What Does it Mean to be Frugal?

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by on June 4, 2009

dime piggy bank Are you Frugal? What does that mean? And when did it become a competition?  I read a great post this week from a friend discussing this very issue. It has made me think about what I present here and in person, so I’m starting a new series discussing what it means, and doesn’t mean to be frugal.

I hope you’ll join me in this series, and tell me what you think! Many of you are here because you like to find a great deal, watch your budget, or are looking for ways to save money. With that in mind, you probably have some ideas about what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be frugal.

Officially Defining Frugal.

Dictionary.com defines frugal as:

“1.economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful: a frugal manager.

2.entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty: a frugal meal.”

Merriam-Webster.com defines frugal as:

“characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources”

My Definition

To me, being Frugal means watching my money to stay within budget. It involves saving as much as possible and spending as little as possible. One way I do this is through the use of coupons.  In using coupons, I have drastically reduced our grocery and drug store budget. Yet, coupons alone don’t necessarily save money, it is pairing those coupons with an already advertised sale at the store that really gets the best deal.

Another way that I am frugal is by finding the best deals, bargains, and FREEBIES available. I started Saving Cents with Sense because I wanted to share all of these great deals that I was finding. My goal with this blog is to help people learn how to save, find great deals, and never spend full price on grocery and drug store products again (truly, that is possible).

I have more thoughts on what it does not mean to be frugal, but I’ll save that for my next post. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you’ll want make sure you do so that you don’t miss anything from the series and so we can learn from each other.

How to do define being Frugal? What ways are you Frugal? I’m sure you have many thoughts on this and I would love to hear them.

Continue reading in the Frugal Series with:

Be Frugal, Value Your Resources

Frugality is Not a Competitive Sport


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  • using coupons and pairing them with a sale in itself is not necessarily frugal either. it’s only frugal when those are items you need or want and will use.

    Carrie’s last blog post..Costco Trip 6/3

  • Carrie, I completely agree! Actually, that is part of what my next post will be about…

  • zoe

    MOST UK stores clearly say on any coupons that they are not combinable with other offers!
    Sad really.
    We do have one store that will accept other store’s couopns but they don’t advertise the fact, and it would only be on brand names, with the own brand stuff often being cheaper.

    zoe’s last blog post..Frugal Fridays

  • its hard not to compare to the frugal things that others are doing. i mean its great to borrow ideas, but just because she can spend X on groceries doesn’t mean I can.

    for me living frugal is doing what I can up to the point of being uncomfortable, but not hurting (like an 80 degree house) in order to save money.

    Brooke’s last blog post..Frugal Friday – Money Goals

  • Combining coupons with sales has really cut back my grocery/drug store spending by a large percentage. After doing this a few years, I have a good stockpile to work from. So some weeks, I can skip one or two stores entirely unless they have some killer deals.
    To me, one thing frugal means saving as much as you can on most everything, so that you can treat yourself, once in a while, to something special. I had no qualms about a pricey sirlon for Memorial Day because I have saved so much on hundreds of other meals. Besides, it was the best steak I’ve ever grilled, LOL!

    mom2fur’s last blog post..We should all get along like this!

  • I am with you on the coupons — but sadly had to cut back on the freebies. It was adding so much clutter to my life and so now it has to be something I will absolutely use like laundry soap before I allow myself to sign up. My time is worth money too and if the freebies are taking that or adding stress it is too expensive imo. Great series idea! I struggle with the word frugal because my definition is a little different from most people I know.

    Tia @ TiaSavingCents’s last blog post..Finding or Advertising Garage Sales The Easy Peasy Way

  • Zoe, wow, I can’t imagine not being able to pair coupons with a sale- but this is a great reminder that policies are much different in different parts of the world. So, do you usually use coupons or just look for the best sales?

  • Brooke, great point about comparing and knowing one’s boundaries. I definitely want to discuss this issue more because it seems that some people really compare themselves to others. The truth is that we all have different budgets, savings goals, and spending limits, so we can’t compare or judge others spending habits. However, we can find ideas and learn from each other, to find what works for us- and what doesn’t. Thanks for sharing!

  • Mom2fur- That is great! I think that it is good to be able to treat ourselves, and when we know our budgets, then we know what we can afford to splurge on!

  • Tia, thanks for sharing your thoughts about freebies- that is a very good point! Would you mind sharing more about how your definition of frugal is different from those around you?

  • Erin

    To me, being frugal means making the most of my resources (time, money, opportunities) so that I can focus on the things I love and value. I try to do this by making thoughtful purchases (do I need it? does it help accomplish my goals? do I love it?), by researching for deals and bargains, by buying my kids’ clothes off-season, and by matching coupons and deals (thanks to your blog, I can do this without it overwhelming my time!!!). I try to avoid the competition by remembering my family’s goals and values and basing my decisions off of that.

  • Erin, thanks for sharing! Good point about knowing one’s goals and values. A couple of you have mentioned the importance of making thoughtful purchases.

    A good deal is only a good if it fits our budget and our needs.

  • If you don’t mind me sharing, my thoughts on frugality are in a post I wrote just this week here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/06/05/mary-and-martha-moment-stewards-of-the-food-budget/ Kind of philosophical, but maybe that’s what you’re looking for. Thanks for introducing this topic!

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship’s last blog post..Recipe Connection: Frugal, Healthy Homemade Dressings with Olive Oil

  • Katie, very thought provoking post, and I’m glad that you shared!

  • I think there is also the matter of spending and using what you have wisely……

    Great post!

    niki’s last blog post..10 Bonus Points for Huggies Enjoy the Ride program

  • I especially like the comment about not comparing ourselves to other people–my “frugal meter” is different from someone else’s. I have a small family, so I don’t buy 10 newpapers every week and buy glucose meters just for the rewards so I can use them for diapers, etc., as I read of some bloggers doing. At the same time, we are a family of all adults, and as a result, my gorcery budget is much higher than some with a houseful of little ones. I pick and choose what works for my family.

  • Thanks, Niki! I definitely want to be wise with my spending!

    Charlene, thank you for touching on competing and how different we are from each other! I plan to discuss this topic more in my next post this week since it really feels like many people are comparing themselves to other, and judging people on their purchases. Your comment is a perfect example of how families are different, so budgets and needs are different as well!

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