How to Embrace ‘Frugal Materialism’

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Spending money is more fun than saving it. But you can do both and still savor life.

A basic tenet of frugality is knowing the difference between a “need” and a “want.” I’ve found true contentment in having everything I need and some of what I want.

But what if your goal is to have more than one of everything you need, and a whole bunch of what you want?

My daughter, who blogs at I Pick Up Pennies, wrote about this in a post called “I like stuff.” Abby enjoys clothes, accessories, and technology. She wishes she could be a minimalist, but she isn’t one – even though she writes a personal finance blog.

It seems to me that some people consider “minimalism” a synonym for “frugality.” But it ain’t necessarily so. I can get by with very little, but I choose to keep a bunch of things that make me happy.

Splurging and purging

Some of the pieces I’ve read about minimalism make it seem like the moral high ground: “I have less stuff than you, therefore I am purer in my frugality.”

I’ve also detected a whiff of class snobbery in some discussions: “I have 10 billion books but no television set and certainly no commemorative Slurpee cups or Star Wars figurines.”

I’m opposed to mindless consumerism. But some people appreciate pretty things. One of my best friends has a variety of books, DVDs, figurines, posters, and ephemera concerning her favorite actor. A close relative spends a ton of cash on gardening. But they both budget for it.

A matter of personal choice

Stuff isn’t inherently evil. It’s our attitude toward stuff that bears watching.

Abby practices what she calls “frugal materialism.” She and her husband enjoy their belongings but they try to shop intentionally rather than constantly. They discuss before they shop. They buy with frugal hacks such as Swagbucks and cashback shopping, and they seek out yard sales and thrift stores.

These are good tactics for those who aren’t minimalist by nature. It’s your life. You get to decorate it the way you like. If you want one of everything and two of some things, well, it’s your money.

And if living with just a few carefully chosen objects makes you happy? Then live that way, and the heck with what other people think about your decor. Or your lack of collectible figurines.

More stories from Donna Freedman:

Stacy Johnson

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