What is frugalism?

Last updated: October 14, 2019

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I often notice that people who are not part of the Team MP (i.e. the circle we form between you, the other readers of the blog, and myself) think we are just cheap.

The discussion goes on like this: “No, I’m not cheap, I’m frugal (or frugalist if you prefer)! It has nothing to do with it!”

And then comes the following question: “Frugal? What does that mean? Is this another new invention to sound smart?”

And here we go again for an explanation that becomes repetitive by dint of telling the whole story. So I thought it would be nice to have an article on the blog to explain my point of view once and for all.

Frugalism is the minimalism of personal finance

As I like to say, frugalism is the minimalism of personal finance.

For those who would come across the term “minimalism” for the first time, I usually summarize it as : a deliberately simple way of life where each possession adds true value.

Spend your Saturday afternoon skating (for free!) on a frozen lake, or shopping? The Team MP has chosen its side :)

Spend your Saturday afternoon skating (for free!) on a frozen lake, or shopping? The Team MP has chosen its side :)

When I say true value, I’m not talking about the new iPhone that will look old to you in a month. On the other hand, I’m talking about your Toyota Prius with hundreds of thousands of kilometres on the odometer and which takes you every time from point A to point B without ever breaking down.

I’m not talking about your n-th handbag either, whereas you always use the same one in the end… (this reminds me of a discussion with Mrs. MP :D)
On the other hand, I am talking about this Roost plastic thingy costing more than CHF 80 which dramatically improves my health with all this time spent on my laptop.

Definition of frugalism by MP

So here is my definition of frugalism:

Frugalism is about spending money only on goods that bring true value to your life.

So the next time you’re called cheap, you now know where to send the person back!
Because no, you are not cheap, you are just more at peace with yourself and aligned with your true values. Rather than the person who criticizes you while they need to drive in a big new leased car to prove who they are.

As I often say: “spending less makes you happier” because it allows you to refocus on the essential things in life. Just like minimalism with objects, that brings you zenitude and fullness.

Why frugalism?

Once the definition is assimilated by the person you are talking to, the question that comes straight behind often looks like this: “But what’s the point of having money if you don’t want to spend it? You just want to be rich, right?”

Your answer: “Well, first to be happier, and then, it’s to retire 20-35 years before the legal age of course! Financial independence, early retirement, stopping to work without ever having to worry about money again, you know, all that stuff!”

Spending less makes you happier. Marc Pittet aka MP (mustachianpost.com)

Because yes, as you have been immersed in this world for several months or even years, you tend to forget that not everyone is (yet!) part of the MP Team…

Follows the endless negative discussion of “It’s not possible to retire so young, otherwise it would be known, etc.” But this is for another article describing what financial independence is and how to explain it to the general public :)

And you, dear member of the Team MP, what is your definition of frugalism?

Sidenote: several of you pointed out to me that the German, French, and Italian sections of the MP forum were not very visible at the bottom of the page. That is now fixed. I give you the direct links here again: https://forum.mustachianpost.com/c/der-schweizerdeutsch-kaffee, https://forum.mustachianpost.com/c/cafe-francophone, and https://forum.mustachianpost.com/c/caffe-italiano. Feel free to join the discussion there if you’re more fluent in your mother tongue. This is your space so don’t hesitate to share your questions about your ETF portfolio, your budget, your optimizations, or any other topic where you need help or external advice.

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