This article takes a look at the concept of frugality: what it means, how you can do it, and how it will help you and your family.
Why be frugal anyway?
Frugality is an important skill and a valuable mindset. It refers to balancing what we have with what we want, and without it, life can quickly become distressing, demanding, and even unmanageable.
Being frugal means being able to “make ends meet”, a historical phrase which referred to the necessity of “stretching” an income to meet basic needs.
The ability to make ends meet included a range of useful skills, many of which arose through sheer desperation. In modern times, the need for many of these skills has faded, but this does not make them less valuable.
A frugal person is someone who can see ways to save money, make resources last longer, reduce waste, and create resources from scratch.
What does being frugal teach us?
As well as provoking us to develop a range of useful skills, being frugal can also bring us an all-new awareness of the value of what we already have.
And that’s not all. Thriftiness and resourcefulness come hand in hand with a new appreciation of the natural environment and our role in maintaining and protecting it.
Living within our means is a satisfying achievement and finding the strength to resist living on credit has a profoundly positive influence on life choices and stress levels.
What are the best ways to practice being frugal in a family?
Practicing being frugal involves making small choices and developing new awareness of everything from the family budget to the back garden.
- Make a new budget – this can be something that everyone contributes to.
- Make a list of things you can do without – this can be temporary or permanent.
- Plan to pay off current debts – make this one long slow priority.
- Restrict takeaway to just one night of the week – stick to this for one year.
- Take note of small unplanned daily food and drink purchases – reduce or omit these. This kind of regular and almost unconscious spending is a constant drain on resources and are generally considered bad money habits that are hurting your budget.
- Commit to regular and quality cooking – this is not fancy cooking, just fresh and simple.
- Make gifts – there is nothing so personal as a gift that has been made rather than bought.
- Learn a new skill such as mending, preserving, sewing, or knitting – choose just one of these, and learn how much money you can save by making (or mending) your own clothes.
- Cut down on subscriptions – again, these invisible monthly charges add up in the long term. Getting rid of one TV channel probably won’t affect anyone much in the long run.
- Grow a garden – producing even a small amount of produce is immensely satisfying, not to mention tasty. As your garden grows, so do your skills.
- Buy secondhand items – they are cheaper, and you’ll be reducing waste as well.
- Take up new inexpensive hobbies – board games, card games, and backyard games were once luxuries that only the rich could afford. And the fact that these activities have been around for a long time doesn’t mean they’ve lost their appeal.
- Take up reading – it’s cheap, satisfying, and immensely empowering.
- Walk more – drive less.
- Pack lunch – on average, a packed lunch is around 10 times cheaper than a bought one.
- Get off the internet – unfortunately, our daily scrolling includes exposure to thousands of powerful invitations to spend money. The reason those ads are there is because they work. Give your mind a rest and put the phone away.
How can children practice frugality?
Children are naturally resourceful, creative, and loyal, and if you want to save money, become more inventive, and less stressed, they’re the experts.
Children can make anything fun, whether it’s digging a new garden or making your own lemonade. For a long part of their lives, they have no interest in designer labels (and prices) or status symbols in the form of cars, clothing, or furniture.
Practicing frugality is essentially a team thing or a family thing. Decisions made together and commitments that involve everyone are always attractive to children.
Is it possible to be too frugal?
It is possible to overdo the whole frugal thing, and this is when “stinginess” and “tightness” begin to creep into the agenda.
Unfortunately, this can happen to the best of us. If our efforts are too strenuous, too militant, or too unrealistic, the result can only be further stress and resentment.
This is when we might view other people (who do not practice frugality) as being unworthy of the fruits of our efforts.
This is a sign that your frugality goals are more of a frugality regime. Time to loosen up, calm down, and get some enjoyment back into things.
Practicing being frugal is best done in small steps and with clear reasonable goals, and with everyone in the family able to contribute and achieve.