Lest there are some of you out there who associate a stigma with frugal living or being thrifty, allow me to educate you about what frugal living is NOT. By learning what it is not, perhaps you’ll get a better idea about what it truly is.
Being A Mooch
Frugal living does not mean being a mooch or learning how to be a freeloader. On the contrary, those who learn to live within (or below) their means are more likely to be financially independent and live in their own home rather than on somebody else’s couch. However, frugal people know how to take advantage of great offers like “buy one get one free”, “children eat free”, or “enjoy a birthday meal on us”.
Similarly, living frugally is not an exercise in laziness. It’s not a matter of finding out how little you can get away with doing without the bill collectors paying a visit. Paying off debt sometimes means taking on an additional job or doing things yourself that you might otherwise have paid somebody else to do. It can be hard work to find the best deal, clip coupons, or grow your own vegetables. Being thrifty is about more than not spending; it’s about learning to live with less. There’s nothing lazy about that.
Living Like A Hobo
Living simply does not mean taking on the lifestyle of a hobo or riding the rails (although public transportation has its benefits). You can be frugal and own a home, a car, or both. You can be frugal and own more clothing than you can carry on the end of a stick. You can even have central heating and air conditioning. However, thrifty people understand that the more you own, the more your stuff owns you. You have to think about the cost of insurance, maintenance, and storage. That being said, you can downsize without having to live on the streets.
Looking Homeless/Being Unfashionable
Speaking of homelessness, frugal folks don’t have to look unfashionable or homeless. (Side note: the current hipster trend sometimes makes it difficult to tell who’s homeless and who’s trendy anyway. Don’t judge prematurely.) Purchasing used furnishings, vehicles, or clothing items doesn’t mean you have to wear tattered rags or driven a beaten up jalopy. There are enough quality second hand stores and certified pre-owned vehicle programs to allow even the most frugal among us to look well groomed and stylish.
Too often the words frugal, thrifty, and tightwad are used interchangeably. That’s a false stereotype. Many thrifty people live simply so that they are able to donate to their favorite charitable causes, friends or family in need, or victims of natural disasters. There is a freedom that comes with living below your means, and part of that freedom is not being chained to debt or financial obligations that claim every bit of income you receive. In those circumstances, you may have a lot of nice stuff, but you feel as though you’re broke because you haven’t left yourself any margin to give.