is frugal the new black?


Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of frugal:

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin frugalis virtuous, frugal, from frug-, frux fruit, value; akin to Latin frui to enjoy
Date:   1590

: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources

Did you notice the etymology?  Virtuous, value, akin to “to enjoy”.  Positive words.  Why then does frugal have such a negative connotation?  Being frugal is becoming almost hip.  More out of necessity than desire though.  As we (people, society, American or other, humans, earth-dwellers, you and me) are being told constantly of a downturn in the economy, and experiencing it for ourselves, we are paying more attention to what we buy.

We are all consumers, whether we are buying brand new shoes from Zappos or a used bread maker from the local thrift store.  To me, The Compact merely designates us as conscientious consumers.  What we buy, where we buy and how we buy defines our consumerism and only we can determine if it is conscientious.

So whether we are buying a lot or a little, new or used, a positive attitude about our individual circumstances seems to be key to finding value and joy in our frugality.

Mary Hunt, over at Debt-Proof Living, said it well with these three tips.

1.  COMMIT TO A CLEAN CAR.  Even though I’m still driving a 1998 Honda it doesn’t bother me so much that we can’t upgrade if it is clean.  A good car wash and garbage clean-out always make me feel better about my wheels.

2.  CURB THE CLUTTER.  Clutter of stuff creates clutter in my mind.  By cleaning out the closets and shelves I not only open up my space for all that “good energy” but I also open myself up to feeling good by donating all that stuff I don’t really need to someone who might.

3.  TUCK A C-NOTE.  I have to admit I haven’t tried this one but I can see it’s benefits.  By tucking a $100 bill (or a $20 if that’s where you need to start) into your wallet you won’t feel poor.  The challenge of course is keeping it there.  But if you have to think twice about breaking a hundred dollar bill to have an $8 lunch with co-workers you may keep to the brown bag you brought.  Just knowing it’s there will put a spring in your step.

I’m not much for telling others how to live their lives, in fact, I’m not likely to ever say anything on the subject.  But as this blog is about me (okay, okay, and my family) sometimes you might just get to hear my thoughts.  Whatever they may be.

The Compact works for my family because we are happy to make the sacrifices required.  We see the positive upside.  If that’s not your thing, so be it.  But if you find yourself cutting back, whether it’s just your daily Starbucks or as much as your monthly food allowance, please try to think of how the change may be helping.  If not you then somebody else or something else, maybe even the planet we’re all spinning our wheels on.

artwork: Le Repas frugal, Pablo Picasso, 1907

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2 Comments to “is frugal the new black?”

  1. I love the idea of shifting the definition of frugal to something positive again. I certainly need to appreciate the value of reduction rather than seeing it as reducing or diminishing or depriving. Daily life can be super challenging, particularly in the current climate, and digging out of financial woes and/or over-consumption is quite a challenge. At least I don’t have a clutter issue. In fact, I love helping others reduce their clutter. It is so liberating for them!

    And thanks for the heads up on Mary’s blog. Will have to check that out too.

  2. emma, value of reduction is a great phrase. Now we just need to find something to do with all the unnecessary McMansions!

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