Frugality Doesn’t Mean You Have To Deprive Yourself

What is the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word frugal?

Do you see an image of grumpy, old Ebenezer Scrooge sitting alone at his desk counting his money?  Or perhaps you imagine yourself shivering in the dark, afraid of wasting money on heat or electricity?

If that’s what you think frugality is like you’re way off!

According to the dictionary the definition of frugal is:

Avoiding unnecessary expenditure either of money or of anything else which is to be used or consumed; avoiding waste

Notice it doesn’t say anything about depriving yourself. Quite the contrary, living a frugal lifestyle is all about setting priorities and making smart decisions so you don’t have to deprive yourself of the things you enjoy.

Saving Money Is Like Dieting

Imagine two people who are both trying to lose weight.  One decides to put herself on a starvation diet and eat nothing but rice cakes and water.  The other plans out her meals carefully and eats a healthy amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains while keeping unhealthy snacks to a minimum.

Who do you think is more likely to be successful?

Well, in the short term the one on the rice cake and water diet will probably see quicker results.  She may lose the first few pounds almost immediately and get off to a quick head start over the sensible dieter.

But how long can she maintain that kind of diet?  How long before she splurges and devours two pizzas and a chocolate cheesecake all by herself?

Meanwhile the sensible dieter can plug along happily because she understands that by making smart diet choices, and eating healthy as a rule, she can occasionally treat herself to something naughty without the world coming to an end.

In financial terms, some people go too far in trying to cut their expenses and before long they feel like they are depriving themselves.  It isn’t easy to live like that.  I doubt most people can last very long if they constantly feel deprived.

You have to find a happy middle ground where you can make frugal decisions and save money without feeling as if you are depriving yourself of all fun and enjoyment.

For example, I love watching movies.  When my wife and I were first dating we went to the movies all the time (and spent a small fortune doing so).  But these days we only see maybe 2 or 3 movies in the theater each year.  We have different priorities now and it’s just not in the budget anymore.

So instead of spending $200 or more each month at the movie theater, I spend on the movie package from my cable provider.  I get a whole bunch of premium movie channels and with their OnDemand channels I can watch them whenever I want.  [Glen: We like to use Netflix to catch up on movies and TV series.]

We also borrow movies from our local library for free and we occasionally swap DVD’s with our friends so we all get to watch something new without having to spend any money.  I still get to enjoy the movies I love.  I just do it in a smarter way that doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

I don’t feel deprived at all…and that’s what makes it possible for me to stay the course and not give in to temptation.

This is a guest post written by Mike Collins of Saving Money Today.  Check out Mike’s blog and discover tips for saving money, getting out of debt, and making extra money.

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Published or updated March 3, 2015.


  1. Craig, thanks again for allowing me to guest post on FFB. I really appreciate the opportunity!

    .-= Mike – Saving Money Today´s last blog ..7 Tips for Lowering Home Insurance Cost =-.

  2. Hey Mike, great post – much needed, for sure!

    I’ve worked with a ton of people who believe the only way out of a financial rut is going to extremes (thermostat set at 60 in the winter/80 in the summer, no entertainment, no eating out, etc). I’ve seen burnout set in around the two-month mark for most of those folks.

    Taking a balanced approach is maintainable. I challenge folks to look at their budget as a whole as see if they can decrease spending across the entire list of categories by 5%-10%. This means we don’t have to cut categories out completely, but just rein them in – sounds like being “frugal” to me.

    Thanks for the post!
    .-= Derek Sisterhen | Past Due Radio´s last blog ..101 Past Due – Save Yourself! =-.

    • Thanks Derek! I agree that if you go to extremes you’ll end up burning yourself out and failing in the long run.
      .-= Saving Money Today´s last blog ..7 Tips for Lowering Home Insurance Cost =-.

  3. In my mind, frugality is more about value than clipping coupons and saying no, and what-not. It’s about not wasting money, getting good value for your money and living relatively simply. I’ve been told I’m not frugal because I’ll spend a little more for higher quality, and because I’m willing to spend money on things I enjoy. I guess by that definition, I’m not frugal. However, I am careful to spend money on things and experiences that I feel good about — ensuring that I get my money’s worth. To me, that’s true frugality: Getting your money’s worth.
    .-= Miranda´s last blog ..Do You Really Want Overdraft Protection? =-.

    • Yes, getting your money’s worth. I think too often we buy things on impulse or for emotion and then the item doesn’t fulfill its worth.

  4. Great post using dieting/eating as a metaphor. The rice cakes/water person may see quicker results, but will most likely rebound greatly. Thus gaining more weight than was loss. 😉

    You don’t have to deprive yourself. Just need to moderate or cut back. We don’t go to the movies as often anymore. We chose to go when a really good movie comes out. If not, we wait until it comes out on video. And we don’t feel we missed out on anything.

    Same with my books. I’ll buy a book only if its really good, but if I am not sure I will obtain it from the library. Then make my decision to spend money on putting in my bookshelf.

    The good thing about making concious choices on spending/frugality… you start learning and having the ability to save your money for the more important things in life like special vacations or that item you’ve always wanted buy never had the money or actually having money in your retirement account. And its nice. Real nice.
    .-= Money Funk´s last blog ..Sunday Brunch with Christine =-.

  5. Hey Mike,
    Nice Guest Post. I appreciate the literal definition of frugality. I’ve been trying to balance my spending in certain areas. Food being the number one, as my wife and I love to cook and are sometimes more ambitious on shopping day than when we go to make the meals. It’s not too often we wast food, but the odd vegetable or half full can of sauce goes to waste. I think that tips on budgeting like this is what people really need. They need to know that they can be frugal and save money, and at the same time that it’s okay to invest in things they need so long as it’s going to go to waste.

    Thanks again for sharing, Guy
    .-= Guy G.´s last blog ..Tips on Budgeting– A dollar saved is 2 dollars earned =-.

  6. I found you via @remodelthislife on Twitter. Great post and apparently we were on a similar wavelength today. I see a big part of frugality being self-sufficiency rather than deprivation. I could pay someone to clean my house, but I’ll do it myself, I could buy new clothes or I could take care of my own, etc.
    .-= Heather Solos´s last blog ..A Day Late, A Dollar Short, No More: Life Skills are Frugal =-.

    • Glad you found your way here!

      Nice points. What’s the other spectrum of frugality? Waste! Utilize what you are spending on to its fullest extent.

  7. The whole reason I started my blog was to get this idea across. If you prioritize your spending, your money will be spent on things that add value in your life and you’ll have more to save for your future. My whole budget is based on saving money on things that don’t matter much and spending on the stuff that makes our lives more fun.

    • That’s a great attitude! Cut corners on the stuff that really doesn’t mean much to you gives you more to spend on what you really enjoy.
      .-= Mike – Saving Money Today´s last blog ..7 Tips for Lowering Home Insurance Cost =-.

  8. I like your comparison of frugality/dieting. I realized when I was younger it was a lot easier to have the rice cake frugality mentality, especially since I was living at poverty level! I often feel guilty for not being extremely frugal, but your post is true, there needs to be a happy medium. I do try to not chide myself for buying things, and will continue to remind myself I don’t necessary have to go to that rice cake extreme to be frugal! Thanks for this insightful post!
    .-= Mrs. Accountability´s last blog ..Blast from the Past – April 2008 =-.

    • Its fine to spend money so long as you can afford it, you are meeting your financial goals, and you are getting real value from your purchase.

      Sometimes you take the rice cake route on some things so you can have luxury on others.

  9. Brandon Schmid says:

    I like that definition…….avoiding waste.

    I find that most people who are overspending associate a lot of pain with being frugal, budgeting etc. This is probably a good indication of why they are in the trouble that their in.

    Once the pain sets in people simple either give up or give in. If you can master the pain of good money habits then you will be well on your way to success.


    .-= Brandon Schmid´s last blog ..Tips on Budgeting– A dollar saved is 2 dollars earned =-.

    • I think once you start pulling back your spending you find that you really can do without a lot of things you thought you needed. You also realize those things that you really do want in your life and you can adjust your budget appropriately.

  10. I agree with you about the insane cost of going to the movies. Last year We saw “Star Trek”. This year we have seen “Avatar”. I have no idea if we will see too many more movies this year. However, when we do go to the movies, we go to the early show and get in for about $5.

  11. Very true, you don’t really have to deprive yourself, you just have to know how to balance everything and live a simple life. When you try to spend less and you feel like your forced to do it and is not happy with it, then that’s the time you deprive yourself, and that’s not a good thing. It’s not frugality but deprivation.

  12. I think frugality in this day and age is important. Why not cut a few coupons to save some extra money for gas or another necessary purchase. If anyone has questions about their personal finances a friend referred me to They are good. Also, in a recession it helps to just be aware of what you are spending and if you need it or not.

  13. I love movies too but hardly see any anymore at the theater either…. Also I love netflix but we don’t have it here in Cairo 🙁 boo hoo…. The movie theater here is the same price as USA too. I splurge on eating out, I love it and where I cut back in other areas I keep this up (although it is super cheap here).

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