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So why be frugal?

August 28, 2008

My most humble opinion is that frugality is best when it’s either: something your born with, or something you learn. Now, if that sounds like I’m pretty much stating the obvious then you’re probably missing that frugality is also something that can be forced on you. ‘Being poor’ is really just enforced frugality.

The kind of frugality I think we’re driving at here is the sort where you could afford to buy a stonking great Ford, but don’t. And why? Either because you know your mother would frown, or because you know that the petrol will cost too much (and it’s bad for the environment anyway).

When writing to this site I really want to outline and build a philosophy of being frugal. Not because of tight-fistedness, but because of a conscious decision to buy less junk, and to make more sense out of what it is that we all do; constantly consume.

So let’s start by stating that we all have to consume, and consumption is what drives the modern economy. If you live in a city then you have no option but to purchase goods and services from other people. And in doing so, you enrich others, as they enrich you by purchasing what you offer. Not exactly rocket science.

But who says that we have to purchase what the market offers? The market is always growing, changing, and evolving, but it isn’t always smart. Sometimes it offers you cheap stuff that looks like a bargain, but you’re actually doing yourself and others around you a disservice by spending your cash on it. Worse! Some people buy crap with money borrowed from Australian banks… In other words, they borrow from another country to buy crap from a further country, and offset that purchase with the value of a good or service they haven’t even provided yet.

And the last paragraph is the last of the economics you’ll hear from me. Because I’m not very good at it.

I do have common sense however. And buying crap that I only believe I need is something to be avoided.

My contribution to this blog will centre on consumption. Do I really need all the stuff I’m surrounding myself with? Do I need to pay someone else to do something that I could easily do, or learn to do, myself?

My own observation about current New Zealand society is that we’re moving away from No.8 wire thinking and forgetting how to do really simple things. Simple things like cook a healthy meal. Instead we pay someone else (often an Australian), to make a pre-packaged meal that we have to use a specific appliance (a microwave) to “prepare”. Now right there is a whole lot of spending that you don’t need to do. You don’t need a microwave to cook things when most if not all houses have a stove (so why buy one?), and you don’t need to pay someone else to cook for you (because it’s easy, even for time-poor people).

At the heart of all this writing will be a philosophy of a simple life. A life that can be full of gadgets, games and gourmet food, but a conscious life, one where I know what I’m consuming, where it’s come from, and where it goes to when I no longer need it. It won’t be perfect, but then neither are you or I.

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7 comments

  1. “… one where I know what I’m consuming, where it’s come from, and where it goes to when I no longer need it.”

    Nice – I am happy(ish) to buy a big car, eat at American fast food joints and drink Belgium beer WHEN I know I am making a conscious decision with a smattering of facts (who knows everything nowadays?). When I notice that I am following the herd, habit, marketing, cool crowd or anything else that is choosing for me I am no longer being frugal (IMHO).

    It’s why I’ll never buy a house, Microsoft products, probably (maybe) an Apple product, a newspaper or anything else that I just don’t need (but people insist I do)


  2. is that mr ‘shall i buy an iphone’ riversadle commenting 😉


  3. pwned


  4. “‘Being poor’ is really just enforced frugality.”

    See, I’d take issue with that, in that if you’re really poor, you can’t practise frugality – I see that as a privilege of middle class people. To save money, generally you have to have extra time and money, to buy in bulk, to buy equipment for DIY things, to look for the best deal.

    If we agree that being frugal is voluntarily using less resource than you have to, it’s pretty much a middle-class concern.

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I’ve come to terms with being solidly bourgeois – I just don’t want to get all Muriel Newman on people.)


  5. @sue Ha ha ha ha … mind you, I have a 10 year story about the iPhone … and I’m still thinking (as you know) whether to wait for something I consider more frugal. I am choosing 🙂

    @che pwned – without looking it up, I don’t know what it means. But I take it from the context it’s similar to “Aha, we have cornered my young fellow, how d’you like them apples eh?, or something 😉


  6. @stephen, that’s probably semantics. lots of poor people are spendthrifts, just as lots are careful with their money.


  7. May I recommend you read chapter nine of Eugen Weber’s Peasants into Frenchman?

    http://books.google.com/books?id=4KnC4ROsiwwC&dq=%22Weber%22+%22Peasants+Into+Frenchmen%22&pg=PP1&ots=-ummahYBcc&sig=aDv1ILdzmMEBDiAiQbnB_24k47Q&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA130,M1

    this got held up in the spam queue, unfortunately



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