Trying to better understand my motivations for why I do what I do, and why I buy what I buy

Note: This post is a mental exercise for myself, rather than giving tips or giving any kind of specific enlightening “ah hah” moments, if there ever were any to begin with!

Let me put it out there: I don’t feel frugal, so it always gives me a pause when someone says: so why are you so frugal?

Or if I read a list of things that frugal people do (along with many things that I don’t do), and think: hey, that’s me!

But I don’t feel frugal. I feel like an eco-friendly minimalist.

Okay, a semi-ecofriendly, and semi-minimalist if you want to compare me to really hardcore, impressive bloggers who live with 50 items or less, live without money, or vegans who do it for the environment and refuse to travel in airplanes or trains.

(I’m trying to eat more vegetarian and buy less meat in general, but it is a hard, hard mental struggle for me to give up meat and be satisfied; I am trying different vegetarian & vegan meals but it just isn’t working & it’s frustrating because I want to do it so badly)

Potato, Potata! It’s all good in the end.

Yes, I guess in the end, the summed up end result of my actions are positive.

So who really cares about labels at this point? Frugal, eco-friendly, minimalist.. who cares?

Well, I kinda do.

I like understanding my own personal psychology and motivations for what I do, why I do it, and the factors surrounding what makes up my decisions.

It might seem pointless to some, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve caught myself thinking: Wait, but you always do this and end up (slightly) regretting it. How could you improve upon and do this differently?

The better I know myself, the better I can stop and evaluate why I feel the way I do, and to choose a different attitude or action, the next time something similar happens.

I feel like I choose my lifestyle above being totally altruistic, and the driving factor in the hierarchy of priorities for me is mobile minimalism.

I suppose the activities I engage in:

  • drying my clothes on the line
  • choosing to use my own bags instead of those flimsy plastic ones
  • using handkerchiefs and not tissue paper*
  • washing clothes without detergent (unless there are VERY greasy towels)

(note: I didn’t say “toilet paper”, I am still buying that!)

…can all be considered frugal as well was eco-friendly.

And I am not trying to label myself into one neatly wrapped category (impossible!), but I am interested in why I feel I am not frugal, although others would see my actions as such.

Perhaps its the image frugality conjures up: the waste not, want not, Great Depression hoarding-of-any-scrap-of-item attitude.

So when I hear: “You are SOOOOO frugal*” (*sometimes, my sister says “CHEAP!!”)….

….I always shoot back an impulsive and slightly defensive: “No way! I’m a MINIMALIST FIRST.


It’s really silly, writing this out… because in the end, it’s the same action no matter what you call it, but for some reason, my gut reaction is to defend myself from being called what I feel is a wrongly-defined label.

Note: I do not think that being frugal is a bad thing, but the way some people see it and use it, is with a negative connotation rather than with a positive “that is so cool” one.

Yet refusing something because you are eco-friendly, is a cool thing now.

…and while frugality is somewhat picking up (although not in my circle of friends), it’s still cooler to be eco-friendly than frugal.

And yes, it’s silly to care what people think, but I think I am more exasperated with their mis-labeling according to the way I feel (which is minimalist), rather than at the label itself.

My thought process goes as such:

I am the first to say that I shouldn’t buy something because of the space it would take up and the awkwardness of trying to move constantly with it (my printer is one such item).

Minimalism First

I think about the extra item I’d have to pack, whether or not I could use something else in its place, or how easy it’d be to move from place to place without getting damaged.

Eco-Friendly Second

…and I am the second to wonder if what I am buying is a good choice for the world — I choose the (sometimes) more expensive organic, fair-trade or recycled items above the other options.

Frugal Third

…and lastly, I am the third to consider the price of something, and if I really have a use for it, and if I can do without it.

In the end, if it’s something I reeeeally want, and it’s a fairly small item, the price is on the high side and I’d use it occasionally, I may just buy it anyway.

What would fall under this category?

Perhaps a pair of boots.

I don’t technically need another pair of boots for any good reason whatsoever, but they pass my minimalist test: I could pack them in my suitcases while stuffing clothes and socks around and in them, and they’d take up minimal space if packed correctly.

It is certainly NOT frugal, and unless secondhand, recycled or vegan leather, it isn’t environmentally friendly.

But sometimes I wonder if I am only using Minimalism as an excuse when I really just don’t want to spend the money (Frugal).

So what would you consider your thought process to be? Minimalist/Frugal/Eco-Friendly in the slots of First/Second/Third?

About the Author

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.