Frugal is More than a Way to Spend Money, Part 1

I don’t know what you think of when you hear the word “frugal,” but I think of my parents. They are undeniably, definitively frugal, and they always have been. It’s how they were raised. So, when I think of “frugal,” I think about how they spent their money. I think about the black and white TV we had until I was 12 (that was 1991 or 1992) and the Chevy from the ‘60s that my dad drove (without air conditioning and with vinyl seats) until I was five years old. I think about feeling like everyone else had cool stuff and I didn’t, and being afraid of what people would say if I invited them over and we didn’t even have a VCR.

As I become an adult myself, I find that the choices aren’t as easy as they seemed when I was younger. If I have several hundred extra dollars, should I buy a Wii (very cool, by the way), put it towards my student loans, or invest it somewhere else? It’s answering these questions that has led me to believe that frugality is a mindset that, while it will influence how I spend money, does not dictate living in the Stone Age.

Here's the part where I actually get to my point: Frugality is first and foremost about goals and priorities. When I think about how wonderful it would be to pay off my student loans, it makes it much easier to choose regular coffee over a latte. When I think about the travelling I'll be able to do when my fiance and I are totally debt-free, or how awesome it will feel when we can buy our first home, passing on buying that third pair of boots is automatic. It's the priorities, the long-term goals and desires that drive me when I choose not to buy good things that I like, not any traditional idea of what I "should" be doing with my money.


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Will Chen's picture

"When I think about the travelling I'll be able to do when my fiance and I are totally debt-free, or how awesome it will feel when we can buy our first home, passing on buying that third pair of boots is automatic"

Do you have any specific pictures in your mind when you think about this? For me, I like to visualize Zihuatanejo (the beach at the end of Shawshank Redemption) and the celebrity houses I see in Entourage.

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Jonathan Lambert

Being poor is just a state of mind.

Guest's picture

Thanks for writing this Sarah. It gave me some things to think about. My family has been trying to budget & with 3 adults with very different idea it is sometimes hard. I am a bit of a spender and have been trying to focus on my long term goals more and still enjoy my life in the process.

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Cambridge Austin

Hello Sarah love the article about ways to save, when to be frugal etc. You are so right I only wish that I had this information years ago and had actually taken the time to think about savings.

I would like to add the one item that is becoming a real epidemic and is like a wild competition with the younger parents. "Kids birthdays". What in the world is going on? The money that people are spending on others to have fun for a number of hours could be better used on a "meaningful family outing", college anything that will last and mean more to the kids than this lavish craziness that is getting out of control. Even the grand-parents have bought into the buy now and forget about the future. Recently my daughter cleaned out a closet as her children are growing and they now need full size bed units. In doing the changes in bed sizes she realized that she needed to make room. She had two bureaus and wanted to cut it down to one giving the room more space. She first had to clean out the closet so that hanging items that are to be used could fit. I can not tell you how much money was sitting on hangers from at least two years that had never been worn because they had been forgotten. This is a clear and present message that we are using "quantity instead of quality as a measurement of worth". I think she was amazed and also saw a little light, she actually told me this in shock. We are making good of the items as we are going to a consignment shop and swapping out for winter cloths that the kids need for the winter, we have cut down pants to shorts and sleeves off for the summer to really get some use out of the items. I would like to suggest that grand-parents, god parents and friends should consider starting a savings devise for the kids. I buy savings bonds for all holidays and a small items that I know they would have bought anyway, say McDonalds coupons or a day at the snow park for the family to enjoy and remember. It's okay to have plenty and enjoy it while you can, but remember that it's okay to protect the future of your living as well. I hope that you can find a way to get this information to young families and perhaps put a spin in it to have fun with savings. I did penny stocks with my nephews and nieces when they were little and when they became teenagers school made them aware of the value and how to use them to make more money. I still hear about this from them. You would have thought I gave them a million dollars.