I Think It’s Time We Had A Talk About The Word “Frugal”


In 2011, I bought the domain name frugalfarmwife.com. My grand plan was to create a coupon blog.

I found out pretty quickly that coupon blogging wasn’t for me, but since I had the name, and the blog all set up, I ran with it.

Image shows a hand holding money with text that reads "Let's have a chat about the word frugal"

It’s safe to say that blog has evolved over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the word “frugal”.

That word has affected me in ways I could never have foreseen. When you use the word frugal, people want to brand you as a person who never spends money, and when you do, they’re disappointed in you.

But “frugal” means you save money, you don’t spend frivolously, and you think and strategize before you purchase something.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t make the purchase.

For some that last little bit gets lost in the pursuit of perfection, and at times, it leads to cyber bullying.

I’ve found myself moderating comments such as:

    • “Oh, you went to SeaWorld? THAT’s not frugal!”
    • “How is all this traveling frugal?”
    • “You bought that?! Good grief, I thought you were supposed to be frugal; now I’m going to unlike your page”
  • “Tell me how a South American vacation is frugal!”

Yeah, we went to SeaWorld last year – twice! Our son is enamored with sea animals, and SeaWorld was the perfect chance for him to see them up close. Then we found out that in-state kids five and under could get free season passes and season passes for Gabe, and I cost only $10 more than single-day tickets, we jumped on them. With season passes, SeaWorld was an incredibly fun and inexpensive day trip.

Image shows two small children outdoors with a woman, all wearing sunglasses

Yes, we travel quite a bit. In fact, I’m making plans for trips in March, April, June, AND October as I type. I feel like traveling and experiencing different places and people is incredibly valuable in our children’s education. On top of that, my side of the family live over 700 miles away, and I find myself participating in a few business conferences every year. We plan ahead and take steps to make our road trips as inexpensive as possible, and get the best prices on flights. That’s what it means to be frugal – not not going.

Image shows two small children in the backseat of a car holding bags of popcorn with a woman in the front seat

Yes, I bought that. I don’t know which “that” you’re referring to, but I bought a lot of them. Things we needed and things we didn’t need. I did my best not to impulse buy, but there are a lot of things that I want, so I scout out the best prices because, to be honest, I don’t work this hard to live a beans and rice life, ya know? So if it’s in my budget, and I want it, sometimes I get it.

Image shows a hand holding a purple FitBit

Knee sleeves, fractional plates, a new gym bag, multiple gym tanks, a new pair of leggings… I wanted them, I felt like they would benefit my goals, I got them. No regrets.

And YES, we spent three weeks in South America last summer (Texas summer, NOT Argentina’s. Good grief it was cold there!). To be fair, part of our trip was business related, but for the most part, we wanted to see Iguazu Falls, and experience Argentine culture.

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Remember where I said traveling was important to us? The trip to and through Argentina was expensive, but we made it happen, scouted the best airline prices, we planned ahead, saved money, and did it.

Yes, we also have smartphones. We determined that as a self-employed couple, not having smartphones would cost us more than the higher phone bill would, so we researched the best phone plan options and found one that served our needs while being incredibly affordable.

Let’s be clear on something; being frugal means prioritizing what you want more over what you want or need less.

    • We make our own refried beans because we eat a lot of Mexican food, and cooking from scratch is cheaper than buying canned beans.
    • We cut corners and live on a little less so we can spend less time working and more time as a family and so that I can homeschool the kids.
  • We rarely go to the movies because I’d rather go see the mountains than watch the latest on the big screen.

That’s just the way we prioritize.

What I would say to anyone who wants to live frugally, but doesn’t want to live oppressed by the idea that they have to save every penny possible, every single time, is to decide what frugal means for you.

Sit down and make a budget. And by budget, I mean tallying up all your expenses, deciding which ones you can, and want to lower, and re-tally.

Then figure out what YOU want to do with your money. Not where your money has to go because you don’t think you have any choice but to pay the bills as they stand.

But really decide what you want your lifestyle to look like, and figure out what you have to do to make it happen.

For me, what I have to do to make my desired lifestyle happen is (a.) work from home and (b.) save money, or eliminate expenses that aren’t important to me.

If an ice nugget machine is important to me, I’ll jolly well get one. But it’s not. On the other hand, I know more than one family who buys bags of ice at Sonic because ice nuggets are that important to them. For those people, an ice nugget machine may not sound so ludicrously un-frugal, and if they’re frugal people, they might save up for one or wait for a Black Friday sale to score one cheaply. Who knows?

We’re kind of going through that with canoes right now. My husband wants to do more canoeing as a family, so he’s keeping his eye peeled for a deal on a canoe.

I’m keeping my eye peeled for the perfect RV. (Okay, fine. I have a funky little dream of RVing around the country in a B or C-class RV that may or may not ever happen, but it doesn’t hurt to search Craigslist every now and then, right?)

We may all have different definitions of what being frugal means specifically, but that doesn’t mean that another person’s position isn’t just as valid.

    1. If your family is thriving,
    1. If you’re not in debt,
    1. The world is your oyster.
  1. Go get it.

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  1. Yes! Most grocery shopping days, I buy Lunchables (well, the cheaper Armor brand ones that are $1 apiece) for my oldest two. We do the shopping mid-late morning and get home right at lunch time. I haul a nearly 5 year old, 3.5 year old, and 10 month old by myself 20 minutes each way into town (and I’m 6.5 months pregnant). When we get home, I’m exhausted! They help unload the groceries and then enjoy those $1 Lunchables. YES, I could DIY them for less. YES, if I planned ahead, I could have sandwiches waiting for us. YES, I could make them wait another 15 minutes for a fresh sandwich. But I don’t because that convenience and simplicity and ease and FUN is totally worth $2! (And it’s cheaper than swinging through a drive thru on the way home!)

    Prioritize. Budget. Plan. Spend with purpose and forethought. THAT’S “frugal” to me!

  2. Hi! I just found this article by accident and wanted to tell you that I enjoyed it very much. I really admire your statement that you’d rather look at the mountains than the latest movie. 🙂 I admire that so much and I agree. I spent years working in and around the entertainment business and I’ve come to feel as you do. The mountains are glorious and they enrich one’s life so much more than almost anything else. Thank you again!

  3. We shop mid-late morning and arrive home around noon. I walk 20 minutes each way with a 5-year-old, 3.5-year-old, and 10-month-old (when 6.5 months pregnant). Home, I’m weary! They unload groceries and eat $1 Lunchables. I could make them cheaper.

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