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While living frugally isn’t really a central part of my life, I admire those who do so. But there’s frugal and there’s stingy: I know people who hate going out for meals because they believe that it’s not worth paying for more than the cost of the ingredients. But I also know people who will spend a fortune on clothes and blithely claim that it adds to their career prospects.
So what does frugality mean? I think frugality means learning not to spend money on stupid things. It’s a pretty sorry thing to point out – it really ought to be obvious not to get sucked in and buy stupid things, but ‘stupid things’ means something different for everyone. A gym membership, for me, would be a many-hundred-dollar waste of money for me. I hate gyms and I know myself well enough to say I wouldn’t follow through with a commitment to going. On the other hand, I have no problem shelling out a fair bit of my grocery budget on nice cheeses. Or a nice meal out. Or champagne. But I don’t buy clothes unless I kinda have to, and I don’t buy meat (if you’re looking for an easy way of reducing your grocery budget, I recommend that!), and I don’t have a schmik car.

Spending money carefully on things that matter to you is important, but it’s also important to question why you want those things. Do you need gadgets in the kitchen, or are they just going to end up gathering dust? Do you need new shoes urgently, or are you just trying to stay trendy? Wouldn’t you rather put the money away and see if you still want whatever it is in a week? Could you get a book from the library for that instead of buying a new one?

So I’ve gotten interested in a few financial blogs, especially those that advise on frugal living. Here’s a couple I like:

  • Get Rich Slowly – I really like the philosophy of this site.
  • Stop Buying Crap – The excellent ‘How to stop buying crap’ lists are worth reading alone.

That’s enough to be getting on with, and they’re all worth a read. I don’t know I’ll ever earn the compliment ‘frugal’, but I try very hard not to consume too much. Apart from the issue of finances, I do think that most Western cultures consume far too much: people seem less interested in planning a purchase, repairing what’s broken and reusing what they can and more interested in the thrill of a new toy or purchase. I think I want to stop playing that game.

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