What is Being Frugal or Thrifty?

What is 'Being Frugal'?

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It’s a term we hear bandied around in the debt-free community many times. But what does it mean? What is ‘being frugal’, and how does that differ from being thrifty? And what does it have to do with getting out of debt or saving money?

Being Frugal

According to the Google dictionary definition, frugal means: “sparing or economical as regards money or food”. It can also mean “simple and plain and costing little”. 

With this description, it’s easy to understand why the thought of being frugal and being poor often go hand-in-hand, but that’s not to say that a frugal person struggles to make ends meet.

It means that person is mindful of waste and uses careful planning when it comes to money and meal planning, to make their money and food go further.

Frugal Food and Finance

I like to think of myself as pretty frugal, as I like to set a budget and plan my meals around that budget, using what I can to make meals go further. For example, a 500g pack of mince might be used to feed a family of four, but I’d get a couple of meals out of it (and have been known to stretch it even further). One day I might make a shepherd’s pie, and bulk it out with lentils and veg. Another day I might make a chilli or a spaghetti bolognese, and add lentils or soya mince and some hidden veg. Staple foods such as potatoes, pasta and rice are brilliant for frugal meal planning, as they’re something you can buy and make more than one meal from.

And when it comes to your finances, you might be frugal simply by being mindful of how much water you’re using. You probably switch off lights and electrical things around the home that aren’t being used. Or pour your un-drunk glass of water into a plant pot rather than down the sink.

It’s about being mindful of what we use and making it go further. But that doesn’t mean frugal has to be boring. Sometimes, what might be considered the simplest of meals (Cottage Pie anyone?) can be the tastiest. Just the addition of some herbs or spices can make a delicious difference to a home-made casserole.


Being Thrifty

Being ‘thrifty’ pretty much means the same as being frugal, although there is a slight difference. The dictionary definition of thrifty is as follows: “using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully”. 

I’ve always considered myself to be pretty thrifty, especially if it means using things we already have at our disposal (excuse the pun). Something you can use that would have otherwise have gone in the bin.

Thrifting: Make do and mend

It’s an old saying that came about during the second world war, and it’s something we should focus on more today. With environmental issues being high on people’s radars, it’s time we stopped spending our money on disposable items. The sad fact is, eventually they’ll end up in landfill. We buy things and fall out of love with them. We need to focus more on giving our stuff a new lease of life. Repurposing old junk into something else will help our world, and save us money.

At home, I use toilet roll tubes as seed pods for plants (I’ve used them as eyelet curtain spacers, too!). Plastic punnets from the supermarket get used as seed trays instead of buying a propagator. Cardboard packaging gets added to our food compost for the allotment.

Being thrifty means saving buttons and other bits for kids’ craft, scrapbooking or dressmaking. It means being inspired by something that’s preloved from elsewhere. Or saving the hanging ribbons from clothes to use as embellishments and not making unnecessary purchases to clutter up your home. It’s making do with what you already have, and turning it into something beautiful.


At the end of the day, it matters not what the difference between being frugal, and being thrifty is. What matters is whether you’re smart with your money. It’s about the resources you have available to you to avoid spending unnecessarily, which means you have more money to put towards your debt repayments.

So, be clever with your cash, frugal with your food, and thoughtful when you thrift. The more you adapt to this way of thinking, the more your bank balance and your home will love it.


For more ways to save money, click here.

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