Balancing Consumerism With Frugality

Balancing Consumerism With Frugality


Frugality & Consumerism

The Path To Frugality & Beyond

First, you buy stuff and spend money. You do not care how much oatmeal costs, you just buy the kind you want. There are no sacrifices. Choice dictates purchases.

Then, you start to care about the price but still only buy what you want. You start using coupons and look for discounts/sales on your favorite oatmeal. You sacrifice your time. You still buy your favorite kind and save some money in the process. Choice still dictates purchases.

Then, you learn that the generic oatmeal is even cheaper than the brand-name even after coupons. Price is beginning to dictate your purchases. You sacrifice some quality/preference to save money.

Then, you learn how to make your own oatmeal! This is much cheaper than even the generic stuff and you can make it just how you like it. Choice & price dictates the purchase of ingredients. You sacrifice some convenience, as you now have to plan ahead to have time to make it. This is frugality.

However, you do not stop there. You begin creating everything from scratch, re-using everything possible. Choice dictates what little purchases you make. You sacrifice time and money. Re-using items does not always save money but does reduce your dependence on store-bought goods.

Frugality Is A Balance

Frugality is the perfect balance of saving money and decreasing consumerism in your life. Going beyond this leads to a life of extreme anti-consumerism that no longer revolves around saving money. Being frugal allows for choice and money savings with the least amount of inconvenience.

Beyond Frugality

One example of crossing the frugality line is walking instead of driving. It would cost me $20 more a day to walk the four miles to the train station than drive. This includes the maintenance, gas and car insurance I pay on my car. The main factor is time. Spending two extra hours walking severely cuts into my already limited free time. While it is eco-friendly, it certainly is not frugal.

The best example of going beyond frugality is using Family Cloth (AKA Re-Usable Toilet Paper) Yes, people do this. The benefits are less items to buy; less trash we are producing. The disadvantages are the extra time and money it costs. Re-using toilet paper hardly saves money (when factoring in time and washing).

Living a lifestyle of fringe anti-consumerism is an intriguing one as the inconveniences are many. However, choices such as these have more to do with living a minimalist (and/or ecologically sound) lifestyle than saving money.

Do you partake in any minimalist habits even though they do not save you money?


18 Replies to “Balancing Consumerism With Frugality”

  1. I think I was headed toward the end of the path you described (which is spot-on, btw), but then the inconvenience of the more minimalist behaviors made me stop. I’m at the point where a combination of choice & price dictate my behavior, but not to the point of sacrificing too much convenience.
    I happen to like store brand oatmeal and yes, making it myself might save me more money, but I just don’t want to spend the time!
    I had started reusing lots of things (cereal boxes, etc.) then got sick of it and went to buy whatever real containers I needed.

  2. Hold on a second… How does buying reusable toilet cloths not save money? Especially considering that you can make your own by cutting up old cotton tee shirts or bed sheets? And beyond the time spent cutting the cloths, you really don’t spend any more time than you would otherwise. You just toss the cloths in the washing machine and go.

    I personally don’t use reusable toilet cloths because it still sounds really gross to me (and because my husband would NEVER go for it). But even if you buy the cloths instead of making your own, it should pay for itself in just a few months. Toilet paper is mega-expensive.

  3. I can definitely get carried away! I remember once deciding to make all my own clothes. I spent a lot of money on patterns, fabric and tools. I’m not much of a seamstress, so I found the process difficult and frustrating, and eventually gave up.

    Now I only do basic hemming and mending jobs. This still saves me money by making the clothes I have last longer, and it doesn’t drive me crazy. Much better.

  4. @Dee: I had a similar experience the week I tried re-using zip-loc bags. In the end I decided it was silly and just stopped buying them altogether. I continue to just re-use plastic/glass food containers (since I’m buying them anyway).

    @Red: I know, I know, I should have done the math to back-up my claim. I will have to take a look at our last water bill and see if I can figure out how much a load of wash costs us. I do know that I currently do two loads of laundry a month. Using family cloth would add an extra four loads (once a week). Toilet paper would still be bought for guests anyway, just at a much reduced amount than normal. Since we usually buy our TP in bulk, I really don’t consider it mega-expensive.

    @Brendan: Exactly! For some people it’s a mental thing, though :)

    @Emily: Thanks for mentioning this! I am always tempted to post about my sewing adventures but it is not frugal at all! Between time and fabric costs, I can buy a skirt at a store for much cheaper. However, I still sew because I get enjoyment out of it, my skirt is unique and it fits me perfectly! Like you, I tend to do more alterations to adjust the fit of store-bought items. This definitely is a more frugal use of sewing skills!

  5. This is so true! I love minimalism and frugality, but I do draw the line. I also find ways to make it better. For instance, I no longer buy napkins or paper towel – but instead of folding every single napkin, I just throw them into a basket. So much easier!

    Great post – I’ll be back for more.

  6. @Leslie Hey, that’s a good point about buying toilet paper anyway for guests. The only way anyone could really give up toilet paper completely is to 1) only be friends with people who are cool with reusable toilet paper or 2) never have people over to their home.

    Also, I forget that washers and dryers add a bit on the electricity bill for those who have them in their home. I’m able to do my laundry at work for free, so that’s never been an issue for me. Also, we don’t buy toilet paper in bulk because we have no room to store it.

  7. Have you ever thought of getting a bike, rather than walking to the train station? Its much more time efficient, maybe even cost effective.

    Unfortunately I smoke cigarettes and they are $$$. So I decided for a month to try to roll my own. A can of tobacco(which has less chemicals than the premade ones generally) costs about $8 for a 1lb. Which yields about 5/6 packs of cigarettes. The papers are about $3 for 20 of them. As you can see the overall price is much cheaper than the $7 for 20 cigarettes now, but rolling each individual cigarette can be time consuming and especially inconvenient when you are new. I believe the people who roll their own are more dedicated smokers just based on how convenient it is to buy a pack at a convenience store. After the month I went back to buying my pack since it’s convenient in so many ways. Less work, easier to find, less messy, etc.

  8. I feel bad for smokers. Its bullshit to tax the hell out of them when they are really stuck smoking. Just like its bull when they increase the cost of my beer/wine etc. I NEED to drink!!!

  9. @Red: If you were to use Family Cloth, would you use your work’s laundry facilities to wash them?

    @Emmm: That is quite interesting! Do you think a per pack price increase would drive back to rolling your own?

    @Melissa: Thanks!

  10. I buy organic items even though they don’t save me money per ounce or gram. I’m willing to pay for a better lifestyle with greener goods, but I’m also cheap about making sure I don’t waste it.

    With your oatmeal example, we cook from scratch at home. Even sauces are made from scratch, no condiments except for things like miso paste or soy sauce that can’t be easily made, stay in my home.

    No ketchup, mustard or anything that we don’t make our own. Very rarely do we open cans or packages. Once every month or less I’d say.

    Love the blog. Am subscribing to it now!

  11. Another hurdle: sometimes it can cost more to handcraft a gift rather than buy a gift. Solution: Use the trick that works best for the situation at hand.

    I handcraft every greeting card except for Christmas cards. Those are bought at the store as boxed card. I found little to no savings, and it took quite a lot of time, to create a big stack of Christmas cards.

  12. I try not to do anything that goes past the point of frugal. Family cloth is way past my comfort zone, as are those menstrual cups. There are some parts of my life I don’t want to have to revisit at any point. New subscriber, love the blog!

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  14. The point you’re missing is that if you use family cloth, you don;t do any extra loads of laundry. A large amount of family cloth barely makes a dent in a load- it maybe in total is the space of another shirt in the wash, not an extra load. So I do no more extra family cloth laundry, I line dry, and I spent nothing on the cloth. I do buy toilet paper for guests, but that one package lasts us forever and ever and ever because it is rarely ever used, so family cloth definitely does save us money.

    1. Washing the family cloth together with the rest of my clothing skeeves me out right now and I would want to wash it as a separate load. I suppose if I took to the idea, I would probably get over that.

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