How to Be Frugal: Find Joy in Each Thing You Use

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you know how to be frugal in the full sense of the word? Have you ever practiced frugality by finding joy?

Many people know how to be frugal. But, few know how to be frugal in the context of understanding what frugality means in a deeper sense. True frugality is finding joy in each thing you use. Spending less can actually contribute to your happiness.

Read more to learn how to be frugal in a meaningful way.

Understanding True Frugality

Our focus is often on strategies to spend less—how to be frugal. To better understand these strategies, we’ll first explore what frugality means in a deeper sense. This will help you reframe your thinking around spending money and learn to meet your needs in creative ways.

A key component of pursuing financial independence is finding fulfillment by spending your life energy—money—on what brings you happiness and learning to live with what is “enough” for you. Learning how to be frugal will help you do this.

While most people think that frugality means severely restricting your spending, it’s really about enjoying or making use of something—and you don’t have to own things to enjoy them. Yet people often try to satisfy their desires by buying things. Sometimes we like buying things because of the symbolism of owning them and the approval we get from others. For example, owning a fancy car is symbolic of a successful career. But truly knowing how to be frugal means being able to enjoy stuff for what it gives you materially, not what it symbolizes to you.

Practicing True Frugality

To practice frugality, cultivate a higher joy-to-things ratio. If you enjoy getting things more than having and using things, this could be a sign that you need to improve your joy-to-things ratio. For example, if you have 5 perfectly good pairs of shoes but aren’t excited about wearing any of them, you might derive more enjoyment from getting things than using them. In contrast, if you enjoy wearing all the shoes you own, you buy only what you need and enjoy it to its fullest.

Ideally, take joy in each thing you use. This will help you avoid running toward the next material thing in search of fulfillment. Now you know what frugality means in a deeper sense—and how to be frugal in a meaningful way.

How to Be Frugal: Find Joy in Each Thing You Use

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Here's what you'll find in our full Your Money or Your Life summary:

  • The 9 steps to reach financial independence
  • How to change your entire relationship with money and live a more meaningful life
  • How to align your spending habits with your values, purpose, and dreams

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She has always appreciated nonfiction, especially about history, politics, and ideas. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. As a former intelligence analyst and a teacher of critical thinking skills, Elizabeth enjoys analyzing arguments on all sides of an issue. Her nonfiction preferences include theology, science, and philosophy. She studies the intersection of these three in pursuit of the highest truths. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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