Personal Finance

Is it trendy to be frugal?

I’ve been writing for 15 years and I think this is my first article on frugality probably because I’ve never thought of myself as frugal. Before having kids, I never really worried too much about spending money.  I’ve made good income for most of my working life and also been a pretty good saver so if I really wanted something I bought it.

Now being a dad, I feel it is important to set a good example for my kids so I don’t always just buy what I want.  For example, when I go grocery shopping with the kids, I am explaining to them why it’s better to buy things ‘on sale’.  I think it’s working because now, my kids don’t ask if we can buy ‘this’ or ‘that’.  Instead they ask “Dad, is this on sale?’.

What does it mean to be frugal?

Frugal is used to describe someone who is economical and avoids wasting money.  The synonyms of the word frugal are thrifty, prudent, economical, sparing, careful, penny-wise, penny-pinching, cheap or even stingy.

There are huge degrees or frugality.  Extreme frugality can create some really negative connotations like being cheap, stingy or a miser.  Here’s an entertaining article from a guy named Tightwad Tod that takes frugality to an extreme level.  Another interesting article comes from the Banknerd site on taking frugal living too far.

I think everyone has some frugality in them.  I know lots of people who look for deals and buy things on sale.  I also know people who intentionally look for deals through flyers or coupons. Nowadays, people can find even more savings online. For example, people are finding sites like MyPoint that offer additional savings on top of Macy’s website coupons.

As I was doing some research to write this article, I’ve realized I am more frugal than I thought.  Although I am not obsessed about it, I like to look for good deals.  I don’t use coupons but I am mindful of our spending.  I like shopping at Costco because buying bulk saves me some money when it comes to feeding four growing boys.  I’ve shopped many times on Kijiji and ebay for some used bikes, an outdoor basketball hoop, sports equipment and other things for the boys.  Like many others, I’ve bought a couple of items off groupon and will continue to look for future deals. As I get older, I’ve been much more aware and conscious of spending and practicing frugality more and more without really knowing it.

Is it trendy to be frugal?

For the past couple of years I’ve exposed to more and more personal finance blogs on frugality.  I can’t help but think frugality is a growing trend and a segment of the population that really sees the value of being frugal.

Some experts argue that frugality has become popular out of necessity.  The recent financial crisis has forced people to tighten up their spending and face the consequences of accumulating more debt.

I can’t help but think frugality has become more socially acceptable for other reasons as well.  Technology has made it easier to access deals. Just look at the growing number of people buying on ebay, kijiji, or using groupon. There is no shortage of finding ways to save money.  Google’s‘ ways to be frugal’ and you will see no shortage of lists to help you find ways to cut corners and be more thrifty.

Whatever is causing the trend, I am encouraged that in a time when debt has become so accessible and it has become so easy to live beyond our means, that ‘frugal’ is in fashion.  Are you frugal and to what degree?


  1. Sara Tetreault

    I’ve always been frugal and never considered myself trendy. Frugal doesn’t have to mean you sacrifice and that you must subject yourself to a bland, boring, and non-indulgent life. It means you’re smart, thoughtful, and resourceful. Living frugally means you have more choices.

    • Jim Yih

      Thanks for sharing Sara. Your comments are also smart, thoughtful and resourceful. What do you mean by having more choices by living frugally?

      • Sara Tetreault

        I mean that if you want to stay home and raise your kids and take a break from paid employment, you can do that. Or if you want to travel and take 3 months off, you can do that. If you’ve lived carefully and planned (otherwise known as living frugally) you can do things that you’d like to do not just what you have to do. You have choices because you’re not stretched every single month to pay your bills. Frugal living is deciding how you want to live and then doing it.

  2. Echo

    I think it depends on what you’re being frugal with. Groupon (and other variations) has become popular because of the social aspect of sharing deals with your friends, like on a hotel or spa getaway.

    I don’t think buying previously worn clothes (for example) will ever become cool. I don’t think people are bragging to their friends about turning the heat down to 60 degrees to save money either.

    We all love to share stories about saving money on bigger ticket items like cars, travel, and electronics. But I think it will always be considered ‘odd’ or extreme to save on the little things.

    • Jim Yih

      I think people like finding good deals whether they are big ticket or small is fun. I found a bunch of kinder surprise eggs for 50 cents and was telling other parents in the neighborhood about it and it became a big share-fest about all the little deals people have found even to save a buck here or there.

    • Caroline

      Actually, buying “previously used clothes” IS considered cool depending on who you talk to. People who are into vintage clothing like I am or those who are “hipsters” LOVE thrift stores. It’s affordable AND you get to dress HOW you want and not what the malls or trends dictate.

  3. Cori F

    First being frugal is not the same as being “cheap” Cheap people are those that you go out for dinner with and they “forget” their wallets or whinge so much about the prices they guilt their companions into paying. I think that smart shoppers would be the ones labeled “frugal” shoppers. I agree it is a much better example for our kids (and bank accounts) to research purchases (esp. big ones) instead of buying the first one you see. I always check on line for coupons before I go out to shop at certain stores. Living in the U.S. I think you are crazy not to look for sales. There are so many retailers vying for your business and coupons for percentages of your purchases are a regular part of the retail marketing plans. In fact I suspect that many retailer mark up their wares only to offer a 40% off coupon for those who are regular shoppers or those that look on-line. A quick on-line check before I load the kids in the car always saves me money. Though I think it annoys my husband as I tell him to “wait a sec” before he goes to get the oil changed, (so I can see if the place he is going has $5 off), but he does appreciate the money we save. It all adds up!

  4. B. Kwan

    I take pride in being ‘frugal’. I think as Sara stated, it take some degree of intelligence and forethought to be frugal. But like anything else, if you’re not paying attention to your spending, you will miss things.

    I take it that when she says ‘more choice’, it means that instead of buying a brand new kids bike from Toys R Us for $150, you can get a used one for $50 or less, and with a little elbow grease, your kid won’t even know the difference. You have the choice to spend $150 or $50. Some people never even consider buying something used.

    Off topic, but other things to buy used: skates (which kids outgrow in one season), some exercise equipment (barbells, racks, dumbells, benches), furniture (especially if you are a handyman), even kids clothes (I got over that one a quite a few years ago).

  5. Doable Finance

    To be frugal is to be smart. Being smart in handling your finances is the right word for it.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*