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The Benefits of Frugal Living.

This is a guest post from Matt, a 33 year old IT manager and blogger who is passionate about helping himself and others get out of debt. He writes about personal finance and debt-free living at Debt Free Adventure. To connect with Matt visit his blog, subscribe to his RSS Feed and/or follow him on Twitter.

A National Issue

For the last 100 years the American economic machine of gross abundance and mass consumption has truly been a wonder to behold. Sparsely could one have predicted that such national prosperity could be created, realized, enjoyed, and dismantled with the velocity, beauty, and wonder of a shooting star. Is our prosperity fleeting like the fiery tail of a distant passing comet, or are we simply in a national slump? Is frugality here to stay or is it too just a flash in the pan for Americans… another coping mechanism of a people who seem to be able to adapt to any crisis laid at their feet? I do not know the answer to these questions, and will leave the debate of such up to the economists of the day. Instead I choose to focus on my individual situation, what I feel compelled to do, and how I intend to do it long into the future.

A Personal Background…

Like many modern governmental, corporate, and individual budgets the country over — fiscal irresponsibility was the central theme of our family finances. Although we were not spending as irresponsibly as many, because normal consumption rates had become so perverted, my wife & I were sheepishly spending more than we earned, which was ultimately creating a financial reality with which we were rarely pleased. I am willing to bet that much of what I have written is quite familiar to many of you… please read on. You see… throughout our first 3 1/2 years of marriage my wife and I followed the financial concepts of complacency without any real concern for the consequences of our ignorant choices. We continued down that path until January of 2009… when we finally woke up to the true end to which we were heading. I wanted to give a brief synopsis of how we turned our financial situation around, and the benefits we have realized along the way. The steps we took and those we implore you to follow, are the obvious ones that are gone over regularly here on MyTwoDollars such as:

  • Start spending less than you earn
  • Exercise frugality
  • Reduce your expenses
  • Increase income if at all possible, and work to diversify your income streams as much as possible
  • Give liberally
  • Save your money

Since my wife & I have begun exercising frugality in our lives we have noticed many incredible benefits. Some of these benefits were expected, and some never entered into our minds, but are simply the harvest we reap from a life of wise, deliberate choices.

5 Random Benefits of a Frugal Life

This list is by no means all inclusive, but is simply a collection of 5 specific benefits I wanted to share with you today.

1. Saving Money – This may be the most obvious benefit of adopting frugality, but it most certainly needs to be mentioned. I would wager to say that, in the long run, a focus on frugality has been the single best money saver for our household. Frugal living builds on itself, always saves you money, and is addictive… in a good way.
2. Sustainable Lifestyle – By practicing money saving habits in all areas of our home we have adopted a strict reuse philosophy. Not only has it vastly decreased the trash we produce, but has even cut down on the amount of recycling we return because we simply recycle a lot of things back into our home. We save most commercial package containers for reuse. We have all but eliminated our use of air conditioning, and use our furnace far less. This reduces both the amount of coal our local power plant has to burn and also the natural gas we consume. We ride our bikes more often and have went from using 2 vehicles to using only 1 vehicle, which also has many health benefits.
3. Increased Creativity – Whenever we used to need ANYTHING the first thought in our mind was to rush to the store… but not any more. More accurately, that is normally the last thing we think of. We have begun making so many different household staples such as homemade laundry detergent, yogurt, crackers, cards, gifts, homemade dishwasher detergent, we installed our own paver patio and back yard. I could go on and on, but rather than wax repetitive, I would just like to stress the benefits of the creative mindset you gain when living life from a frugal perspective. I cannot move onto the next point without mentioning what a HUGE blessing it was to cancel our TV service. It was one of the tougher decisions to make, but has turned out to be one of the best… hands down and has greatly bolstered both our availabe time and our level of creativity!
4. Increased Joy – One of the least talked about benefits of adopting a frugal lifestyle is the fact that you have a much higher degree of satisfaction with your financial choices that ultimately lead to ever increasing amounts of joy. Couple this with the other benefits mentioned above, and you can see how exercising simplicity, discipline, & wisdom can lead to a much more loving and joyous family life. I know this has been a huge reality for my wife and I.
5. Self Reliance – Because we are making more and more of our own food staples and household products we are becoming increasingly more self-reliant. This is a passion of mine that I never realized was so closely related to living frugally. We are growing a hearty vegetable garden and have installed rain barrels to irrigate it for free. As I mentioned in a few of the points above, we no longer look to consume first… but rather first look to create. This spills over into every area of life and is an enormous blessing that cannot rightfully be explained unless you experience it first hand!

So what are you waiting for?

Get started today by taking at least one frugal step to increase the financial security of your family. Remember that frugality builds upon itself but the ball will not start rolling on its own… you have to push it. What was the first and/or best frugal choice you have made so far? Also, what are some benefits you have realized since adopting a frugal lifestyle?


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Comments (9)

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  1. Miranda says:

    Many people see frugality as limiting. However, with creativity, it isn’t. And, even more important, frugality, rather than binding us, can help keep us free of the chains of debt — and paying interest. Great post, Matt!

  2. morrison says:

    You lost me at:
    “Like many modern governmental, corporate, and individual budgets the country over “” fiscal irresponsibility was the central theme of our family finances.”

    Ah….what governments are you talking about? What corporations are you talking about? Who’s individual budgets are you talking about?

    The Untied States of America is technically broke and is up to their eyeballs in debt and borrowing. Plus USA has now started to borrow against the future taxes paid by anyone still left standing with a job or a profitable business. Most American corporations and financial institutions had to be bailed out by the broke government of America.

    What planet are you from?

    Other than myself, I haven’t met one voluntary frugal person/family/human being in the past 10 years. I became frugal in 2001 after the dot-com disaster out of forced necessity. I only stayed frugal because after surviving the stock market crash of 1987 and 2001, I knew 3 times would be a charm. I was right. 2007 became #3 and this time I was ready.

    You find joy in frugality???

    Give me a break. Who the hell in their right mind finds happiness in making do with less? People are only hugging frugal concepts now out of extreme survival. Granted, yes, there is little joy in debt and overextending but let’s get real here. After a while, people want to wear brand NEW clothes, go out to a fancy dinner, take a vacation, buy a new car, enjoy their lives, for pete’s sake! I’m cost conscious but I still want to find joy and happiness in my life. And I ain’t finding it by scraping lint off my clothes dryer to make a Halloween face mask for my kids!

    It takes around 3 years to get off the debt merry-go-round and save enough money to get back to spending (wisely) again. I just booked a trip to Italy, I’m back to eating out in a real, honest-to-goodness restaurant once per week, and I’m hiring service people again to mow my lawn, fix my car, thus freeing up my time. Again.

    I still have a landline, watch cable news shows, have 2 cell phones and I do NOT have a victory garden because I do not want my local farmers going out of business! Can you imagine life without them?

    There is a limit to frugality when it interferes with common sense.

    I understand you must get your financial house in order but give me a break! Hurry up and get your expenses back under control, build up your savings account, switch to cash only and get back out there and enjoy your life and the wonderful services and inventions our fellow human beings have brought to us.

  3. Paul says:

    I was going to share some pithy frugal stories of my own but was side tracked by morrison’s rant. I think perhaps you missed that he compared his finances to the financially inept governments, corporations etc. Nice tirade though. And a victory garden driving out your local businesses? Seriously. Maybe you should give me a break.

    Nice post Matt regardless.

  4. @morrison: I’m not sure what you were disagreeing with in your first couple of paragraphs:

    You lost me at:
    “Like many modern governmental, corporate, and individual budgets the country over “” fiscal irresponsibility was the central theme of our family finances.”

    Ah”¦.what governments are you talking about? What corporations are you talking about? Who’s individual budgets are you talking about?

    I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks that government, corporate and personal finances haven’t been out of control recently. Irresponsible spending has been the order of the day for quite some time. Our government runs at a huge deficit, corporations are highly leveraged, and people use their credit cards like there is no tomorrow!

    I’ve met plenty of frugal people, although it may be the circles that I run in. I’d have to agree that most people don’t spend responsibly, and really don’t care about their finances. It really is a shame – because like Matt I’ve found that simplifying things, becoming more frugal and not spending a ton of money on things I don’t need really does bring more Joy in my life. It allows me to give more, to not be in bondage to debt, and overall be more self sufficient. I don’t have to worry about monetary things nearly as much.

    By the way, I don’t think that being frugal means never enjoying yourself by going out to dinner – or by not taking vacations. Like you I just got back from a European vacation – but we were frugal about our expenses while there – we shopped around for the best deal and we paid cash for everything. If we weren’t frugal that probably wouldn’t have happened – we would have put it all on a credit card like most americans. There’s a difference between being frugal and cheap!

  5. Enrique S says:

    I’m a big fan of self-reliance, so frugal living works for me. I’m always trying to learn new skills, such as electrical wiring, masonry, etc. in order to save money with DIY projects.

  6. Camilla says:

    @morrison

    I am not in debt, I have a very good amount of savings at the bank, I save around 30% of my salary each month and I try to live as frugally as I can. What label would I have in your world, insane?

    Do not judge all others by your standards: many people couldn’t care less about restaurants and trips, and just want to have a good time with their family, friends and themselves. This does not have to involve a lot of money. A person can find joy in the smallest things, and I personally feel accomplished when at the end of the month I look at my finances and see that I am within my budget. Who are you to tell Matt that frugality only stems from extreme situations?

    Accept that people are different and move along. Your opinion may be shared with many other people, but that does not make it a universal truth.

  7. thisisbeth says:

    Frugal doesn’t mean denying yourself of everything. People don’t necessarily do it because they can’t afford any better. Sometimes, they find it a fun game to play with themselves. My brother drove a rusty old GEO Metro despite having a decent salary, simply because he loved bragging how he kept the rust heap going. There are many things I do myself, because it’s cheaper, and there’s pride of saying that I did it myself.

  8. morrison says:

    I interpreted the line to mean: government, corporations and individuals WERE being responsible. My bad.

    Anyway, yes, frugality is good up to a point but then you reach a threshold whereby it becomes extreme. I am all for frugality and because of my frugality (and all the good deals popping up) I am able to get back into enjoying life due to my cash savings. The trip to Italy (5 days) only cost $549 (Rome, round trip airfare, breakfast, hotel, etc.) If I haven’t been frugal all along, no, I couldn’t do this.

    When I became frugal in 2001, sorry dudes, but a lot of people used to make fun of it. Now, it’s all the norm and the rage. But I’d be hard pressed to take it to extremes.

    That’s all I was saying.

    Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Yup. I read it wrong.

  9. Matt Jabs says:

    @Morrison touched on the matter of “taking frugality to an extreme” and mentioned how it can be problematic.

    I think Pete addressed this well when he said “there is a difference between being frugal & being cheap.

    It is important for us to remember that being frugal does not mean you should sacrificing so much that you become unhappy. Frugality means living below your means in order to enjoy your surplus. It means being a good steward of the resource you have to work with.

    In my experience frugality truly is a blessing!

    Thanks for all your comments

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