Frugality, It’s Not About The Money

by Katy on February 8, 2011 · 42 comments

I feel like my non-consumer-y focus has been on decluttering lately, which is historically how I tend to feel after the stuff gluttony of the holiday season. But this doesn’t mean that frugality doesn’t continue to be an ever present part of my daily life.

Just yesterday I:

  • Walked to the library to pick up a book I put on hold last month.
  • Stopped by the kids’ consignment store to see if they wanted to buy a couple of outgrown winter coats. They were no longer accepting winter wear, but I did pick up a check for over $15, which I will put into savings. This store is right next to the high school, where I was picking up my son. I try not to drive across town for single errands, and batch trips whenever possible.
  • Made bagel and cream cheese after school snacks for my sons to eat in the car, as each had after school plans. This ensured I didn’t have to buy them food, when our fridge is full at home.
  • Served a dinner (burritos) made with slow cooker/bulk purchased pinto beans. I also incorporated leftovers from the last two evenings’ meals, (cabbage from fish tacos, and cauliflower and broccoli leftovers from super bowl snackage.) I was tempted to make the tortillas from scratch, but there were two already opened packages of tortillas that needed to get used up. Tap water, as always was the beverage of choice.
  • Found a dime on the floor at Fred Meyer.
  • Bought super cheap organic oranges and apples at Fred Meyer.

But here’s the crux, the big picture of why I’m frugal has very little to do with money. I am frugal to keep my life simple. Being frugal has allowed me to work part-time in the job that I love as a labor and delivery nurse without getting burned out. Being frugal allows me to spend very little time driving to and from work, (a huge plus, as I hate commuting) Being frugal gives me the free time I want in order to build community, write this blog, pal around with the kids, read for pleasure, maintain friendships and daydream. Frugality frees up money from the ridiculous so that it’s available for the important, and makes money less important.

Yes, frugality has given me an untold amount of financial peace of mind, but it’s also kind of an afterthought.

Is your frugality an effort to amass a great fortune, simplify your life or something altogether different? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Keeley February 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

This is the philosophy this blog is fabulous for, and why I’m so very glad you didn’t kill the blog over a few rude comments. Your lifestyle is inspiring and it’s eye opening to see your approach to this hectic crazy world. Thanks!


Katy February 8, 2011 at 10:09 am

Thank you, and yes, it is a crazy hectic world, but that doesn’t mean we have to succumb.



ozlem a. February 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

Can’t agree with you more. Contrary to the cliche criticism, being frugal takes less time and energy as well as money than over-working and over-spending. I have just accepted a job at a start-up which ended up being extremely agressive and competitive. It made me realize how valuable managing my own time was. I’d much rather not going to fancy dinners or buying expensive shoes to having to work my a** off day and night in a cut-throat corporate environment.


WIlliamB February 15, 2011 at 8:01 am

“Contrary to the cliche criticism, being frugal takes less time and energy as well as money than over-working and over-spending.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think it depends.

I think the MOST SIMPLE life is to be stinking rich but avoid most of rich accoutrements (fancy car that needs a lot of maintenance, lots of servants, gigantic house, etc). Then you can buy instead of make, have services instead of labor (after doing 5 loads of laundry on Sunday, laundry service looks very attractive to me), and not have clutter because you can buy then donate whatever you need.

There’s also a form of wealth that is VERY COMPLICATED. I saw a lot of it when I was a management consultant – people earning huge amounts of money, always busy at work (one colleague semi-joked about his fiancee that he was going to be divorced before they even got married), *having* to buy services because they didn’t have the time to do it themselves. This sort of pursuit of wealth makes no sense to me – what’s the point of earning a lot, having no free time, and spending a lot? A’course, my preferences aren’t everyone’s preferences.

Some sorts of frugality are also VERY COMPLICATED. All the work required to grow and preserve one’s food, hang one’s laundry, take public transit even when it takes a long time, searching 4 stores for inexpensive clothing, etc., strikes me as quite complicated. My preference is to spend some money to avoid some complications; for example, buying storage solutions at The Container Store means one trip and a pleasant experience. If I sought out less expensive alternatives I would be going to many stores, returning failures more often, and (especially if Home Despot was involved) have unpleasant experiences. This tradeoff works for me.

Not having and not wanting sounds SIMPLE. My grandparents eventually reached that stage. It helped that we did a great deal for them (part of our visits involved dinner, plays, movies, hair appointments, etc) and we did what we could to mitigate the complications of being old and infirm.

This is my two cents. I speak for no one but myself and have little interest in making others make the same choices I did (except my parents’ leaving every light on in the house, sigh).


Beth February 8, 2011 at 10:23 am

Frugality helps me live within my grad student stipend without feeling deprived or broke. I’m definitely not amassing a great fortune on a stipend πŸ˜‰ but it is nice not to have the stress of living paycheck to paycheck like some of my classmate.

The simplicity aspect is great too – I can’t estimate how much time I have saved by buying things to last and keeping them in good repair instead of having to go shopping and replace them again and again.


Abby February 8, 2011 at 10:35 am

I love that you mention finding a dime on the floor of the grocery store!

Our lives aren’t very simple right now – two full-time jobs, two little kids – but frugal choices keep things from going completely insane. I wouldn’t have believed it 5 or 6 years ago, but it is true.


Mary Kay February 8, 2011 at 10:44 am

Frugality for us is about both having a simpler life and being able to save for the future. It is fun to do more with less. It is good to challenge yourself and be creative. It is good to not just follow the status quo.


Lisa February 8, 2011 at 10:48 am

To a degree I live frugally from necessity. But I also live frugally because of deliberate personal choice. I find the challenge of living well without spending a lot refreshing…and sometimes downright invigorating. Finding money, making something from scratch, or finding a really great bargain gives me a cheap thrill. (Pun intended.)


Katy February 8, 2011 at 10:50 am

Hey, cheap thrills are my favorite! πŸ˜‰



Ann February 8, 2011 at 11:01 am

We are not necessarily what anyone would call a frugal familiy, but I am a concious non-consumer, which I guess kind of forces frugality, in a way. My favorite philosophy on this site is your lead quote of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. I don’t always buy used and I don’t always buy cheap, but I sure as heck make sure that I need what I buy and that I don’t overbuy.

Keep blogging!! You are great, Katy!


Lucy February 8, 2011 at 11:07 am

Love your blog — it is very inspiring. It would be great if you might write a future post about your job. I am so curious to know more about it. Being a labor and delivery nurse sounds really rewarding! What do you like about it? Have you ever felt tempted to work more hours and how do you avoid this temptation? Also — I tend to think of skilled nursing like this as being relatively high-paying. Your thoughts on that?


Katy February 8, 2011 at 11:17 am

My job is well paying, as I’ve topped out on the pay scale. I was hired as a post-partum nurse in 1995 right out of nursing school with my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. (BSN) After a year, I was trained to be a labor nurse, which is what I’ve done ever since. I do only work around 16 hours per week.

I am not tempted to work full time, as the job is pretty much utterly exhausting. I did work almost full time hours a few years into the job when my husband has started a small business that was not profitable. It’s a ten mile commute that’s super traffic-y, so the days are long.

The job is certainly very rewarding, but not every story is a storybook one. There are many women with health problems related and unrelated to their pregnancies, and many women have substance abuse, prematurity and other issues that bar them from bringing their babies home. We have a high level NICU, so I’m seeing more than my fair share of high risk issues.

It is a great job though, and I am very close with my co-workers, as I’ve been working with them for 16 years!

Thanks for asking.



Heather February 8, 2011 at 11:09 am

Such a great reminder. It is truly the little things every day that make the most difference. We are frugal to allow us the freedom to make our own choices. It allows me to stay at home with out children. It allows us to travel a bit. It allows us to spend our money how we see fit. It gives us more time. It is just how we live.


Jinger February 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm

You hit the nail on the head saying being frugal keeps life simple…it really does. Just today, I began thinking about some gifts I want to make. But, instead of heading out in the car to the craft/fabric store for supplies, I searched my storage chest and found a lovely fabric shower curtain and tablecloth…never used, that will be perfect to make into embroidered dish towels. As a semi retired, young at heart senior, I live on a very limited budget and enjoy the challenge of frugality.


Amy February 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm

My journey to frugality started as a necessity, but I find that even as my family moves further from the need to be frugal, I’m enjoying a frugal lifestyle anyway. To me, there’s nothing more satisfying (no purchase or physical item, I should say) than watching a savings account grow instead of dwindle. I also tend to be on the simpler side of “stuff” and combat clutter like a ghost buster – proton pack and all – so filling my life with things just doesn’t flip my switches.


Shannon February 8, 2011 at 3:52 pm

My frugality enables me to stay home with the kids and save for the future (college and retirement.) But also it keeps me and my family grounded in better values. When we go through the occasional weekend of eating out, shopping and high-consumption type of activities we find that we get stressed out, cranky and even a little depressed. Contrast with the weekends where we stay home, roast a chicken, take walks, read, watch a family movie (from the library) that kind of thing—we are mellow, serene and composed.


Melissa February 8, 2011 at 4:50 pm

My frugality at this point is definitely about keeping things simple. Since I have a health condition that is exacerbated by stress (and doesn’t everybody?), I really try to make sure the whole family is not overdoing anything (say goodbye little league with your ridiculous minimum two practices AND two games a week for seven-year-olds!).


Sarah February 8, 2011 at 5:07 pm

When I was reading your list of ways to save time, I was also thinking about shopping. I am new to the minimalism/frugal lifestyle (and I would say still attempting, definitely not “there yet”) and already I am enjoying not filling my extra time with errands and shopping, something I used to think I looked forward to.


Alison February 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I just have to ask – how were the cabbage and pinto bean burritos?


Katy February 8, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Actually really good. I had also sauteed red peppers, cauliflower and broccoli. The cabbage gives a nice crunch.



Jenny February 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Thanks for linking to Powell’s instead of Amazon!


Katy February 8, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I always do!



Eveline :) February 9, 2011 at 1:19 am

Hi Katy,

We live frugal, because ILike to be white my two boys. I work partime 16 hours a week. Health shop. ( we are a lot the same) πŸ™‚
Yesterday I went to the trift store and make great deals . A great shirt for 2 euro! and a great blouse 3, euro. And a mac blouse for my husband for 6 euro. Then I am smilling. And Yesterday my friends came over white present and a lot of tea ( she works at a tea company) Lovely!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

* Thank you for this lovely blog


Jen February 9, 2011 at 6:00 am

Yeah, speaking of frugal sometimes being better than spending money, the other night I came home from my son’s karate practice at 6:00 feeling tired. My husband wanted takeout very badly. I told him he could get takeout for himself if he “needed” to but I would cook for me and the kids. In the time it took him to get to the sub store and back, I made homemade chicken nuggets (from chicken breasts) and mashed potatoes with real potatoes. The kids ate and I even had the dishes done by the time he got home! Amazing! Sometimes we just get lazy and make the excuse that we don’t have time, I am guilty of it too.


Kimberly February 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I could have written this myself, down to the part-time job part. For me, it’s about spending on less frivolous things so that I can have a better quality of life by not having the stress of working full-time at some job I hate (I absolutely love my job.)

As a result of not being stressed, we are all happier. More gets done at home, we eat homemade food, I can be more involved in my daughter’s life, and so on.


Christina February 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm

There are still several changes I’d like to make regarding frugality but I’ve come a long way. What I’ve noticed most is the the ‘desire’ to have more has faded. That desire is what causes me the most stress. Before I sold my car I was worried about saving to buy another one, now I am totally enjoying a car free life. I have no desire to own another car anytime soon and that has given me more freedom that I could have ever expected.


Clara February 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Frugality is about saving money for me at this point, but I’m hoping to reap the benefits of less stress in the future! We are paying off debt (that includes a sizable mortgage that we inherited) and for now I have to work full-time. I certainly wish I could work part-time and be home more with my almost-2-year-old daughter, but I’m hoping we’ll get there in a few years and frugality is paving the way. Holding onto the hope for a better tomorrow with the help of frugality!


Dmarie February 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm

thanks for yet another GREAT post. I’m frugal so I can continue to afford to stay home with Hubby, who retired at an early age, but also so I better steward all resources on our good, green earth.


Stephanie K. February 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm

First visit here! Timely piece as I try to figure out if we can afford for me to continue working part time next year. We’re frugal in order to pay the mortgage on our little homestead/hobby farm, which we found long before we expected to…couldn’t pass it up, so now we do without to live here, which brings us untold joy. We’re frugal because I work hard for my money and hate giving it to massive companies that already have way more than they need, and don’t reflect my values. We’re frugal because we want our kids to value what they have. And really…a lot of it is fun. Making toys and clothes for my kids brings me joy (and saves me money!) Sending handmade cards brings me creative fulfillment. I feel connected to my life by repurposing, making, and making do.


hippierunner February 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I kinda wish everyone was as awesome as you! I was so excited today after I found 2 pennies! I try to be frugal so I can save money for the future, and live a simpler life without being bothered by the hassle of ‘things’ too often.


Katy February 9, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Could you please tell my kids that? πŸ˜‰



Jo@simplybeingmum February 9, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Hi Katy – I do not consider myself frugal rather I am a ‘conscious spender’. In fact so much so I about to Guest Post on another blog about my philosophy – this Friday – my first ever. My ultimate aim is to ‘simplify my life’ – not spending is a by-product. That isn’t to say it isn’t important to watch the cash, it is. Because I only buy what I really need, really love and really can afford I don’t need to be ‘frugal’ as such (well my definition anyway), as I don’t buy things. I don’t bargain hunt, or shop around, or collect coupons because I buy so very little. As I said I don’t class myself as frugal rather a conscious spender – but as with everything it’s all in the definition. ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ is a famous British saying. Jo (simplybeingmum – “family life simply done”)


Lindsay February 10, 2011 at 6:27 am

I love your blog and this is my first time making a comment, but I was feeling especially compelled. I am completely new to frugality. I grew up poor in a rough neighborhood under circumstances that children shouldn’t have to endure. Never having money meant never having to learn to manage money. When my mother did finally manage to make enough money to get us out of the tough neighborhoods and the bad situations, she didn’t know how to manage her money and consistently makes horrible choices. I’ve borrowed my way into the “middle class” and I’m starting to realize that being frugal is a way for me to actually be in the middle class…and stay there. I’m using frugality to break the cycle of poverty that my family has experienced for generations. I’d like to thank you for providing a resource that I can use, since I have absolutely no personal examples πŸ™‚


Jo@simplybeingmum February 11, 2011 at 5:18 am

Hi Lindsay – I hope Katy doesn’t mind me jumping in but I felt compelled to share something with you. I never thought about not learning how to manage money due to not having any. This is because it affected me differently. We didn’t have any money, and I always thought that was why I am less of a consumer, that I never learnt to ‘spend’ money. Interesting to hear a different slant on it! Jo


PJ February 11, 2011 at 9:26 am

Have you read The Cheapskate Next Door? I think you would find kindred spirits. It isn’t about the money. It is about what we value, what we don’t, and living our best life. Thank you for your blog.


ConsciouslyFrugal February 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Being frugal allows me to make choices that are healthier for the planet and our human family. Because I don’t waste money on silly things such as paper towels or toxic cleaning products (better for the earth!), I can spend more money where it counts–purchasing directly from farmers or buying fair trade products (coffee!) to ensure that producers receive fair compensation, etc. I make a decent salary, but if I were not frugal and conscious about my purchasing decisions, I would likely be supporting slave labor conditions and other atrocities that are directly opposed to my values. Frugality allows me to better live according to my values.


Barb February 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm

This echos my feelings. I believe that we are stewards of God’s world. I have a responsibility to care for the earth and it’s inhabitants. I make a good salary and we live a comfortable life. But how can I buy four more pairs of shoes knowing my brothers and sisters in another part of the world go barefoot. How can I spend hundreds of dollars on food each week knowing my brothers and sisters elswhere bury their children because of starvation. My “mantra” if I must go into a store is: enough is enough.


ConsciouslyFrugal February 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm



Jude February 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm

This blog entry sums up rather nicely the philosophy of frugality. I like keeping things simple, being able to read and write, and not having to work a nine-to-five job I hate. I also hate clutter, so I buy very few books and DVDs, and instead get most of my reading and viewing material from the library.


Tracy Balazy February 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I was laid off from my copy editor job with the Detroit Free Press/Detroit News a year ago, but due to my frugal lifestyle, it’s made little difference financially and a big difference in my stress level and quality of life (both for the better).

For our frugal date on Valentine’s Day, my husband and I are going to see The Social Network for free at our city’s main library, which has a nice auditorium and shows free movies every Monday. I’ve never seen an Oscar nominated film before the Oscars, it’s usually years before I rent them from Netflix or RedBox!


Practical Parsimony February 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm

My children went with me to the grocery store about 95% of the time. No matter how well I planned and fed them a snack before leaving home, they were all three “hungry” or “starving to death” when we went inside the supermarket. Of course, they could smell the deli. We then passed right by it. The only snack allowed at the grocery store was a banana and a half pint of chocolate milk. Sometimes, they actually might have been hungry. Anyone who turned down this favorite fruit or rejected chocolate milk was not really hungry. It really was not so much about the money, just nutrition. Oh, they only got chocolate milk maybe once a week at home, made from scratch, not in a carton or jug.

When I picked them up from school, I always took them a snack and glasses of milk. No, I could not afford McD for all three. And, nutrition was my object when I fed my children. They were so deprived…lol.


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