There’s a popular notion in personal-finance circles that frugality and minimalism go hand in hand. If somebody’s frugal, they probably also self-identify as being a minimalist. And if somebody’s a minimalist, they probably self-identify as being frugal. But while there is a lot of crossover between frugality and minimalism, it’s important to understand that they’re fundamentally different ideas with different aims. Sometimes they’re even at odds with each other.
In fact, I think these two concepts are so non-aligned that I feel the need to define them for those Money Boss readers unfamiliar with the minimalism movement.
- Frugality, as we’re all aware, is what used to be called thrift. It’s the quality of being careful with money and goods. It’s the opposite of waste.
- Minimalism, on the other hand, is the pursuit of less. Minimalist strive to own and do less, and they generally want their possessions to reflect simplicity and elegance.
Frugal folks aim to spend less; minimalists aim to have and do less. There’s plenty of overlap there, obviously, but there are many times that frugality and minimalism are neither synonymous nor compatible. Let’s look at a real-life example.
A Real-Life Example
Last Sunday, I rode my bike to a local bar for a money-blogger meetup. Much to my chagrin, I got a flat about 3.5 miles into the 4.1-mile ride through the rain and the cold. I “limped” the last half mile to the bar — putting most of my weight on the front tire so that I wouldn’t lose control of the bicycle. Eventually, the flat was too flat; I had to walk the last few hundred feet.
Fortunately, I live in Portland. Portland might be the most bike-friendly city in the United States, which means there are plenty of bike shops scattered around town. After I finished drinking slushy margaritas with my friends, I walked half a mile to River City Bicycles, where I paid $15 (and waited an hour) for the friendly folks to fix my flat.
This action led to an interesting discussion on Facebook:
This is a real-life example of the balance between frugality and minimalism. The frugal move would be to carry gear with me so that I could handle minor bike problems as they arise. The minimalist move is to carry nothing. [Read more…]