to the symptoms of each.
History is full of examples of people who have lived long years in extreme frugality and simplicity.
Mahatma Gandhi lived 78 years in sheer self-sufficiency and spent those 78 years on increasing his self-sufficiency.
There is even a thing called the “Gandhi diet,” an overly-simplified regime consisting mainly of vegan food.
Jesus Christ, again, is one of the greatest examples of frugal people who advocated a life lived in simplicity.
David Thoreau lived in a cabin by the lake – the cabin had a stove, a chair, a bed and a table. That’s all he needed to feel happy.
Frugality is the very pinnacle of temperance and being financially responsible. Some think (even I did at one time) that frugal people are killjoys as the Puritans were, but that couldn’t be more wrong: frugal people can have and do have fun.
However, their notion of entertainment isn’t interconnected with spending; going out for drinks, paying absurd prices for tickets to the movies, or shopping for the latest fashion fads don’t equal happiness.
They have cost-free pastimes: enjoying the company of their friends, going out for picnics with food they’ve cooked at home, relaxing in bed with a cup of coffee and a good book, watching movies on the Internet, etc.
Frugal people typically do not feel the need to purchase brand-new items. Instead, they buy their limited possessions used; at second-hand outlets, Craigslist, eBay, flea markets, and thrift stores (and let’s be honest, at one point in our lives each of us has found something awesome that we wouldn’t have expected to find in a second-hand store – I know I have).
Frugal people are also incredibly inventive when it comes to methods of saving money; It is, fundamentally, a continuous recycling process – nothing is wasted, and everything can be reused at least one or more times until it can be safely thrown away.
Frugal people are rich. They’re rich in knowledge. Economic safety. The future. And living life on their schedule.
What does it mean to live simply?
Simple living puts less emphasis on savings and more emphasis on a person’s relationship with their priorities, time, and purpose.
A simple life takes place when you live your life in such a way that the natural order of things leads to finding one’s purpose and enjoyment, absent of needing material things.
For example, when needing to work doesn’t interfere with your marriage/relationship, when your mental and physical health are on the same level and, ultimately, when your financial freedom is so perfectly aligned that you have time to do everything you’ve wanted.
A person that lives a simple life doesn’t push themselves to the limit in trying to live with the least number of resources, but rather optimizing their limited resources to bring them the maximum amount of enjoyment possible.
A Simple Life
- Simplifying certain aspects of life, but understanding that life itself cannot always be simplified and being OK with that
- Having time to work but also to take care of yourself, your children, and your priorities
- Minimal possessions is often a symptom of a simple life because happiness is not in things, but in experiences and the people you’re sharing them with
- Living in harmony with yourself
- Enjoying the little things in life, the smile of your child, a movie night with your partner, a walk with your dog, etc.
A simple life is not based on a harsh minimalism, though it can be a symptom of it. A person that lives a simple life tends to live minimally by default.
Knowing exactly who you are and having a clear-carved purpose is the ultimate life-simplifying tool.
You start seeing life with a brand new pair of eyes. When you know who you are, you don’t need to use countless methods to bend life to your needs. This is a vital moment in a person’s life – that moment when you realize that life is only as hard as you make it.
Paradoxically, living a simple life will make you value money, but at the same time make you realize that they’re only pieces of paper. It’s there to be spent, not overspent, nor underspent.
I think we have all noticed that for frugal people, saving money might just very well be a contest. It doesn’t appear to be the same with the simple life folks.
Simple living means “harmony” – an unwavering equilibrium between all the aspects that construe life as we know it.
- It’s when you have money you need and you spend it, but you’re concomitantly not targeting luxury or items, but rather the relative amount of joy each dollar will yield if spent properly;
- It’s when you have plenty of time for your family.
- It’s when you know who you are, where you belong, and how you belong.
It can also be a form of spirituality, only without the extreme means of saving everything. Why should it be less of a spiritual experience to be perfectly content with life?
All things considered, simple living could be described as a form of frugality that replaces monetary commodities with wellbeing. It’s temperance, but not in an unreasonable way.
A Frugal life
- Simplifying life in order to save money
- Cooking your own food with the lowest expenditure
- Living in a reasonable housing situation (not being house poor), and one in which you handle a the majority of the maintenance
- Rarely or never outsourcing chores
The differences are ideological and mainly related to the perspective and the angle from which people in each category looks upon life.
Reasons why people live frugally
- To save money
- To retire faster or to be able to just retire in the first place
- To help other people in unpleasant situations or to give to charity
- They’ve been born with an inherent frugality
- They’ve been raised in the spirit of it by their parents
- They are bound to do so by debts, life circumstances
- Because they love the challenge
Reasons why people live simply
- To enjoy maximum comfort and stress-free living, to remove any unpleasantness that may arise in their lives
- To unclutter their lives from unnecessary burdens
- To help other people in distress by giving to charity
- They have a penchant for satisfaction
- They’ve been raised in the spirit of it by their parents
- Because they love it
Frugality, at this point, is working hard to attain a certain happiness in minimalism. Simple living is working less and enjoying life as it is (which is undoubtedly good).
They are extremely similar, but they also share a sort of paradox/contradiction, in the sense that the former obtains a simple life by living minimally, and the latter lives a frugal life due to their simple life construct.
What is the common ground and which is better?
It all depends on the ideology of the person asking. Due to this research, I am aiming for a mix of the two.
Life is full of alternatives, and it has its strange ability to satisfy each of us one way or another by allowing us to make the choices that we believe to be the best for us and the situations we find ourselves in.
Frugal living might have some advantages in the long run. It eliminates the factor of surprise, which means that if something goes bad, you will already have learned how to live perfectly with minimum resources. Just like any other discipline, it teaches us something valuable: how to be humble.
On the other side of the spectrum, who wouldn’t want to live a simple life? Simple in the sense of being in harmony with who you are and what you do and just enjoying life as it is. Not many people can do that. Moreover, not many individuals can declutter their lives and live with minimum resources and possessions.
Because of all these aspects, it’s impossible to say that frugal life is better than a simple life or the other way around. Every one of us has the right to choose what is best for them.
Did I miss anything about? (I know many of the concepts are basic). Please let me know by commenting below.