Understanding: Simple Living, Frugality, Living Green and Minimalism; what’s the difference!?

Oil and Garlic had a great comment on my post about Confusing frugality with minimalism, asking if I could write a post about the differences between Simple Living, Frugality, Living Green and Minimalism

MINIMALISM: Is it really necessary?

Default answer: Don’t buy it.

You’ve lived years without it, therefore it is not a necessity.

But if you do buy something, you buy one of each, not 50.

And you try to find ways to reduce the bulk, clutter and weight on your life.

Generally speaking, you have as little furniture as possible for your life. No extra decorative things like a cute table in the corner.

Price is of no object in this area, because buying slim, sexy, sleek devices to help cut down on the amount of stuff in your life, is not a cheap option.

Neither is trying to trick out your pad to look like a zen retreat. Those tiles & that gorgeous dark wood do NOT come cheap!

FRUGALITY: Love quality stuff but only for a good price

Default answer: If I need it, can I get it for free, cheaper, borrow it or substitute it?

It’s a lot like Minimalism actually.

You put priorities on what makes you happy in life (shoes, handbags, clothes..) but you aren’t squeamish about buying large items like furniture.

You don’t mind having decorative furniture that may not have a really solid, functional purpose, but just makes you darn happy to have it.

It’s all about being smart with your purchases, which may include substitutions or not purchasing at all.

If not, buying the best quality for its value is the height of frugality.

Price is not the #1 factor here, but it IS a factor.

The balance of quality and placed or perceived value for what you are going to use the item for.

SIMPLE LIVING (a.k.a. VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY): Going back to the basics and living with very little

It’s very close to minimalism in my opinion, but the slight difference may be that Technology is at a bare minimum or non-existent.

Some say that the internet is the best thing that ever happened to Simple Living since sliced bread, because we have now reduced our reliance on paper and physical objects.

But others, say that being on the internet and playing on Twitter, Facebook, Blogging or doing otherwise impractical pursuits (as in, they don’t yield any tangible, practical results for your life), is not simple living.

Think: Amish. Luddites. These are people who will avoid any and all kinds of technology.

They try not to own any cellphones (I hear the Amish have a cellphone for a village, because it helps them communicate when a group is out on the farm), and they certainly do not use the internet, have an e-book reader or an iPod.

Luddites are people who don’t own any tech-y items, not because they don’t know how to use them, but they’re making a CHOICE to avoid technology.

Much like Minimalism, Simple Living is too broad of a concept, depending on your interpretation.

Personally, simple living = minimalism to me.

GREEN LIVING: Thinking about the pikas and the polar bears first.

Making choices that are eco-friendly and green, such as choosing a more brand of shampoo just because it doesn’t contain any kind of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in it.

It may not be the cheapest or the most frugal option, but it’s when you put the environment in your #1 slot.

For example, buying sustainable, ethically-raised, organic meat is not cheap, but it’s a green choice.

The Replacing a Kitchen Table Example:


You have a kitchen table but it isn’t quite cutting it.

So you donate it, sell it, or give it away, and figure out a new option.

You find a way to live without one by using stools at the kitchen counter instead.

….or you buy the sleekest, most aesthetically pleasing one out there that can fold up into a picture frame on the wall.


You decide to replace your kitchen table for whatever reason (too small, too rickety).

Although you’d like one, you wouldn’t spend the cash for a picture frame table, but you’d do any of the following:

  • Ask around if anyone has a good but old kitchen table they want to get rid of
  • Check out thrift shops & Craig’s List for cheap options of solid kitchen tables
  • Find a great kitchen table at a garage sale with good bones & refinish it
  • Go to Ikea to price out what a new table would cost instead of a EQ3

Simple Living

You have a kitchen table, but it’s rickety or too small.

You figure out a way to stick with what you have instead of replacing it.

Maybe you decide to add another small table to it (cheaper overall), or you pull off the legs and redo them into something sturdier.

This is an option a lot like being Frugal, but instead of wanting a picture frame table and not wanting to spend the cash, you just don’t want that extra fuss and muss.

The only difference between simple living and frugality, is that some people shun as much technology as possible.

Green Living

You find the most eco-friendly, sustainable, fair trade-made table out there on the market.

It will probably cost much more than just a simple wood table, but you know that it’s been handcrafted by people who need the money, and are earning a decent wage instead of a penny a day.

It is most likely made out of reused plastic bottles, reused cardboard or bamboo.

In my opinion…

All of these styles strive towards the same goal: being smart about your purchases.

It’s just the objective or motivation behind each purchase is different.

The best combination for me, is when they all intersect.

When you can make a smart choice about buying something that is worth the money while thinking about the polar bears or the cute little endangered pika pictured below.

Hope that helped somewhat!

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.