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Frugal Origins: Why do you Practice Frugality?

Last updated by on July 10, 2016

Are you Frugal?

As Peter Griffin’s ancestor, the great philosopher Thomas Griffin, once posed, “Whyyy??”.

Where did the concept of “frugality” come from? And what compels human beings to adopt a frugal lifestyle?

Is modern day frugality rooted in spiritual or religious beliefs? Are emotional triggers driving frugal behavior?

Or are we all just miserable, stingy bastards who will end up dying with loaded bank accounts? Let’s discuss.


Frugality from Spirituality

A number of religious and spiritual groups, past and present, have touted frugality as a means for spending less on oneself in order to:

  1. allow oneself to save more money to give to charitable causes.
  2. focus more on inner spirituality and less on external possessions.

Both are undoubtedly strong virtues and it is easy to see why a spiritual or religious person, in practice, could be fulfilled through the practice of frugality.

The Amish, for example, are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. Weird Al Yankovic depicted the Amish paradise in a first-person narrative as, “Walking through the valley where I harvest my grain, I take a look at my wife and realize she’s very plain. But that’s just perfect for an Amish like me, you know I shun fancy things like electricity… There’s no phone, no lights, no motorcars, not a single luxury, like Robinson Crusoe, it’s as primitive as can be”.

Christian and Buddhist monks both practice lives with minimal material possessions as well, in order to focus on their spirituality. I’m sure there’s others, but I’m an entertainer, not a historian.

Frugal Minimalism

Not too dissimilar from religious and spiritual philosophy is the “minimalism” school of thought, whereby removing debt and getting rid of clutter from your life can lead to a sense of fulfillment.

There is a counter-consumer movement worldwide that is rooted in the belief that one will much more easily find a satisfied life if they can limit the amount of economical and material baggage that they are indebted to. “Throwing your shit away” = personal enlightenment.

Famous French poet and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, once said, “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. Many in the modern minimalist movement have adopted this as one of their guiding principles.

Wealth, Goals, & Frugality

Being Frugal can have a significant impact one of the two defining factors in building wealth: your expenses.

Living below your means is key to building wealth and seeking future goals such as paying off your debts, early retirement, purchasing a home, going back to school, etc.

Reducing your expenses in the pursuit of present and future gain can become quite addictive. For some, like those crazy extreme couponers, it becomes a lifestyle.

I would venture to bet that for many, this was the initial driving force behind their move to a more frugal lifestyle.

Impact Reduction & Frugality

When you buy less stuff, you are more environmentally friendly, as a result.

But for some, impact reduction and environmental and other ethical concerns are the driving factor. A seemingly frugal lifestyle is the result.

Reducing your consumption of materials, water, energy, and transportation, and reusing and re-purposing have a significant impact on the environment. It can also have a significant impact on your bank account. An entire section of 20somethingfinance has been dedicated to eco-friendly savings – so dig in.

The tiny house movement is closely tied to frugality and it seems to be a combination of impact reduction, minimalism, and wealth-building.

Frugality Driven by Fear & Obsession

“Frugal” has taken on a positive connotation in recent years. However, close relatives to the phrase, “tightwad” and “cheapskate” have not.

There are certainly people who are driven to be frugal from emotions such as fear. Fear can lead people to want to pinch every single penny so that they won’t run out of money, fall into debt, or maybe they are simply afraid to give up their hard earned money. You could refer to them as tightwads and cheapskates.

When kept in check, a little fear around spending too much is a healthy thing, but it rarely should ever be the only reason why you are frugal in every monetary situation. A focus on the fear can lead to obsession and that’s when you get stories of people who don’t experience life and end up dying, alone, with millions in the bank.

Personal Motivators

For me personally, each of the above triggers has inspired me to be frugal at one point or another.

When I was going to college, I was a cheapskate, in the worst possible sense. I didn’t want to spend a dime on anything. Fear of debt and selfishness were motivators.

After graduation, building wealth was a motivating factor for me to be frugal. I set long-term goals to become debt free and retire early. Without living far below my means, these goals would just be a dream.

Recently, I have been driven to be frugal through spiritual, minimalist, and environmental reasons. With career, family, and material commitments at times becoming overwhelming and leading to stress, I truly believe that if I can limit the amount of financial and material baggage in my life, I will be less stressed, more focused, and happier.

Why Are YOU Frugal?

  • What are the motivating reasons why you are frugal?
  • Is being frugal popular amongst your peers?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Kathleen says:

    My reason is very simple: I hate clutter. I traveled for several years before getting a real job and had very few possessions. Now that I have a place of my own, I can’t stand crap just laying around. Either it has to be used or it’s going to the dump/charity.

    What’s the point in having stuff around if you are not using it?

  • Mike says:

    I’ve been frugal lately because I am saving for a house. I always stop and think before buying something I want, tell myself this money could instead go towards buying a house. Now my goal is only a few months away, and my frugality is about to pay off with a mortgage payment that is approximately the same cost as my monthly rent.

  • I am on a minimalist journey right now to try to rid my life of clutter. I would say that my minimalism actually grew from my frugality which probably grew from my desire to save.

  • David says:

    I personally am a frugal person to leave a legacy for my children. I am frugal to give my children advantages that I never had.

  • mdenis39 says:

    There’s a big difference between being frugal & being a cheapskate. One example: a cheapskate goes out with friends and won’t buy a round when it’s his/her turn. A frugal person will go out with friends and drink water.

  • mdenis39 says:

    I am frugal because I was brought up in a home where everything was stretched because of tight money. I do not replace things I have just because they are old, worn/torn/chipped, or out of fashion. Instead, I repair it or make do with it (or without it). But I am not miserly – I will spend $$ on things that we deem important (and that fit within our budget).

  • Clint says:

    I’m frugal because I HATE clutter. Can not stand to have too much stuff just lying around and not organized. I also am frugal so that I can provide for my wife and I in retirement. There is NO way I’m counting on the government for anything. Being frugal allows me to be independent.

  • curtis says:

    There is an interesting book about the Amish people, and their frugality that I read recently. Money Secrets of the Amish, by Lorilee Craker. It is a quick, but insightful read into how far the Amish go to save, by scraping the bottom of the barrel figuratively and literally.

    I try to be frugal in order to live a simpler, less stressful life; to save for a decent retirement; and so my children feel safe and secure.

  • Nick says:

    Warren Buffet still lives in the same simple house he bought in 1958 and drives older cars for years and years. In a documentary he says he knows he could buy fancy cars and have multiple houses, but he knows it wouldn’t make him any happier. He is content with what he has.

    That is ultimately what I have learned in the last couple years. I am frugal now because I know owning more won’t make me any happier.

  • Steve says:

    I think I am frugal with only certain things. Some things I value more, and some things I don’t. So you can think of it as being cheap in one category (e.g. clothes) so I can be more generous in another category (e.g. my hobbies, a house, kids).

    I think it all just comes down to saving money in one account to use it in another account. In the end, the money will be spent one way or another.

  • Holly Thrifty says:

    I became more frugal each time I watched someone I love die. No stuff changed their destiny. Things lost meaning and thankfully their power. I didn’t need much of anything any more. Now I carefully consider WHY I am buying what I am buying. Is it because I need it, want it or is society telling me “unless you have this this stuff you’re not successful.” My shopping is more purposeful and my life far more purpose filled.

  • Michaela for Havedeals says:

    I think that my dad is such a miser that he instilled his frugality in me!

    I’m not complaining!

  • Ken Chancelor says:

    I’m not frugal.

    You’re going to end up at age 50 with no life experiences and a large bank account. Take your wife out to a nice meal – and don’t split it.

  • Dave says:

    I try to be frugal as much as possible. It can be tough sometimes. But the only reason I am frugal is because I am cheap.

  • Jon D says:

    For me I started a frugal lifestyle after overspending at University as a student. I realised then that I needed to get a handle on things and I started to look at every aspect of my lifestyle. I’m very pleased that I did!

  • Amy says:

    Once I cut back my spending and realized it was more of a psychological problem than anything else, I strived to live a more frugal lifestyle. It might sound crazy but I feel more fulfilled from having LESS stuff cluttering my life. Whether it’s physical items hanging around or the debt hanging over my head from things I thought I REALLY wanted. Every now and then I might take a few steps backward and be materialistic but I correct my steps and get back on the right path which to me is being frugal!


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