Frugality Examined

Heather says:

Trent at The Simple Dollar has a simply fantastic post on the frugal mindset and where it can lead.  In his example he begins with making his own laundry detergent and through many steps and compounded interest by end of the story there are thousands in the savings account.  His point is valid and his example is not intimidating.  The emphasis is mine:

Make your own laundry detergent
Let’s say I decide to try out being frugal by doing something that’s quite fun (at least for me): making a big bucket of homemade laundry detergent. Each load done with the homemade detergent described in that recipe versus the cost of Tide with Bleach Alternative saves me seventeen and a half cents. We do a load of laundry each day, so that adds up to $5.25 a month in savings.

Use that savings to buy a big pile of CFLs
You save that $5.25 every month and after three months, you have $15.75 saved up.

The key point of Trent’s example is the money saved was already in the budget.  This extra is then used for the next step in the frugal chain.  In all honesty, I mess this up all the time.  If I were meticulous, each week when I spent under my limit I wouldn’t gleefully pocket my change and use it for something that wasn’t in the budget.  I would apply the money toward debt, a purchase that would further increase savings, or an interest bearing savings account.

Frugality is rarely about instant gratification.  It is most often about careful choices and planning, changes in habits and expectations.  The trick is to not let the effort go to waste by absorbing the extra money into other unnecessary expenditures.

How do you explain the frugal mindset?


  1. ScrappyQuilter on April 26, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I’m going to have to (respectfully) disagree with Leah. I used to feel the same way, until I realized the difference between “perceived time” and “actual time”. Using the homemade laundry detergent example, I can make enough detergent to do my family’s laundry for a week (believe it or not, about 30 loads per week) in about 30 minutes…but I do it while watching a movie with my family, so actually there’s no time being wasted at all since I would have put in the family time anyway. This also has the benefit, as many frugal methods do, of being better for the environment (no phosphates; also less suds to rinse out, thereby saving water). Multiplied by all the small, frugal things that I do over the course of a day, week , month or year it saves enough for me to justify staying home with the kids instead of working outside of the home. That totally makes it worth my time.

  2. Heather on April 25, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Well there are only two ways to get out of debt or increase savings, spend less or earn more. Sometimes earning more isn’t feasible and the laundry detergent was a simple, concrete example.

  3. Leah Ingram on April 25, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Actually, I don’t buy into this notion of working twice as hard to save a little bit of money. Maybe because I’m a self-employed writer and am always thinking about the return on my investment of time, doing something like making my own detergent to save so little each month just doesn’t seem worth the effort. In fact, I would say that this is a cheapskate mentality more than a frugal mindset.

  4. Callie Micks on April 25, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I too tend to just send away any extra that I saved, telling myself that it is found money. The idea of planning to save money and INVEST it is huge for me!!!! Love this post!

  5. Bramble on April 24, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    For us it’s jsut an attempt to spend as little as possible without feeling like we’re missing out. Anything extra either goes towards savings or paying down debt.
    We also use quicken, it really helps!

  6. Connie on April 24, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    I’m a very visual person, so the graphs in Quicken keep me on track. Just knowing that I have to record every penny in Quicken prevents me from making some foolish purchases. I mean I was doing okay before I started using Quicken, but after I started using it I was able to see even more spending trends that had a lot of room for improvement. My friends think it’s crazy that I record every penny, including postage stamps and buying a Sunday paper. But being meticulous is what keeps me on track. Every decision matters. Every penny counts.

  7. Angela on April 24, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    This is something I struggle with. I think it is the effort of knowing where your money is going, too many times my husband and I spend till there is none left then rub our heads and be like uhhh, where the heck did all that money go we just got yesterday.

  8. Stephanie on April 24, 2008 at 11:25 am

    I think frugality is just careful consideration of how your money is spent.

  9. Jasi on April 24, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I love this example. Frugality just makes sense.

  10. Awesome Mom on April 24, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I don’t know. Maybe for some people it is a fake it until you get it kind of thing. I think I was born frugal. I love the comfort of knowing that I have money stashed away for a rainy day.