Mrs. Frugalwoods finds there are many benefits to being frugal, from reducing stress to spending more time with her family.
Being frugal gets a bad rap. It sounds boring, difficult, and not terribly appealing. But as someone who has chosen to live frugally long term, I’ve discovered quite a few amazing benefits to a minimalist lifestyle.
To Reduce Stress, Spend Less
When my husband and I decided that frugality was one tactic to achieve our dream of financial independence and moving to a homestead in the woods, life suddenly became simpler.
All of the unnecessary—and expensive—distractions I’d previously considered important began to fade away. I realized I’d been stressing out over things that ultimately don’t bring me lasting happiness. For example, I used to spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about my clothes and appearance. I constantly made lists of items I thought I needed: a red belt, a chunky necklace, patent leather flats. Then I’d expend time and energy questing after these things—comparison shopping, thrift store shopping, online shopping—I always felt like I had an endless to-do list of shopping!
When we decided to stop spending money on unnecessary things, these to-do lists evaporated. Not only were we saving tons of money through this process, we were also saving time.
Perfection is Futile. Ignore It!
I’ll admit it: I’m a recovering perfectionist. Yet frugality diminishes the urge for perfection.
I used to go to a fancy salon and spend close to $120 for a haircut. I liked how my hair looked, but that dollar amount didn’t align with our frugality. So I decided to have my husband cut my hair. I’d been cutting his hair for years, but hadn’t been brave enough to entrust him with the scissors. Despite some initial misgivings, I liked my haircut just fine, and he’s been cutting my hair ever since. Is this home haircut perfect? Absolutely not. Am I less happy because of it? Absolutely not. In fact, I’m happier now because I no longer expect perfection from my haircut. Back in my days of salon cuts, I used to come home from a haircut and stare at my hair in the mirror, trying to make sure it’d come out just right. Without fail, I’d find some little fault. Now, however, I’m more content with my at-home haircuts because I’m not searching for perfection.
It’s liberating to let go of the idea that we can spend our way to perfect. Life will always have its little imperfections and flaws; I realized I could spend tons of money trying to reduce those imperfections, or I could simply accept them as part of human nature and save money in the process.
On a related note, my frugality has made me more content with what I already own. Rather than zeroing in on what’s wrong with my furniture, for example, I’m just glad to have it. Most of my stuff is used and either came to me free as a hand-me-down, through the Buy Nothing Project, or off the side of the road. The things I did buy are sourced secondhand from Craigslist and garage sales.
Buying used obviously saves a great deal of money, but it also breeds contentment. I see whimsy in my imperfect, chipped red sideboard (which I got for free) and my daughter’s dresser, which we found on the side of the road and refinished ourselves. As opposed to feeling frustrated that my furniture doesn’t match or isn’t brand new or trendy, I find pleasure in the stories of its provenance.
‘Radical Insourcing’ Can Bring Joy and Empowerment
Doing things ourselves—or radical insourcing, as my husband and I call it—is another hidden benefit of frugality. Yes, it saves us money to DIY everything, from home improvements to cooking to childcare. But additionally, the results of our labor make us happier, and we’re most proud of the projects we’ve done ourselves.
A few years ago, we refinished our kitchen cabinets and painted them white. It was the first time we’d ever done such a project, so the results weren’t exactly professional. But we didn’t expect perfection, and were thrilled with how the cabinets turned out. It would’ve cost us thousands of dollars to hire someone to paint them for us, whereas we did the project ourselves for less than $200.
Another benefit of insourcing? Learning new skills. Paying someone to do a project for us only cements our reliance on money. Doing it ourselves, on the other hand, allows us to develop our aptitude for a wide range of DIY endeavors. We’ve taught ourselves smaller skills like how to cook chicken tikka masala, to big ones like replacing our plumbing. These are skills we’ll continue to hone and draw upon for decades to come; we’ll likely never have to pay someone to do these (or similar) tasks for us.
Frugality is Not Delayed Spending
Successful frugality isn’t a question of saving a bunch of money for a month or year, then turning around and spending lavishly. It doesn’t work that way. To truly reap the benefits of frugality, we had to embrace it wholesale and permanently.
This mindset also encouraged us to create a form of frugality that’s tenable for years to come. My husband and I don’t deprive ourselves, since that would be a surefire way to cause us to get fed up, rush out, and buy a bunch of stuff. Similar to a successful diet, effective frugality needs to incorporate the things we love the most and allow for occasional treats.
There’s a balance to strike between saving as much money as possible and still enjoying life to the fullest. My husband and I like to think of our lifestyle as luxurious extreme frugality because we’ve optimized for all the things we enjoy, created efficiencies wherever possible, and stopped spending on the things that don’t matter to us.
For More Time and Togetherness, Be Frugal
I use the time that frugality has given back to me to do the things I love most. I’m able to write, hike around our property, read, and practice yoga nearly every day.
Most importantly, frugality gave my husband and me the financial freedom to work from home and have our baby daughter at home with us as well. We’re able to enjoy our days together as a family, which is priceless to me, especially while our daughter is so young. Watching her take her first steps, listening to her first words—these were all milestones we experienced with her here at home.
Frugality has simultaneously increased our net worth and decreased the amount of money we need to live on, which means we can use our time as we want. Since I consider time to be our most precious resource, it’s the ultimate benefit of embracing a frugal lifestyle.
Grownups, what advantages do you experience from frugal living?
Mrs. Frugalwoods writes at frugalwoods.com about her journey to financial independence by age 33 and a homestead in the woods with her husband, daughter, and greyhound Frugal Hound.
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