Frugal Living


As I sit here thinking of ways to explain the fabulous world of frugal living, I am sitting in my bedroom in Italy. I myself am an American; married to a German whose roots are from Italy and that is why we are here. Based on our language abilities, we had a choice of three countries to live. From there, we looked at which country had what we were looking for in other areas of living, where we thought the quality of life would be best for us and where we thought our son would grow up with the least amount of problems. As luck would have it, we seem to have picked correctly.

Even though we grew up worlds apart, we have in common that our parents worked very hard to raise a big family and put food on the table. We watched our parents struggle, often seeing our fathers working extra jobs or our mothers taking in sewing to get by. I remember a tough year for my family; where we all went out to collect aluminum cans to crush and return so that, my mother would have the extra gas money she needed to visit her own sick mother who lived two hours away. We grew up knowing how hard life could be. My mother taught me that the best way to save money was not to spend it and in today’s world that, in and of itself, can be very hard.


The majority of things that are being put out there for sale are not made to withstand the test of time, they are made to be discarded and replaced by the ever growing “buy me” machine. We have been told often enough that if it doesn’t work you buy a new one while, the old goes into an already full landfill somewhere. On top of that, we are seeing or hearing advertising everywhere telling us we must have this or that in order to be how we want in this world. Being frugal means that you will repair what is broken, if possible, or repurpose it for use in a different way.

In order for you to become truly happy, you have to understand what it means to be frugal. Somewhere on the internet this definition of frugal comes up: Thrifty, spartan, and prudent are synonyms for frugal, a word that often has positive connotations when used to describe a person who lives a simple life. … You might also speak of “a frugal meal” — a very plain, cheap one. The word is from Latin frux, meaning “fruit” (in the sense of “profit”). I like how that ends, “(in the sense of “profit”)”. Meaning if you live in a frugal manner you will actually profit from it in more ways than one.

I first heard the word frugal used by my Grandmother who was married with children during WWII. Her husband had gotten sick and passed away at an early age. She had always been a hard worker and after my Grandfather died, she had to work twice as hard to take care of her three young children. She explained that, frugality meant not just saving money but not wasting anything. Clothing was mended, handed down and used around the house for other things when it could no longer be worn. Meals were planned weekly so that leftovers could be used up within the next dinner and that the grocery list was kept small. Gardens were grown and everything was eaten, canned or frozen. People traded any garden extras for eggs, fruits, sugar, flour or meats. Women cut squares out of every old piece of clothing or extra cloth and made patchwork dresses, pants or quilts. These are just some of the things she told me and, I am sure, you get the gist of what my Grandmother meant.


My Grandmother never paid to have any work done around the house. She figured out a way to have the work done in a trade or she researched the project and did the work herself. She saved everything she could, repaired everything that could be repaired and replaced only when absolutely necessary. These traits allowed her to live in a small house that she paid off well before she retired. Because of her frugal attitude towards life, she was able to stay in her home up until the time that she passed away without a single worry.


I have to say that; even though I knew how hard it was for my parents to make ends meat and my mother taught me how to comparison shop and work hard, it was not enough information for me to go out into the world and start living the frugal life. I was inundated with advertising to buy things I did not need, nor could afford but hey, I could apply for credit! I have to say that our American thoughts on buying with credit is probably one of the biggest differences between America and every other country in the world, but I digress. My ability to work hard, earn money and get credit from every known store on the planet was literally stressing me to the breaking point. I was eventually working two jobs just to pay all of my essentials and the credit card bills with little, if any, left over at the end of the month. A very smart lady once told me, “…if you are struggling in your life, you are doing the wrong things”. This applies to so many areas in life but, really hits the nail on the head here.

This spending more than you earn/credit cycle is one that, many people get into and very few ever get out of. This commercialism trap was set up by big banks and the top one percent because, that is how they make their money but, that is a full topic to be discussed in another post. If a person in America is educated, has a great job and they are earning big money, it usually means that they have bigger bills to pay. They will have a more expensive house, expensive furnishings, fancy shoes/clothing, gold jewellery, the newest electronics and the latest model, expensive car. These are wants, not needs. We have been sold into a slavery of wants and moulded into believing that all of these things are going to make us happy.

Even though I had very good examples of frugality growing up, I never really got what frugal living was until I was in my late thirties. My husband and I had just married and moved from America to Germany. We had very little money and we had about $600.00 per month to live on. I went from buying everything that I wanted to only buying what was essential for us to live week to week. I made sure to check all of the grocery store ads to see where the best deals on our essentials were. I made a list with prices and took only that exact amount of money with me to do the shopping and I became a frequenter of only discounter shops. If there was something special to be purchased, we had to save for a long time in order to be able to afford what we wanted.


Fast forward nine years and we are still living frugal. We have more than enough money coming in, our car from 2014 is paid off, we bought an older, but still lovely, apartment with furniture in it and are saving for a house with a garden. What we have with this apartment right now is, peace of mind. We are no longer paying double the amount in rent with the feeling that we are wasting money and chances are good that, when we sell this place, it will be worth more than what we paid. We make cheap meals with fresh ingredients daily which, is both healthier for our bodies and our bank account. We take cheap vacations at least once per year. When we find cheap groceries we buy in bulk. We bought a chest freezer and we keep it stocked. Our pantry and our fridge are always full. Once a week we go out to eat or once per week we order in. Now when we want something, we no longer have to save for months because we have money to spend but, we still check all of the shops for the best price and look on the internet to see if we can find it cheaper than purchasing locally.

It is hard to break bad spending habits but, with the right frame of mind and the right tools it can be achieved. You can get your finances under control, get yourself out of debt and start truly living.