What does frugality mean? We live frugally and some people have wondered does being frugal mean you are poor? Or cheap? Let’s bust some of the myths about frugal living.

What Does Frugality Mean: Does Being Frugal Make You Look Cheap and Poor?

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What does frugality mean? We live frugally and some people have wondered does being frugal mean you are poor? Or cheap? Let’s bust some of the myths about frugal living.

What does frugality mean? We live frugally and some people have wondered does being frugal mean you are poor? Or cheap? Let’s bust some of the myths about frugal living.

What does being frugal mean?

I’d like to talk about something today that’s been on my mind about perceptions and the frugal living world.

When you pinch pennies, buy used clothing and generic food, and pass on expensive events, some people assume it’s because you can’t afford it.

I’m guilty of using this phrase when there are events that I think are just too much for the amount of enjoyment I would get back:

“It’s too expensive for us right now.”

But when I thought about it more, that phrase isn’t really that accurate.

This is what I’ve started saying instead:

“There’s no room in the budget” or “that’s not in the budget right now”

Changing that one phrase made me reflect on what it means to be frugal.


Related reading:

Does being frugal mean you are poor?

The truth is, we don’t need to buy clothing second hand. We can afford gourmet or luxury food (and sometimes I definitely splurge on food because I love it!)  And I probably COULD go to that expensive event.

BUT we couldn’t do these things all the time. As a smaller income family, watching what we spend money on keeps us out of debt, and keeps our minds more peaceful (about this at least…still working on the peaceful mind overall-ha!)

For me when I think of what does frugality mean, I think of these things:

  • cutting down on spending in categories that don’t add a lot of value/happiness to our lives
  • being mindful of spending money
  • lowering basic expenses in the top 3 household expense categories (food, shelter, transportation)

I try to do these things, not because I want to earn a frugal badge.

I live frugally so we can have MORE money to spend on the things that are important to us.

Yes in certain categories or items we have mindfully INCREASED our spending.

We try to reduce the little money leaks we all have, that don’t add a lot of value to our lives. So that we have a cash buffer, money to save for retirement, and extra money for trips and other things we love and bring value to our lives.

So does it make us look like we’re poor when I decline events, or wear thrift store clothing?

Maybe, to some people it looks like we just don’t have enough money. But on our VERY modest income, we don’t have any credit card debt/consumer debt.  We own our vehicles outright, we don’t have leases. We are able to save money and take trips. And we are close to paying off our mortgage and having absolutely no debt.

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Assumptions about frugal people and the reality

There can be a huge discrepancy between how things appear, and how they really are.

Instagram is a GREAT example of this.

Some feeds look perfectly curated with gorgeous trips and gorgeous families and it can lead to us making assumptions about their lives.  That somehow they were more blessed than us.  That they lucked out with their lives, their looks, their money, their relationships.

This is exactly why when I posted this pic on Instagram I wanted to include some of the back story.  How it looked with my mother-daughter date and how it actually was, were two different things.

We can’t compare our whole lives with the tiny percentage that other people ALLOW us to see of their lives.

This goes the same with finances.

Just because someone always has the latest car, the latest iPhone, the best clothes, and a huge house, it says absolutely nothing about their bank account.

Read that again.

I know several families who make a GREAT household income, and do have a big house, new cars, etc etc., all the obvious external signs of wealth.

But what most people don’t know is that these people have credit card debt, multiple lines of credit, high interest car loans for their new vehicles, and a very large mortgage.  Even though they make a lot of money, the money is going out faster than it is coming in.

People who make more money CAN save more but it doesn’t mean they do.  There are things we all do to trip ourselves up with money, and higher income earners are not exempt.

Is being frugal a bad thing?

Let me start this section off by talking about privilege and basic needs.

Being frugal is not a bad thing, but for some people it can feel like a bad thing.

Some people have no choice but to be frugal.  There is no other way around it.  They are living in poverty, barely scraping by, and the CHOICE to be frugal isn’t there for them.  They just ARE frugal, by necessity.

Though my little family is a frugal one, we have certain privileges.  We have loving supportive families.  We were born into an overall affluent country.  Both of our backgrounds meant that we never went hungry, we had all our basic needs met, and more.  We could pursue what we wanted to career-wise because of these initial privileges we had growing up.

Our household income is less than the average, but we still have the privilege of CHOOSING to be frugal.  It wasn’t forced on us.

And that’s a huge difference.

So is it bad being frugal?  It might feel that way if it wasn’t your choice.

But if you got to choose being frugal, it can be exciting, freeing, creative, stress-reducing, debt-eliminating, life simplifying, and lots of other great things.

What does frugality mean? We live frugally and some people have wondered does being frugal mean you are poor? Or cheap? Let’s bust some of the myths about frugal living.

What does frugality mean to you?  Share in the comments!

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  1. To me being frugal is ‘thinking’ about what I spend, instead of all the impromptu spending I’ve done in the past. Frugal is about planning how I spend my money and making informed choices as whether I should splurge or refrain. Money awareness is the name of the game.

    1. Awareness is so key! I think frugality means being conscious of spending, it doesn’t even mean necessarily spending less (but that does usually happen with awareness). Thanks for stopping in Ruth, hope you have a great day!

  2. I 100% agree with you. Furthermore, it is a rather “rich” way of living. I learnt this from my grandparents who lived in a very affluent neighbourhood, we had a lovely lifestyle, and were taught not to have debt nor waste money. I think that it teaches children that happiness is not dependent on spending money, which is a lovely way to grow up.

  3. Hi Curious,
    I saw your comment on Mostly blogging, and was curious! 😉
    So, since I read your article, I wanted to say hi.
    Thanks for writing all this down!
    I need to be more frugal. But when I went shopping today, I only spent cash. For me that was a first step!

    1. Glad you were curious 🙂 Melinda, using only cash on Black Friday? That’s a fantastic step – way to go you!

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