I’ve never considered myself to be frugal, yet alone a frugal minimalist.
On the surface frugality and minimalism appear to be close relatives. Spending less and buying less go hand in hand. At least so I thought.
It wasn’t until I started researching topics on frugal living that I realised that these two ideas could be at odds. Especially when you layer veganism over the top.
In this post, I’m going to share why frugal living poses problems for those looking to live with less. At the same time, there are some areas where frugal living amplifies minimalism.
Before we look at the challenges and benefits, it’s important to define the frugal mindset and the minimalist mindset.
What does frugal living mean?
Frugality is the process of being sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.
What does minimalism mean?
Minimalism is the process of eliminating the non-essentials in your life, so you can focus on the things that add value.
A minimalist is not necessarily concerned about the cost of something, as long as it adds value, while frugality is more concerned about reducing and avoiding costs to focus on the long-term.
Let’s have a closer look at the challenges of being a frugal minimalist.
Holding onto things that no longer add value
Someone who is frugal is motivated to retain the things they currently own instead of buying new things. This is an excellent mindset to have, especially when it comes to reducing waste.
However, the retention of things risks promoting clutter which is a minimalists nightmare.
There are two thoughts here. And trust me, this is something Maša, and I discuss all the time.
One thought is a frugal person will merely hang onto everything they have, even if certain items add no short-term value.
For example, you might hang on to a tool you haven’t used for five years to avoid rebuying the same thing in the future, just in case you need it. Conversely, a minimalist would likely get rid of that tool and not look back.
Another thought, which I like about frugal living, is the motivation to repair things you own instead of buying new ones. For example, repairing your shoes instead of buying a new pair thus creating less waste and resources. A minimalist may discard the worn shoes and invest in a new pair.
The challenge with this approach, however, is that you either need to acquire skills to repair things or you risk paying someone else to do it which might not be worth doing in the end.
Our friend Clare Mann was telling us that she got quoted $80 to repair her boots! In this instance, the cost to repair the shoes were more than the cost to buy a new pair of boots.
It makes me wonder why there aren’t more services that fix products. This also shows customers that brands are confident in the durability of their products as they encourage you to repair them.
Hunting for bargains
Being economical and frugal often means being motivated by bargains. Those who are frugal are thinking about the long-term and may be tempted to buy things just because it’s a good deal and is likely to use the item in the future.
At the same time, I understand that there’s a difference between being frugal and cheap. Cheap is more bottom-line focused while frugal is more about avoiding unnecessary costs. In this context, frugal living draws similarities to minimalism.
Promoting an unethical supply chain
While frugal living is great for reducing waste, shopping frugally can pose problems for mindful consumption.
Again, frugal consumption is mainly concerned with reducing costs. This generally means buying things which are very low in price.
Not always, but mostly, low-cost items are made cheaply. And the only way to achieve a low price at scale is to engage in unethical practices, whether it’s the avoidance of fair trade practices, unnatural ingredients and materials, and of course exploitation of animals.
As minimalist, vegan shoppers we’re mostly happy to spend money on higher cost items as long as it’s considered essential to us and the product is ethically made.
Forgoing spontaneous and impulsive spending
As a minimalist, your spending is driven by value. This includes spontaneous activities.
With frugal living being so focused on the discipline of short-term consumption, it limits opportunities to splurge sparingly.
Conversely, avoiding impulsive spending could be positive as there are many activities and experiences we can do that don’t involve money. So in that regard, I think the constraint of frugality is beneficial to challenge ourselves to get creative with how we spend our time.
Do you consider yourself a frugal minimalist?
In the end, if you see frugal living as a means for being cheap, you’ll find that it’s in contradiction to minimalism.
But if you see frugal living as a necessary constraint to be mindful of how you spend your time and money, then it’s an incredible amplifier of minimalism.
How do you combine frugality and minimalism? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.