Balancing Frugality and Minimalism

February 12, 2018

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If you follow bloggers who talk about one of those topics, I'm sure you've heard them talk about the other too.  They seem to go hand in hand - if you're not buying anything because you're a minimalist, you've got to be a pretty frugal person too, right?

Not necessarily.


Although I'm sure people think that about me (I blog mostly about minimalism, organization, and finances/saving money), it's actually sometimes a struggle to keep those things balanced.  I've been running into this issue lately, since I've been pretty hardcore about my shopping ban the past month and a half, which has been butting heads with my minimalist side.  Here's how:

Free Items.  Ohhh boy, has this one come up for me lately.  When you're on a shopping ban, why would you turn down free anything, am I right?!  I've accepted free food, free rides, free samples, free hair care products - which is not at all very minimalist of me.  The free food part is, but the free 'stuff' part is not.  I came to my senses and gave away the free samples and the rest of the physical things that came my way that I didn't pay for, because I value my empty space more than I value not having to spend money on things I might need some day.  In addition to tracking what I'm spending my money on, I'm also tracking anything free that comes my way that I keep, just to see how much I acquire by the end of the year.  Should be interesting.

Cheap Items.  Different than free, I mean cheap items like when you buy something useful but you really only buy it because it's the cheapest option.  Think about extreme couponing - not minimalist at all, to be stockpiling all those items, but it's the most frugal thing you can do because you spent almost no money on them!  Now, I don't coupon at all so I haven't had that exact problem, but I have run into the issue of something actually needing to be bought or replaced, and then weighing whether or not I want to spend a lot of money on it.  One hallmark sign of minimalism is that the things you do have tend to be nicer, because you need them to last and you take greater care of them.  You realize that you might need to spend more upfront to get the best item you can, rather than constantly replacing things with cheap versions (clothing comes to mind, and fast fashion.)  Being truly frugal wouldn't mean buying cheap quality either, but it would mean hunting around for deals and buying second hand, which brings me to:

My Time.  Minimalists value time, frugalists (is that a word?) value money.  Not that everyone doesn't value both of those things, but it's about where you place the most value.  For me, it's my time.  I would save more money if I spent my time hunting for deals or searching thrift stores rather than buying a new item when I need it, of course.  But when you're in a profession that charges by the hour, my time is literally money.  And I just don't always want to spend it searching for ways to save money.  I try to when I can, but when I need to make a choice, my time is worth more to me than my dollars.

So, essentially, I don't think there's an automatic connection between being frugal and being a minimalist.  They can work together in some ways, but are totally at odds in other ways.  For me, when I come to that crossroad of 'do I accept this box of makeup I don't need just because I'm on a shopping ban and might need it in 4 months?', I have to pick and chose the parts of each lifestyle that are most important to me (and if you've guessed that I lean more minimalist than frugal, and would turn down said makeup box, you are correct.)

People have started calling this balance between the two 'intentionalism' but for some reason, I hate that word.  I don't know why, I can't put my finger on it, but I just can't stand calling it that.  'Intentional living.'  It makes sense, I suppose, I'm just not on board.  I have no idea what I do want to call it, because I don't need to label everything.  It just is what it is.

Which way do you lean?  Minimalist, frugal, somewhere in between?  (Got a better word for that in between space than 'intentionalism'?)


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