Frugal Origins: Why do you Practice Frugality?

Are you Frugal?

As 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.

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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