Making frugal fun: Getting back to basics and enjoying it

Making frugal fun: Getting back to basics and enjoying it
Of the big three expenses - housing, car payments and groceries - groceries are the most flexible and easiest for saving money. TODAY File Photo
Published: 4:00 PM, September 16, 2017
Updated: 8:06 PM, September 16, 2017

Living frugally might sound like it means giving up the good things in life. For many people, however, living frugally can be perfectly satisfying and may even bring them closer to family and friends. There are plenty of ways to live frugally and have fun.


Admittedly, being frugal sometimes gets a bad reputation. The stereotype is of a person counting their pennies and buying the cheapest products available. In reality, though, being frugal offers a multitude of benefits.

In The Wisdom of Frugality, for instance, author Emrys Westacott said that rather just revolving around financial prudence, frugality is about lifestyle choices and values. It focuses on appreciating simple pleasures and easing up in a society that encourages materialism and competitiveness.

Research shows other benefits as well. A study by Empire State College professor Miriam Tatzel, for instance, found that frugal people are happier with life in general. A key reason is that the pursuit of money and possessions takes time away from more fulfilling activities and social relationships, rather than fulfilling needs.

“Peoples’ wants escalate as they tire of what they have and they want something else, which in turn leads to more consumption and more waste,” she observed. “Less materialism equals more happiness.”  

Research by Florida State University Professor Ronald Goldsmith similarly showed that frugal consumers tend to be less materialistic, more independent and have more self-control than their less frugal counterparts. “Not feeling the need to over-consume could be a liberating emotion and thus fuel independence,” he said.


So how do frugal consumers save money and enjoy life at the same time? It turns out that several practices can make living frugally easier than many people might think.    

The first is to spend less, without cutting back so much that you crimp your lifestyle. Start with the groceries, suggests writer Melissa Goodwin. Of the big three expenses - housing, car payments and groceries - groceries are the most flexible and easiest for saving money. You can save by planning what you’re going to eat, writing out a shopping list, and sticking to it when you shop. In-house items at supermarket are usually cheaper and the quality is often as good as big-name brands.  

If you go out to eat, hawker centres obviously have great food at low prices. When you do go to a restaurant, save by using restaurant vouchers from apps such as Fave and eatigo or using a credit card to get discounts.   

Instead of engaging in expensive hobbies, frugal people may pick up new hobbies or choose activities that cost next to nothing. Head to the library to enjoy books for free, for instance, or use community gyms rather than fancier expensive ones.

You can also take advantage of “re-commerce”, a leading trend in China and the United States as well as other countries, by buying used or “pre-loved” items on sites such as Carousell or eBay.

Another way to be frugal is to avoid purchasing items you’ll rarely use. With the sharing economy booming, you can be frugal by sharing or renting rather than buying. Rent Tycoons for renting everything from electronics and tools to jewellery and wedding essentials, Airbnb for accommodations while traveling, and Car Club for sharing cars are just a few of the many ways to get what you need. And if a gadget you do own breaks, frugal consumers may head to Repair Kopitiam to learn how to fix it rather than buying a new one.

Furthermore, frugal consumers also compare prices instead of buying without looking around. By comparing prices between brands and stores and websites for everything from groceries and clothes to insurance and travel, you can save plenty. Instead of simply renewing existing insurance policies, for example, frugal consumers use comparison websites such as CompareFIRST to check for the best deal.

Newsletters including Frugal in Singapore, SingSaver and DollarsAndSense can provide plenty more ideas.


Beyond just saving money by living frugally, many people find it’s a more satisfying lifestyle and actually fun.

Simple Dollar founder Trent Hamm, for instance, enjoys saving money so much that he looks at frugality as a giant game and strives to see how much he can reduce his monthly expenses. It’s a hobby that challenges his creativity, he says, and one that he thoroughly enjoys. And although it’s easy to buy something to fill a need or solve a problem, it can be much more satisfying to reimagine a frugal alternative.

The challenge for some people is that they feel a need to prioritise expenses and think they have to give up things like entertainment entirely. While frugality does take planning, it’s important to make time for fun. Spending carefully on activities you enjoy, rather than for entertainment on impulse, is just fine and can help you save money.

For an increasing number of consumers, living a simple life and being frugal has become a more satisfying way to live. Rather than succumbing to fads and materialism, they choose what they want.

By being creative in figuring out how to get what you want less expensively, and inventing solutions to meet your needs, you too can enjoy a frugal lifestyle. And you’ll likely end up happier and more satisfied at the same time.