Luke is a minimalist, I am a frugalist. Yet, neither of us are purists with regards to these lifestyles.
I am predominantly a frugalist in my approach to life with a hint of minimalism.
Luke is predominantly minimalistic with a hint of frugalism.
Minimalism has become increasingly popular over the past few years and because I live with a minimalist, I’ve tried to jump on the bandwagon. I’ve realized that I can’t completely conform to minimalism because there are too many differences between frugalism and minimalism that I can’t change.
Before I dive into my thoughts on this, I’ll offer up a couple of quick and simple definitions of these terms.
WHAT IS FRUGALISM?
Frugalism is a way of life focused on being mindful of how you spend your time and money and not being wasteful to focus on the things that add value.
WHAT IS MINIMALISM?
Minimalism is living with less and eliminating excess so you can focus on the things that add value.
MINIMAL > Is it worth my time? I need a blank canvas to start something
Looking at it from the surface, they do have very similar attributes.
Both have a value for intentional living and desire to focus on things that add value at the core.
Both aren’t into extravagant and lavish lifestyles or excess.
LIFE AS A FRUGALIST
I grew up with a dad who is a purebred frugalist. He taught me the importance of:
- making things last
doing things yourself
He always kept everything because you never know when you might need it again. Amongst my siblings, I grabbed on to his teachings and way of life the most. I think it was because being a frugalist was already ingrained in my DNA.
For me, as a frugalist, I value:
- trip and experiences
- possesions that last
- doing things myself that save money
- a good deal on something
LIFE AS A MINIMALIST
Luke grew up with a mother who was a sure-fire minimalist. She gave away everything and anything that they didn’t need or that had little value. Luke learned a lot from his mom and because of that has always given away his stuff throughout his life. He holds everything loosely and places little value on possessions.
I have often heard him say, “life is the best when everything I own fits in either my travel backpack or my little truck.” This has been true for all the years we’ve been married when it comes to our stuff (the truck part that is).
Being a minimalist means that everything you choose to own has value and serves a purpose, including your time.
Less is more.
As a minimalist Luke values:
- high-quality possessions
- time (always wanting to free it up)
- having a clutter-free life
- owning less stuff
UNDERSTANDING THE MINDSET OF A FRUGALIST & MINIMALIST
When I was researching frugalism, it was hard to find strong definitions that weren’t just actions, specifically the act of being cheap. To me, frugalism is a lifestyle (and more than just being cheap) but is led by action first and a mindset attached to that action.
Minimalism is easier to define because it is a clear mindset and philosophy on life that leads to action.
Both minimalists and frugalists at their core value non-essential living. Here’s a list of life essentials:
- clothing & shoes
- gadgets & tech (for us this is work)
Now if we both value non-essential living, and things that provide value, then where is the line between necessity and extravagance? The dictionary defines extravagance as exceeding the bounds of something. Perhaps then the line comes from living within your means and living with constraint and discipline.
Now, what if you had a billion dollars, and could buy everything and anything you wanted – what then?
Well, you would need to ask yourself another question: what are your core values in life and how do your actions and everyday living correlate with these values?
How we define this line between necessity and extravagance is by continually asking ourselves WHY we value something. WHY is this or that important to us and do I really need it in my life. This will lead us to those constraints and disciplines that end up becoming instinctive.
We discover our values by choosing an intentional life. We discover ourselves by asking tough questions with everything we do – by pursuing self-awareness.
Now let’s dive into some similarities between minimalism and frugalism.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN A MINIMALIST & A FRUGALIST
Where Luke and I align in regards to intentional living is that we constantly, and ruthlessly evaluate our priorities.
Some of our strongest values in life include:
- a love of adventure
- enjoying quality possessions
- having minimal commitments
- financial freedom
- slow living
- free time
Both of us put these values and priorities at the front of everything we do. As mentioned above, where things start to differ is when we begin to define these values and the path we take to get there.
Let’s took at some of these values from both minimalists and frugalists perspectives.
TIME | MINIMALIST vs FRUGALIST
Time is a big one that differentiates within frugalism and minimalism.
When I’ve asked Luke how he defines efficiency and time, as a minimalist he says: “minimalists define time by efficiency. They want to cut any clutter and unnecessary obligations”.
For a minimalist having more free time to do whatever you want and fill it with whatever you want is valuable.
For a frugalist, time is an investment into resourcefulness. This investment of time allows you to live free and do whatever you want. There is a strong sense of pride in this resourceful activity as well.
Efficiency for a frugalist is about what you fill your time doing. You live a life of meaning and value through acting efficiently with your finances and time.
A minimalist may spend more on an item and isn’t as concerned about the cost, as long as it adds value and saves wasted time.
A frugalist is more concerned about reducing and avoiding costs to focus on the long-term. There is a sense of pride in this, even it means investing more time into something.
A minimalist holds their possessions loosely and will get rid of excess stuff if it doesn’t provide any present value. There is not much thought of saving possessions for the future.
A frugalist will find ways to save even if it means keeping more stuff around that may be useful down the road.
Time is more important than money to a minimalist.
A frugalist will invest time in being resourceful and DIY projects to save money.
The end goal for both is financial freedom and living a less busy life – having time.
Next, let’s explore how both minimalists and frugalists approach waste.
WASTE | MINIMALIST VS FRUGALIST
The definition of efficiency is living in a way that is well organized, productive and with the least amount of waste. Waste in a simple term is failing to make the fullest or best use of something. Let’s dive into the definition of waste-free a bit further:
- Using something carefully, with restraint, and reasonably with purpose.
- Something that is kept and found useful and able to be reused more than once.
- A helpful and useful substance or material.
Frugalism and waste-free living go hand in hand. It is a life where you make the fullest and most of what you have and use, to maximize what is important and valued (and that doesn’t just mean stuff).
For a minimalist, waste is connected to time.
Let’s use cleaning out a closet as an example.
The minimalist will get rid of anything they deem presently useless. They will strip their closet to a small number of items.
The frugalist will keep things like older clothes because fashion always comes back in style, and why buy more later if you don’t have to.
The minimalist would give away older clothes and re-buy newer items when that fashion was back in.
By this example, the frugalist tends to care about being less wasteful. The minimalist is more concerned with owning less and having a clean space.
Let’s analyze these differences further with food.
FOOD | MINIMALIST VS FRUGALIST
The frugalist values food by purchasing groceries carefully. They may get them from local farmers for cheaper, use coupons or build a garden and grow it themselves. Time is no issue in their approach to enjoying and preparing their food.
A minimalist says how can I make the experience of eating and enjoying my food more simple. They may order pre-made meals or make simple meals for the week ahead. A minimalist will usually only buy what they presently need. Whatever the choice, you can be sure that efficiency and time are always kept in mind with a minimalist.
For minimalists Costco runs and stocking up for the future is not in their approach. Price is not an issue, quality and time is the concern.
A frugalist takes this mindset but applies the act of saving and doing this more resourcefully. Financial efficiency matters to the frugalist.
Now, this doesn’t mean that a frugalist won’t enjoy a dinner out once in a while. They care about saving money and having the freedom to use that money for future priorities which may include enjoying a splurgy night out.
Let’s discuss another example, how we go about travel.
TRAVEL | MINIMALIST VS FRUGALIST
When Luke and I travel it ends up being such a tug and pull on what we pack.
A couple of years ago we decided to sell our possessions and travel the world full time. The way in which we packed was very different.
Luke, the minimalist didn’t want to bring anything he didn’t need. His thinking was that if he needed something he would buy it when he needed it on the road.
I, the frugalist packed with all scenarios in mind: a pair of shoes for every situation, a bunch of toiletries, an emergency kit, spices, and non-perishables. I figured these items would be hard to get once out on the road so I stocked up.
My backpack ended up being significantly heavier and larger than Luke’s. We did end up using quite a lot of the stuff that I brought and it made me happy knowing I was able to save us money from not needing to buy those things later.
Luke also ended up needing to buy some items that he didn’t bring beforehand. He was fine and quite happy doing this and ended up giving away his jeans and a sweater to lighten his bag along the way.
This will always remain a point of contention for us, but that’s the beauty of living with a minimalist and frugalist.
SUMMARY OF A FRUGALIST VS A MINIMALIST
There are some clear differences between a minimalist and a frugalist that can be really frustrating. But we both discovered over these past eight years of living together that the strengths of each really do rub off.
Do you approach life from more of a frugalist or minimalist perspective?
What attributes from each can you take or improve on?
These are questions we both ask ourselves a lot and have found we’ve adopted many traits of each other’s way of living over the years and something you could do as well!
If you are interested in reading more about Minimalism check out some of the articles Luke has written on the subject.
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