I was first drawn to the frugal lifestyle purely for financial reasons.
One of my early frugal successes I can remember was as a teenager when I wanted to purchase a gown for the senior prom. This wasn’t just any gown that I was looking for; I wanted to feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman felt (though without all of her employment drama…) all dressed up in a breathtakingly gorgeous gown complete with white gloves and a diamond necklace. Okay, I knew that no jewelry store in their right mind would allow my 17-year-old self to borrow a diamond necklace like Richard Gere had done, but the rest of the outfit I was certain I could have.
I just needed to save up for it.
I didn’t want to use my hard-earned (think shoveling manure), $98-dollar-a-week paycheck towards a gown that I knew I would only wear once. Even back then, I was quite prudent about my meager resources.
Instead I challenged myself to only spend the money that I could accumulate in my change jar to purchase the perfect gown.
And you know what? It worked. Over the course of eight months I put every penny that I found on the ground, in-between couch cushions, and in other forgotten places into my change jar. As the weather turned and the first spring crocuses appeared, the tally from our local Coinstar® machine was an impressive $75.40. When paired with a sale at the local department store, I was able to get my beautiful, magenta-colored, sateen gown as well as a pair of elbow-length white gloves to complete the look. Feeling like a princess on a pauper’s budget, I was hooked to frugality for life.
Fast forward to over a decade living in frugal decadence, and I can now tell you with sufficient experience that there are many fringe benefits to living frugally besides the obvious (and exciting) primary ones of being able to save money, pay off debt, and design your own life. I can also confidently say that sometimes, it is these fringe benefits that really make the whole thing worthwhile.
Frugality Cultivates Greater Appreciation
When you have few resources at your disposal, you learn to appreciate them more. I have found that as you appreciate your resources more, you begin to appreciate everything more. Suddenly, your world seems filled with people you love, beautiful landscapes, and everything that you could ever ask for. Appreciation brings happiness, satisfaction, and an entirely different perspective. The more I appreciate things, the less I seem to need or even want.
Frugality Leads to a Feeling of “Having Enough”
Frugality is all about utilizing a basket of limited resources. It is not necessarily about growing that basket so that you need to upgrade to a storage container in order to fit everything. Because of cultivating an understanding and usefulness for limited resources, I have found that being frugal helps to satiate and appease the typical consumer appetite. This has wonderful, lasting effects besides to your savings account; living your life with a sense of fulfillment and without feeling a constant need to purchase and procure leads to a more authentic kind of happiness.
Frugality Means You Can Deal with Less Consumer Product Health Scares
The number of consumer products that are recalled every year is astonishing. Reasons for these recalls range from lead paint to cancer-causing agents to other safety hazards. Sometimes I wonder what will be the asbestos and tan beds of our generation. Since frugal people generally consume less products, choosing instead to substitute, buy used, make themselves, or go without, their exposure to dangerous products can be much less than other consumers.
Frugality Benefits the Environment
Some people care about their role in the environment, while others do not. As a former environmental investigator, I think you can guess which side I fall on. Being frugal naturally results in decreasing your carbon footprint in a multitude of ways. For example, carpooling and purchasing used products over new products means you cut down on petrochemical use.
Frugality Can Add Time Back into Your Life
Contrary to recent cultural belief that frugal people are extreme couponers who must spend about 20 hours of their lives each week huddled over sales and coupon circulars, being frugal can open up a significant amount of time in your life. Why is that? Because instead of running to a store, or working extra in order to pay past obligations, or cleaning/maintaining lots of belongings, you can siphon off more of your time to spend with people and to spend doing what you enjoy.
I must admit, I am not blissed out in frugal, zen-like moments from sun up ‘til sundown (is anybody?). But for the majority of the time, I feel appreciative, I feel peaceful, and I feel like I have enough. Those feelings are something that I never would have understood as a 17-year-old, but that I am oh-so-grateful for now.
Do you live a frugal lifestyle? Besides saving you money, what other fringe benefits have you discovered?