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December 21, 2018

Yes, I’m a Cheap Ass—the Secret Life of a Frugal Minimalist.

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Yes, that’s right: I’m a cheap ass.

Frugality comes second nature to me.

Maybe it’s the inherited mindset of my Hungarian immigrant roots—hungry to survive in a new world.

I see (and live) the merit in a life of simplicity, a life free of debt.

Yet, it’s all too easy to fall prey to the consumer machine that makes us want more—or even worse, makes us feel like we need more than we actually do. In this constant bombardment of consumerism, we can quickly find ourselves a servant to a multitude of expenses that continuously strap themselves to us: high data phone bills, fancy gadgets, designer clothes, and luxury cars.

A life of frugality is free of these burdens because the frugal person doesn’t want to spend money on superfluous things.

The frugal spender is also a conscious spender, and despite their proneness to stinginess, they at least keep their head above water when it comes to their finances.

A frugal life often equates to a life of simplicity, and this can go hand in hand with minimalism.

Having less can be more if one appreciates the mental space that is created by the absence of too many things.

Of course, there are the frugal-minded who are obsessed with collecting anything and everything that is free or cheap, which is the opposite of the minimalist way of life.

While some of us are possessed by the need to save money, others may benefit from learning ways to develop a minimalist approach to life when it comes to spending.

Here are a few of the ways I reduce my spending and the energy-sucking clutter around me:

Carry your own water bottle

Sounds simple, but not only does this save money, it also saves masses of plastic bottles from ending up in the trash or even the ocean—and from being produced at all. Many public places offer free water refill stations, with local apps available worldwide to find the nearest one to you.

Carry snacks

Tuck some healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, and crackers in your bag or backpack and have what you need at hand, without having to buy overprocessed snack food, often packaged in plastic.

Don’t eat

Ok, don’t eat out. Sounds extreme, but humans have lived for thousands of years without being able to satiate their hunger the very minute it arises and can even survive without any food for about a month. This means many of us can endure a little hunger until we get home to cook instead of eating out every time our stomach grumbles at us. Intermittent fasting, which is eating our meals within one shorter window during the day, can also have positive effects on our energy levels and health.

Cook at home and meal prep

Eating out eats up money. Plus, eating at home can be healthier when using whole and seasonal foods. Not only do you know what you’re consuming, you’re able to conserve energy by cooking just once. Meals like kitchari can be made in advance, and if one goes light on the seasonings—each meal can have a different flavor: once as curry, once with pesto, with tomato sauce, as a salad enhancement, and so on.

Make your own coffee

Everyone is obsessed with coffee these days, yet no one seems to know how to make it. Whether using a French press, espresso machine, pour over, or state-of-the-art coffee machine, it’s not that hard, and again you’ll be preventing disposable coffee cups from being produced, filling up landfills, or becoming a nozzle forced onto a dolphin’s nose.

Buy discounted items

Great things come to those who wait.” Do we always need things the moment we want them? No. So, we can possibly wait for that next purchase to drop in price at the store before stocking up. Of course, your child’s medicine is probably best bought when it is needed.

Become a scavenger

Depending on where you live, there can be great opportunities to pick up things from the side of the road which are waiting to be collected and dumped. My wife and I have furnished practically our whole apartment with items we found on the streets of Sydney. Even salvage food stores are popping up everywhere to sell foods that are almost, or just past, their sell-by dates.

There are no doubt other ways to save a buck, though some should definitely be avoided. For instance, when I was traveling on a shoestring budget in South America many moons ago, I slept in a bus station to save about $10 on a hostel bed because I arrived in town in the middle of the night and didn’t deem the expense worthwhile. Now I see that my safety is worth a lot more than that.

Like all things, frugality needs to be developed in moderation.

If one is too frugal, they will lose generosity and start clinging to their savings like Gollum to his precious ring.

Frugality is worthwhile insomuch as it enhances our life.

 

Peter Gyulay

author: Peter Gyulay

Image: The Office / IMDB

Editor: Julie Balsiger

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