Frugality and minimalism – they go hand in hand, right? Wrong.
Sure, both will teach you valuable lessons that spending your cash on material possessions will not make you happy. Both will help you get out of debt and live within your means. And both will help you justify it to yourself when you re-gift that necklace you never liked.
But for those trying to be frugal and minimalist, there are a heap of scenarios where the two simply clash. Minimalist You is whispering in one ear and Frugal You in the other.
Here are seven ‘frugal vs minimalist’ conundrums I’ve personally wrestled with:
It’s one of those simple rules of shopping – you buy more, you pay less. If you head over to the cash-and-carry you can pick up 30 tins of tomatoes for something ridiculous like £2.20. Frugal You’s in heaven, Minimalist You is quietly weeping into the giant crate of man-size tissues.
2. Buying on sale
A similar, and equally tough, dilemma. The supermarket has your brand of shampoo on half price. How many do you buy? Minimalist You says one – it’s a bit of good fortune that you’ll pay less for it, but it’s one you need, so it’s one you’ll get. Frugal You has already gone to get another shopping trolley.
3. Chucking out those ‘just in case’ items
You have a little box full of buttons. Really, really cute spare buttons that might just save you from a wardrobe malfunction one day. Minimalist You says the collection has been sat there for months or years, and some of the buttons go with clothing you don’t even own any more. Frugal You wants to keep the buttons; they might come in handy for a craft project. It’s just one example of a wider dilemma – many of the ‘just in case’ items that Minimalist You is hankering to bin would cost quite a bit more to replace than a button if it turned out you’d acted in haste.
4. Digitising your possessions
Photographs, music collections, documents – so many items which once took up loads of space in people’s homes are now just stored as ones and zeros on minuscule data sticks or floating in the ether of ‘the cloud’. Streaming services like Spotify and Netflix mean you don’t even have to own films or albums any more to enjoy them any time you want. There’s never been an easier time to be a minimalist – as long as you have the cash. Minimalist You would happily buy fancy ultra-fast scanners to scan in all your bank statements before you shred them for good. Minimalist You would purchase a new digital photo frame and bin your old photo albums. Minimalist You would buy an e-reader so you can ditch your paperbacks, or an extra-capacity MP3 player so you can jettison your CDs. But Frugal You is horrified by this idea. Spending so much cash on the latest gadgets, so you can live some kind of sleek, clutter-free, aspirational, ‘minimalist’ lifestyle? Signing up to streaming services so you can pay monthly to listen to songs you once owned on vinyl? No thank you.
5. Getting rid of items you will use…eventually
Here’s the conundrum – you’ve somehow ended up with too much of something. Thirty candles, fourteen soaps, whatever. You’ll end up using them eventually but for now, they’re just taking up space. Minimalist You says to keep your favourite ones and donate the rest. After all, it’s better to give them to someone who needs them right now than hang on to them for months or years. Frugal You says, ‘Woah there tiger, if you sling them now, you’ll only have to buy more when you run out. What are you thinking?’
6. Repurposing junk
An empty yoghurt pot isn’t just an empty yoghurt pot to Frugal You. It’s a plant pot for a seedling tomato plant, a handy receptacle for paperclips, or an awesome body part for that robot fancy-dress costume you’re crafting. Minimalist You is disgusted by Frugal You right now.
7. Getting rid of items you’d forgotten about
You’re all fired up to have a clear-out. You open that drawer, that cupboard, that attic, determined to get rid of all the stuff you haven’t been using. When was the last time you used the cow-print sandwich toaster that makes a moo sound when your toastie is done? Minimalist You says most of this crap can definitely go; it’s been gathering dust for years. But for Frugal You, this is like a shopping trip without the bill. Look at all this amazing stuff you’d forgotten about! Let’s have toasted sandwiches for dinner. Moooooooooooo. How can Minimalist You think about throwing this out?
So, what do you do when the mental tug-of-war starts? In many ways, it will depend on what state your finances are in. If you’re wanting to pay down debts, live within your means or save up for something worthwhile, it might make sense to prioritise frugality. If your finances aren’t your top concern but you’re feeling weighed down by your possessions, maybe Minimalist You should win the day.
But seriously, get shot of that toastie maker. You can make much better toasted sandwiches under the grill anyway.