Before we get into the pros and cons of frugal living lets talk about what it is. Frugal living is a simple way to live. It is a choice not to spend money willy-nilly on stuff. Instead spend with intentionality. If that sounds pie in the sky let me put it like this- frugal living is buying one good pair of shoes instead of twelve poorly made shoes. Buying the best quality items you can afford and making those items last.
Is frugal living and sustainability the same thing?
No. Language is a tool that can be used playfully and so there is room for different interpretations of terms like “frugality” and “sustainability”. Some might say frugal is mean or tight. Others might say it is spending money in a practical way that makes sense.
So what’s the difference between frugal and sustainable? Frugal is spending money in a way that ultimately costs less. Buying one well made frying pan that lasts 25 years at a cost of €100 instead of 12 over the same 25 years at a cost of €20 each. That’s a savings of €140.
Sustainability is using resources and living in a way that least damages the earth. Shopping locally and buying locally grown fruits and vegetables in one way to live sustainably.
There is an over lap in some areas where sustainability and frugality work together. Drying your clothes on the line instead of in the dryer is a good example. It’s better for the planet because it costs the earth nothing to dry the clothes. It’s frugal because it costs you nothing and it helps make the clothes last longer. Another example is to walk the short journey to the shop for bread and milk instead of driving. No fuel costs and no emissions used.
What’s the difference between frugal and sustainable?
Frugal is decisions made solely on the best choice for your pocket. Sustainable is decisions made solely on the best choice for the planet.
An example? Take a washing machine for instance. Pretend it’s 15 years old and in good working order for the most part but the motor has given up. The sustainable thing to do is replace the one part rather than dump the whole machine for the sake of one part. However this would cost far too much to make it economical and therefore it would be more frugal to buy a new washer.
If you’re interested in a quick read on this topic The Not So Thin Line Between Frugality and Sustainability is a good read.
Pros and cons of frugal living?
- Often the sustainable choice
- More money to spend on things that you value such as time with family or travelling the world.
- Less stress. It costs you less to live and so money worries are lessened.
- Freedom to walk away from a job situation you find untenable.
- Retirement is more affordable.
- Global or national economic downturns may affect your lifestyle less.
- A sense of tradition. Feeling connection to your grandparents and their grandparents and so on.
- Not always sustainable
- Clutter can become an issue. While you don’t have so many things to look after you may find yourself holding onto odds and ends to put to use at a later date.
- Your shower will have a few bottles of shower gels or shampoos upside down at any given time.
- You don’t get that “new feeling” often. The satisfaction of opening and using a new tube of toothpaste is less frequent.
- Less convenient and more labor intensive. It would be easier to dry all clothes in a dryer but it would be far more costly.
- Some people assume you’re mean or tight fisted.
- It can be taken too far and suck the joy out of life.
Taking frugality too far.
(I want to start this on a positive note and draw your attention to the benefits of frugal living. This post sums it up really well in my opinion.)
Like anything in life too much of anything is never good for an individual. You might say there’s no such thing as drinking too much water and I would say too much water and you drown. Taking frugality to an extreme is a one way ticket to misery. No one wants to be around someone who is forever griping about the cost of toilet roll. Being practical with your money is one thing but going to an extreme and living like a pauper is another.
There are essential costs that there’s no getting around. Spend money on the things that you value and bring you joy- like the shellac nails or beard oil. You might value experiences and above things. That could look like store brand toothpaste and an all expense trip to Lapland.
If you enjoyed reading about the pros and cons of frugal living you might enjoy my post about the benefits of meal planning. Don’t let the title fool you, I am indeed a big fan of meal planning. Meal planning is pointless.