Dispelling frugality myths and living within your means

Joseph Noël Sylvestre: A modest meal (Repas frugal), issued in 1909 in the Salon des Artistes Français.

A happy, frugal man. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Ibn Battuta/Wikipedia)

Too many people confuse being frugal with being miserly, to the point where the simple act of saving money is viewed as being “cheap” by disposable popular media. Rather than viewing your financial life in black-and-white extremes, however, it pays to understand what being frugal truly means. By dispelling frugality myths, one can understand whether it is the right lifestyle for them.

Myth #1: People are frugal because they lack other options

While many people are frugal because the recession has made it a necessity, others practice frugality by choice. WiseBread notes that every purchase we make represents and investment in time. Time worked equals hours paid, and money paid means giving away hours of our lives. Ideally, those hours should count for something, making a frugal purchasing sense important.

Myth #2: Frugal means “cheap” or “tightwad”

“Some tightwads may be cheap and all tightwads are frugal, but not everyone who’s frugal is a tightwad or cheap,” writes WiseBread. It’s a matter of purchasing philosophy, or of levels and degrees. In general, those of the frugal persuasion are more flexible in their search for quality. Cutting corners is only done so that what is most important becomes affordable. Frugality doesn’t mean settling for something just because it’s cheap. It’s about prioritization, making conscious calculations in order to develop a rational spending strategy.

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Myth #3: Being frugal is tantamount to self-denial

Frugality is about being mindful of how money is being spent. By blowing one’s money indiscriminately, the true self-denial is peace of mind. Suppressing the impulse buy reflex frees up money for important, day-to-day expenses – and the occasional, well-measured splurge.

Myth #4: Being frugal means being a slave to coupons

In nearly every walk of life, extreme fundamentalism lends itself to the kind of strident behavior that breeds isolation. Life is a stage for suffering and bean-counting, rather than open-mindedness and the joy of discovery. Frugal individuals may collect aluminum cans, clip coupons and shop on sale days, but they remain flexible. Coupons and bargains serve the frugal individual; the frugal individual does not serve the morass that is 24/7 extreme couponing.

Myth #5: Frugality is impossible

Even in the hyper-accelerated consumer culture of urban America, there are frugal paths that can be taken, choices that can be made. Recycling and other forms of self-sufficiency are frugal hallmarks that everyone from preschool teachers to the First Lady of the United States extol. A creative person can find ways to spend less while making use of more.

Myth #6: Frugal people have no fashion sense

Anyone who has ever spent an afternoon in a thrift store compiling a chic, retro wardrobe knows that this frugality myth simply isn’t true. Some people choose to hold onto faded clothing that is coming apart at the seams; they are not frugal. What they are is self-flagellating martyrs with low self-esteem. They should use the clothing money they’re hoarding to seek counseling.

Myth #7: Being frugal is too difficult

While being frugal can be a challenge, it isn’t too difficult. Exercising financial discipline can require major lifestyle changes, but if changes are introduced gradually – rather than in a fundamentalist, steamroller kind of way – it is easier to adapt. Saving money and becoming debt free become their own reward.

Top couponing myths


Financial Highway

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