Frugality for happiness, contentment and liberty

“Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”

Elise Boulding

frugality
from I’m a Frugal Girl

One of my favorite words is frugality – a psychological trait shaping how resources are allocated between consumption, savings and investment over time. As it is pointed out in the ‘Essays on Management’, frugality lies at the heart of good household, business and organisational management. Frugality however should not to be confused with selfishness or “meanness.” Frugality requires a mind-set limiting small pleasures today with a focus on a better future. It implies an eye for micro-detail where decisions to save, conserve or consume matter. It implies observations of both social complexity and ecological systems and how components work together. It suggests searching for the simplest way of doing things.

In personal life, frugality brings simplicity, happiness, contentment and freedom from following the trends of the consumption society. As best-selling travel writer Bill Bryson demonstrates in his memoir “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt kid”, frugality also stimulates creativity and sense of humour. Check out the following excerpt from his memoir as an example:

“All our meals consisted of leftovers. My mother had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of foods that had already been to the table, sometimes repeatedly. Apart from a few perishable dairy products, everything in the fridge was older than I was, sometimes by many years. Her oldest food possession of all, it more or less goes without saying, was a fruit cake that was kept in a metal tin and dated from the colonial period. I can only assume that my mother did all her cooking in the 1940s so that she could spend the rest of her life surprising herself with what she could find under cover at the back of the fridge. I never knew here to reject food. The rule of thumb seemed to be that if you opened a lid and the stuff inside didn’t make you actually recoil and take at least one staggered step backwards, it was deemed OK to eat…

Both my parents had grown up in the Great Depression and neither of them ever threw anything away if they could possibly avoid it. My mother routinely washed and dried paper plates, and smoothed out for reuse spare aluminium foil. If you left a pea on your plate, it became part of a future meal. All your sugar cam in little packets spirited out of restaurants in deep coat pockets, as did our jams, jellies, crackers, tartar sauces, some of our ketchup and butter, all of our napkins, and a very occasional ashtray; anything that came with a restaurant table really. One of the happiest moments in my parents’ life was when maple syrup started to be served in small disposable packets and they could add those to the household hoard.”

I grew up in a frugal household. Even after having worked his way up to a high level managerial position, my dad continued bringing home various ‘treasures’ spotted in the rubbish container conveniently located nearby our apartment block. With regard to frugal cooking, only Bear Grylls‘ mum (whom he thanked profoundly for developing his unique  ability to eat anything on earth) could outdo my grandma. My grandma’s cooking motto was the famous saying of Jerome K Jerome “What the eye does not see, the stomach does not get upset over”. That kept me well away from the kitchen with all grandma’s behind-the-scene wizardry,  though it did not put me off the frugal lifestyle.

Let’s not be those who do not economize. Then we won’t need to agonize and waste our life on things we do not need to impress people we do not like.

I am

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