Confusing minimalism with frugality

Pin It

In response to something I posted and thought was neat – colour changing bathroom tiles, reader Chris posted:

These tiles cost $291 per square foot. Why would you even think about posting this on a minimalism blog?

My more detailed response:

1. Because it’s my blog.

2. Because I thought it was cool, since I am into technology and other geeky things.

3. Because to me, you are confusing the two words: Minimalism and Frugality, and the two are not the same. I will also cover why Frugality is not being Cheap.

Thanks for bringing up the point Chris, and letting me write this post to explain in detail.

Minimalism is not owning more than you need and can use.

It isn’t about living like a monk.

Without any possessions or allowing yourself your desired wants, although some choose to take that route.

Let’s say you own a small bathroom. It’s pretty clean, and clear of any extra stuff, but it’s missing that something extra.

Perhaps, these colour changing tiles are exactly what you want.

You have an element of something cool without adding bulk or extra stuff, and are willing to shell out $291 per square foot, then why not?

Why do we buy Macbooks?

Because they’re reliable, they have a clean, minimalist look to them, and everything makes sense on the system for the most part.

But guess what?

Their price tags are almost always double or triple what you can buy a similar PC for, but the quality is just not there in the hardware nor in the operating system.

Why do we buy e-readers?

Because we don’t want a library of heavy books to carry around all the time, nor the bulk.

Yet the cost of the device is around $150 – $300, and the price of each book is around $10.

It’s a lot cheaper to just borrow a book from the library or a friend, read it in Chapters for free, or buy it secondhand.

But if we see a true value and purpose to it, as a minimalist, the price is worth it, because being a minimalist is not always going for the cheapest option.

Read: Why aesthetics matter in minimalism

Frugality is not the same thing as being a minimalist

The concept of frugality is to be careful with your money.

Although the two concepts can intersect — if you can save money and save bulk at the same time, why not? – but they don’t mean the same thing.

This at first glance, may not seem to be a careful choice to spend your money.

But let’s say if someone had a budget in mind to redo their bathroom, and this is what they want to put in as the main feature, while staying under budget then why not?

If they made the choice, have the money and are under budget, why should they punish themselves by not putting in what they really want?

Perhaps confusing the word frugal for cheap, is another issue with me.

A frugal person is also not a cheap person

A frugal person understands that if they put in very cheap bathroom tile for example, and it chips after a year or two, or gets dingy, they might have to rip it out and redo them again.

If they invest in slate tile for example, they may not have the same problem, and it might even help be a selling point in the value of the home.

So if they decide to invest in colour-changing tile that looks like slate at first glance, because it makes them happy, then who are we to deny people their choices?

A frugal person might also decide to just tile the top half or the bottom half of the bathroom in the tile to save money and get the same effect, while keeping the rest in slate or some other matching tile.

Being frugal doesn’t mean you only buy and eat the cheapest food possible, or try to penny pinch on everything you can.

A frugal person understands cost-per-use and the longevity of purchases.

Like purchasing a good quality pair of shoes for much more money, that will last and can be re-soled in the future to keep them going, and not cheap ones that will wear down easily, pinch and hurt your feet, and have to be replaced every 3 years.

Even if it costs more.

Or buying a brand like Seagate or Western Digital for an external hard drive instead of a 50% to 100% cheaper brand like ZData that will lose all of your important documents with a little bump (True story!!! Happened to me once.)

Let’s examine my purchases:

I own 2 laptops and a netbook. One is a PC and one is a Mac. I use all 3 on a regular basis.

My netbook travels with me for meetings or on trips, my PC laptop is my main hub for working at the client site as a freelancer for professional purposes, and my Mac is for personal purposes, such as surfing the web or entertainment.

Do I need all three if I am a minimalist? Yes. Because all 3 serve a purpose in my life that is a need that cannot be handled comfortably with only one. Travel, Business and Personal.

Travel — I need a light PC not a Macbook, but the Macbook Air crossed my mind until I realized it wouldn’t work for a meeting.

Business — I cannot work on a Netbook for long periods of time, and I need a PC because Macs are not supported.

Personal — I could use my business PC for this, but the Macbook is just superior for entertainment and surfing. Plus, I don’t like mixing personal work and information (like my blogs) on a business-only laptop.

It gets messy and I don’t want to hook up a PC to a client’s network where they could potentially scan or see things on my computer for whatever IT reason they claim.

Do I need all three if I am frugal? Yes. Because I purchased what I needed, without spending more than I required for each need.

I got a Dell PC for around $1000, and a Macbook for less than $1000 (older model), as well as a Netbook after a $100 discount.

I didn’t buy the $2000 Dell with all the bells and whistles, nor the Macbook Pro for $2000.

I even upgraded the RAM on all three laptops on my own, saving a bundle of money as well, instead of paying for that insane premium that Apple charges to install RAM.

I was frugal in the sense that I knew what I needed, and then I purchased what I wanted, and nothing more.

Do I need all three if I am cheap? No. I probably would have just purchased the Netbook for cheap and kept it at that.

But I am not cheap, and I would be unhappy with such a small screen for working on it for long periods of time.

So you see, the three words: minimalist, frugal and cheap, are not all equal to each other.

You can be all three at once, or any combination you choose.

What I liked the most about that colour-changing tiles is that they don’t add bulk, but adds something interesting .

About everydayminimalist

I'm a 20-something year old girl who lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, and now I'm living with less, but only with the best. You don't have to get rid of everything to become a minimalist! Minimalism can help simplify and organize your life, career, & physical surroundings. You can read more about me as a minimalist. Or come and visit my other blog Fabulously Broke in the City where I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 gross/year.