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James Gillray's satirical print Temperance Enjoying a Frugal Meal. George III is depicted with patched trousers and a chair covered with protective fabric, eating a simple boiled egg and using the tablecloth as his napkin. Winter flowers fill the unlit fireplace.[1]

Frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.[2][3][4][5]

In behavioral science, frugality has been defined as the tendency to acquire goods and services in a restrained manner, and resourceful use of already owned economic goods and services, to achieve a longer term goal.[6]


Common techniques of frugality include reduction of waste, curbing costly habits, suppressing instant gratification by means of fiscal self-restraint, seeking efficiency, avoiding traps, defying expensive social norms, detecting and avoiding manipulative advertising, embracing cost-free options, using barter, and staying well-informed about local circumstances and both market and product/service realities. Frugality may contribute to health by leading people to avoid products that are both expensive and unhealthy when used to excess.[7] Frugal living is mainly practiced by those who aim to cut expenses, have more money, and get the most they possibly can from their money.[8]


In the context of some belief systems, frugality is a philosophy in which one does not trust (or is deeply wary of) "expert" knowledge from commercial markets or corporate cultures, claiming to know what is in the best economic, material, or spiritual interests of the individual.[9]

Different spiritual communities consider frugality to be a virtue or a spiritual discipline.[10] The Religious Society of Friends and the Puritans are examples of such groups.[11] The basic philosophy behind this is the idea that people ought to save money in order to allocate it to more charitable purposes, such as helping others in need.[12]

There are also environmentalists who consider frugality to be a virtue[13] through which humans can make use of their ancestral skills as hunter-gatherers, carrying little and needing little, and finding meaning in nature instead of man-made conventions or religion. Henry David Thoreau expressed a similar philosophy in Walden, with his zest for self-reliance and minimal possessions while living simply in the woods.[14]

Corporate world[edit]

Frugality has been adopted as a strategic imperative by large enterprises as a means of cost reduction[15] through engenderment of a philosophy of careful spending amongst the workforce.[16] Cost reduction is often perceived negatively, be it within a corporate organisation or in society, so inviting each employee to embrace frugality transfers the burden of cost reduction from management to the employee. In doing so, corporations introduce a moral obligation to cost cutting, proposing the notion that careful management of costs is in the company, shareholder and employee's best interests.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Temperance enjoying a frugal meal". British Museum.
  2. ^ "frugal". Century Dictionary Online. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  3. ^ Macdonald, A.M., ed. (1972). Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary. Chambers.
  4. ^ Oxford American Dictionaries (computer application). Apple Computer. 2005.
  5. ^ Woolf, Henry, ed. (1980). Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield MA: Merriam. ISBN 0-87779-398-0.
  6. ^ Lastovicka, J. L.; Bettencourt, L. A.; Hughner, R. S.; Kuntze, R. J. (1999). "Lifestyle of the tight and frugal: Theory and measurement". Journal of Consumer Research. 26: 85–98. doi:10.1086/209552.
  7. ^ Rose, P.; Toney Smith, S.; Segrist, D. J. (2010). "Too cheap to chug: Frugality as a buffer against college-student drinking". Journal of Consumer Behaviour. 9: 228–238. doi:10.1002/cb.314.
  8. ^ Gorman, C. The Frugal Mind: 1,479 Money Saving Tips for Surviving the 1990s. Nottingham Books, 1990
  9. ^ Child, Hamilton: "How to Succeed in Business," Gazetteer and Business Directory of Ontario County, N.Y., for 1867-8, Page 91 e.g. H. Child, 1867
  10. ^ Austin, Richard Cartwright: "Environmental Theology", Page 169. Creekside Press, 1990
  11. ^ Mecklin, John M.: "An Introduction to Social Ethics, The Social Conscience in a Democracy", Page 254. Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920
  12. ^ Watkinson, William L.: "Frugality in the Spiritual Life", Page 7. F. H. Revell company, 1908
  13. ^ Swain, George Fillmore; Conservation of Water by Storage, Yale University Press, 1915, p. 26 e.g.
  14. ^ Thoreau, Henry David: "Walden", Page 184 e.g. T. Y. Crowell & co, 1910
  15. ^ Hill, Phil: "" 2010
  16. ^ Woerner, Stephanie L.; "Networked at Cisco", Page 13. Center for eBusiness, Sloan School of Management, MIT, 2001