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Frugality Is The New Cool

The tale of Li Ka Shing and his Seiko watch is one of the most celebrated urban folklores of Hong Kong.   His unflinching loyalty to an inexpensive watch is a testament to his frugality, a virtue that embodies pragmatism and sensibility, irrespective of his immense wealth.  This is a character trait of many in Li’s generation.

Since Li’s childhood, frugality has gradually lost its appeal, as economic conditions improved in the 70s and 80s.  By the time Gen Xers came to their economic maturity in the 90s, frugality was an antiquated notion, and consumerism ruled.  Buoyed by abundant sources of consumer credit, we now buy for the sake of buying, be it luxury goods, or fast fashion.  Living within one’s means is not nearly as important as keeping up with the Joneses.

It is amusing to see the recent rise of “KonMari,” an organizing method and now a multimillion-dollar business originated by Marie Kondo.  Clients pay an “organizing consultant” to declutter their homes stuffed with years’ of shopping loot.  These days, many Millennials are also questioning the premise of excessive consumption.  Many are leaning towards a more qualitative, “less is more” approach to life.

It seems that the time is right for frugality to make a grand comeback.  But what does modern-day frugality look like?

  • Spend according to a planned budget, with zero impulse purchases
  • Track every expense and review regularly to find opportunities to save
  • No bulk purchases or sale shopping; buy only when necessary
  • Organize and neatly store daily necessities and groceries at home
  • Always carry a shopping list to supermarkets, and stick to it
  • Cook, eat and entertain at home mostly
  • Buy quality that lasts; resist fast fashion
  • Recycle habitually
  • Minimize food waste by planning meals and ingredients ahead of time
  • Walk, bike and take public transport wherever possible
  • Shop on the internet for convenience and economy, not stress relief
  • Jog in the neighborhood park, instead of getting a gym membership

Sounds austere?  Not if we understand the underlying rationale.  Simply put, all this comes down to rethinking of why we spend.  Spending money should be a means, not an end.

The benefits of embracing frugality are immediate:

It saves you money:

If you do all the above, and put the money saved each month into an interest-bearing savings account, you will have a nice reward 10 years later.  Assume you manage to set aside just $1,000 each month.  At an annual interest rate of just 2%, you would get a cool $132,720 at the end of 10 years.  Not bad at all!

It liberates you from stress:

No more guilt trips when you need to clean up the fridge and toss out tons of groceries that have passed their use-by dates, or declutter the closet stuffed with clothes you’ve never worn.  Plus, you won’t need to hire an organizing consultant.

It is kind to our planet:

Modern frugality minimizes waste and carbon footprints.  As the French President Emmanuel Macron famously said, “There is no Planet B.”

It’s time we embrace this very 21stcenturyway of living!


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