What It Means to Be Frugal

Image Credit: Shendart/iStock/GettyImages

Frugality has gotten a bad rap.

Have you ever decided against instant gratification and instead chose to wait for an even more satisfying experience later? Maybe you passed on a mediocre cookie while on a quick break so you could enjoy a full, delicious piece of cake at home. Maybe you had enough vacation days at work to go take a long weekend away, but you waited until you accrued more so that you could enjoy a proper week off. Both of those decisions, at their core, are made from a place of frugality. You value your desserts and you want to enjoy those calories, not rush them. You understand the importance of taking time away and would like as much as possible, even if you have to wait a little bit longer.

Saving money just for the sake of watching it pile up is cheap. Saving money so that you may apply those savings towards a goal is frugal.

We're all familiar with the stereotype of the ultra-thrifty super couponer who stockpiles dozens and dozens of cans of tuna in their basement -- they were such a good deal! That person is cheap. But if that same person wants to help stock the shelves of a local food bank and can only afford to through their coupon skills? That's frugal.

To truly be frugal, you must first find your purpose. Are you trying to save up for a house? Paying down your student loans? Once you've targeted your goal, all your thrifty efforts suddenly make sense and are purpose-driven.

To be frugal is to make choices based on the long-term return, which admittedly can be very tough to do. We're surrounded by machines that manufacture automatic and instant information, affection, food -- whatever we want is just a few taps away. Those fleeting happy moments are false. They aren't meant to create a lasting feeling of satisfaction, they're meant to keep you coming back for more of the short bursts of pleasure.

By focusing on your end-game, you can learn to detach from the instant gratification of sub-par lunches in exchange for the delayed satisfaction of one killer meal per season at a Michelin starred restaurant. The choices are for you to make every day.

True frugality is considering your spending as it reflects your goals.