The Battle Between Simplicity and Frugality

In this blog, I focus on food and simple living.  Obviously I don’t live a perfect life. I get stressed out when I have too many obligations and too much stuff. I strive for a more zen-like mindset, an organized life, a simpler life amidst a typical middle-class urban 9-to-5 lifestyle.

I imagine that the ideal simple life  happens far from the city, where you grow your own vegetables, use a compost, recycle, churn your own butter and escape the rat race.  It is an decidely unmaterialistic and environmentally friendly lifestyle.

The problem is that a simple life doesn’t seem, well, that simple.

Take gardening for example. It’s a perfect hobby for a simple life, if you enjoy it like I do. However, it is much more time-consuming to plant, cultivate, fertilize, and water your vegetables than it is to buy them at a supermarket.  It is also not frugal if your plants don’t make it or don’t yield quite the amount of food as expected.

Another area where simple living and frugality seems to collide is cooking.    For my husband and I, cooking and eating well at home is just an integral part of life.  It also saves money. However, life would probably be simpler if we ordered out or eat out more often.

I feel like in many areas of my life, there is a battle between saving time (simple living) and saving money (frugality).  Who else feels this tug of war? Is simple living more about acts of de-cluttering and unscheduling, regardless of expense or environmental impact? Do most people confuse the two philosophies as much as I do?

Right now, I think saving money is winning out at the expense of simplifying.

Frugal vs. Simple

1 ) Cooking vs. over eating out

We cook most nights of the week. My husband does the majority but I help when I can and also have clean-up duty. Winner: Frugality.

2 ) Recycling glass vs. throwing it away

Two years ago, we finally started recycling bottles on a regular basis. I feel so much better about not throwing glass bottles into the trash. However, this adds another errand to our to-do list. Winner: Frugality (green).

3 ) Growing vegetables vs. buying from supermarket

This is a newer experiment. I like it so far but our garden is small so we still buy the majority of our produce and all fruits from a supermarket.  Winner: Frugality?

4 ) Line-drying clothes vs. using a dryer

This is for environmental reasons but it is obviously more frugal to line-dry than toss everything in a dryer.  Winner: Frugality.

5 ) Washing and grooming dogs vs. taking dogs to groomer

We used to take one of our dogs to the groomer.  Then we bought a grooming kit and my husband does it. It saves us money and allows our dog to stay nice and trimmed.  Our dog has very thick fur so grooming takes a lot of time although I suppose we have to take into account two trips to the groomer for drop-off and pick-ups. Winner: Frugality.

6 ) Comparison shopping vs. buying on impulse

This is the biggest time-killer. Comparison shopping on big items makes sense but two years ago, I started comparing prices on small items and reading up on drugstore deals.  I had no idea that I was spending an average of 25% more on paper towels, cosmetics, toilet paper, lotions, shampoos and skincare products. Who knew that you could get toothpaste for free or $1? I certainly didn’t. Now that I know, it’s hard to step back and pay full-price. I suppose the best compromise is to shop at Target or Walmart. Unless there’s a big sale on a particular item, prices at Target or Walmart are more reasonable than supermarkets or drugstores. Winner (so far): Frugality.

7 ) Bringing Lunch vs. Eating Out

Two years ago, I’ve started bringing my lunch 3-4 days a week as well as breakfast and snacks.   On average, lunch costs $7. Bringing my lunch and snacks/breakfast easily saves me $1,500 a year. However, the planning and cooking plus extra stops at the market is taking its toll. On Sunday nights, instead of vegging in front of the TV or relaxing, I’m thinking about lunch for Monday.

The easy solution would be to stop bringing lunch. However, I enjoy eating healthier and better tasting food. The choices near my work are limited and when I eat out, I tend to eat larger portions. I also gain time by not having to drive and buy food. I like grabbing my lunch from the fridge and propping down with a good book or magazine.  Does this gain offset the additional time needed for preparing lunch?  I’m not sure yet. Winner: Tied.

In addition to all of the above, my husband and I do not have a maid or a gardener. Our property is fairly large and requires a lot of mowing and weeding to keep growth under control.  We do outsource auto repairs in general but my husband has also tackled big-time repairs like timing belt changes and battery replacement!  Anytime we do home renovations, we do it ourselves. The only thing I regularly outsource is getting my car wash.

All these efforts to save money is taking a toll on me and my husband.  I think it’s time to take a step back and do a “time-audit” and look for ways to save time.  Which areas are taking up too much time? How can we better manage our time? For bloggers and readers out there, how do you balance time vs. money? If you did your own time-audit, which wins out: money or time?

I don’t think we’ll ever stop cooking or start dumping bottles into the trash, but we definitely have to make some changes. What those will be is up in the air.

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6 responses to “The Battle Between Simplicity and Frugality

  1. If you cook more for dinner on Sunday, which gives you extra to take to lunch on Monday & still leaves you time to veg out in front of the TV – time management!

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