The Frugal Mindset: Discovering the Power of Spending Less

frugal mindset

Are you ready to live a life of freedom, contentment, and happiness?  Frugality can provide you with all of these things. Sometimes this isn’t as easy to see on the surface.

Let’s face it. Being frugal doesn’t exactly line up with our consumerist culture.  This survey reveals, 55% of Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.  This includes almost one in five who owe more than $20,000. 

These numbers clearly show that most people spend more than they make.  And why not?  This certainly seems more fun than depriving yourself of things you want, right? 

Well there’s a lot more to being frugal than giving up everything. 

What does it mean to be frugal?

Frugality is about using your money in a way that gives you the most value and joy in life.

Money is just a resource. We’re responsible for choosing the best way to use this resource to bring us the most value in our lives. 

I see this like a pie to be split up.  If we spend money on one thing, we don’t get to spend it on something else.  Aside from making more, or going into debt, there’s only so much we get to use every month.

I’ll use a grocery example. If a family of four spent the “moderate” amount on groceries that USDA suggests, based on current grocery prices, they’d spend around $1380 per month.  There’s no reason this family can’t cut that grocery spending down to a third of that, or $455 per month.  They could certainly spend even less than that if they wanted.

Using my definition of frugality, if that $925 difference brings you the most value by spending it on groceries, then you should do exactly that.

If on the other hand, you can find a better use for that $925, a use that brings you more joy and value, then you should put a plan in place to free that money to use on something better than groceries.

How does frugality improve your life?

Being frugal shouldn’t feel restricting.  If done right, it should feel empowering. 

Think about it.  If all you do all day is think of the things you miss out on, or “can’t” spend money on, your life would be filled with disappointment.  

On the other hand, if you truly understand the benefit you get from your frugal choices, you’ll learn to find joy in those decisions.

Back to the grocery example.  If you’re able to use one, two or more months of that $925 in grocery savings to take a nice trip, it won’t feel like a burden to spend less on groceries.  It’ll feel like you get such a reward for those efforts.

What if you don’t spend that savings on something else?  Maybe you pay down a credit card by that much every month.  That incredible feeling would bring long term benefits to your mind and wellbeing, lightening that burden month after month.

Maybe you’re able to just put that money in savings or invest it.  Every month you build security and freedom from money.  What an incredible gift to your future self.

All of these have something in common.  They’re all showing your choice between one place to use your money versus another. 

Choosing where you spend your money, and where not to, will give you a wonderful feeling of control over your money.  Money problems can feel so overwhelming and out of control.  The pressure from this has wrecked many lives.

This feeling of control is such an important part of how frugality improves your life.

What do you value?

All of this comes down to this question.  A frugal life is about tradeoffs.  Ideally, reducing the time and money you spend on things that aren’t important to you, and increasing the time and money spent on the things you value.

It’s about prioritizing what’s important in your life.  This isn’t just spending priorities, but the way you want your life to look now and in the future.  Then, from there, make adjustments to your budget to line up with those values.

·         Do you want financial security? 

·         Relief from debt? 

·         More fun family activities or trips? 

·         More experiences with friends?

It’s important to sit down and think through these things.  Much of our lives are spent on autopilot.  Then, looking back, we wonder what happened to our money. 

Being more mindful about spending can help us really match up our spending with what’s important to us.

Creativity is often more enjoyable than spending

Finding enjoyment in life doesn’t mean we have to spend more money.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that the only way to solve our problems is to spend money. 

When our car has an issue, we have to take it to the mechanic. When we’re stressed out, we need to spend on an expensive vacation. When we want time together. We need to go out to a restaurant. When we want just about anything, we head to Walmart or Amazon. 

The thing is, these are all just examples of one way to solve these problems. Another way would be to use some creativity.  So many of our problems can be solved with cheaper solutions.  And here’s the best part, oftentimes it’s more enjoyable.

The feeling I get from fixing something on my car or appliance, that I knew absolutely nothing about, is incredible.  YouTube is such a great resource for these things.  So many experts share their knowledge.  You don’t have to be an expert.  You just have to be willing to try. 

This might sound crazy, but the whole process of figuring out how to spend less at the grocery can be so much more rewarding than just buying whatever you feel like. 

I’ll admit it’s much easier to be pulled through the store mindlessly without any thought.  On the other hand, it takes creativity, and the ability to learn something new, to slash your grocery bill.  It’s like a game that pays you big time when you level up.

A night at home cooking can bring the same value.  Learning to make pizza from scratch at home was so much fun.  Now that I know how, it’s a fun night with the family, and the cost is ¼ of buying pizza.

Cooking together with your significant other can be a lot of fun as well.  It can be a wonderful date night.

Expensive vacations can be replaced by staycations.  We’ve also taken “expensive vacations” for free, or ridiculously reduced cost, using travel hacking.

Entertainment doesn’t have to mean paying someone to entertain you.  There are so many free ways to have fun.  Sure, watching a pro baseball game can be fun.  Playing a game of Pickleball on free public courts can be even more fun. Rather than watching others have fun playing a game, you’re having that fun yourself.

Board games are fun family time.  They’re also great fun with friends and neighbors.

Parks are a great place to go for a hike or bike ride.

Hobbies are a great way to find enjoyment.  Yes, some can get expensive. With others like gardening, you gain more than you spend on tools and seeds.

Many things we buy on Amazon can be bought used on Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace.  The beauty of this is, if you notice later it isn’t getting used, you can usually resell it for around the same price you bought it for.  That ends up costing you almost nothing in the end.

Frugal vs Cheap

It’s important to distinguish between being cheap and frugal. The line between cheap and frugal can often blur, although I see them as two very distinct ways of living.

Remember, we look at being frugal through the lens of finding the best value for your money.  Being cheap is better described as always spending less, regardless of the long term impact, or the impact on others.

The long term impact can often show up in things you use. 

A frugal person might make a choice to buy something based on the cost per use.  A cheap person in that same situation might just choose to buy the option with the lowest cost.  

If something costs twice as much, but lasts four times as long, it’s a better value.

Also, being frugal shouldn’t impact others negatively. 

If a frugal person wants to spend less on restaurants, they would either eat out less, or eat out at a cheaper place. 

The cheap person, on the other hand, might think it’s a better choice to under-tip or skip the tip altogether to save some cash.  You don’t have to have been a server like I was years ago to know how selfish a choice this is.

There are other situations that come up, like group experience with friends and family.

Think of times you and your friends and family have gone in together on a group gift.  

A frugal person might lobby for a gift that’s more reasonably priced than a more extravagant option.  When it comes to it, though, they’ll offer up their fair share of the final choice.

A cheap person in this same situation may try to give less than their share or avoid chipping in altogether.

There are all sorts of these situations that you have to navigate in life.  Approaching them in a frugal rather than a cheap way, can benefit your overall spending, without hurting others.


The choice to be more frugal can a powerful life change.  It brings control to your financial life.  

So many people feel so out of control about where their money goes every month.  Some have concern, but no good plan to change.  Many just ignore it altogether.  This leads to so much unnecessary stress and worry.

It doesn’t have to be a giant leap that gets you there.  The more you plan and act, the more improvements you’ll see.  The more in control you’ll feel.  

Finding enjoyment in the process is the key to keep it up long term.  The more it feels like a grind, the less successful you’ll be at designing a frugal life.  It truly is a mindset shift.

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