What Does Being Frugal Mean to You?

by Ryan Guina

Being frugal is about more than just saving money. To me, being frugal is about using your resources wisely and being more efficient with everything you do. Unless you are independently wealthy, you probably have a limited amount of time, money, and other resources – and you probably need to find a way to make the most effective use of all of them. To me, doing this is being frugal.

I try to make frugality a part of my daily life by finding ways to save money, saving energy, recycling, doing my own projects around the house instead of paying someone else, and borrowing books and movies from the library instead of buying them.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that being frugal is not just  important to me, but to everyone. In fact, I would say it is necessary.

Resources are limited

Money, energy, time, and materials are finite. There never seems to be enough of any of them and wasting these resources stresses people, our wallets, and our earth. Finding ways to cut energy usage, reuse items, and save money and resources will help everyone in their personal situation, as well as help everyone as a collective. 

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

I remember learning the “Three R’s” when I was in grade school. It was funny though, because I lived in a small town where no recycling facilities existed. However, I did take those lessons to heart, and I taught myself to make better use of my resources. Now, the town I live in has recycling centers and I recycle everything I can. Being frugal with my resources has become second nature to me.

Do the big things and everything else will fall in line

Go for the big wins first – use a programmable thermostat to save a lot of money on your utility bill, buy a fuel efficient car, buy used instead of new if it makes sense (or cents) to do so. Just keep in mind, there needs to be a balance. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to search for 3 hours to save $5, or drive half an hour each way to save $10 on an item. Sure, you save some money, but in my opinion, frugality is also about being efficient with time and energy usage. 

Make frugality a habit, but don’t deprive yourself

Frugality is a lifelong habit for me. I have always been careful with my money, but as I have grown I have become more considerate of other things as well, including conserving resources and trying to find more efficient uses for my time. But I don’t deprive myself; I prefer buying quality items, I like a certain (expensive) brand of orange juice, and sometimes I like a long hot shower. You don’t need to deprive yourself to be a frugal person, you just need to be aware of how you use your resources, and decide what is best for your situation.

Do you have a definition of frugal that varies from mine? Feel free to leave your definition or frugal tips in the comments section.

Published or updated January 24, 2008.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan

Ciaran, going green is one of the ways I would like to reduce energy use and save money. I already use CFLs and drive a fairly fuel efficient car… but I would eventually love to be able to use solar panels, wind turbine produced energy, or solar water heating to reduce the amount of energy I need to buy. I’d be happy that it saves money, but I also like the idea of using replenishable resources for energy.


2 CiaranFromChance

I’m learning a lot from you guys on how to reduce. I’m still formulating my ideas on frugality but am picking up a lot of good habits from my favorite PF blogs.

For me, going forward frugality is likely going to come in the way of going green. I agree that we are putting an awful strain on this planet and each one of us has to do our part to change that.


3 Kyle

Nice post. I am a frugal person, with a strong bend towards time saved. I won’t waste a ton of time to save a small amount of money. Especially when I can use that time to earn money in another more efficient way. This is why I can’t get into clipping grocery coupons, can’t find a time efficient way to do it…yet.


4 Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net

To me, Being Frugal means this great blog with a green banner and a cute little piggy bank logo…. Oh wait…different being frugal. 😉

Your definition of being frugal is pretty similar to mine. My official definition is “making the best use of your resources for your own situation.” It’s going to look different for everyone. I focus a lot on being frugal with money, because I have a lot of time.

Someone with less time and more money might be more frugal by spending money to conserve time.


5 Emily

For me, being frugal has gone from living within my means (which I’ve done for years but at least for my current frame of mind wasn’t always frugal) to really putting time and effort and a lot more thought into what I spend my money on. I have started to question things that I used to just take as necessities in spending and found ways to reduce in all areas of my life. To me, just living within ones means doesn’t equal frugal. It’s taking that a step further and reducing even more even when you don’t necessarily *have* to, but it’s for the better of your life situation and for the world around you.


6 Randall

Being Frugal is a website I visit often,..:)No, actually being frugal is living within my means. I can expand my lifestyle to anything I want it to be, as long as I don’t have to take from others (money, resources, etc) to do it. I make my own way for me and my family. I do stupid stuff, I make it right. I enjoy the fruits of my labors, and don’t regret it.


7 deepali

Emily took the words out of my mouth. “Living within my means” isn’t enough – not when the “means” for most people results in not enough for others.

Just as an example – a lawyer friend of mine makes 250K a year. Living within his means wouldn’t be so hard to do! But imagine if a million people (or more) did that… it’s just not sustainable.

The 3 Rs start with “reduce”. That’s where I’m focusing now.


8 Ryan

Kyle, I don’t regularly clip coupons, but I will sometimes skim the mailings to see if there is anything useful that I was planning on buying anyway. I don’t use coupons to buy things I wasn’t planning on buying before I got the coupon.

Lynnae, your definition is great! 🙂

Emily, it amazes me how much “less” we can all get by on. I think a lot of people are wasteful because they just don’t think about their actions.

deepali, great point – as usual. 😉


9 Lisa Spinelli

To me, being frugal needs to be balanced with eating organically, and being socially responsible in some way as well. For example, I cut grocery coupons regularly, but will buy organic (especially dairy) if I can. I always buy free range organic eggs, and free range chicken that has not been treated with hormones.
It’s all what is important to you, I think.


10 Julie

First time here:)

I have to say being frugal for me is pretty much the way you’ve defined it. “Waste not, want not” comes to mind when I think about how I live a frugal life.


11 Frugal Dad

I think we are in agreement on our definitions of “frugal.” One of the things I find myself doing more of now that I am in a “frugal” mindset is not wasting things as much (food, water, even time). I consider those living a frugal lifestyle to be efficient consumers of all resources.


12 living in a frugal way

Excellent article….

I think being frugal goes hand in hand with having a responsibility for nature and the environment. Simply by cutting back on your consumption you are having a less negative effect on the earth…. live long and frugal 🙂


13 jacqueline

frugality for me is using quality items for clothes, shoes and bags so i wont buy frequently


14 frugal-freemantles

for me being frugal is saving money,saving time,re using items if poss and generally recycling.I think todays society is very money minded and we need to show our kids that the most expensive things arnt always the bestxx


15 Ryan


I agree 100%! Thanks for sharing. 🙂


16 JStone

Well, the cultural differences between my Chinese wife and I seem to extend into the shower.

I like to use a soap with a pleasant fragrance to it. However my wife and her mother insist on a cake of soap with an odour resembling some kind of harsh industrialised detergent.

I don’t know where they find this soap, but it certainly wouldn’t sell in a Coles or a Woolworths.

Every time I get near it I get an idea of what life would have been like in those concentration camps in China during the cultural revolution. This is really harsh soap that leaves one feeling that their body has been stripped of all vital moisture. It is certainly not a luxury item.

In any case, its always there in the shower, whether I like it or not.

In order to get around this, I recently purchased a bottle of body shampoo, as something that I could use and at least feel like I had a real showever.

The day after I purchased it, the bottle went missing.

When I asked my wife what happened to it, she quickly ran to the bathroom. She returned with an old handwash bottle.

She then proudly stated that her mother diluted the contents of my bottle, and got to fill four old handwash bottles.

When I told her that it was for me to use in the shower, she looked at me strangely and said, “why would you use that in the shower? We already have soap!”


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