Living in a small house, I often have no choice about the amount of stuff I own. My entire being lean toward frugality, and I couldn’t imagine going through life any other way.
But can you do both? I wonder and love the idea of exploring frugalism vs. minimalism to save money and make life just a little easier.
What is Frugalism?
Frugalism is the act of living one’s life in a frugal manner. Being thrifty, economical, sparing, or prudent on purpose to live your best life.
Normally for purposes like saving money, reaching bigger goals, or financial independence.
The definition of frugal is economical concerning money. Also, it means simple and plain, which made me giggle a little. This might be the reason for the correlation to minimal living.
Deciding to spend less on things like food, clothing, housing, and all other material things, including everything that you might spend money on could be out of necessity or hobby.
Being able to afford food for your family might be the only reason for not spending money on cable. Other people might not spend that money because they don’t get enough value out of $120 per month.
Or they are saving for college, a vacation, or home improvement. It is a movement.
Being frugal means being intentional with your money. It means putting extra thought into what you are sending those hard-earned dollars on and knowing that if you look around or be a little patient, that you can find a better price.
Understanding that money is not a renewable resource, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Spending $45 on a sweater might not be the reality for someone who is engrained with frugality.
Could you find a sweater that is just as well made that you love for more than half that price? I bet you could even if it meant just waiting for that particular sweater to go on sale.
What Frugalism Is Not
My husband likes to push my buttons. But my maiden name is Bacon (like the breakfast food), so I have a thick skin. He likes to say things like, “You are so CHEAP!” and “You are tighter than bark to a tree!” with a slight southern accent even though we live way upstate NY.
But, here’s the thing. There is a difference – although, fair warning. I am probably a bit cheap as well.
No Nice Things
Frugalism doesn’t mean you don’t like and appreciate high-end items. I have a Michael Kors wallet and purse that I absolutely LOVE! But, they came from the outlet mall, and I got them as a Christmas/Birthday gift (January Birthday up in here).
Frugal means you buy those things at a lesser price.
No Fun Allowed
It doesn’t mean you live a boring life and never have fun. It just means that you are intentional in your enjoyment. If a vacation is what you want, then heck yes.
But us frugalista’s enjoy doing things like finding cheaper hotels and bringing our food for breakfast and lunch.
It doesn’t mean that having a kayaking hobby can’t happen. It just means that you find an excellent deal on that kayak and not pay full price.
Frugal And Cheap Are Not The Same
Being cheap is about spending less. Physically spending less.
There is also a moral element of being stereotypically cheap. It could mean extremely and negatively that you are trying to manipulate a situation to spend less.
For example, if you are at a store trying to negotiate a lower price for services and you are attempting to lie and manipulate to get those services or products, then that may weigh on someone’s moral compass.
If you buy a book, read it, and then return the book for a refund, that might be cheap because there were moral gray areas there.
Other thoughts on those that are cheap might be afraid to spend money. Maybe they fear not having any and would instead put it in a coffee can so they will always have a nest egg.
That is more important than new shoes, so they wear those shoes until (and maybe after) they are falling apart.
Now, being cheap may not have anything to do with morals and manipulation. This is where my husband’s opinion comes in.
When I go into Home Depot to get a piece of sheetrock, and the corner is broken, I will ask for a discount on that piece. We didn’t need the entire piece anyway. That is cheap. But its also frugal!
Being frugal is spending money with intention and purpose. And prioritizing what you use your money for.
It may or may not mean we have lots of money.
Some may like to cut down on their grocery budget so they can have more money for scrapbooking supplies. Others might choose to live in a $300 per month apartment, so they have more money to travel and see the world. Priorities.
A Frugal Way Of Life
For many of us, it doesn’t require work to live a life of frugalism. Its who we are, and it is our way of life, a philosophy. It’s a way to find what’s most important to us and live in a way that we might be happiest. It is not because we are trying to be financially independent or retire early. It’s because it’s ingrained in our being. It is merely who we are. We are the frugal.
We are willing to sacrifice for the short term to do and be what brings joy. This allows us to fulfill our goals and dreams.
I had always wanted to be a stay at home mom. So to make that happen, we chose to be frugal. We were able to cut corners, drive (very) used cars, and accept hand me downs for our boys.
In return, I was a stay at home mom for years until I started teaching preschool when my youngest went to school.
When you decide to follow frugalism, some things just don’t matter to you.
- Living in the best house
- Driving the most expensive car
- Going on cruises and all-inclusive islands
- Wearing the most expensive clothes and shoes
- Trying to keep up with the Jones’s
..and then putting it all up on social media.
What Is Minimalism?
The minimalism movement is all about living with less. There are of course extremes with this (as with everything).
My favorite explanation comes from the website The Minimalists:
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”
I lean toward minimalism myself. I am not a saver, and I realize that choosing to live in a smaller home has almost forced me to be a minimalist.
I can only have ten coffee mugs because that is all we have room for on our mug shelf. I know that I won’t get an air fryer because I have no place to store one.
There are different degrees to minimalism, but it is living with only what you need. Not accumulating excess and living with simplicity and intention.
So many of us are captivated with consumerism. You are using shopping to fill voids, whether it be boredom or emotion. You have heard the term “Retail Therapy,” I am sure.
What Minimalism Is Not
Minimalism can be whatever you need for you. It can be a capsule wardrobe instead of 2 pairs of underwear, one pair of shoes, and three t-shirts. It can be one set of 4 pots and pans instead of 12. There are no absolute rules.
Minimalism does not mean that you cannot have collections or hobbies. It does mean that you are intentional in those thongs and not collecting to collect, yet to have those things that mean the most to you.
Minimalism is not cold, bare apartments with that mattress on the floor and one spoon in the drawer. It means that it’s your tastes and aesthetics – having only the things that you love and use. But it’s not so restrictive that it makes life hard.
Minimalistic Out Of Choice Or Necessity
As you may know, our house is small. We chose to live in a small house, and I talk about that here. But this means we must be minimalists. Although I can tell you that my husband fights this. Every. Single. Day.
I have four drawers in my kitchen. I have limited cupboard space. For the longest time, there was ONE CLOSET in the entire house.
When you live in small quarters, you learn very quickly what items are most important to you. This transforms you into somewhat of a minimalist like it or not.
We have eight towels for four people. My cupboard will only fit ten mugs. I have a capsule wardrobe that I explain here.
Frugalism Vs. Minimalism
Can You Be Both?
This is me. For us, there is no frugalism vs. minimalism. There is only both – its who I am. I am a frugal-minimalist (or fruga-minist).
I only buy what I love, and then, I find it for the best deal I can. I am intentional with most of my purchases and consider where I am going to store it when I do buy.
My cupboards cannot be overflowing and disorganized. It would make me anxious. I cannot keep things that I might one day use. I would rather sell them in a garage sale and go out to eat (maybe with a coupon).
I have hobbies. My husband has “toys” like a motorcycle, snowmobile, boat, camper. He is NOT much of a minimalist, by the way.
Buying with intention is the key. Putting thought into what it is you want and then finding a good deal is what it’s all about. You can have the stuff you love.
Buying a pair of good quality shoes and paying a little more can be both frugal and minimal.
Think of it this way.
If you were to spend $75 on a pair of sandals that you love and feel good on your feet (and your back), you would have those sandals for ten years.
But, if you were to spend $25 every summer on sandals that were not well made and they fell apart, that would come out to $250 over those ten years.
And that’s only for one pair. You could have three good quality pairs of sandals (in different colors) instead of ten mediocre pairs (each year in different colors) over those same years.
Remember, frugal doesn’t mean cheap.
Whether you are wanting to save up a lit of money to retire early or be financially independent. Frugalism and minimalism might work well hand in hand.