Skip to main content

Do You Really Have to Pinch Pennies to Live Frugally?

4 minute read

David Ning

By David Ning

I’ve always been a penny pincher. In my younger days, I would work summer jobs and basically save everything. Any time I saw a way to save a couple dollars, I jump all over it. For example, I switched to a little know cell-phone provider to cut my bill down. I’ve even been known to walk all over a shopping plaza just to make sure I got the best deal on ibuprofen. (Or Advil, for those of you who spring for the brand name stuff.) It felt natural to me. However, I can imagine that not everyone has the time or patience to spend 20 minutes of their life trying to pinch a few pennies. Which leads us to the question surrounding this article: do you really need to pinch pennies in order to live frugally?

Well, Maybe…

I credit my penny pinching ways as one of the major reasons our family finances are so solid. After all, I might not have had the guts to quit my job to start and take MoneyNing.com if I didn’t have rock bottom expenses at the time. After al, I was initially taking a pay cut of over 70%.

Now, though, I don’t do nearly as much penny pinching. I still care about expenses, of course. But I’m no longer running around town trying to save a dollar or two. I still call my cable company once a year, asking them to extend the new customer discount rate for me. However, I’m no longer trying to time it so accurately that I’m calling on day 365, to maximize my savings.

I’ve got a much better handle on my financial situation these days. I’m still learning how to let loose a bit, though. After years of pinching those pennies, it can still feel weird to spend extra on the things that are important to me. I used to just feel miserable when I couldn’t afford to splurge, even though I clearly can now. It’s a different mindset to get used to, but I’m making decent progress.

Am I Still Frugal?

On the outside, almost no one considers me to be a frugal person anymore. Only my immediate family would still think that way about me. After all, how frugal can I really be when I drive a decent new car and we live in a generously sized house? Despite the appearances, I still spend a ton of time looking for deals. I think I’m actually saving a ton compared to my peers who have the same lifestyle. It’s just that my “Facebook Life” (or other social media) doesn’t reflect any of that.

To others, it probably looks like I life a pretty good life. We go out to eat, have plenty of nice things, take vacations, and can seemingly do almost anything we want, financially speaking. These are the things that a frugal person might consider the height of extravagance. To tell you the truth, I’m starting to doubt whether I’m really even a frugal person anymore.

Still, being frugal isn’t always the same thing as using your money wisely. There are other ways to be smart with your money, even if you aren’t what is traditionally considered “frugal.”

What’s Important to You?

In my book, it’s all about whether you’re wasting your money or not. Of course, what is considered a “waste of money” varies from person to person. What might be a waste to you could be really important for someone else. For example, some people probably think it’s a waste of money when I take my family out to eat at a nice restaurant. (In fact, I’m craving that even more after a year of various lockdowns and closures.)

However, it’s not a waste for me. I enjoy the experience of getting out, eating new and delicious foods, and spending quality time with my family — without worrying about the cooking or cleaning part of meal times. Those things are important to me, so I don’t consider it a waste of money. You should always be able to enjoy some discretionary spending, as long as you’re not going into debt for it.

What Does “Wasted Money” Really Mean?

In my mind, wasted money is when you spend on things that you don’t really think are important. For example, I’ve watched a ton of TV since the lockdown started. However, I never really cared for (or had that much time) for TV before. About a decade ago (when I was making more money than I ever was), I cut our cable. In fact, our TV was 12 years old when we moved last year. It was so old that it became a running joke among our friends. The only reason we have a newer TV now is that we bought all the previous owner’s furniture, along with the new house. They had a nice TV, so now we have a nice TV.

On the other hand, maybe you really enjoy watching TV. You could be a huge sports fan or a cinema nerd. In that case, spending your money on a fancy big TV and a premium cable package might be important to you. Those things can improve your overall viewing experience and make your hobby more enjoyable. If it puts a smile on your face every time you turn it on (and you’re responsible about the purchase), then who am I to judge?

The Bottom Line

There was a time when I would jump through a bunch of hoops just to save a dollar or two. My ibuprofen adventures are just one example of my penny pinching efforts. Nowadays, I don’t go too much out of my way if it’s only going to save a few dollars. Still, I’m happy when I look at my month expense tracker. Pretty much every dollar spent is either a real need or increases my quality of life. That’s definitely a win, in my book.

What do you think? What do you consider frugal? How do you pinch your pennies? And what do you consider to be a waste of money?

Pinching Pennies

Shutterstock

David Ning

Experienced Finance Writer

David is a published author, entrepreneur and a proud dad. He firmly believes that anyone can build a solid financial foundation as long as they are willing to learn. He runs MoneyNing.com, where he discusses every day money issues to encourage the masses to think about their finances more often.

Explore

How Much You Should Spend on an Engagement Ring and What To Look For Wedding Ring Around Rolled Up $100 Dollar Bill Financial Advice

How Much You Should Spend on an Engagement Ring and What To Look For

Spending three months’ worth of salary might be the rule of thumb, but is it necessary? That depends on a variety of factors, including your financial situation and your partner’s style. When it’s time to buy a ring, keep the 4Cs in mind: Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carats. Engagement rings can be marked up 600% […]

Read More about How Much You Should Spend on an Engagement Ring and What To Look For

8 minute read

Is Pinching Pennies The Ultimate Secret To Wealth? Financial Advice

Is Pinching Pennies The Ultimate Secret To Wealth?

I’ve always identified myself as a penny pincher. However, I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m proud of that label. Then again, I’ve never fully shied away from it either. After all, I credit my willingness to scrap and save for giving me courage to jump into the unknown of entrepreneurship when I started MoneyNing.com, all those years […]

Read More about Is Pinching Pennies The Ultimate Secret To Wealth?

8 minute read

Widow’s Pension: Everything You Need to Know Financial Advice

Widow’s Pension: Everything You Need to Know

Qualifying military members can set up a Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP) upon retirement. The SBP, along with standard Social Security, can be used by a widow to stay financially afloat. Both the deceased veteran and the surviving spouse must meet certain conditions to qualify for a SPB. The payment amount depends on a number of […]

Read More about Widow’s Pension: Everything You Need to Know

6 minute read

Reducing Debt: Is Your Debt Like a Yo-Yo Diet? Financial Advice

Reducing Debt: Is Your Debt Like a Yo-Yo Diet?

You’ve probably heard the term “yo-yo dieting” before. It’s the problem that many people face when they attempt to lose weight. They will make drastic, unsustainable changes to their exercise and diet plans. The weight drops off, they relax their diet and start skipping gym days, and the weight comes roaring back. Rinse, repeat, ad […]

Read More about Reducing Debt: Is Your Debt Like a Yo-Yo Diet?

9 minute read

Is Thanksgiving Being Taken Over by Consumerism? Financial Advice

Is Thanksgiving Being Taken Over by Consumerism?

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. It’s one of the simplest of holidays. You can celebrate it without a lot of fuss — and without the need for elaborate décor or expensive presents. Thanksgiving has long been considered a holiday mostly untouched by consumerism. After all, what is less consumer-based than gathering with family […]

Read More about Is Thanksgiving Being Taken Over by Consumerism?

7 minute read

Do You Truly Understand The Impact Of Your Financial Decisions? Financial Advice

Do You Truly Understand The Impact Of Your Financial Decisions?

Too often, we think of our financial decisions as being made in a vacuum. For example, we figure that the investment choices we make only affect us in terms of gains or losses. Or the decision to fund a 529 education account only means your child will have a better chance of making it through […]

Read More about Do You Truly Understand The Impact Of Your Financial Decisions?

7 minute read

Simple (But Not Easy) Tips for Financial Success Financial Advice

Simple (But Not Easy) Tips for Financial Success

Whether it’s through a blunt comment online, a gentle reminder in person, or just by the look on their face, people tell me the same thing all the time. “David,” they say, ” I already know everything you’re saying to me right now. I want to be financially free. I don’t need someone to rehash […]

Read More about Simple (But Not Easy) Tips for Financial Success

6 minute read

See all in Financial Advice