Is Living in a Frugal Way Worth It?

by on December 16, 2011

People often wonder if living in a frugal way is worth it.  I guess that depends on how you define frugal and to what degree of frugality you live.  Technically, all you need to survive is a canvas sheet and a piece of flint, but would it be worth it?  Probably not.  I think the answer really depends on your level of satisfaction that you get with saving money versus your desire to spend money.  With these two factors in mind, let’s look at the pros and cons of living frugal to figure out if its worth it.

Advantages of Living in a Frugal Way

Is living in a frugal way worth it?

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Living in a frugal way has many advantages.  First and foremost, it saves you money.  The more frugal you live, the less you spend and the more money that you can save each month.  With years of living below your means you’ll be able to save quite a nestegg.  And more importantly, because your spending is so low, that nestegg will take you farther into retirement.  That means living frugaly is in some way living for the future.  You are foregoing today’s luxuries in order to save for the future.  This is perhaps the top reason to live in this manner.

The second reason that people live frugaly is because of their beliefs.  There are many reasons that people choose to live frugaly that do not include money.  For example, many religions do not believe in excesses and guide their constituents to living in a humble manner.  Also, there are very legitimate environmental reasons to live in this manner.  Frugal living saves the environment because you use less resources, take advantage of renewable resources, and recycle all that you can in order to live a green lifestyle.  Also, as many baby boomers can attest, they live without glamour and without spending frivolously because that’s what their parents did.  And that’s the way they were brought up.  They simply don’t believe in waste or living in excess.

Disadvantages of Living in a Frugal Way

The disadvantages of living in this manner are really very few.  The biggest disadvantage could be that you forego too much pleasure, and that your life becomes somewhat dull.  Of course, this is just a matter of opinion, but here is an example that is fresh in my head.  Last year, I had a friend that lives very frugaly decline a fishing trip with me.  The fishing trip was at my cabin and completely paid for other than a $20 fishing license.  My friend had bought a fishing license in another state and “couldn’t justify” paying another $20 to fish in his own state.  Ok, I respect his decision, but is it really worth it?  For the $20 he could have spent a week living for free in a house on the lake and hanging out with his friends and family.  In this case, I would say that living frugal gave him a big disadvantage in this case.

Another disadvantage that I notice about some that live in this manner is that they start to lose touch with reality.  In their quest for frugality, they start giving up not just material goods, but meat, poultry, fish, and sometimes anything that is not organic and vegan.  They start dressing in the Berkeley attire (tablecloth style dresses with unkept hair) and sometimes take it so far that they have a hard time communicating or interacting with anyone that doesn’t follow the same principles as them.  Personally, I’ve stopped hanging out with some friends because they got just “too wierd”.

So, Is it Worth It?

Every person has a little frugality in them.  Even the spendiest people forego purchases for monetary reasons.  To make frugality work for you it’s important to find the right tradeoff between living for the now and living for the future.  You also need to figure out where you stand on this way of living and then try to find the right balance of frugality and fun, so that you live a balanced life.  Live frugal enough that you can save for retirement, but don’t go to extremes as it will probably not be worth it.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ACSAPA August 31, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I think there’s a happy medium. It’s okay to use coupons or cook most of your meals at home, but you don’t have to haggle over fishing licenses, give up meat or become unkempt. Like anything, frugality is good in moderation as long as you don’t take it too far and deprive yourself of all of life’s pleasures. You only live once. The point isn’t to be miserable, the point is to not be wasteful and not overpay for things.

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Sonya April 1, 2014 at 4:27 am

An interesting article! I struggle with being too frugal, and personally the biggest issue is how much time I waste. I will spend a lot of time trying to save a few dollars (literally). I like what your other reader said, that life is short. I think about how many folks end up with chronic pain or illness (or worse, short life-span) and wonder, how is this worth it? Better to enjoy and appreciate life to the fullest. I am working on teaching myself that, because excessive frugality can rob you of that. There are always two sides to the story, and I know that some people are more stressed because they aren’t frugal enough for their own good, but on the other side of the table, I can attest that there is definitely such a thing as being too frugal. Like your dear friend who missed out on an awesome experience because of his reticence to spend $20. It was sad for him, but such a good example for the rest of us to learn from.

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