Thursday, 12 May 2011

Why being frugal isn't the same as being tight

The trouble with being frugal (and Mrs MDS has been on this slope for over 5 years) is that some benefits are immediate, others more a hill to climb and a couple mountains to conquer.

Let's get the current pitfalls of frugality aired so the word is not associated with austerity or austerity measures, aka the UK current government who are hell bent on confusing personal frugality with ideological measures. To be clear, looking after your household/personal budget is not the same as a complex economic framework. Mr Osbourne might be found of referring to governance of the Treasury as if he were figuratively holding purse strings and all that is required to show some economic might is some tightening of a belt but the reality is an economy is not a pile of cost centres but a machine with cogs that interact, stagnate and fall apart depending on how they are greased. Application of measures designed to inflate, stagnate or stem an economy is not undertaken by one simple act - unlike our own budgets.

We are the masters of our own budgets and can fiddle with the purse strings as much as we like. We can increase or decrease the funding of a certain area of our personal finances without it causing a global economic crisis. We can if we try inject more credit into them too by working more or selling stuff. Lottery wins are always a hope.

an evening at MDS mansions!

21st century frugality is a mix of common sense, reality and a lifestyle choice. If you are poor then frugality is a means of survival. Poverty is a trap for many based on their social standing i.e. lack of education, opportunity and resource. Poverty of mind and soul has as much a bearing on ones social capabilities and coping mechanisms as lack of money. Often all contribute to a vicious circle.

Being frugal has become more a lifestyle choice due to lessons drawn from mass consumerism, a trend that grew in the 1980s and accelerated until the banking crisis in 2008 - bit of general sweep but this is a blog post! Mass consumerism has had a two fold impact, one being an increase in personal debt and the other being an increase in stuff.

Frugality is what Gordon Brown spent a lot of time talking about over many years - being prudent. No one really listened to Mr Brown's view on prudence. He did of course equally spend many years increasing the support to poor households and made it his personal mission to end child poverty. Typically, frugality for Puritans and Quakers meant ensuring you were careful with your money so that you could save it and allocate the savings for more charitable purposes. Mr Brown with his Calvinist background was particularly prudent so he could be charitable. He was fairly hopeless in terms of being 'liked or likeable' but in reality much of his ethos shaped our best times.

Of course for Mrs MDS as others, being frugal is a by product of personal circumstances, notably being rubbish with money for so many years it has caught up with one and not really saving for a rainy day. Truth be told rainy days sounded so terrible dull. Now rainy days look like sunshine compared to inflation, petrol prices and increased costs to everything. Now the fashion is to be frugal. None of us want debts, most of us wish not to have a credit card and a savings account is preferable to an 'it bag'. Spending seems like showing off. Now of course it is all about, sewing, vintage, allotments and home made things.

I have found my outgoings are much less than they used to be (the ones I can control) and I make every endeavour to keep the battle against waste going. Paying back debts is a mind field and there is conflicting advice but being debt free is probably a nice personal goal. I've not tried to be clever and avoid a lot of the Martin Lewis, money expert type advice and stick to the more palatable and nicer Alvin Hall.

Frugal, prudent, making do - it is all the same. Think before you spend, have a budget, think of others less fortunate and in need plus review your spending and budgets but don't forget to enjoy life! You can do lots for free, think libraries for books and museums and taking walks in town or country. Do things on a budget, throw dinner for friends with down to earth meals such as chilli con carne and find inspiration from others. You are not being tight with your money - it's frugal.

Do share your money saving tips...


  1. I have not been shopping for sooooo long it is killing me. Is saving for a rainy day an option at the moment with the interest rates so pants? The constant gloom and doom talk is weighing us all down. I turn the telly off when start going on about it. Xxxx

  2. Fashionistable - true savings rates are hopeless but according to Alvin's financial wisdom, you should have 3 months worth of salary in your current account as a safety net!! The gloom is Tory talk, they just want to finish off what Thatcher started.

  3. I'm glad to see Gordon Brown getting a heads up. I think he won me over when he made such an effort to become more stylish, changing his ties and getting a nice haircut...which must have been a big step for such an austere man. It's a shame people didn't like him after his efforts as he had some good values.

  4. Kate, this is an important and timely subject, thank you for posting about it.

    Some tips for frugality:
    1. Entertain at home rather than eating out in restaurants.
    2. Play old fashioned board games, or do puzzles with children, instead of watching tv or playing video games. It saves on the electric bill.
    3. If you have a small garden, grow your own vegetables, herbs and flowers.
    4. Buy used books instead of new, or better yet, use the library.
    5. Run your errands on foot instead of taking the car.
    6. Buy vintage instead of new, whenever you can.
    Obviously, there are many more tips that will be helpful.

    No matter how prudent or thrifty we are in our daily lives, if the UK or the US governments keep wasting our taxpayer money on nonsense programs and policies, they will have to cover the financial shortfalls by taxing us more. That is the reality.

    Personal frugality won't make up for the amount of my personal income that is lost to Federal, State and local taxes.

    The income that I earn from 4 MONTHS of working PER YEAR goes to paying taxes instead of into my bank account. As far as I'm concerned, those funds would be better put to use in a Macro and Micro Economic sense, if I controlled how they were spent.
    The Government is a economic black hole, sucking the life out of the hard working Lower and Middle Classes.

    Government funds for General Electric which earned BILLIONS in profits and didn't pay federal corporate taxes!! F@*k that.

  5. I'm aspiring to be out of debt by the time I'm 55 (mortgage, etc) unfortunately my dreams to be debt-free earlier has slipped away due to our current climate. I'm trying to be frugal: taking my own food to work,not using the car even not taking my purse to work so I don't spend money I don't need too. My tip is invest in a blender, make your own soups and sauces, cheaper than buying tins etc. Also get to know your local butcher, etc that way you'll get better products for your money. My husband may some gorgeous calamari tempura battered rings last night for a fraction of what it would have cost to buy in a restaurant as a starter. Sometimes you do realise what you can do yourself. Sorry for long comment. xx

  6. Oh god, I hate all this, I really want to go out and buy loads of clothes but I can't really, unless something on theoutnet really grabs me and is a bargain. I'm waiting for the sales. I so want another "it" bag rather than a bloody savings account but the fact OH is at home (yes 4 months out of work)has stopped me ordering online as he went mental over the Captains Trousers and Pucci Bikini when they arrived. Apart from keeping things afloat with what I earn, I am also trying to save for a holiday! I would say my biggest money saving has come from shopping on line. Frstly, as I don't drive, if I got a bus into town and taxi back, I would be looking at over £12 in fares so even if I had to pay delivery charges I would save at least £8. Sainsburys offer free delivery on orders over £100 so I sometimes shop fortnightly now, so I don't pay anything for delivery and pick up my fresh stuff from Aldi or the Farm Shop at the end of the first week. It is so much easier to stick to a budget when shopping online. Fill your trolley and then go back through it before you check out to take out what you really don't need, it saves a fortune. How many times do people get to the checkout at the supermarket and have heart failure, online shopping eliminates all that.
    Ocado have come to my area, so I did a shop with them the other week but only because I had a £15 off first order voucher. If you want to save money, I think you have to avoid Waitrose although I was bowled over by the quality.

  7. Dear Kate, I'm finding that keeping off Ebay and ignoring their emails is the only thing that works. I try to avoid clothes shops anyway.

    I shop at Waitrose and find them really reasonable. Their own brand is very competitive. I'm only shopping for one or two days at a time which is saving a lot of waste. I'm making sure I have something at home so I'm not tempted to order a takeaway.

    And I'm walking to the shops, no more cabs for me. Hope you're good xx


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