Frugal Factors: What Traits Do Most Savers Share?
As I get older, I find myself more and more inclined to spend time with those who share my views on frugality, simple living, and saving. It seems as my age increases, so does my resolve to be quite open about my frugal ways. I guess that’s either drawn like-minded folks toward me, or repelled others — perhaps it’s done a bit of both simultaneously. The more I think about it though, the clearer it becomes — frugal folks do share a set of traits, values, or ways of living that bind us together and help us recognize each other in unlikely places. (See also: 30 Signs You Were Raised by Frugal Parents)
After a bit of observation and introspection, I’ve compiled a list of frugal factors — primary traits that we frugal folks share. Now, it’s by no means a comprehensive list or the least bit scientific. Instead it’s a character study of what it means to live simply in an age when “more” is often synonymous with “better”. So, here goes; I think frugal folks usually...
1. Recognize the Golden Mean
If you’re watching your dimes and dollars, you tend to recognize more quickly the optimal amounts of nearly everything. Not too much and not too little, the golden is all about finding balance.
2. Buy for Quality, Durability, and Timelessness
Let’s face it — we’re human, and sometimes buying things is downright fun. But frugal buyers focus less on the transaction and more on the benefits of that transaction over time. We look for quality, we buy for durability and functionality, and tend to gravitate toward timeless looks that will never go out of style.
3. Make the Connection Between Time, Labor, and Things
Unless you’re spending lottery winnings (and congratulations, if you are), there’s an inseparable connection between time, labor, and things. The price of any item or service is directly related to labor and labor is directly related to time. More visceral than the idea of money, we know that things cost time.
4. Live Below Our Means
If things really do cost time, why spend all of it year in and year out? The frugal among us typically understand that living below our means helps us to save and ultimately helps preserve our future time and labor.
5. Understand the Real Cost of Ownership
Most things we purchase require an ongoing and indefinite cash outlay. Cars break down, high-def TVs inspire us to upgrade our cable service, printers need ink, suits need dry-cleaning — even our adopted pets need food and good care. Savers understand that the act of buying often means agreeing to pay for years to come, and we plan accordingly.
6. Distinguish Between Needs and Wants
For those who can differentiate between the things we need and the things we want, life is a whole lot simpler. It’s easier to prioritize, to control spending, to live within a budget, and to truly (madly, deeply) enjoy a splurge.
7. Embrace Satisfaction
We all live in a world that’s suspicious of satisfaction. If you don’t aspire to own a bigger house, buy a newer car, take more exotic vacations, install a spa bathroom, or build an outdoor kitchen, you’re viewed with a combination of pity and mistrust. But for those less driven by upgrades, the peace that comes from satisfaction can be priceless.
8. Understand the Difference Between Spending and Investment
Frugal folks often get painted with a broad brush; people think we penny-pinch and save no matter what. But, of course, that’s a false notion. More accurately, we understand the difference between spending money and making an investment. And we do our share of each — with awareness. Buying six pairs of new shoes is spending money; buying one versatile pair for work and everyday use is an investment. Taking a cab three times a week is spending money; buying a bike is an investment.
9. Avoid the Use of Credit
Credit is easy, tempting, and often habit-forming. Savers understand the pitfalls of compounding interest on unsecured consumer debt and we avoid it at all costs.
10. Know When to Seize an Amazing Deal
One of the most unsung skills of frugality is knowing how to spend. When an amazing deal presents itself, frugal folks recognize it immediately and know what to do. When spending now means saving later, we can whip out our wallets as fast as the next guy.
I’m sure there are more I’ve missed, but these qualities seem to form the foundation of frugal living. Each idea is learned personally, one at a time, often through trial and error. Also, at this risk of sounding sappy, each idea unites us in a sort of movement that’s rethinking consumerism, excess, and debt-as-a-lifestyle. So, take some to time recognize all your frugal neighbors out there, share some tips, some adventures, and maybe even a cup of coffee. You have a lot to talk about.
Do you see yourself in this list? Is there an important trait I’ve missed? What’s your journey been like as you’ve grown into your own frugality and what do you still struggle with?