Is frugality a virtue? Is frugality something to be desired?
What is frugality for? For whom? Why be frugal?
These are some questions I will attempt to answer:
Frugality for whom?
This is the tricky thing about frugality:
Who is the frugality for?
Are you being frugal for yourself? For your partner? For your parents? For your kids? For your future kids? For your grandparents? For your community? Your family? For whom?
What is your final aim?
Then consider the question:
Unto what ends are you frugal?
For example, nobody is frugal for frugality’s sake. You are frugal IN ORDER TO [x, y, z].
For example, you might be frugal in order to maximize freedom and happiness in your life. Or you might be frugal in some domains of your life in order to have more purchasing power for x, y, z. You might opt to be frugal in living in a tiny apartment, not owning a car, in order to travel more frequently, or not having to work a 9-5 job (self-employment).
So the question is:
WHY be frugal?
Frugality isn’t a virtue into itself.
I see frugality as simply a practical and useful tool (art) in living. For me, the upsides of frugality include:
- More pride (whenever you ‘overpay’ for something, you always feel a bit dumb). I feel PRIDE in being frugal, as it shows that I don’t really care for the superfluous.
- More challenge: To be able to obtain more for less (bang for the buck) is an interesting and fun challenge. For example, discovering that the RICOH GR III ($890) is actually SUPERIOR to the $6900 Leica M10 is an extremely exciting and interesting discovery to me.
- Less stress: If you are more frugal with your expenses, you are less stressed about expensive bills, expenses, etc. You don’t gotta stress how you’re going to pay the rent, maintenance costs, etc.
- More freedom: I value my personal freedom above everything. If you offered me a trillion dollars, but I would have to do some hateful work for 12 hours a day for the rest of my life, I would flatly say “NO!” I value my personal freedom: freedom to wakeup whenever I want, freedom to engage in any creative activity I want, freedom to talk to anyone I want to (for however long I want to), freedom to go workout everyday, and freedom to sleep and drink coffee whenever I want. To me, this is the perfect existence.
Why is frugality seen as a virtue?
It comes from Benjamin Franklin in America:
The more money you earn and save, and the less money you use, the more virtuous you are as an American (or perhaps even in the eyes of God).
American falls into this ‘utilitarian’ philosophy (pioneered by the British) which says:
One can measure one’s virtuousness and worthiness by how much they produce, and how little they spend.
And in the Christian Protestant Work ethic, the basic gist is:
God has given you a life to produce much wealth. Yet you cannot use it on yourself (that is selfish and evil). You must earn wealth for the sake of others, and continually build that wealth for others to maximize your ‘selflessness’.
The final end seems this:
Don’t automatically think that saving money for the sake of money is a good thing. Consider WHY you want to save money for, and for what.
This means live your life in reverse. Imagine yourself on your death bed. What would you have regretted NOT doing in your life? What would you regret HAVING DONE or WASTED TIME on during your life?
Also in terms of being frugal, ask yourself:
How can frugality help empower me?
And also don’t get suckered into thinking:
“Thou shalt not buy anything expensive.”
Luxury goods I love.
There are SOME luxury goods which are beneficial in our lives. For example:
- Merino wool t-shirt (outlier.nyc, $100 for the best damn T-shirt in the world). Just own one of these and you’re set.
- ASOLO Gore-Tex boots (perfect for cold weather, outdoors).
- Good GoreTex Jacket: Makes you braver when it is raining, snowing.
- RICOH GR III camera
- Maxed-out Refurbished MacBook laptop (I bought my 13” MacBook Pro refurbished, maxed-out; best investment ever). See products on Apple Website.
Whatever you consider ‘luxury’ — just be honest with yourself:
Will this genuinely benefit you? If so, just buy it.
Consumerism ain’t beneath you
This is also another note:
We ‘educated/intelligent’ folks tend to say that consumerism is bad. But there are certainly SOME consumer goods which make our lives 10000x better.
I believe it is a matter of personal taste. Don’t let others say that your material investments are a “waste of money”. Just follow your own gut, intuition, and feeling.
What is considered luxurious and superfluous to one man, might be the essential of another.