Someone recently lamented that being frugal in this day and age when we’re surrounded by glamour, brands, labels, and extravagance is really really hard. “But what’s harder,” I told her, “is living pay cheque to pay cheque” which was essentially what my mum did, and it was not easy as a child seeing her trapped in a destructive cycle of wasteful spending coupled with a seemingly endless struggle to earn money while setting aside her health, relationships and other priorities. I opted for a different path. Having lived this way for decades now, here are some unexpected benefits that I’ve enjoyed from being frugal (remember that “frugal” does not mean being stingy or cheap; it means being value-conscious with your money).
Non-Monetary Benefits of Frugality
|1. Never fighting about money||I've been married for about 13 years and in all this time, my husband and I never once fought about money. Sure, we fought about other things, but we've never argued over stuff like spending habits, frivolous purchases, budgeting choices, or debt. The top 5 issues couples fight over include money (ranked at #1), children, work, chores, and sex. When you eliminate one of these major categories, it's easier to achieve relationship harmony. And, just to be clear, making more money without being frugal won’t give you the same benefit, as studies show very wealthy couples fight about money too.|
|2. Rarely being disappointed|
(Photo by Prisoner 5413)
|If you have low expectation, then you'll rarely feel entitled or disappointed. We live in a me-centric world, and it seems that everyone, especially youths, feel they are entitled to certain things, but being frugal readjusts your baseline and tempers your expectations. Some frugal families credit frugality as being pivotal in bringing up their children to be more balanced and resilient.|
|3. Feeling abundance|
(Photo by inallyourways)
|Taking pleasure in simple things also readjusts your baseline. Personally, it makes me conscious and aware of all the things we have access to that are virtually free - family, friends, health, safety, clean water, choice of a variety of foods, parks, museums, libraries, community centres, environmental cleanliness, infrastructure, public WiFi, exercise programmes, public activities and events, and so many other amazing things that some people in other nations would die for. There are inconsequential things like seedless watermelon, air-con and travelators which also make life more convenient. And don't forget all the free things on the internet.|
|4. Fostering creativity & resourcefulness||Frugality is a good way to develop your creativity and resourcefulness, two important life skills that are highly in demand. I was once involved in a massive layoff of a MNC. I didn't get fired, but I could tell you who did, and how the director (whom I worked closely with) made his decision. Employees who lacked resourcefulness and creativity, those who could not perform outside their job description, were the ones who were let go. Those who adapted, learned, improved, questioned, innovated, and sought their own solutions to problems were kept.|
|5. Being environmentally-friendly|
(Photo by Chris Potter)
|Living frugally means less waste. That's as simple as it gets.|
|6. Having more choices on time spent||There's a saying - "show me how you spend your day, and I will show you your values and priorities." For most people, their priority is to make money, or to get out of debt. Because being frugal will give you a massive pile of savings and at the same time, reduce your expenses, it can quickly build a nest egg and make it so that one day, you are able to choose how you spend your day, and what priorities to take on.|
|7. Being less inclined to compare yourself with others||I've always had this nasty habit of comparing myself to others. Sometimes I guess comparisons can be beneficial and motivating, but for me, they tend to be negative and destructive. But being frugal has kept this habit at bay. Whenever I find myself wishing I could have something someone else has (whether it be an item, a physical feature, or their entire lifestyle), I think about the trade-offs. What would I have to give up? How would it affect my happiness, my health, my relationships, and my personality? Now, when I catch myself making destructive comparisons, my frugal lifestyle reminds me to focus on my values, and focus more on deeper and less materialistic things, from quality of relationships to quality of sleep.|
Why I Can’t Stop Being Frugal
One day I won’t have to be so careful and value-conscious with my money. I’ll instead spend freely and be careless.”
This was my thought when I first adopted frugality as a teenager. That was nearly 2 decades ago, and although I’ve reached many of my monetary and life milestones, I have still remained frugal. People often ask me why.
Adopting any new behaviour or mindset takes consistent effort at first to make it a habit. But once it’s a habit it becomes a natural part of your life. You may decide to become frugal for different reasons, but the process of changing your behaviour and mindset will make you a different person. So, I tell people that nearly 2 decades of frugality have already made me a different person and I no longer have the desire to “spend freely and be careless.”
So I would ask them this: Now that Joseph Schooling has earned an Olympic gold medal, do you think he will stop swimming, training, or devoting much of his life to staying active and fit? Not likely, because to achieve a gold medal he had to fundamentally transform himself, so he is not the same person as before.
But remember the key to everything in life is balance.”
I don’t ever want to skew or distort frugality in such a way that I compromise health, relationships, time with family, or other things I find valuable. Too much of anything, even something as essential as drinking water, can kill you.