A question popped up on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group that I wanted to answer here on the blog. Both to address it personally, but also to give you, the readers a chance to weigh in here. So here goes . . .
“Love to hear your thoughts on the difference between a frugal life and a simple life.”
This is a hard one as the line between frugality and simple living is thin, blurry and will be differently defined for every person.
For some people, frugality is simply about being cheap, but to me I like to think of it as being wise with money. Usually this means finding the cheapest solution to a problem, but other times it means knowing when to spend more.
For example, the cheapest way to live my life would be to prepare every meal from dried beans that I bought in bulk at Winco. However, this would result in a family revolt that would require possible therapy bills and definite emergency room expenditures.
“Serve me that lentil soup again and I. Will. Cut. You!”
Frugality to me means living within one’s means so that the money is available for the pricier stuff that actually matters. Spend less on clothing so I can take my son out for lunch without worrying about the cost. Spend less on entertainment so I can pay a tutor to keep my son caught up in school. My family’s income fluctuates, so how much I spend out varies, but I try always keep within my means.
Simple living also means something different to each person who chooses this ill-defined lifestyle. One person may decide to only own 100 possessions and live in a tiny house, while another will choose a more traditional life and be at peace with their possessions. Do I practice simple living? Well, I’m certainly not a minimalist, but I have made a choice to be deliberate about my possessions. Paring down, creating organizational systems and keeping as few just in case things in my house as possible.
To choose simple living while also choosing to have kids (who will become teenagers) is almost laughable.
I may choose to not take on extracurricular activities that require us to haul our tuchuses out of bed at 0-dark-thirty on a Sunday morning, but that doesn’t mean squat when I am only one of four decision makers in this family.
I know families whose lives are more simple than ours and also families whose lives are less simple. I try not to compare. My husband coaches multiple youth soccer teams while also playing on a team himself. He also sits on the board of two different non-profit community soccer organizations. He’s the volunteer uniform manager for a 800 player league, which means that our basement sports racks of balls, T-shirts, scarves, patches and whatnot. Oh, and he works 44 hours per week.
Should he stop volunteering and participating in these activities in order to simplify?
The label of simple living is broad enough to almost be meaningless. Car vs. bicycle. Possessions vs. minimalism. Child free vs. childless. Paid work vs. volunteering. Shared housing vs. suburban traditional home.
I believe frugality and simple living all boil down to choosing a deliberate life. And how this is defined can change from day to day, hour to hour.
I am not the most frugal person you know, and neither am I basking in the most simple life. What I am is deliberate.
Now you. How do you feel about the line between frugality and simple living? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”