Living Frugally: The Frugal Mentality

How Much is EnoughOften, upon hearing the word frugal, inaccurate images float through the mind’s of many people.

Some imagine a penny-pinching Grinch that hoards every dollar as if clinging to life itself.

Others imagine a destitute fool who doesn’t recognize the so-called “finer things in life.”

My hope is that this blog post gives a better picture of the mind of the frugal individual. Set aside the inaccurate, and sometimes insulting images in your mind, and let’s discover the real reasons for developing the frugal mentality.

There is a scene in The Great Gatsby where Gatsby is on the second floor of his bedroom, throwing pieces of clothing down to the woman he loves. His intention is to entice her with his riches, impress her with expensive clothing, and therefore hold her affections.

This is a far cry from the frugalist’s mindset. A frugal person is free to see things as they really are. Free from the prison of materialism. The frugalist understands that the really important things are neither material nor monetary. Unlike the get-all-you-can attitude of most folks, the frugally minded actually see the ultra-lavish lifestyle as both sickening and greedy. I say this from personal experience.

The movie scene I described earlier actually turned my stomach. Why?  Because I think of all the desperate folks in the world who could benefit from the generosity of the ultra-rich.

Can you imagine the problems that would be solved if every mega-rich celebrity or sports personality decided to sell their mansions and some of their many luxury vehicles, then donated the proceeds to feed the hungry or help rescue victims of human trafficking? What if all those millions were funneled into creating jobs for those in desperate situations instead of being used to buy expensive purses, over-priced shoes and jewelry?

That would be an amazing thing!

It is the frugal mind that can do this world the most good because it is not trapped by the mentality of gathering more and more stuff. The frugalist is free to give to charities, churches, and the indigent on the street without feeling she has missed something.

She understands the importance of paying a homeless person to wash her car instead of going to the car wash. In fact, giving to those less fortunate gives the frugal person a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

So the next time you’re tempted to think of a frugal person as stingy or cheap, you may want to consider that she is not hoarding her pennies, she is proactively funneling them to where they are needed most.

And you SavvyReader, what frugal practices have you adopted?

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. Living a frugal life style is certainly a life style choice but remember that consumer spending represents 70% of our GDP……..

    • True. A different set of problems is introduced if everyone hoards money.

  2. Being intentional about how we spend is a good first start. As we built our retirement budget we’ve been assessing our priorities — what we need, what we really want, and what doesn’t really matter at all. Knowing those helps us choose what to let go of.

    • Great points, Jean. As you note, I believe really establishing priorities is key. Once that is accomplished, a lot of things fall into place.

  3. It does amaze me how much money is spent on items that are only bought because of the name on the tag. For instance, Coach bags. To me they are a total waste of money. I know they are well made bags, I get it, but I have had some other well made bags that were 1/3 the cost!

    • So true. You don’t have to always spend a significant amount of money to get quality.

  4. I agree with most of the comments however , I also think the true frugalist has to have a bit of an obsession with his or her financial situation . Most of the wealthy people I have talked with take great pride in having worked exceedingly hard for what they have and don’t strike me as greedy or wasteful . Webster defines frugal simply as not wasteful: thrifty . I think most people who earned what they have fit the definition.

    • Agreed that most people that have achieved financial success have done it through hard work. I believe a point Taz was trying to make, hence the reference to The Great Gatsby, is that even the wealthy can be more frugal. Often when people think of those that are adopting more frugal (thrifty) behaviors, they think of people that are doing so in an effort to attain more wealth. However, it is not just those who are working hard, trying to achieve grater wealth who would benefit from adopting frugal behaviors. Those that have achieved great financial success (e.g. Gatsby), could benefit themselves – and those around them – through frugality. In Taz’s example, many others could benefit if Gatsby was less wasteful and more frugal.

      As always, Brad, great to hear from you. I hope you’re following the Cream City Hustle updates. If so, look for another tomorrow.

  5. I think about this all the time – people with a lot of money and how they could spend it on more worthwhile things. If I had millions I would become a philanthropist, that’s for sure.

    • No doubt that too many people spend too much time and energy in in the pursuit of things. We’d all be a lot better off if people put that same time and energy into developing relationships; and giving back in ways that are commensurate with their own financial well-being. Those that have more could give a little more. An important thing to remember also, is that giving time and energy is just as important as money.

  6. Nice post James. Frugal thoughts in my point of view is an essential thing to have regardless how much rich or poor you are since nobody knows whats coming tomorrow. So my frugal thought is ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’. I have also started a blog to help people with different financial crisis. Hope to see you James there sometimes.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Gavin. You are correct, it is always savvy to hope for the best while preparing for the worst. I will have to check out you blog. Best of luck with it.

  7. “Free from the prison of materialism”. This is spot on and just the way I feel. I would also add that I often view the lifestyle of others who live in the “material world” as wasteful. They are not just wasting money, but are often oblivious to the havoc that their consumption has on our natural environment. Buying less and buying used means that I reduce my own impact on the environment.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Green Money Stream. Your comments were well stated and are right on target!

    • Really great input Green Money Steam. I totally agree. My wife and I are learning that there are many items we can get used which we had been taught to “only buy new”. It actually annoys me that we have been taught the lie of consumerism.

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