How a balance of these two virtues can help you live better for less

Confusing Simplicity With Frugality

by Nita Jackson

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Simplicity and frugality can be combined, and often are, but their meanings are not interchangeable. To me, simplicity means uncomplicated, not arduous, with ease. I grew up in house that was frugal but not necessarily simple. Mom and Dad always hunted up a bargain on things and taught me how to get the most for the cheapest price (and I thank God for them everyday ). I was shocked when I got older to find out not everyone lived that way. When I was 26, my neighbor told me she spent $125 on a pair of leather boots. I was inwardly convulsing. Then she told me she had been wearing them for many years and took great measures to take care of them. I stopped convulsing and thought "Hey, that's pretty neat in this microwave, throwaway world! Good stewardship!"

As I'm sure you've discovered, finding a bargain often takes time and patience. I know there are those times one stumbles onto the bargain of the century, but it's usually because you are out looking for something else.

While patience is a virtue, there is a whole other group of people that finds that simplicity is not about getting cheap stuff or saving money. Instead, it's about being rich in time and having the best quality rather than having to buy cheap stuff over and over again.

A good frugal friend who, like me, has had nothing but furniture hand-me-downs for many years, has bought her first new set of furniture. When she told me she special ordered it,I gasped. I thought, "Oh no! I've lost my frugal friend to a cunning furniture salesman and a charge card!" My panic was dispelled when she told me that it was a brand of furniture that had a 10-year warranty. I've never heard of that! She doesn't expect to buy new furniture in 8-10 years. She bought good rugged furniture that would withstand a baby and 2 boys. She didn't want or have time to get more used or poor quality furniture that would soon have to be replaced. It's not what I would have done but I respect her wisdom and her choice.

Yes, she could have went scrounging rummage sales (and often does for kids' clothes) looking for furniture but she chose not to. For her it was a simple choice free of grief or guilt.

I have a friend named Rocky (a woman) who chooses good-quality timeless clothing that is classic and is not a slave to inexpensive faddish fashions. She's not constantly purchasing some new color or style. Her taste is the same when it comes the way she decorates her home. If cows are the newest style it doesn't affect her. She's not headed to Wal-Mart for latest in Holstein dish towels. She may have bought more things at Pier One (and maybe not on sale!) than at Wal-Mart. She waits for what suits her in color and style and her home is very put together. No mismatched color messes (my pet peeve). I love her personal taste in decor. You get a feeling of peace when you are at her home- a sense of flow. It would definitely not have that feeling if she had put the place together piecemeal.

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I shop at Salvation Army for clothes (very time consuming), but if it gets ripped or stained no big deal! Often clothing might need a button or mending (not simplicity at its best). Oh and I just had to have that kitschy vase I spied! Hmm not too frugal or simple to bring home more stuff because it was cheap.

I bought an outdoor end table at Kmart (Martha Stewart brand on sale) to put in my living room for $15. I waited 3 months to get it. It has made such a difference in our living room. Our ottoman was covered in mail, books, devotionals, remotes, bills, etc. We did the proverbial sweep onto the floor if we needed a place to put our feet. So I would have to play pick up (or not!) till it happened again. It was frugal to live without the table but it was NOT simple. It was time consuming and messy.

Both sides of the coin have their virtues. There is room for both. In fact you don't even have to be one or the other- you can be both and not necessarily at the same time. We don't have to see everything eye to eye and starting looking down the nose at someone we may not think fits our description of Simplicity.

Reviewed August 2017

Visit Nita Jackson at for more help in keeping organization in your daily life. You'll find free planners, organizers, free software for home, office, wedding, pregnancy, holiday and budget

Copyright 2000 Nita Jackson No portion of this may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photo copying, recording, or by any information storage, dissemination or retrieval system unless by direct permission.

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