Louisa at the Really Good Life raised an interesting point on her most recent blog: when you take frugality to extremes, how far is too far? Although I replied over there, I thought I'd spend a minute or two here working out my thoughts on the subject.
To me, extreme frugality is akin to being miserly – it’s forgetting about the “living” part of “living below your means”. If it makes your quality of life suffer, then it’s too extreme. Frugality for me is about making choices that enhance my life but keep me within my budget. Back in March 2009, Channel 4 ran a program, The Hunt for Britain's Tightest Person where a woman demonstrated how to bathe in a bucket in the kitchen - something she had to do because her boiler had been broken for months and she hadn't bothered to get it fixed. She had the money to fix it but she preferred to boil the kettle and wear extra layers in winter rather than spend money on her boiler. Winter 2009 was very cold - we had two weeks where the temperature didn't get to zero - and I remember thinking she'd flipped over the edge from frugal to miser.
For me, frugality is making the best use of your resources. It may be about getting the best price for something, or buying the best quality item you can afford or ensuring you have cash set aside for car repairs, etc. However, it is also about living the best life you can on the budget you've got. It's living a champagne lifestyle but only spending beer money to obtain it. It isn't about depriving yourself for the sake of it or being a martyr to the cause. Yes, you have to make choices because nobody can afford everything, but it's about making the choice to spend money in ways that reflect your goals and dreams.