As our lives have become overrun by stuff, there is a big push to simplify and save money. These two ideas come down to two big buzz words in the personal finance world: minimalism vs. frugality. There are big benefits to having less – like lower stress levels, better mental health and more time. There are obvious benefits to spending less too, like saving money, paying down debt and freeing up room in your budget for the stuff that really matters.
Some people aim to be both frugal and minimalists, but these two ideas often feel like they’re on opposite ends of a spectrum. Here’s a quick overview of minimalism vs. frugality:
- Minimalism: A lifestyle that practices only buying what you need, and only keeping what you truly value.
- Frugality: A lifestyle that seeks out the lowest cost solutions, with no waste left behind.
When you look at them based on their definition, minimalism and frugality are actually quite different. They can each benefit your life in specific ways, depending on what your goals are.
Minimalism vs. Frugality: A Minimalist Lifestyle
When you think of a minimalist’s house, what comes to mind? One blank wall with a small couch, and maybe a plant? A trailer in the woods? Minimalism doesn’t mean you have to give up all of life’s comforts to lead an “uncluttered” life. It just means you’re very conscious of what you actually need, and are aware that too much stuff can clutter your mind and your life satisfaction, as well as your living space.
In a nutshell, minimalism = wanting to live with less.
But minimalism is different than frugality because it’s not all about price. Minimalists might pay for the exact item they want, instead of buying something just because it’s on sale.
Frugality, on the other hand, is very focused on price. Someone who considers themselves frugal is likely to hunt for the best deal, clip coupons and shop at stores where they can get the lowest prices. They avoid paying full price and will shop around when they can. For example, I tend to be a frugal traveler. We might spend more on an exciting excursion, and save money by packing pb&j sandwiches for lunch.
The frugal person also tends to be into “upcycling” current items or finding ways to improve or use the stuff they have already. They might be more hesitant to part with things because they could be useful in the future.
Minimalism vs. Frugality: Which is Right for You?
Minimalism and frugality are mindsets that can serve you well at different points in your life. They can even work well together, if you’re able to strike a balance.
Frugality is a good way to cut costs and save money if you’re trying to get out of debt or build up savings. It means being a savvy shopper and helping your dollars stretch farther.
Minimalism is more focused on paying more for higher quality items that you’re going to get a lot of use out of, and only keeping the things you need. This is usually, but not always, a lifestyle that people get into when they already feel financially secure. It means they can afford to pay more, so they pay for the better pair of jeans that they love and know they’ll use, instead of buying the cheaper jeans that will get them by for now.
At heart, you’re probably naturally more of a frugal person, or a minimalist. There is a sliding scale for both of these.
Maybe you’re a minimalist in terms of your furniture, but you like to buy food in bulk to save yourself trips to the store. Or, maybe you know exactly what style and brand of couch you want, but you’re still going to shop around to get the best deal.
Wherever you fall on the frugal/minimalist spectrum, both ideas can help you to be more conscious about what you’re buying, why you’re buying it, and how you want to spend your money in the future.