Mr Mohammad Al Hajeri Image Credit: Supplied

Frugality has helped a couple in the United States raise 13 children, own a seven bedroom house, and 15-passenger van — completely debt free. But some say frugal living demands too many cutbacks on daily expenses, to the point of reducing quality of life. Others say its benefits go beyond saving. Readers debate.

Not a way to live
Many are looking to save and be thrifty whenever possible to ensure a safe future for themselves and their children if there were to be any emergency. But there are many who go past the concept of prudent savings to frugality. There is a fine line between one and the other. The saver is cautious before spending his money to ensure that it’s a healthy spending decision, but the miser doesn’t want to spend anything at all and they imagine that they are right in forbidding themselves from many things, but this parsimony leads them to spend more later.

Being stingy has repercussions and negative effects on the individual and society, as it causes hardness of heart and selfishness, and distancing from people. It can also lead to enmity and hatred even with their family. Their wife and children can suffer from overly ascetic life limits. It may be good at a time of financial crisis, but it is not the way to live life.

If you are saving in order to buy a new home, early retirement or even a long vacation, then this is reasonable. However, if you are just saving for the sake of saving with no purpose, then you must ask yourself: “Why am I saving this and is it worth it?” Because you are most likely exceeding what is reasonable.

It remains at the origin of all life - the need for balance. Save money and balance our needs. Over saving may reduce your respect for yourself and your life will become tiresome. It puts you in the dock with those who don’t appreciate themselves despite being able to afford the basic necessities of living.

From Mr Mohammad Al Hajeri
Works in park operations at Al Ain Zoo

Frugality benefits the environment, too

In a world where the culture of consumerism is flourishing, choosing a frugal lifestyle can sometimes mean living as an outcast. People may say you’re cheap or tight. My family and I have been living a frugal lifestyle, and we have realised that there are more benefits to frugality than what meets the eye.

Frugality doesn’t just benefit people; it benefits our planet too. By making fewer purchases and consuming less, we positively impact the environment in a number of ways. Reusing and recycling old items means less trash in landfills, less energy used for production, packaging, and shipping. And buying a cheap, fuel-efficient used car (or ditching it altogether in favour of a bike or public transportation) helps reduce pollution and greenhouse gases. The bottom line: Being frugal means consuming fewer of the planet’s resources.

The frugal life is always the environmentally friendly life. Nearly every frugal strategy doubles as an environmental boon: driving less, rarely buying new things, not wasting food, using our heat and A/C sparingly – it’s all connected.

Frugality is good for humanity too. It means being less wasteful with our already scarce resources. And when we make a commitment to wasting less in general, we’re reducing our carbon footprint and freeing up resources for others who might desperately need them.

Since frugal people are trying to make the things they do have last longer, they don’t have to spend time shopping around for something new and can spend that time doing things that are more important – like spending quality time with family, cultivating a new hobby, or simply relaxing.

Frugality isn’t a tactic; it’s a mindset and a joyful lifestyle. Frugality isn’t a sacrifice; it’s a means to an end. Frugality is a positive principle to promote sustainable development.

From Ms Arushi Madan
Student and young environmentalist based in Sharjah

Having goals makes it easier to save

‘Want or need?’ That’s what I ask myself before I make any purchase. Everything I do is based on necessity. Growing up in a family of eight, I saw my parents struggle to make ends meet. From an early age, being frugal was ingrained in me. By the time I started working at 22, I had goals that I knew could only be achieved by making smart financial choices.

Frugality is not about depriving yourself of the good things. It’s about re-arranging priorities. For example, I didn’t replace my car for eight years, not because I couldn’t afford to get a new one, but because my old one was still working fine. Frugality isn’t about being cheap either. Rather, it’s about assessing value for money. My principle is: buy good things, and own them for a long time.

This applies to all items, watches, phones, and clothes. I won’t buy cheap clothes, because I know they fall apart or fade easily. In fact, I have jeans that are more than 10 years old. Yet, I have never felt deprived in any way. When you’re frugal, you become more conscious of how you’re living your life. People might afford to travel and shop, but at the end of the day, do they have savings? That’s the important question.

Being frugal has helped me put away enough money for retirement at the age of 44. However, before I even got to this point, I asked myself years ago what it meant to be ‘retirement ready’. So I did some calculations; I estimated a monthly allowance for 20 to 25 years, plus costs on a house and a car. When I reached that amount, I knew I could retire if I wanted to. Embracing frugal living is just one part of being financially smart.

In my experience, a combination of frugal practices, smart money choices, investments and savings schemes helped me get to where I am.

From Mr Jayson Cabrera
Academic Technology Manager in Abu Dhabi

Create spending plans based on your circumstances

In this age of consumerism and globalization, the question whether we should spend or save more, is generating widespread interest. I would say that a balanced approach is desirable. Overspending will most likely lead to long-term debt while spending too little may not be realistically possible due to a persistent rise in the cost of living around the world. Consumer spending drives an economy from the demand side; thus, spending too little will have adverse macroeconomic consequences.

It is important for families to design a spending plan comprising fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses on basic necessities such as on rent, children’s education, medical care and local transportation, amongst others, are rising steadily. Since it may not be possible to cut down on fixed expenses, the variable expenses, therefore, must be kept within limits.

When deciding how much to spend, it is important to ensure that there is no wastage of financial resources. From a personal perspective, efforts should be made to regularly save a fixed proportion of one’s income, and invest one’s savings in financial projects that would allow the savings to grow at a rate that matches expected annual inflation. How much should we spend and save is a question that has transcended generations. The more we save today, the more we will have for consumption tomorrow; thus when choosing between the decision to either spend or save more today, it is important to compare the short-term benefits of consumer spending with the long-run returns on financial investments.      

From a long-term perspective, it is important to develop a spending plan that is determined by one’s ability to pay. Due to a persistent rise in the cost of living, it is also important to generate a second source of income. Gaining fortune or giving up fun is a personal choice. Generally speaking, it might be difficult to choose one over the other. It is a decision that should be taken based on economic and social circumstances that we face along with our long-term financial goals.

From Mr Rajarshi Mitra
Assistant Professor at the Higher School of Economics in Russia