Sometimes, when I talk with people about money, I get the impression that they’re not sure what to think of my frugal ways. In some cases, they’re actually dismissive. I’m not especially bothered by this, but it did get me thinking about what frugality looks like to people who are less inclined towards it. At first glance, I suppose it might look like I’m saving just to save, or like I’m simply being cheap. I suspect it’s easy to see frugal living as a life of deprivation and constantly saying no, of self-denial and miserly fortitude.
But being frugal, as many, many people have pointed out before me, is really about priorities. There are still things that I spend money on. In general, if I’m going to make a purchase I’m generally willing to pay more for something that’s good quality and that will last for a long time. By saving in the areas that don’t matter as much to you, I can spend a spend a bit more in the areas that do and still save money overall.
My priorities largely centre on my values, particularly around living ethically, sustainably, and in a way that I can help others. I find that being able to identify my priorities is that it makes it easier to save. From a practical perspective, any spending that doesn’t fit within my goals is something that needs to be carefully considered, if not outright eliminated. On top of that, living frugally and saving money are not some nebulous things that I do because I’m supposed to. They’re linked to some tangible goals and it makes it easier to stick with the plan because I know exactly what I’m working towards and can see my progress.
Right now, I have three main priorities that guide my spending and saving.
Buying a house. I’d like to own a place of my own both to build some equity and to start developing more of a homestead where I can focus on living even more frugally and sustainability. I’m trying to build up as big a down payment as I can to reduce my mortgage and keeping this goal in mind helps keep me saving as much as I can.
Living sustainably and ethically. Most of my values centre on building a strong, resilient community. Part of this, for me, is supporting local producers and artisans. This can be somewhat more expensive than typical store bought options, but saving lets me put my money where my mouth is.
Taking care of myself and others. My greatest fears have always centred on being able to take of the people I care most about. I feel better knowing that, if need be, I have the resources to deal with adverse life situations and that if anyone needs help, I’ll be in a position to offer some assistance.
Although I’m sure my inclination is to be frugal anyway, I find that knowing what I’m saving for and why is really helpful and motivating. And, by knowing what’s important, that’s what I can focus my money on. Anything else I can either find inexpensive solutions for or, if possible, do without.