Frugality in a Consumer Society


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Western society is geared to make you spend money all the time which makes it incredibly difficult to be frugal and save money. The idea for this post came to me as I was sitting waiting in a store watching all of the people milling about me merrily buying products they probably didn’t need. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with a consumer society especially if you can afford to spend the money at will. Unfortunately a great many people don’t have that luxury. These are the people who are carrying debt loads that are weighing them down and making them worry about their finances.

Reading through other personal finances blogs you encounter some people who have managed to get rid of their debt through being frugal. These people are naturally frugal and they don’t like spending money unnecessarily. I know a couple people like this and it amazes me what they’re able to accomplish from a monetary standpoint by not spending money. Unfortunately many people who are living from paycheck to paycheck, like myself, find it incredibly difficult to stop the process of spending money all the time.

Each and every day we are bombarded with advertising and news that pushes us into the temples of consumerism, the malls, where we see other people spending money in droves. This pressures us into spending money ourselves. We see shopping as a right and a need, going so far as to use it as a means of letting our day to day pressures go. Personally I find it hard not to spend money though I’ve learned over the years to ignore my impulses. I am not by nature a frugal person though my debts and desire to be out of debt have driven some frugal elements into my life. Living in our society is hard for a person like me and I think there are a great many people out there like me.

Being frugal takes effort and dedication (at least for me), here are some things that I do to avoid spending money (on credit or cash):

  • Don’t go shopping unless you need something
  • Leave the credit card at home
  • Before making an impulse buy question it and yourself (you might not need the item)
  • Mentally understand the difference between needs and wants, don’t buy wants unless you have spare money
  • Set aside a set amount of money for frivolous expenses

I know this list is far from complete and I’ll take any suggestions people might have to offer. Regardless it’s a starting point, especially if you need to spend less but are used to spending money all the time.

An interesting case study was done by a few people over the past few years where they simply removed themselves from consumer society. They stopped spending money on any item that wasn’t 100% necessary. One of these reads was Judith Levine’s Not Buying It:My Year Without Shopping (Amazon Link) which really opened my eyes to how strongly consumerist my activities have been. If you find yourself spending money when you really shouldn’t here are a couple articles and resources I found:

Could you Stop Spending for a Month?

The Compact (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thecompact/) a group of people taking themselves off the spending grid for 12 months.

4 thoughts on “Frugality in a Consumer Society”

  1. Responding the list in sequential order..
    Perhaps below I can share my own experiences.

    1. Try to convert your time from spending money to making money.
    2. I use still ONE credit card to postpone payments, build good credits and certain emergency purpose.
    3. I never make large impulsive purchase, so sugar-free candy on cashier’s table is ok, but not a new Flash Drive or MP3 player.
    4. Make sure every dollar you spent return the most fulfilling & longest satisfaction for you, so don’t buy, even if you have spare money.
    5. Make a mindset that bigger and bigger saving is good way of saving money.

    Colin Joss
    East Lothian, Haddington, United Kingdom

  2. Great concept, I think if I ever get out of debt, I will attempt to do this.

    I tried this on a small scale by not spending money at work, and have succeeded slightly with that.

    -C8j

  3. I love this post…it totally speaks to me!
    I am so old school, because I am not the least bit motivated to consume and spend.
    I think the big one that you wrote about and seems to come naturally to me, is the knowing the difference between needs and wants.
    That is the core of it all right there.
    But alas, I am married to a consumer who loves STUFF…
    I suppose that is why we were attracted to each other, the whole ying/yang balance each other out thing…

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