Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Frugality Vs. Minimalism

How much do we really need?

Frugality and minimalism are often thought of as opposites. Frugal people tend to hang on to stuff because it will probably come in handy later. Minimalists balk at this idea and get rid of anything they haven't used in the last year/month/week!

To some extent I agree with the dichotomy. Perhaps it is my preconceptions, but I imagine a frugal home as a small cottage with a vegetable garden, in which people can persue creative and productive hobbies. In contrast, I imagine a minimalist home as very stylish and modern flat somewhere, with far fewer money saving tools and a hefty price tag for each item.

But can frugality be minimalist and vice versa?

Frugality is about avoiding wasteful or unnecessary spending so that you have money to use on the things you really want. We live better for less so that you have more money for travel or retirement. As J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly puts it: “You can have anything you want – but you can't have everything you want”.

Minimalism is the notion that less is more, both with physical objects and uses of your time. Minimalists tend to keep only items that have more than one function, with a very select few decorative pieces to add interest to their otherwise fairly empty space.

Frugality and minimalism can be at odds. Minimalists are willing to spend a lot of money on a very stylish or very useful object, whilst a frugal person would likely be more reserved, calculating how long they worked to pay for that £350 vase!

Can frugality and minimalism ever work together? Both lifestyles are about the realisation that there is much more to life than consumerism and possessions. You could say that the minimalist was frugal in avoiding unnecessary purchases in order to save up the money to buy that expensive vase.

Frugal Babe describes frugality and minimalism as the perfect partners in a simple life. Both frugal people and minimalists tend to live in smaller homes, both are unlikely to have debt or will be working hard to be rid of it, and both advocate the ideal of living without a car, although it is not possible for everyone.

I believe that by removing the excess in your life (minimalism) and concentrating your resources on what really matters to you (frugality), you are more likely to be able to do the things you most want to do. By spending less, frugal and minimalist people are not obligated to work so much, leaving them more free time to live life to the full. 

What do you think? Would  you consider yourself frugal, and if so, do you think that you could ever fit a minimalist approach into that lifestyle? 


Pamela said...

I do try to keep things minimal, actually! It's easier on me. Also, it's depressing to see supplies for projects that I'll get to "sometime" but never manage to. In addition, extra supplies of things are useful, but not when you cannot find them in all of the clutter. So I make sure I know where everything is, I may have reasonable extras, but I keep my place as uncluttered as possible. That way, my bills, any checks that come to me in the mail, and important things aren't lost in the shuffle--which can be much more expensive.

I prioritize the things that are important to me and keep those things. So--I have hand weights and exercise bands. I have yarn and knitting needles (I'm trying to get back into it). But I'm not going crazy with 101 crafts or extra cords, etc. (OK, I do have a lot of canning jars and supplies, but at the end of the season, they are well used!) I also am trying to cull certain cooking supplies that I never use, and keep only the cookware that I use. Someday just isn't good enough for me. If I need something I don't have, I can borrow it.

skipandscatter said...

Pamela, I absolutely agree that seeing supplies for projects that you'll get to "sometime" is depressing! But haven't you ever had a situation when you get rid of something and the very next day you need it for a project? And then you vow to never throw craft supplies away ever again. And then you open your drawer/closet/box a few months later only to feel the urge to get rid of everything. It's a vicious circle for me.

Just this weekend, my parents asked me to get rid of all the things I will never use from my old bedroom so they don't have to move too much stuff when renovating. It was heart-wrecking. I know I haven't used those things ever since I moved out a year ago, but I guess, in the back of my mind, I knew that they are there and that I could get to them whenever needed. At the same time, I knew I didn't need them. I am definitely frugal, keeping so many things for later use, but I want to be a minimalist because that's a style that appeals to me. So there are days where I would trash/give away anything and everything and then there are days where I will meticulously sort scraps of paper and loose beads for that one special project which I haven't thought of yet. So lately, I've vowing to only keep things that I really like. Cross my heart. Let's see how that goes. :)

DH said...

I think that it is all about how you perceive the meaning of the words. As you point out, minimalism conjures up images of sleek white homes with very expensive fittings and top quality gadgets with an emphasis on design, but that is just our concept of it. What it really means is someone who doesn't surround themselves with clutter. A plain white room could be interpreted as extreme minimalism and yet, besides the cost of some white paint, it actually costs nothing to create and so is, by its nature, frugal.
Frugal conjures up an image of country cottages crammed full with stuff, not expensive stuff, but useful stuff, but it is just a perception. There is no reason why a minimalist household can still be extremely frugal and a frugal household can be minimal. I guess, in this way, one refers to lifestyle and one refers to style.

lizzie said...

Zero Waste Home is minimalist and quite frugal although I cant quite make up my mind which has the upper hand in her blog.
I have always been both but there has to be a bit of give on both sides. I certainly dont keep stuff I dont need even if, now and again, I have to replace something I have got rid of. I think it is a small price to pay for an unclutted environment and it rarely happens anyway.
Frugality takes organization and I dont think it is possible for me to be frugal and live with too many possessions or clutter.

Unknown said...

I have to say one of my goals in later life is to go right back to minimal and simplify my life.

I think that these 2 concepts can work in harmony.

Sft x

Anonymous said...

It's different horses for dfferent courses I guess. I know for myself I've found becoming more frugal out of necessity has meant buying items at low prices (at charity shops ) excepting gifts when given ( recently 30 jamjars) and storing more stuff for the future than ever before . It does get to me a bit as I'm a person who needs a tidy home to think clearly but it's great to be able to just pop to my garage / shed / storeroom and get a replacement which I purchased for pennies if something is irretrievably broken. Jules

Unknown said...

A very interesting post- I think I am moving towards being more frugal and minimal! I'm glad I found your blog.

FrugalPops said...

Even my screen name, FrugalPops, points toward my view on life. At 60 years of age I owe little to nothing. My house is paid for my bills are all most all on auto pay. Before I spend money on anything I research it and make sure I I am getting quality. I not going to buy the most expensive to show it off but at the same time I am not a cheapskate. In every thing I do I look for balance. I have a low income but it dose not matter as I have few thing that I need that I do not already have.
I am starting a war on my clutter being frugal I will sell it or save it to barter with in the future.
One thing I have often done is when I needed something I looked at the rental cost. If it was 75% of the purchase cost and I would be needing it again I went ahead and purchased it. This is not what a minimalist would do as they do not want to deal with all the stuff.

Hope you have a great day,