Frugal Living and Conscious Spending

Frugal living and conscious spending are two phrases that basically tell the same story. To live frugally, you are essentially spending consciously. But that begs the question, what is frugal living? That answer is subjective and often times, I find myself questioning whether or not I am in fact even fairly frugal at all.

Initially, when I first learned the word ‘frugal’ and started applying the principles, I was often met with criticisms that I’m just cheap. I’ll admit, I used to think the same thing growing up. Even recently, when some people heard about the title of my blog, they laughed and asked if it was about coupon clipping and saving pennies in a jar. I’ve found that there’s a stark difference between the two, at least in my perspective.

The dictionary offers a simple definition of frugal: “economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful”. I think that sums it up nicely, but beyond that I think it’s adopting a certain mindset and relationship with your money and needs.

Being conscious of your spending is vastly different than someone who is cheap. Both types of people love to save a buck. But while the cheap person may refuse to let go of that dollar under any circumstances, the frugal person will look for the best deal for that dollar.

Frugal Living

I think if you were to ask any number of frugal people why they’re that way, it’ll trace back to an experience or certain upbringing. I am no different. I’ve watched people close to me struggle and allow money to own them. They anxiously wait and hope they make it to their next payday just to repeat the same pattern the next week. Or perhaps they feel devastated by any number of financial emergencies, large or small.

This is exactly why I prefer to live frugally, which means I want to be in control of my money. Not the other way around. In 2015, cbsnews.com stated that the leading cause of stress for Americans was money.

So am I living frugally? That depends on the standard to which we judge that by. Is it when you’re saving 50% or more of your income? Or maybe its a more conservative 20%?

I like to believe I’m frugal, but only for the fact that I consciously spend. Simply put, if you are mindful of where your money is going, I would consider that to be frugal. Not the life of deprivation some people associate with frugality.

Conscious Spending

After my saving goals are met, I don’t shell up and refuse to spend. That would make me cheap. I do, however, spend money on things that I value. I don’t go out every weekend because I’m too cheap to spend, I do it because it doesn’t hold the same value as a cheaper bottle of liquor shared among friends at home.

I will gladly consciously spend my money on things that I value:

  • Dinner with friends and family
  • Vacations to any destination.
  • Hobbies, like poker, that I derive joy from. (Antithetical to personal finance, I know)
  • Activities that I enjoy with friends
  • Gifts that bring others happiness

I’m not saying I won’t spend money on material things because I think treating yourself can fall under the umbrella of conscious spending if its something:

  • I TRULY want and will ACTUALLY enjoy
  • I absolutely need (mental note: 4 year old swim trunks need to be replaced)
  • That isn’t an impulsive buy

These are just some of the things I value, which will greatly differ person to person.

Final Thoughts

The sole purpose of livin’ frugally isn’t to retire early, but it’s to gain control of your finances. You should absolutely live in the present and have fun by being financially responsible, while also saving for future you or perhaps eliminating the debt the past you racked up.

The purpose is to curb yourself of mindless spending. Start eating the leftovers you paid for before they sit for a week in your fridge, start cooking at home and not eating fast food because its more convenient at work, and stop chasing the next new tech gadget because its the shiniest right now.

I’m sure I fall somewhere in the middle of being too frugal or being not frugal enough, but that’s why I’m happy being fairly frugal.

Be mindful and be in control.

What are your thoughts on frugal living and whats your personal definition for being frugal? Share your thoughts below!

Fairly Frugal Fella


  1. A most excellent publication by most excellent Son. Great job, James.

  2. You know you’re doing frugal right when no one knows about it.

    My favorite way to save money is discretely. Those area’s of spending that no one knows or cares about.

    My heating/electricity/water bill is probably half that of a normal house. Frugal? Yes. Outwardly frugal? Nope. No one has a clue. But it saves my family ~$100 per month.

  3. I like that, Owen. In the end, all that matters is that you’re saving for you and yours.

  4. I like the idea of frugal = efficient. In my mind, doing things like planning grocery shopping around sales, researching items before buying and taking care of them, and considering the costs and benefits of where your money is going (like utilities).

    I agree that it all comes down to self-awareness. The opposite is spending impulsively, aka waste and inefficiency.

    • That’s a super simple and great way to define frugal, Matt. I think I like that definition better than the dictionary definition.

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