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What is Frugal Living?

Updated on December 8, 2014

The Beauty of Learning "No" Early

Ah yes, living below your means. We have all heard this exciting phrase so many times throughout our lives. To some, it is the only sensible way of life and the suggestion is often greeted with a smile, polite nod, and a cheerful, detailed testimonial of success. However, more often than not, the remark is followed by a groan, an expletive, or stark silence of quiet dissolution.

For me, my life has been made up of living within or below my means, or rather the means of my family. I was raised that way. Being close to my grandparents meant frugality, coupons, and dollar stores. And believe me, I am not complaining!

Sure, when I was five years old I wanted that Barbie Jeep. That pink, expensive, motorized, assemblage of plastic was marvelous to me. All of my friends had one - but I did not. That Barbie Jeep, or rather lack of that Barbie Jeep, is symbolic in that I received less as a child, materially speaking of course, compared to many of the kids I grew up with.


The Coach Purse

Fast-forward to today, December 2013. As the holiday is upon us, and has been since October it seems, I decided to take a trip to the mall last weekend. Avoiding Black-Friday at all costs, I ventured to the mall Saturday instead. Still busy and full of angry, holiday shoppers, I browsed around in search of deals and enjoyed the ever-so entertaining dynamics of family-oriented holiday shopping. And to no surprise to me, I witnessed a situation I will call "Operation: demand and stomp".

A young girl, I would say roughly fifteen or sixteen of age, was shopping with who appeared to be her mother. The duo was in a nice department-store looking at high-end, designer purses. The girl found a nifty-looking purse, if I do say-so myself, and handed it to her mother while asking if she could have it. As I was also in the purse section, I could see that it was a Coach purse. It was rather large in size and had a security tag on it to prevent theft because of its dollar value.

After examining the purse, price more specifically, the mother told the daughter to pick out something not as expensive. Here is when the story gets more exciting. The girl said something to the effect of, "I want this! Ashley has this purse! I want one too!" And, to my bewilderment, stomped her foot. Now, before I go any further, let me say this. I see young children stomp their feet in anger frequently. Children are unaware of many realities of life such as budgeting, finance, responsibilities, and the ever famous answer, "no". This teenage girl's behavior closely resembled that of many toddlers I encounter. After a back and fourth argument between mother and daughter, the mother finally gave in and told her daughter that she could have the purse.

This type of situation is quite common with young people today and I see it with strangers as well as people close to me. Looking back at my childhood, I remember asking for items and being told "no". Sometimes I fought back, of course, but I would still be told that I could not have it. At the time I'm sure my little heart was angry and my blood was boiling. However, hindsight places a quiet smile upon my face - I'm thankful for the many "no"s I have received in my life. Because when that "yes" does by chance present itself, you are that much more appreciative.


Top Causes of Debt

Oftentimes it is difficult to face debt, to realize just how far under you are and taking the steps needed to address it. When you're thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, it is no longer a game, no longer a pointing-fingers situation.

Below is a list of the top 10 most common causes of debt:

1. Low Income: This should be no surprise. If you do not make much money, it is nearly impossible to accumulate savings and extraordinarily as easy to amass debt.

2. Bad Budgeting: Money management is typically an elective course in high school, where students only decide to take it if they are going into business in college. Courses dealing with money and resource management should be included into all curriculum the same as the common core classes, such as math and science. Budgeting is knowing exactly how much money you net, the amount of bills you owe, and how to allocate your funds appropriately and punctually.

  • Buy a cheap notebook and log your income
  • Itemize your bills with their due dates
  • Organize when and how much you can pay towards your bills - tackle the largest debts first to avoid high interest rates

3. Divorce

4. Depending on Credit Cards: Simply, do not pay more than you have. Do not use credit if you do not have a sustainable, reliable way to pay off the debt. And remember that interest can bury you before you realize it.

5. Gambling: Do not get sucked into this track. Be responsible and know when to stop.

6. Illness: If you can pay medical bills in cash, oftentimes you can negotiate a discount. Insurance companies also have an appeals process to cover certain things that were originally the responsibility of the individual. Always ask questions and check your options.

7. Little or No Savings: While having a cushion is everyone's desire, it is not always feasible depending on your income. But every little bit helps. Start a coin jar, and don't take anything out of it!

8. Lack of Financial Communication: Money is an important issue that must be an open topic between parents and children, and spouses. Talking about financial issues and goals can provide a strong network of support. If you're trying to stop relying on a credit card as much, discuss this with your spouse or a family member. Let them inform and encourage you.

9. Spending Future Money: Don't spend money until you have it. Don't count on bonuses or raises, and don't buy large ticket items thinking your upcoming tax return will cover it. It is best to wait to spend money.

10. Not Knowing the Basic of Personal Finances: Study up on the basic of finances if you're not sure how to budget or handle money - this is especially true if you're fresh out of college, and starting your first real job. Don't let that new salary trick you into thinking you're financially indestructible. Budget from the beginning!


Sample Expense Chart for Budgeting
Sample Expense Chart for Budgeting | Source

But Can We Really Change Our Spending Habits?

Like many facets of our personalities, our willingness to spend money is unique to all of us. We each have different values and while one item may be extremely important to me, another person may have no use for it. Ingrained in each of us is a blueprint, a remarkably exclusive outline of what defines us and what we consider significant. What shapes our values stems from: our childhood, our friends, our significant others, our financial situations, and our culture.

Conversely, our values are what shapes what kind of friends we associate with, who we choose to date, and the type of culture you accept as your own. What is more important to you? A brand new car, or traveling around the world? Would you rather have the latest smart phone or a new mountain bike? How about this one - would you rather hold an inanimate object in your hand for one hour or go white-water rafting for one hour? Specifically, do you value materials or experiences?

Our society, in the US at least, has evolved into a consumerist merry-go-round, where individuals want more, more, more. But when are we going to say enough? When are we going to be satisfied with the size of our televisions? Ever? Really, how large can a television become before we start a new trend by reversing the size until eventually your home television is completely portable that you can, "Take it anywhere! Car, bus, train! No matter where you want to go, your television is going with you!" - This, my friends, is not completely far-fetched. We are a society driven by continuous improvement. Marketing professionals will lead you to believe that your current blender is just not enough, it simply is not the latest and greatest! They will talk you into buying the new, deluxe version that "finely chops your garlic, onion, and tomato at the exact. same. time." So then you buy the new deluxe version and eight months later that same marketer rips on your current food processor and tells you to go buy another one. The cycle will never, ever end.

But what it if did? What if we decided not to go buy that new cell phone? Or we decide that, "You know, my television is just fine. I'm going to take my kids to the park." What if we all slowly started to not buy what they're selling? Our culture, our society is functioning and supporting itself because we consume, throw out, consume, throw out. We are in the middle of a giant, never-ending cycle of buy, buy, buy.

What we can all do is consume what is necessary, recycle, and reuse. Our country needs to economically sustain itself in healthier, more natural ways. Our landfills are overflowing, our air is becoming more polluted each day, and our food is growing out of petri dishes. Our society is afraid to buy used, and afraid to keep what they already have when The Jones went and bought the new version yesterday. Eventually, we are going to completely wipe ourselves out of anything natural and wholesome in exchange for plastic - for manufactured goods. We, as a society, need to come together and create healthier, more sensible ways of preserving our economy.

Are You Frugal?

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How to Live Frugally and Simply to Save Money and the Environment

© 2012 M Carnahan


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    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Kas, thank you so much for stopping over to read my work. I really cannot tell you how much I appreciate it.

      You are in a good position to be debt free, and you are definitely in the minority of the US. So good for you.

      So glad to hear from you.

    • Kasman profile image


      6 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Well Marissa, this is an amazingly relatable article. I had a very similar experience in my childhood. NO was a horrible word then, but I'm so glad because I now have a very frugal attitude and I live debt free. Let me be clear......I HAVE NOT ONE IOTA OF DEBT! Sorry, some people think I have a car payment or a house payment. Nope. It's because of what my grandfather instilled in me growing up. Not to say I didn't have any debt at all, but man it's been years now and I'm loving the freedom. I would wish everyone could experience it. It makes you think more about your budgetary choices.

      I see the materialistic culture that we've grown as well and it saddens me. I'm not going to give in to my children just because they throw a tantrum in a store. There are different ways of getting things and I think that it means you have to learn a whole new way of doing things. I really enjoyed this hub and I think you're onto something here, so I'm voting you up and sharing your great work.

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      I've seen this way too many times too. It sure does make you thankful that you were denied things when you were smaller. I never got the 'cool bumper shoes' or the trendy jeans, but in time I learned that I didn't need those things to be happy.

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Lady Wolfs, thank you for your wonderful insight! You're absolutely right - items become more of a status symbol. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      Lady Wolfs 

      6 years ago

      Really important to teach a child they can't have everything. I agree they would grow up never really appreciating anything or learn the value in what they have. Many times what they have never becomes special, and as they get older, items become more of a status symbol.

      When a parent never says no, or gives in to a child every time, I feel a child loses out on learning to be appreciative of the things received in life, or even what they earn. Many never learn how to survive and cope in trying times. Great hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Zulma, glad you came across it! And you're right; many people are ball and chained to undesirable jobs or lifestyles in the quest for more materials.

      I'm glad that you have enjoyed my hubs so far! And I hope to write more soon - holidays are such a busy time! Happy New Year to you as well :)

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Don't know how I missed this hub but I'm glad I found it. There is no shame in living at or below your means. If you're happy that way then whose business is it. I've listened patiently as acquaintances brag about their designer clothes, expensive cars and sprawling houses. I've also listened patiently when they follow up with a monologue of how maintaining all these status symbols has kept them a prisoner to a job or lifestyle they hate.

      And you're right. When that 'yes' finally came, it made the item or favour granted just that much more special. You're a very clever girl and I've enjoyed all your hubs so far. Looking forward to more.

      Happy New Year to you.

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Kari, thank you very much for the kind words. Hindsight is the best teacher. And everyone learns different lessons at different times in their lives. I've learned, and it seems as though you have as well, that possessions are not happiness, but rather occasional tokens for the work we do to get them. Then we move on to the next. A never ending chase that always has us wanting more and more. Relish in the simple things in life.

    • Relationshipc profile image


      6 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I love your writing, and I enjoyed this article.

      I was an only child, and I was never spoiled. I remember asking for many things and not getting them, and as you say, hindsight is a beautiful thing. I'm glad that I was taught the value of a gift or something earned.

      I often wish that I would have known what life was really all about when I was younger. I would have been a lot happier during those years. Instead, I spent them ungrateful for all the things I did have, and unhappy because I didn't have the things I thought I wanted.

    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 

      6 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      I once wrote an article about modern parents all-too-willingly giving up their authority to their children, and a friend who was a parent of two young boys got very angry at me, telling me how unfair I was being. In your example, the mother unwilling to maintain her authority is doing the same thing. She is not only teaching the child unrealistic notions about money, she's encouraging her to be demanding and manipulative. There have always been spoilt children, but it seems there are more now. It's curious because it's not that there's so much more money around, not in this economy. Excellent hub--and welcome!

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Audrey, I agree. I suppose I just have seen first hand what happens to children when they always get their way.

    • Audrey Baker profile image

      Audrey Baker 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      I don't have any children, so I try not to judge parenting techniques I observe too harshly. Nonetheless, I am surprised when I see "no" turn into "yes" so easily.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      6 years ago from TEXAS

      My pleasure.

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Nellieanna, I am so delighted to have met you too. Your wisdom and insight is so refreshing and appreciated. Thank you for reading my hub.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      6 years ago from TEXAS

      What a wise young lady you are! Measuring life's bounty by dollar signs or keeping up with measurements of others is truly a path to continued frustration and defeat, even if one managed to acquire it "all". It would be an empty prize, and merely a stop along the quest for 'more more more'.

      The things of real value are not 'cheap' either, but their investment is in real value, found by real value exchanged - not to be found in the mall.

      I've relatives whose gifts to their children - well - to each other and everyone else,- seem to be considered measurements of their regard for people: - the more expensive, brand-savvy and competitive, the higher the regard they're supposed to convey. One is fond of conveying hers with Coach bags as gifts, along with many other expensive trinkets! Obviously - it's a bit tiresome to witness this display.

      But - what can one say? Children learn from their experience and parents must set the values for them We reap what we sow and these materialistic values just keep flourishing, - - except when folks meet up against 'want' and have no idea how to meet the challenge expect to scream and whine - - not too unalike their spoiled kids!

      Great hub! I'm tickled to have met you, m'dear (from having answered a question you posted)! I predict you will find HP a very good place to share your ideas and excellent writing skills!

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Sarah, you are absolutely right. I know some parents who will do that for their children, as well. Most times, these children grow up not knowing how to work hard for things they want and usually are not as appreciative of their things. Thanks for reading.

    • sarahshuihan profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Great hub. I know a child who wrote a Christmas list of "small things" that exceeded $600 dollars! Her mom will buy it for her because this girl will be mad if she doesn't get everything on that list. crazy.

    • ienjoythis profile imageAUTHOR

      M Carnahan 

      6 years ago from Nevada

      Thanks, Ronna! Sounds like your daughter has some very good parents - instilling modesty in children is important. I'm thankful for being raised that way... and someday when your daughter can truly appreciate it, I'm sure she will be quite grateful as well. Cheers!

    • Ronna Pennington profile image


      6 years ago from Arkansas

      We have one child and it's so easy to want to spoil her. I am so glad we decided to start talking about our family budget with her last year when she was in third grade. It does my heart good to see that she considers that sort of thing now, even though she's still a kid. As a parent, I hate to burden her with money issues, but we decided it's important for her to see us make conscious choices. I'm so glad to see your Hub!


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