Manifesto: The meaning of frugal

When I told my mom I was going to start a blog, and I was going to call it Frugal Wedding, she said, “Frugal?” in the exact same tone she would say “Are you nuts?”

“Why not call it Stingy Wedding? Mean Wedding?” she says (laughing, because she is very much enjoying her own wit). So I try to explain that no, Mom, frugal doesn’t mean stingy. It does generally mean not expensive, sure, but it’s so much more than that.

And then other day I was telling her about how much I want dancing at my wedding. “Well, that’s not very frugal. You’d need a place to dance, so you’d need to pay for a venue that has that. And you’d need to pay for the music. It’s very expensive to dance.”

Well, I disagree that a frugal wedding can’t have dancing (also, my mom has not heard of iPod weddings). So let me clear up exactly what is meant by frugal, and why it’s in the name of this blog.

1. Frugal does not mean cheap, it means rationally within your means.

It doesn’t mean ‘as thrifty as I can possibly get away with’. It’s not Spartan. It just means something you can sensibly afford.

2. Frugal is not the opposite of abundant, it is the opposite of wasteful.

In fact frugality is the rejection of the wasteful. Being frugal means choosing to have fewer things, and have them be of real substance, over choosing lots of things without much substance.

This applies to all sorts of things. For example, food: frugal is buying high-quality ingredients, or growing some of your own food, and maybe not eating meat as often if it’s not in your budget. Cheap is buying and living off junk food. Or how about, pots and pans: frugal is saving up to buy high quality ones that will last a lifetime and you will never have to replace. Cheap is buying crappy ones that don’t last.

It’s no surprise that the term frugal has been co-opted by the environmental movement, which is largely about living a less wasteful lifestyle. Frugal is a positive, not a negative!

3. Frugality is not incompatible with celebration.

Celebration and frugality go together hand in hand. Living a frugal life, day to day, is what makes the celebration special, and hence gives it meaning. If you eat cake every day of the year, it’s no big deal when you celebrate your birthday with a cake. But if birthday parties were the only days you ate cake, I bet your birthday would feel extra magical.

So, when I say a wedding should be frugal, I’m not saying it shouldn’t be an out-of-the-ordinary celebration that you spend a lot of time and effort preparing and saving for. I’m saying lets put that into perspective, and make it a special celebration that’s in keeping with the scale of the rest of your life, both culturally and financially.


4 responses to “Manifesto: The meaning of frugal


    I’am starting on my journey of wedding planning. And we want to be very smart about how we pay for our dream wedding. Since we already have a family established. This will be the second marriage for both of us. Neither of us had a wedding that we wanted. And we are looking forward to having a special day with eachother.
    I love your advice. You make great points with such a wonderful humor. Very helpful. I can’t wait to read your next post. Thanks a bunch!

  2. All the best for your wedding planning! Thank you so much for your kind words – it’s basically everything a budding blogger could wish to be told 🙂

  3. When my boyfriend and I decided on the most important things for our wedding (it had to be simple & fun with our friends & family, and we wanted to spend as little as possible) I was looking for a word that defined our second decision (spending as little as possible). It’s not that we’re going to be cheap, or stingy, we’re going to be frugal. I love it.
    I’ve been reading all your posts and I think you’re very sensible! We need more people like this in wedding blogland.

    • Well, thank you! Oh man when people leave comments like that it is the BEST EVER. Thank you for making my day 🙂

      I have the same priorities as you: Fun, Frugal. I’ll be checkin in on your blog. May I ask, how did you find me?

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