James Gillray's satirical print Temperance Enjoying a Frugal Meal. George III is depicted with patched breeches 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 resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.[2]

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.[3]


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.[4] Frugal living is practiced by those who aim to cut expenses, have more money, and get the most they possibly can from their money.[5]


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.[6]

Different spiritual communities consider frugality to be a virtue or a spiritual discipline.[7] The Religious Society of Friends and the Puritans are examples of such groups.[8] The philosophy behind this is that people ought to save money in order to allocate it to more charitable purposes, such as helping others in need.[9]

Benjamin Franklin paired frugality with industry as the key virtues for financial security: "[W]aste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do, and with them everything."[10] Cicero agreed, arguing that "men don’t understand how great a revenue sparingness is."[11]

There are also environmentalists who consider frugality to be a virtue[12] 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.[13] Degrowth movement advocates use the term "frugal abundance" to denote the enjoyment of a simple, yet culturally, emotionally and spiritually rich, life through which one’s necessities are acheived through collective sufficiency respecting the Earth’s limits.[14]

Corporate world

Frugality has been adopted as a strategic imperative by large enterprises as a means of cost reduction through engendering a philosophy of careful spending amongst the workforce.[15] 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 that careful management of costs is in the company, shareholder, and employee's best interests.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Temperance enjoying a frugal meal". British Museum.
  2. ^
    • "frugal". Century Dictionary Online. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
    • Macdonald, A.M., ed. (1972). Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary. Chambers.
    • Oxford American Dictionaries (computer application). Apple Computer. 2005.
    • Woolf, Henry, ed. (1980). Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield MA: Merriam. ISBN 0-87779-398-0.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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 (3): 228–238. doi:10.1002/cb.314.
  5. ^ Gorman, C (1990). The Frugal Mind: 1,479 Money Saving Tips for Surviving the 1990s. Nottingham Books.
  6. ^ Child, Hamilton (1867), "How to Succeed in Business", Gazetteer and Business Directory of Ontario County, N.Y., for 1867-8, p. 91
  7. ^ Austin, Richard Cartwright (1990). Environmental Theology. Creekside Press. p. 169.
  8. ^ Mecklin, John M. (1920). An Introduction to Social Ethics, The Social Conscience in a Democracy. Harcourt, Brace and Howe. p. 254.
  9. ^ Watkinson, William L. (1908). Frugality in the Spiritual Life. F.H. Revell company. p. 7.
  10. ^ Franklin, Benjamin (1791). Autobiography.
  11. ^ Cicero, M.T., Paradoxa Stoicorum
  12. ^ Swain, George Fillmore (1915). Conservation of Water by Storage. Yale University Press. p. 26.
  13. ^ Thoreau, Henry David (2017). Walden. Ebook: Vintage Digital/Penguin Books (published 1854). ISBN 9781473547933.
  14. ^ Nelson, Anitra (2024-01-31). "Degrowth as a Concept and Practice: Introduction". The Commons Social Change Library. Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  15. ^ Woerner, Stephanie L. (2001), Networked at Cisco, Center for eBusiness Teaching Case 1, MIT Sloan School of Management
  16. ^ Thoreau, Henry David (1910). Walden. T.Y. Crowell & co. p. 184.