Any discussion regarding personal finances sooner or later turns to the subject of frugality. Frugality is defined as ‘the quality of being economical with money or food; thriftiness’. There are a plethora of sites trumpeting this particular lifestyle choice, often, though not exclusively hosted by female writers. Subject matter seems to mostly cover a bit of self-sufficiency – usually growing vegetables and keeping chickens (whoops that’s me!), homemaking, baking and cooking. But they also seem to cover something else. Shopping. ‘Look at this lovely {bit of tat} I got for only a few pounds from {tat emporium}!!!’ they shriek. ‘I went into town to do {necessary errand} and on my way back I popped into {cheap/second-hand tat emporium} and couldn’t resist {another piece of tat}!!!’. But herein lies the problem. They are still buying stuff. Copious quantities of it, often on impulse because they like the colour, shape or whatever, and it might just go with another piece of tat they already give houseroom to.

I can’t help but notice that the writers’ back stories often also contain the shadow of unsecured debt, some of it quite enormous. Without bragging about it I have never been in that situation – I just seem to be hard-wired against borrowing and spending huge sums of money on ‘perishable’ or depreciable goods (my mortgage is another thing altogether, more on that another time!). You’ll find no stories or advice on debt management here, I’m afraid. My thoughts are if these people truly still labour under a great weight of debt that should be number one priority, not tat from tat-shops.

The frugal, recycling aspect of their philosophy is merely an attempt to justify to themselves and their readers an excuse to continue shopping. It’s like a form of anorexia – without wishing to trivialise this serious disorder – where the ‘bad’ act is done and then ‘fixed’ afterwards. This skewed philosophy is not healthy as it imparts or is derived from a sense of guilt attached to the original impulse. I don’t want to feel guilty of buying this months copy of ‘Mojo’ magazine at nearly 5 quid, just because I’m down to my last tenner. I feel enough guilt when I let my son or wife down in my duties as father and husband, thanks!

So I don’t think I can describe my philosophy as ‘frugal’ on those terms. I’ll have to keep seeking…

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