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.
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.
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. Frugal living is practiced by those who aim to cut expenses, have more money, and get the most they possibly can from their money.
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.
Different spiritual communities consider frugality to be a virtue or a spiritual discipline. The Religious Society of Friends and the Puritans are examples of such groups. 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.
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." Cicero agreed, arguing that "men don’t understand how great a revenue sparingness is."
There are also environmentalists who consider frugality to be a virtue 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.
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. 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.