Is Being Frugal a Waste of Time?

Corey —  April 5, 2010

       Peruse Ramit Sethi’s blog I Will Teach You to Be Rich for just a few minutes and you’ll quickly learn that being frugal is a waste of time. Actually, you’ll learn that it’s impossible to be truly frugal – so why try? You’re much better off just focusing on the “big wins” and then trying to earn more money…all so you can spend “extravagantly” on the things you love. (The quotes are not for sarcasm. Those are the terms Ramit uses. And I’m not just bashing him. There are other “experts” who tell you the same thing. And yes, sarcasm was intended with the quotes that time.)

       Ramit’s stance is that you should only focus on the frugal tips that will save you big money. These “big wins” should save you at least several hundred dollars a year, require very little time on your part, and in no way negatively affect anything you love to spend money on. He calls these things the “big 5” and with limitations like that you’d be lucky to find five things you should cut back on.

       Now, it’s easy for me to pick on Ramit because Provident Planning is not about spending extravagantly on the things you want and love. (Actually, maybe it is if what you want and love is God.) It’s not about making you feel guilty for spending money on things that aren’t needs either. My goal here is to explore how Christians can glorify God through their financial decisions – to look at how our faith in Jesus is reflected in our budgets. And that means frugality is as good an option as earning more. Here are a few reasons why being frugal is not a waste of time.

Choosing a Simple Life

       Living frugally allows you the freedom to live with less. It gives you the opportunity to focus less on earning money. Yes, you’ll still need some money to live. But frugality can help lower the amount you “need” by quite a bit. The less you need to earn, the more time you have to live frugally.

       This translates into many different options depending on your calling. For some, it allows more time with your family. For others, it’s a chance to volunteer more or work on a personal project that doesn’t provide income. I’ve even read of those who choose to live simply and earn less income to avoid paying taxes because they don’t agree with how the government spends the money – especially on war. For all these people, being frugal is not a waste of time. It’s a tool that helps them achieve their goals.

Conserving Resources

       Frugality is not always about being cheap. It can be a way to use less of the world’s resources. Americans are notorious for wasteful living. And whether we acknowledge it or not, this lifestyle impacts millions of the world’s poor and will affect our future and our children’s future. For those who seek to use less “Stuff”, being frugal is not a waste of time either.

Concern for the Poor

       This aspect of frugality is partly connected to conserving resources. Part of the impact of wasteful living is the injustice that happens in Third World countries. The coffee you drank this morning was probably harvested by somebody who earned only a few dollars for an entire day’s hard work. Those bananas sitting on your counter were likely picked by people who still can’t afford to feed their families despite having a job.

       Being frugal is not just about time and money. Our choices impact someone, somewhere. Frugality can be a choice to avoid supporting those things you don’t agree with. Conscious living is hard in this world, but it can be an example of your values.

Your Take

       Those are just a few reasons why being frugal is not a waste a time. When you stop thinking about time as money, you can start to see that you can’t judge frugal tips merely by their cost savings. What’s your take? What are some other reasons that being frugal is not a waste of time? What do you think of the examples I gave? Or am I just wrong? Let me know in the comments.



Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

6 responses to Is Being Frugal a Waste of Time?

  1. I agree with you 100%! I enjoy being frugal because it gives me freedom to spend that money saved on something else, to charity, to our Lord. It is a mindset, a way of life, a calling if you will. I choose to live frugally to allow me to live the way I choose, the way that is important to me, a life centered on Jesus. I know my way is not what all want that choose the simple life, but for me it is the way I want and love. Keep up these great posts!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Donna! Frugality can provide a sort of freedom that earning more may not. For most people, earning more means working more – trading your time for money. Frugal choices can require some time, but you have a little more freedom with that time and you still generate money in the form of savings. As always, thank you for the encouragement!

  3. There are varying degrees of frugality and what may be appropriate for some – may not be for others.

    A particular aspect of frugality, or beneficial side effect, is that there is a tendency to shift our focus from those things we think we want, in the way of new acquisitions, to more powerfully leveraging what we already have. In other words, simply having an attitude of gratitude (taking inventory, counting our blessings, etc.) will often open our eyes to existing opportunities that are already within our reach that can serve to fill the void we were hoping to achieve with a new purchase.

    Every time we are able to successfully implement such a strategy it allows us to spend that much less time on the economic hamster wheel and fast tracks us to our more important life goals.

    It is all about choice being a tool to design the life we really want and not getting distracted by the noise and glitter.
    .-= Steven and Debra´s last blog ..The Love of Other People’s Money (Covetousness) is the Root of All Evil =-.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Steven and Debra! You bring up two great points about the spectrum of frugality and the freedom it can bring.

    I hope people see that learning to be frugal doesn’t mean you have to start with the most extreme stuff right away. You can take small steps until you get to a place where you’re comfortable and saving money while still reaching your goals.

  5. Small leaks sink a ship. If you don’t pay attention to the little things, then you aren’t really paying attention to your money.

  6. Thank you for your comment, Jennifer! You’re right in pointing out that we can waste a lot of money in small expenses. It’s amazing how little things can add up over the weeks, months, and years.