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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.

photo credit; photo credit

reposted from the archives

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  • Momma Katie says:

    I agree with you, Crystal. By living beneath your means, you’re also making room to “see” all of the wonderful things in this world that don’t cost a thing. Love this post! 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    We live frugally so I can stay home with our two young daughters. We will never regret that decision.

    • Koren says:

      This is just beautiful, Jennifer. Congrats on having the courage to make this decision. I’m sure your little girls will grow up feeling enormously lucky and happy that you were so much in their lives as youngsters.

  • Dee Wolters says:

    Great article, and it does make us think about how we live. We lived a very frugal life during the beginning of our marriage and when our 4 kids were little. We celebrated our 26th anniversary Nov. ’13, and our kids are 23, 21, 18, 17- with 3 in college/ grad school. My husband has worked hard and been rewarded with several promotions and raises! We have enough money now that I do not have to only shop at Goodwill for clothes, and we were quite generous with our gift giving during the holidays.

    What I find very rewarding is that now my oldest children who are basically on their own financially, are living very frugally! They cook / bake from scratch, shop second hand stores, defer purchases until they have saved, give generously- especially of their time, etc. All things they saw me do when they were younger. It is worth it!

    • Rebecca says:

      This is so true! My husband and I haven’t always been as frugal or wise with our money as we might have been, but the lessons my frugal mother taught me growing really have stuck with me and we have avoided the worst mistakes many young couples make (lots of credit, loans, etc). Even better, during times of financial stress (like a recent layoff), I knew exactly what to do to drastically cut back our expenses and make it through those periods intact.

  • You’ve been an inspiration to me in so many ways Crystal. I know you don’t post these things for applause from men. But if I could I would give you a grand applause. It’s not every day you find people that are willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. I appreciate you!

    I’m so glad that about 2-3 years ago partially because of your blog we got strict about our budget and paid off our vehicle within a few months. We currently hold no debt besides our home.
    Life is full of difficult choice but I never regret saying ‘no’ to things. I’d much rather have money in the bank and to give to others or for times of crisis.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • You are so right! It’s a frustrating thing to see others in need and not have any financial means to help. It has to be a thousand times more frustrating to not be able to help because of your own financial irresponsibility. Frugality brings freedom!

  • Kay says:

    I agree! I don’t want life to just be about the things I had, and experiences and relationships with family and friends are not things that only require money. Plus, one of the things I see quite a bit (from my perspective as a pastor’s wife!) is the aftereffects left from a person who has passed away. The families who have the worst times coping are those who have lost family members who had unstable financial lives. I have been in the home of families after emergency notifications by police officers (in traumatic deaths) where the families have to switch within hours from grieving to despair about how they will ever be able to pay for final arrangements. I have also seen family members trying to deal with back bills and debts, because their deceased daughter/son /other has been given no thought to the future…and it is ten times worse when children are involved. We need to switch off the mentality that life is always about the here and now, but about building a legacy of peace, joy, and love. I want to give everything I can to my family and not be frugal just to be stingy, but that doesn’t always have to mean by spending more materially. (Sorry this is so long…after a situation I’ve seen this past year, it is something Ivebeen thinking a lot about.

  • Marilyn says:

    Thank you for this article. This is the goal my husband and I are reaching for. God has been so good to us, and we want to be able to be better stewards of the resources He has given us. I needed the extra encouragement today. 🙂

  • I think there’s another angle to look at this too — that there are sometimes when we do spend, and we’re happy we did. I don’t regret nice vacations we’ve taken, and if anything, I wish we’d sometimes spent a bit more so we made more of the time (instead of trying to do things cheaper and then not seeing everything). There are also business decisions that have involved spending money that at first seemed crazy but later seemed smart. As you noted, frugality is not a virtue in its own right. It’s a virtue if it’s toward a larger goal. I believe in living within one’s means, but I’m also naturally cheap, and sometimes I need to push myself out of my comfort zone

  • This is so true! Frugal living isn’t going to be sustainable unless there is a deeper purpose for it. For us, we are frugal so that I can stay at home while my children are young and not feel like I “have” to work outside of my home. Not only that, but I want our children to learn from a young age (mine are 3 and 1 now) that fulfillment will never be found in money or more stuff, so living frugally just helps us to instill that in them. In many ways, I’m thankful that my husband’s career {high school teacher} hasn’t come with a really paycheck. It has taught me so much about finding contentment and other life lessons that I will always remember no matter what our income looks down the road – sort of how you have said you are thankful for those lean law school years.

  • Sarah says:

    Beautifully said. Made me tear a bit.

  • Jen says:

    What a great post! I like how you pointed out it is not frugality for frugality’s sake, rather a means to an end. Having been at the point we tried to be frugal for the sake of we were just too poor at that point in our life, we rather rebelled at various points and got ourselves into a heap of trouble. While we are not at that particular stage in life anymore, we are still paying for some of those mistakes. In the process of trying to be good stewards with what God blesses us with, we still occasionally lose focus, but now the more important thing is family, and allowing me to stay home with our young children. While my husband could get more overtime and make bigger paychecks, we feel it is more important the kids get to see their daddy every night. These are our choices. I think the frugality for frugality’s sake would certainly cause burnout and cause us to rebel again. Everyone needs to make different choices for what works for them, but having known the distress of putting too much in your cart than you had money, and the buyer’s remorse or gut sinking feeling when the account is not where you hoped it would be, being frugal is a much healthier solution. There is a simplicity and peace that comes with it – as long as you don’t let comparison steal your joy.

  • Chris says:

    We have wonderful memories of vacation. We couldn’t have gone on some of those vacations if we hadn’t been frugal in other ways.

  • Amy says:

    My husband was frugal by nature when we met. I was stressed trying to pull myself out of debt. When we married he looked at my finances and found waste I didn’t know existed, bank fees etc. Money I wasn’t spending by choice or for enjoyment. Needless to say he handles the finances for the household and I’ve embraced his frugal attitudes and practices. Living a frugal like means we have a substantial savings and retirement accounts in place. It frees us from stress and worry about the future. We have the ability to be flexible and spontaneous with our vacations and lives. Everyone needs clothes and cars and such but buying the most expensive items you can afford doesn’t make you happier. Being frugal isn’t a sacrifice unless you choose to see it that way.

    • Luba says:

      Amy, you are an amazing lady to allow your husband to teach you money management and frugality. There are women out there who complain about their husband’s paychecks and can outspend their husbands any day. I am so happy for you and your husband!

  • My first thought on reading your question was that if you died tomorrow, your children wouldn’t have to worry about a roof over their heads, because your house is paid for. That alone is a great reason to have lived frugally. Also, they would not have to adjust their way of living because of the loss of your income, because they would be used to being frugal.

  • Michelle says:

    The more I save, the more I can give. That’s a big driver for me. The week before Christmas, at my grocery store, (as always) I used multiple coupons and discounts in the checkout lane. After I paid, I asked the cashier (whom I see every week) to give me two 10’s for a 20 dollar bill. I said “Merry Christmas and thank you!”… handed her back a ten, and the other ten went to the bagger. It felt SOOO great to see their faces. My version of pay it forward, using the money I had saved on groceries.

  • I totally agree. And there’s another reason too, because when we take the focus off of always wanting bigger and better, our lives become more fulfilling, at least it did for me. The simplicity of living frugally has freed me, really. I found I don’t need a fraction of what I thought I did. I have wants, sure, but they are balanced. Great post!

  • Donita says:

    Yes, it’s worth it! My husband and I both recently retired from teaching even earlier than we had first planned. We couldn’t have done this without many years of frugal living, especially since we are in our early fifties and have many years of health care expenses to plan for. Through the years my husband and I have always reminded ourselves of the reasons for our frugality. Then, it really makes sense! One reason has never changed; we have always had enough to give generously to various ministries because of our frugal choices. Also, I was able to stay home with our 2 children for 6 years when they were young. Our children were able to graduate debt-free from Christian universities, and our house and cars are now paid for. We could afford to live differently than we currently do, but now view the frugal habits we have developed over the years as ways to enable us to vacation more (something we didn’t do much of while saving for other goals) and to give more to others. I LOVE to see young people embracing a frugal mindset. It gives me great joy to see how our daughter and son-in-law live the frugal lifestyle even though they have only been married a year. My daughter teaches and our son-in-law is a residence hall director at a Christian university. By living in a small dorm apartment they have been able to save enough for both of them to enroll in graduate school without taking out loans, and they were also able to build an emergency fund. Aldis and Goodwill are my daughter’s favorite stores! Like mother like daughter . . .

  • Marilee says:

    I am so happy to hear more and more people who don’t give into the consumption idea. I wait until I have the money to buy the item I want, not charge it up and I really think about if I NEED something. I watch everyone around me buying all these new electronics and clothing, while Im fixing old things and finding ways to re use everything. I’m really hoping one day people start caring about each other more than their “stuff”. Thank you for being a change for the better!

  • Ann Jamelo says:

    Very well said, I believe when you become frugal simple things become enjoyable. You learn to appreciate not just materials things but the beauty of living with your family and others. You become receptive to the needs of other people…which is a true act of kindness. God bless you and looking forward to reading more noteworthy blogs.

  • That’s awesome! I agree 100% !

  • So true Crystal!

    I would ask them if being frugal is worth being free. When you are frugal, live beneath your means, and choose not to have debt (or work to pay off your debt) it’s as if a weight has been lifted. (That’s the best way I know how to describe it.)

    By being frugal, my husband and I were able to pay off our house. The Lord allowed us to give generously to our church’s building fund and to families in need around us. (The only person I’m bragging on here is God because He’s the one who deserves the glory here.) But boy is it fun to be able to give generously!

    Dave Ramsey’s spot on when he says, “Live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else!”

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