5 Myths About Living a Frugal Life

Frugality is the single most important characteristic in an individual who seeks to attain financial independence.

By being frugal, you work BOTH sides of this equation. Your expenses are reduced, while your savings rate increases, allowing you to invest in assets that provide PASSIVE INCOME we all love.

Frugality may seem like a bad word to some and this is mainly due to the five myths described below.

Myth #1: Frugality makes you “cheap.”

Some key differences between being frugal and cheap are:

Someone who is frugal saves money. Someone who is cheap saves money at the expense of others.

A frugal person focuses their spending on things of value. A cheap person saves in any possible scenario, at all costs.

A frugal person values time. A cheap person values money.

A frugal person looks for value. A cheap person looks for the least expensive.

Essentially, a frugal person does not value material items. They do not try to keep up with Joneses. They are perfectly OK driving their used car or truck, finding deals at Goodwill and other thrift stores, and packing a lunch. However, they do spend money on the parts of life that matter most to them.

Myth #2: Frugality doesn’t allow you to truly live.

This is the funniest one. I get it all the time. “Craig, you need to live a little.” These people clearly don’t know much about me.

As the song “Live Like You’re Dying” goes, I have been sky diving (in the Swiss Alps), Rocky Mountain climbing (in Colorado), and even rode a bull (maybe he was named Fu Manchu?). I’ve climbed volcanoes in Guatemala, scuba dived in the Galapagos, and have been all over the United States.

That’s what “living” is for me. Those adventures and the people I meet doing those things are what I live for. You know what I don’t live for? Crappy restaurant food. “Nice” cars. Superficial clothing. Going to the same bar with the same friends every weekend. You get the idea.

It’s not just me. Talk to anyone who values frugality. Compare them to those who spend more lavishly, and I can almost guarantee the frugal person, the one who needs less to appreciate life, is infinitely happier than the lavish spender. They are more fulfilled, have more things that matter, and acquire less clutter.

“The richest man is not who has the most, but who needs the least.” I don’t know who said it, but I love it!

Myth #3: Frugality is too hard.

This may not be a myth. Frugality is hard, especially in the beginning and especially if you’re used to a life with few financial limits. But it gets easier. Over time, frugality becomes second-nature and it’s the unreasonable spending and excess that become difficult. As the sugary-sweet high of consumerism begins to fade, it’ll be replaced by the joy of living debt-free, living more simply, and with less stress.

Rather than think of ways to save 50 percent or more of your income—which, if done correctly, will likely allow you to “retire” in five to 10 years—you would rather come up with the “it’s too much work” excuse and work 40 to 50 years.

I’m no mathematician. But it seems awfully clear that you are going to be putting in a LOT more work if these excuses persist.

Related: 
Thirty Tips for a More Frugal Lifestyle

Myth #4: Increasing your income is better than being frugal.

This is a half-fair statement. You can absolutely make more money by increasing your income. However, the trap that most Americans fall into is that immediately as they increase their income, they increase their lifestyles. They reward themselves with a new car or live in a more expensive apartment, etc.

Increasing your income is a great way to go about achieving financial freedom. While there is unlimited scalability, however, it is far less efficient.

Back to the financial independence expression:

Increasing your income only allows you to work one side of the equation. Frugality works both! By decreasing your expenses (right side), you are able to invest in more passive assets (left side).

Not only that, but when you cut expenses, you are saving after-tax dollars. Ben Franklin’s quote of a “penny saved is a penny earned” is actually outdated with our current tax system. A penny saved is now 1.33 pennies earned (depending on your tax bracket).

Myth #5: Nobody else is doing it

It can be hard to scroll through Facebook or see your friends and family appear to live “high on the hog” while you’re sitting back trying to find ways to save money just to make ends meet. When you feel that way,  know that one of two things is happening; either your friends are living above their means or they’re making life seem better than it is for social media. Both happen on a daily basis and both have their own dangers associated with them.

Trying to keep up with the Joneses is a great way to kill your finances. Don’t fall victim to the myth that you’re the only frugal person you know, but keep an eye out as well so you don’t attempt to keep up with the people around you.

Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) is the original frugality badass. MMM worked as an engineer for a few years and quickly realized he was among the few that were saving large portions of their income. After “retiring” at 31, he realized he was on to something. This freedom has allowed him to start one of the most successful personal finance blogs in the space, spend unlimited time with his son, and do things he loves to do.

Conclusion

There you have it—five common frugality myths, busted! Now, quit your whining, and take action! Here’s a challenge/action item for you.

Look at your finances, whether you use Mint or Personal Capital, or you just look over your most recent bank statement. Then, determine ONE THING you can cut from your life. This is preferably something with a meaningful impact. Perhaps you can cut your restaurant spending in half? Or maybe you can ditch that silly cable bill.

We can all help fight misconceptions about frugality since we’re all examples of stereotypes that don’t fit in some way or another. Maybe the larger social trend of moderation is here to stay. If so, let’s help shed the thinking that has marginalized thrift and popularized excess. We just may be better for it.

Thirty Tips for a More Frugal Lifestyle

These are the frugal living tips that helped my family go from impulse spenders to conscious consumers. 

These were the beginnings of the end of my “keeping up with the joneses” path so many people are on. Dave Ramsey sums this up well with his quote “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

Like most people I wasn’t naturally frugal, and still have room for improvement. The tips covered allowed my family to crush our credit card debt and go all in on our investments and building PASSIVE INCOME!

This website contains affiliate links and I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

What is Frugal Living?

Simply put, frugal living is spending less on things that don’t matter so you can invest greatly in those that do.

Frugality is buying the smaller home so you can afford more family trips and experiences. It’s shopping at the smaller grocery store so you can save more for retirement. And it’s saving more money in your younger years so you can retire early, with your best years yet to come.

Frugal living isn’t about being stingy, it’s about being resourceful.

It’s about finding ways to save where you can (whether via coupons, freebies or DIY hacks) so you can focus your money and attention on the things you truly value, whether that’s saving for a comfortable retirement, an early retirement, building passive income, traveling the world, or living a debt-free life.

Any number of the frugal tips below can help you achieve any of these, so read on and take action!

Simply put, frugal living is spending less on things that don’t matter so you can invest greatly in those that do  Frugal living isn’t about being stingy, it’s about being resourceful.  Like most people I wasn’t naturally frugal, and still have room for improvement. The tips covered allowed my family to crush our credit card debt and go all in on our investments and building PASSIVE INCOME!

1. Buy a reliable car in the “best” used window.

Just because a car is newer doesn’t make it safer. Unless you’re willing to spend more on maintenance and depreciation, purchase cars with a proven track record of reliability. Toyota first comes to my mind but shop around there are lots of great options.

As for a “best” used window, it’s estimated that cars lose half their value every three to five years, depending on the make and model of course. The window to buy a used car is four to ten years old.

2. Bike more.

People think they have to go all in on the cyclist lifestyle to bike to work. But just by biking to work a couple days a week can save you plenty of money over the course of a year. It also doesn’t have to be anything special, I used this Schwinn while stationed out in Hawaii.

3. Work from home.

The 4-Hour Workweek taught me that negotiating with your boss is an option, and allowed me to help a family member in need workout a more flexible AT HOME work schedule. And if you can’t work remote 100% of the time you can at least try to do part-time. Cutting down on the number of days you have to commute will make the biggest impact on your mileage and gas expense. This is especially applicable as more companies shifted with current health concerns, and the ease with all technology available today.

4. Stick to the grocery list.

A quick way to overspending on groceries is impulse buying. Make your grocery list based on your meal plan and stick to it. If you want a treat you can add it to the list beforehand but if it’s not there, avoid it.

5. Shop your pantry.

You’re not going to clear your pantry by using a spice packet here and there.  Its surprising how many people buy ingredients and come home put them up only to find out hey.. I have 4 of those already doh!

6. Have emergency meal supplies.

Some nights things don’t go as planned (That’s Life). Make sure you keep essentials for emergency meals in your pantry. Spaghetti, beans and rice, anything that will help you when you just can’t execute your meal plan. Something easy, healthy and that isn’t ordering out!

7. Buy your groceries online and pick them up.

If you still impulse buy, change how you shop. Grocery shopping online and picking up curbside can save you time, money, and temptation to impulse buy.

8. Take your lunch to work.

Sometimes going out for lunch is harder to avoid than dinner. Taking leftovers, making something the night before, or having ingredients at your desk are great options.

9. Limit grocery shopping to once per week.

You can grocery shop on Sunday and stick to your budget but if you find yourself making one or two extra stops throughout the week you budget may take a beating. “Well while I’m here I’ll just grab this too” come on you’ve said it.

10. Try generic.

If there are items you’re still buying name brand, try the generic version for a while. You may might decide to go back to buying the name brand but you also might be surprised by how good the generic version is. Try Dave Ramsey’s generic food calculations to see how much you could save on an average meal or week.

11. Use the “any item” rebates on Ibotta.

Unlike other saving apps that require you to buy brand name items, Ibotta has “any item,” “any brand,” and “any receipt” rebates so you can get cashback without compromising. If you haven’t used Ibotta before it’s worth trying and easy to earn a little money on items you are already buying every single week. For us it baby yogurt and fruits.

12. Use a dehumidifier to keep things cooler.

A dehumidifier removes humidity and makes a room feel cooler. If you struggle with a hot house in the summer, this can help run that A/C less or at least keep the thermostat set a little higher.

13. Install low flow toilets.

Flushing your toilet uses 38% of your home’s indoor water usage. When it’s time to replace your toilets go for the low flow and dual flush models.

14. Check Facebook Marketplace first.

Instead of going straight to Target or Amazon, check Facebook Marketplace first. It’s safer than Craigslist and you’ll be surprised by all the things you can find. 

15. Check out local pawn shops.

Need a small appliance and can’t find it on Facebook Marketplace? Head to a pawn shop! Pawn shops have a ton of outdoor equipment, kitchen items, electronics, etc, at great prices.