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Is frugality really worth it?

Recently, someone emailed in and asked if I died tomorrow would I regret the frugal choices I’ve made?

It was an excellent question and one that gave my husband and I pause — and produced a great discussion for us as a couple. Both of our answers were a resounding “No. We would absolutely not regret the frugal choices we’ve made.”

While we’ve made plenty of mistakes individually and as a family, we have zero regrets that we’ve chosen to live beneath our means, make sacrifices, delay purchases until we can pay cash for them, and live on a strict written budget.

To some people, not getting what you want right away or doing without might seem like a miserable existence. But truthfully, we’ve found it to be just the opposite: we live very fulfilled lives and we wake up excited about each day.

However, we both believe that the reason we feel fulfilled and passionate about life — even though we’ve made counter-cultural choices that some would balk at — is because frugality is a means to an end for us. If we were just frugal for being frugal’s sake, we’d likely quickly burn out or give up.

It’s not about saving money so we can continuously upgrade our lifestyle and always be buying bigger and better things. We want to live beneath our means so that we are able to give generously to others.

There’s a world of need around us. The more we steward our money well, the more abundance we will have to meet those needs. The more we save, the more we have to give.

Your efforts and my efforts might seem like a drop in the bucket when compared with all of the need that’s out there. But collectively, we can make a huge impact.

Let’s live simply so that others can simply live. Because truly, there is nothing more fulfilling than living a life with outstretched arms.

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  1. Kim says

    Thanks for this very incouraging post Crystal! I could definitely use it today! We have chosen to live frugaly so that I can stay home with our 2 girls. When our friends are going away on vacations for the summer and purchasing new cars it is difficult to swallow. However, we do not want our girls to grow up like I did. ( I remember my mom “floating” checks to the power company just so we could have lights, but I also remember her buying stuff. ) I just think, if she would have taken the time to do things more frugally then maybe she could retire now instead of paying for it! At the age of 60 she works full time with no end in sight to retire because of her “buy, buy, buy” mentaliy. We want to emphasis the importance of family and faith to our girls and if that means living frugally and not getting the new pool or new car then so be it! We want to teach them to be good stewards of the money that God has given us to use while we are here. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Amie says

      I understand. My in-laws are wealthy and like to live large… cars, huge homes, vacations, etc. Yesterday as my husband was describing their new house – and that one of the kids’ room was as big as our entire upstairs, just for a moment I thought, “are we missing anything?” And quickly my answer was no. Thankfully, frugal blogs, like this one, help me keep my values in perspective even when the people around me live differently.

  2. Lynn says

    We always consider our frugality as part of living a balanced lifestyle. We don’t have debt, keep our e/r fund, charitable giving, etc so that we can continue to have balanced choices in our household – not to just become “money hoarders” (although my husband sometimes has to remind me of this!!). We enjoy traveling and providing some experiences for our children and that is one, among many, reason we continue to live the way we do. I think sometimes from the outside people think we are extravagant in some of the things we do with our kids but it is in fact the exact opposite. We live frugally and keep our finances in order so we can “intentionally” have some plans for fun experiences to provide our family. That is part of the balance for us – other people don’t know that we sometimes plan more than a year out for those experiences! It certainly takes more discipline and when other people talk to us about it we tell them is not about deprivation and never being able to do or have anything but rather it is about getting your finances in order and then planning for the extras (which does sometimes mean not being able to have everything right when you want it!)

    • says

      Yes! Awesome response, Crystal! I loved the, “live simply so others can simply live.” We are so blessed here in the U.S., even the frugal among us! Frugal living for the grace of giving. :)

  3. Heidi says

    Amen to that Crystal! I now have a wonderful friend in Uganda all because my husband and I were financially able to help out when she needed a surgery. Her thank you note still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
    Yes it is worth it. Every bit of it.

  4. says

    Love this post. I often hear people talking about regrets in terms of spending the money to travel, rather than saving or being frugal. While I love traveling and did a fair amount when younger, I am happy that my husband and I did not go into debt for this passion. Oftentimes people would say ‘well if you were hit by a bus tomorrow, wouldn’t you regret not going to X & Y?” That is true but most people don’t get hit by a bus and most people live a long time. And I still think it’s possible to travel or other things you love within a budget!

    I know no one has a crystal ball, but in my case, due to family medical/health issues later in life, having that extra money really saved our household sanity!

    Finally, I have learned not to equate true happiness with material things. It’s not that I don’t sometimes crave shining new things but I know that I don’t want to be a slave to spending/wages/ consumerism.

    • Alyssa says

      Ive always wanted to go to Hawaii but we can’t afford it. My husband said, “Just imagine how much better Hawaii will be in the new heavens and the new earth!” haha so I don’t think I will regret being a wise steward of our money when I die.

  5. katrina says

    Happy Dance today! Living frugal pays off. My husband and i just paid off our five year car loan in only 26 monthes! We have lived a strict cash only lifestyle for 5 years and this was our first debt in 10 years. Being in debt made us both uneasy, but a dependable new to us car was very necessary( we also have an older used car). Prayers to those who are struggling, this can be done

  6. I asked says

    Thank you so much for answering Crystal. I had thought that perhaps you found it offensive. By no means did I want to take away from your work. I just felt discouraged with how little I was rewarding myself and our family. I wanted to make sure that it was truly worth it at some point. While we don’t have a lot of debt (small car loan and MTG), graduating college feels like forever away (only 1 1/2 years to go). I can taste the things that I want, but I resist. Sometimes it gets so hard. But, eventually it passes, and I’m okay.

    My husband just lost his job, but luckily he found another immediately. It just pays significantly less. I feel like I’m constantly struggling to cut back more and more and eventually, there’s not going to be anything else I can do. We make it, and we’re okay. But jealousy sometimes gets the best of me and I want things I shouldn’t. My time will come, I just need to work on patience.

    • says

      I appreciated the question — thanks so much for asking. It made me think a lot about the choices we’ve made and whether they were/are worth it. Its harder when you’re where you are now, but don’t give up. Standing still is better than moving backward. You’re doing a great job; don’t lose hope!

      And don’t forget to enjoy small (budgeted!) splurges on occasion. Life is meant to be savored so find little things to savor and enjoy in order to keep going and not get burnt out!

      {Hugs to you!}

    • kj says

      I just want to encourage you with my story. I quit work to be a stay at home mom 10 years ago. We bought a small home and for most of those 10 years we drove the same van (which got rustier and rustier) and a OLD beat up truck. (My husband does have a company car.)
      We did all of that out of necessity.

      A few years ago, we decided to get our finances in order. No more credit cards, etc. We kept our little house even though our family was growing and we kept our van even though the rust was growing. :-) We pinched every penny. The result?

      We tricked people. We didn’t mean too, but I guess by our lifestyle, everyone thought that we couldn’t afford more. And for a while we couldn’t. But after a while, we could. We got a new van and we are very close to purchasing a nice home. We couldn’t have done that without hard work and doing without for a while. The end result was so worth it.

      Another bonus–because of the frugal-ness for a while, we can now afford to not be frugal when needed. We are moving and I just had a baby. I don’t have time to cook, let alone find my dishes to cook on. We can eat out a little more, buy a few paper plates, etc… We have a little extra cash to spend because we are so careful. Be patient, it is worth it!!

      • Lana says

        Thank you for being so encouraging! I, too, have quit work to be home with my children. I have two degrees and once made a nice salary. Now that my children are getting older, I’ve had people ask me why I don’t return to work and there have been some opportunities for me to do so. However, one of the many things I’ve learned in this frugal lifestyle is that there isn’t anything money can buy that is better than the choice I’ve made for my family and while job opportunities will come and go the current “position” I hold only comes around once in a lifetime!

        • Jen says

          I’m right there with you, Lana, only my children are still young (18 months and 4 1/2). I have 2 degrees, and when I quit working at 6 months pregnant with my first, we gave up half our household income. It’s been worth it. Little ones are hard work though, and I do think it would be easier to go to a job than stay home and raise 2 boys. :) We truly believe it’s best for them to be home with mama though. I know the little years will be gone before I know it.

          • says

            I stay home with my 5 and 2 year-old but have experimented with different work arrangements. I was a full-time work out of the home mom until my oldest was 18 mos. Then I did a combination part-time work in and out of the home. That worked well until number 2 came along. At which point, the cost of part-time (20 hrs/week) daycare for two kids cut into my earnings to the point that it didn’t make much sense financially for me to do all of that juggling for take home pay that amounted to what our family could “earn” by cutting spending, using online rewards programs and selling a few things.

            My point in sharing all of this is to say that raising kids is hard work whether employed or not. I agree it is easier to go to a job WITHOUT raising any children than to raise children with or without the job.

  7. Jess says

    I absolutely think frugality is worth it. When I think about living life to the fullest (due to recent tragic events I feel like I keep hearing friends going through), it is not about vacations, material goods, etc that I value. It is the simple things, like reading a book with my kids or spending time w/ my husband that I treasure most. A Disney or European vacation is not more important to me than the “moments” of our everyday lives. I think it is hard to keep this in perspective, especially when people are constantly posting pics on fb and showing off things. I do want to take the kids to Disney at some point (mine are still fairly young), but will not stress that I am denying them an essential part of childhood.

    • AJ says

      I figure that we can’t go to Disney for several years yet because for that amount of money, they had better remember it :)

    • Jen says

      I have 2 young sons (18 months and 4 1/2 years), and just the thought of Disney stresses me out right now. :)

    • Michelle says

      For what it’s worth, I went to Disney for the first time as a celebration of my graduation from high school! It was paid for with cash, from working fast food for over a year prior to that. And I can tell you Disney was just as special at 18 as it would have been at 8! :) We may have skipped the tea cups, but I still won’t forget! I realize we couldn’t have afforded it when I was growing up, but I’m just happy I got to go!

    • says

      Ha! I’m 37 and haven’t been to Disney yet. But we’re taking our kids, aged 11 and 14, for the first time this Christmas. We had to start saving several months ago, though, and it will be paid for before the trip.

  8. Erica says

    I love this post. My husband and I have just paid off $25k in debt and still have about $15k to go but it feels wonderful to know we are headed in the right direction. I too have wondered if my children would look back at their young years and be sad about not going on trip after trip. I see many of my friends on FB each weekend at a different location living the “high” life. And then in a few months they will complain about money shortages. It is at those times that I realize that saving my money and only using cash will teach my children better ideals so when they are adults they will not have to pay off old debt because they didn’t know any better. That is my ultimate goal!

  9. Lisa says

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m hoping to have a new job soon that will make us a little more comfortable and it’s always good to have a reminder of why we should continue to be frugal instead of giving in to selfishness!

  10. Ruth says

    This was such a good article and really got me thinking about what I couldn’t be doing right now to help others out, if we weren’t frugal these last years. I honestly would be sad. The thrill of being able to help family members and have 2 Compassion children far outweigh any material extravagance I would buy or trip I would take. Both of those things have no lasting satisfaction like giving financially to others (stress free and without reservation). It took me a long time of doing it backwards to figure it out.

  11. says

    We weren’t asked this question but had an a-ha! moment a few months ago regarding what we were saving for. Yes, we are working on our emergency fund and feel it’s critical for our financial stability. But at the same time we also dream of a home with a basement (we live in tornado country). One day I realized that we only have 9 summers left with our 9 y/o at home and we don’t have vacations in our budget at this point. Our priorities changed after that realization. We want those experiences with our daughters. We want them to have those memories. Does that mean DisneyWorld every year? No. But National Parks and public beaches are probably in our future. So now I have an added purpose to our frugal lifestyle – to create those memories that will last a lifetime!

  12. says

    I like this, it’s encouraging that one of the reasons you live below your means is so you can give more to others. A lot of the time I look around my house and think of the things I wish I had or could change to make it better, but it’s encouraging to hear about the way you can save to give to others. It reminds me of Dave Ramsey.

  13. Becky N says

    To me, being frugal is about intention. My husband and I are frugal in some ways so that we can spend money on things that we feel are important. We live in a tiny trailer and have a small grocery budget, but we spend $60 per week on babysitting for our three daughters to keep our marriage strong.

  14. Mona says

    Like many others, I have thought about how tough times can be sometimes. But we live frugally out of necessity. DH was laid off 3 years ago, went back to school and has been at his current job only 1 yr, at a much lower rate. We went through our savings (but had it) and we did accrue some debt, but I worked part-time during it all and homeschooled our kids. Getting back out of debt is stressful as we try to catch up, but I see the end in sight and I know it is better for our family. Our kids have learned a lot about budgeting and giving. We never gave up feeding the homeless, giving to church, or helping when we could. We never gave up doing “something” even if was free instead of staying home all the time. We are blessed by our circumstances, by the knowledge of hope and togetherness we’ve achieved.

  15. lana says

    Thank you so much~ I’ve thought of this question before. My mom died when I was ten, so I have focused much of my life on thinking it may end at any moment.

    I have decided that being a Godly steward has more rewards than instant gratification of purchasing things that are not priorities.

    I’ve found having an open hand is freeing, emotionally and financially. It also creates a dependency on God, who generously supplies all my needs.

  16. Katie says

    I agree. Being frugal is totally worth it. Because we live beneath our means I am able to be a stay at home mom, and that is more rewarding than “stuff.” But we choose to live tight in some areas, we’re able to enjoy things in other areas. We go on weekend getaways almost every weekend. And we do a lot of family day trips as well. People think we have more money than we do, but we just choose to spend wisely on the things that are important to us. I know too many people who live way above their means and are unhappy. Material things will never make you satisfied, you’ll always want more. The memories we make with our family are priceless!

  17. says

    I have been a frugal person most of my life.. with a brief break when I got a huge raise at work and lost my frugal ways but I have always lived within my means. I worked a job that I didn’t love for many years knowing that I wanted to stay home when I had a kid so we saved every penny. I had my son and was so frugal that I couldn’t bear to quit my job. I actually was working full time and being a full time stay at home mom for 18 months. I finally got up the guts to quit my job and stay home full time when I worked out a budget on how we could live within our my husband’s salary and realized that I could do it. It has been a change in (our pre-baby) lifestyle with no eating out, no movies, and no extras and continuing with no cable, low phone plan and more. We enjoy our life now so much more and our family is closer than ever!! I am super glad that we have our savings to fall back on but living within our means that I can continue to stay home with my little angel :)

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