Minimalism versus Frugality: Can They Coexist?

Minimal San Francisco

For centuries, most people were both minimalist and frugal. Not necessarily by choice, but out of necessity. Go back a century or more and you’ll find smaller homes, goods that were more expensive to produce and transport, and a whole lot of people that couldn’t afford to be anything but frugal and minimalist.

Today, many American families have the luxury of choosing to be frugal, minimalist, or neither. Minimalists are a small but growing subset of the population, and many families in the middle class and above would not be considered frugal, at least not to the extent previous generations might have been.

Nevertheless, many of us, particularly those with a bent for financial independence, strive to be frugal and perhaps minimalist, too. Personally, I’ve found that the two concepts are often at odds with one another. I appreciate both concepts for the benefits they provide, but struggle to embrace them simultaneously.


Minimalism versus Frugality


I’m not saying there’s no common ground. There is at least a little bit, and we’ll get to that eventually — but first let’s talk about the many ways in which they are incompatible.


Frugality employs a scarcity mentality.


A frugal person does not like to waste anything. If something doesn’t have a purpose, you find one for it or assume you will eventually. You look for value in everything and are very price sensitive. Frugality is a good way to pursue financial independence.

Minimalism employs an abundance mentality.


A minimalist does not like to waste space on anything that doesn’t have value. If something doesn’t have a purpose, it’s gone. You look for value and function and are not necessarily price sensitive. Minimalism is more easily practiced as you approach or have achieved financial independence.


The Difference between a Minimalist and a Frugal Person


A minimalist will discard things based on rules.
A frugal person scoffs at such rules.


For example, the minimalists have given us the following rules:

  • 90/90 Rule: If you haven’t used it in the past 90 days and won’t use it in the next 90 days, you can let it go.
  • 20/20 Rule: Don’t hold onto “just-in-case” items if you can replace them for under $20 without going more than 20 minutes out of your way.

If I followed the 90/90 rule, I wouldn’t have anything seasonal. No snowblower, skis, or winter jacket. No rakes. No fertilizer, lawn mower, or hummingbird feeder. Ok, I don’t actually own a hummingbird feeder, but you get the point.

The frugal person in me shuns the 20/20 rule as well. I have many non-essential items that can be replaced for under $20 with a click of the Amazon button or the swipe of a credit card. But at some point, I’ve paid for them and had a use for them. The minimalist in me asks if I will again find a purpose for them some day, and the frugal me shouts  back, “YES! Well, probably… I think”


A minimalist will pay top dollar for a high quality item that serves multiple purposes.
A frugal person will own multiple items that each serve an individual purpose.


We have a food processor, a blender, a KitchenAid mixer, a handheld chopper of some sort, and more knives than a late night infomercial. If you need any food mixed up or chopped up, I’m your guy. I can cut stuff six ways ’til Sunday.

A minimalist has a couple good sharp knives and perhaps one device to do all the blending, mixing and chopping. It sits tidily in its own spacious drawer or appliance garage.


A minimalist has a small wardrobe. Quite possibly brand-name and purchased new.
A frugal person has an expansive wardrobe, quite possibly purchased used.


Minimalists have been known to have a few copies of identical clothing, and may wear the same style outfit on a regular basis. If something hasn’t been worn in the last few months, it will find a new home when donated to a local thrift store.

A frugal person purchases the minimalist’s seldom worn clothing at the thrift store. He might still have the polyester disco shirt he last wore at a theme party in 1999. The minimalist buried deep down inside wants to part with it, but it stays, as does the afro wig whose locks haven’t been graced with a pick since 1999.



i’m sure i have that wig in storage… somewhere


A minimalist has a half empty (or is it half full) fridge and freezer.
A frugal person has a full fridge, freezer, beverage fridge, and chest freezer.


As a frugal person, I shop at Costco. I buy in bulk and I buy extra when something is on sale. I have friends who purchase fractional portions of livestock and others who hunt and butcher their kill. I seem to buy craft beer at a rate faster than I drink it, and end up “cellaring” a good number of beers to be enjoyed at a later date.

A minimalist shops locally for groceries needed in the next few days and picks up a bottle of wine or six pack of beer with the intention of consuming it. Buying in bulk is out of fashion, and the minimalist is willing to pay the going rate rather than wait for a sale.



A minimalist is less likely to have a large lawn and more likely to hire its maintenance.
A frugal person does all the yardwork, owns a full complement of lawn and garden tools, and quite possibly stores them in a shed.


A minimalist has minimal need for a large yard, and might have none living in a townhome, condo, or apartment.

A frugal person might have a similar living arrangement, but if they’ve got a yard, you can bet they’re willing to put in the time and energy to maintain it.

For example, I’ve collected the Ryobi 40V cordless electric lawn mower, chain saw, weed whip, and leaf blower. I’ve also got a snow blower, a seed spreader, a wood maul, and countless garden tools and hose attachments. I don’t pay anyone to do my yardwork, but I’ve paid plenty to acquire the tools and storing them all takes up some serious real estate in the garage. Yet, I somehow feel frugal for putting in the sweat equity.


A minimalist reads online, purchases e-books, and may have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
A frugal person has shelves full of books, many purchased used, already read, and untouched for years.


Books take up space. Fill a moving box with paperbacks and hard covers and then try to move them. It’s not easy. A minimalist recognizes this and reads mostly electronically.

Like the frugal person, a minimalist will also borrow books from friends and the public library. Unlike the frugal person, the minimalist will not hang onto many books once purchased and read.

Me? Yeah, I’ve got books from my childhood on these shelves. For now.


ikea billy bookshelves

Where Frugality and Minimalism Converge


I was born with the Frugal Gene. Or if I wasn’t born this way, I was raised by parents who absolutely love a good deal and think minimalism means having only one pole barn for storage. And even by this extraordinarily forgiving definition, they’re far from minimalists. And that’s okay; it works for them.

Personally, I would like to find a happy medium between frugality and minimalism. While it wasn’t difficult to contrast the two mentalities, there is some common ground.

Adopting a minimalist mentality, I’ll buy fewer things in the future. That will save money, even if I do spend a little more on the quality goods I do purchase.

A minimalist doesn’t need as much storage space. Not only does that mean fewer shelves, plastic tubs, and closet space, but also a smaller home. That’s less house to rent or buy, cool or heat. There’s some additional savings.

Becoming more minimalist, as I have attempted to do, results in box after box of donations. I have taken monthly trips to the Habitat Restore, Salvation Army, or Goodwill, resulting in many receipts. Although I carry no mortgage, I donate plenty of money, and so I itemize my deductions. Every box of donations lowers my tax bill. A frugal win.



Minimalism and Financial Independence


Finally, I feel it’s simply easier to choose minimalism when you are in a position of financial independence. You can afford to replace items needed them after parting with what you thought you’d never use again. You’re able to spend the extra dollars for the high-quality object that might do more or last longer. It’s easier to adopt an abundance mentality when your personal resources are indeed abundant.


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Interested in hearing more about this internal struggle? This post was the basis for ChooseFI podcast episode #29. The Aspiring Minimalist versus The Reluctant Frugalist.


Do you have minimalist or frugal tendencies? Neither? Which characteristics would you rather adopt? Have you found a happy medium? Let me know below!

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72 thoughts on “Minimalism versus Frugality: Can They Coexist?”

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  2. I am both minimalist and frugal. They are not mutually exclusive. And I’m not in the middle, I am legitimately both. For instance, I shop at costco. I can get a large canister 1.4kg of coffee. This reduces how many packages I must buy, taking up less space, creating less waste, and saving time and money (from multiple packages with higher unit costs and shopping trips). Same with cat food for our 3 cats. A minimalist doesn’t have the least amount of items, we have just the right amount of items.

    Minimalism doesn’t mean you can’t own objects, it means you don’t own anything that doesn’t add value or serve a purpose because clutter causes stress and for me, people, places, experiences, moments are what matter, not things.

    Of course I have a winter coat and a shovel for snow, but I only have 1 of each. I have 1 pair of shoes I wear year round (that I bought cheaply), I also buy almost everything store brand/generic, in bulk. Generic to save money, bulk to actually save space (lots of small items tend to take up more awkward space than a bulk assortment of items neatly fit together). For me, I own very little, but I also maximise my saivings by owning so little. No need to clean, care for, or transport loads of items that probably are used infrequently. And most things we think we need we don’t. If you are used to using something, there are alternatives, or things that can serve multiple purposes, which is the most frugal solution, not owning multiple items to serve ‘individual’ purposes, that each require maintenance or upkeep.

    And I don’t worry about societal expectations. People walk in and say where is your sofa? Where is your this or that. My question is, why do I need those things? Because an advertisement says so? I like my cushions and my walls for back support. I have a legit mattress from Ikea and an amazonbasics bed frame, but I bought almost everything I own used, typically generic/store brand/private label, and I also own few. So, if I bought a used shirt, I’d just buy 1. I don’t buy ‘new’ shirts and own few. I buy used, off brand, and own few.

    My closet indeed has very few clothes, but they were cheap, and in a small quantity! You don’t need to buy a lot of clothes just because they are used, nor do you need to buy ‘just a few’ really expensive name brand. You can buy small amounts of very cheap things as well, THAT is the best of both frugality and minimalism. And buying in bulk (even in our small apartment), has been the best way to overall save space, cut down on excess shopping/consumerism (which minimalism and frugality naturally oppose), and reduces waste (which both minimalism/frugality try to reduce or eliminate).

    • You’ve found that sweet spot where they overlap, and it works very well for you. We haven’t quite found it ourselves, but would love to get there eventually.

      We’re about to embark on some lenghty travel adventures as a family of four, and there’s only so much you can take with you in four suitcases and backpacks.


      • Well, I’m 25, and it’s just the 2 of us and our 3 cats. I’ve been working at this minimalism thing for about 5 years. Finding the overlap can be tricky, you did make some points that I know a lot of people struggle with, and it really comes down to which products or services can be in the middle ground most of the time.

        Sometimes I will find myself (gasp) buying something to actually reduce what I own or use. For instance, we switched from a full sized oven to a small toaster oven because it’s just the 2 of us, and it heats up half the apartment to use the full size. It did add 1 item to our belongings, but the savings in both time, energy, and subsequently money, have justified the purchase (only 40$ and uses 1 kWh less than the full size).

        You have a larger family, but I’m sure you can figure out a solution. For your family though, maybe consider reducing redundancy (if there is any). Say 1 person has a hair dryer, then everyone else shouldn’t need one, etc. Certain items can be shared.

        Best wishes to your family in your endeavours. Work as a team and you won’t fail.

  3. I think frugality and minimalism overlap more than you think.

    Here’s the wikipedia definition of frugality:
    “Frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.[1][2][3][4]

    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.[5]”

    In this sense, by” avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance… acquiring goods in a restrained manner”… frugality IS minimalism.

    The perfect crossroads of frugality and minimalism is “conscious consumerism”. This involves being totally intentional with every single purchase and asking yourself various questions such as: “Do I really need this?” “Can I afford it in cash?” “Will this item bring sustained value, happiness, or anything positive to my life?” “Will this item subtract a negative in my life?” “Do I have the physical space in my home and the mental space in my mind for this?” “What is the true cost? Does the creation of this item exploit the environment, child labor, animal cruelty, etc.?”

    If, after such intense consideration and questioning, you do in fact decide to purchase such item… then you go into “savvy spending” mode and try to get the most bang for your buck. Can you get it cheaper used/ second-hand? Can I use a shopping portal or a rewards credit card to get travel points or money back?

    It’s all about being mindful of what you want, intentional with what you spend, and valuing everything you own/posses/purchase.


    • Thanks for weighing in, DrDarewreck.

      I agree that there is some overlap — and where the circles overlap is where you find the sweet spot for FI minded individuals. I’ve spent a lot of time in the part of the frugality circle that contains no elements of minimalism, though.


  4. To me, frugality can lead to hoarding. If you are always chasing a deal, you will end up spending money on things you don’t need. It also seems like a waste of time. There seems to be no limit on how much you can fool yourself into thinking that you are saving, yet you are really spending. And all the clutter that results from these deals, not for me! I inherited a household of items after my dad passed years ago. He had so many multiples of items that it was difficult for me to grasp. I understand the mindset since he was born in 1925, right before the Great Depression, so he grew up with the scarcity mindset. He was very organized with his stuff, but he had too much! It also seems that frugality leads to selfishness, minimalism leads to sharing. Minimalists are constantly giving of their things and their time whereas frugal people are clinging to their things and afraid to release them as they question how their future needs will be met.

  5. I also struggle with the conflicts between frugality, minimalism and environmentalism. I don’t like to throw away things that can be reused (jars, boxes etc.) but don’t want my house filled with clutter either.
    I found the Konmari method about a year ago and I have found this the best “rule” for me to follow. I can keep my cupboard full of art supplies because they “spark joy” but felt OK getting rid of my squash and tennis racket as they were just reminders that my shoulder would never hold up to playing those sports again and if my kids want to play I’m OK with buying them gear when the time comes.

  6. After a very long time, a thought provoking post in the entire FIRE realm on the Internet. The rest are usually useful but concrete information, or rehashing of the old stuff. PoF, you’re a thought leader with this one.
    This one could shape one’s thinking.
    It got me thinking.
    These are ideals to aspire to and purists don’t exist.
    I love the examples people have shared.
    So when I buy shoes that fit my feet well, cost more money than regular shoes, but help me feel great while walking, and help me walk more than usual, and they last longer – I’m being a minimalist. Frugalism would get my feet killed here.

  7. Same here on the convergence of frugal and minimalism. We try to find a balance between the two that works for our situation. It’s more frugal now than minimalist, but we are trending more towards the minimalist side (albeit very slowly!). It does feel great to have less stuff, give more clarity of mind as there is less clutter around.
    Cool post, nicely thought provoking

    • I think that’s a natural progression, CF. Start out frugal, not wanting to part with things because you don’t want to spend the money to possibly replace them.

      Once you start building wealth, you develop an abundance mentality and can more easily get rid of stuff that might have some intrinsic value, but no real value to you anymore.


  8. I would say I’m both. I guess I rarely see the conflicting. Like with clothes, I keep just enough so they wear out in 5-10 years. I spend a lot less overall, and it keeps my wardrobe simple and not 20 years old.
    If I wouldn’t spend $5 to buy it if I didn’t already own it, then it goes. That’s my basic rule where minimalism and frugality meet. It seems pointless to hold onto a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t pay $5 for. 🙂

  9. I love this PoF. And it’s inspired me to dedicate a podcast to this concept : “The aspiring minimalist vs the reluctant frugalist ” Hitting a theater/smartphone near you in the next 3 weeks 🙂 . I’ve really enjoyed your content. Thanks for sharing

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  11. I’m more frugal than minimalist too. However, our place is small so we’re forced to be somewhat minimal. I’d like to buy more stuff, but we just don’t have any space for them.
    An example is our fridge. It’s probably half the size of a “regular” fridge and we can’t store a lot of food. We don’t buy bulk and I hate Costco. It’s a zoo and I never liked shopping there.

    • Makes sense, Joe. Forced minimalism is second best to intentional minimalism, but the end result is pretty much the same. 🙂

      Our Costco is a breeze eight months of the year. It gets busy in the summer, but if it weren’t for the summer business, there’s no way we’d have one. Since we got an Aldi, I do find we hit up Costco less often, though.


  12. I’m more frugal than minimalist, but pick and choose on both. All my table tops and shelves are pretty clear and empty, but I have totes of yarn, painting supplies, and all the lawn equipment and gadgets you’d ever need. For me, it’s a matter of evaluating the value an item adds to my life. If it will make my life easier (or even save me money), I usually keep it, but if it’s more of a burden, something I have to maintain “just in case” I need it, it’s gone.

  13. I agree with many commenters that there are some blurred lines between the two, partly due to semantics. Your post seems to associate the term frugality closer to “cheap” than I think of it. I think of frugality as focused on value and cheap as focused on cost. So in my mind, frugality and minimalism are more similar. At the same time, I agree many of the differences you point out.

    Similar to you, I also find myself gravitating towards minimalism now that I am in at a position of financial comfort whereas in the past I was more focused on “deals”. Interestingly, our total spending has been the same during this transition because I buy fewer things but what do I buy costs a lot more. It turns out I am much happier with fewer high quality items.

    So early in life, when money is more scarce, we tend towards buying/wanting more things but need to look for deals in order to purchase so many things. Later in life we already have plenty (often too much) stuff, plus time scarcity becomes more important compared to money scarcity. Then we shift focus to minimalism with things and try to maximize our time. What makes us happy has shifted over time.

    • Well said, SIBF.

      I define cheap a little differently, though. I find the term “cheap” to be rather insulting, so I save the term for someone whose frugal choices start affecting other people negatively. For example, someone who doesn’t pay their fair share of a group tab or refuses to pay admission to the museum / show / club that the rest of the group wants to patronize.

      I think there are certainly varying levels of frugality. Jacob from ERE is extremely frugal, but I wouldn’t label him as “cheap.”


  14. I am a minimalist more than frugal. Clear out the house and the tools. It is more for mental clarity then for financial win falls.

    I am frugal in that I look for deals. For instance, I just bought a pack a REI for $300. I felt it was too much. So I came home and found the same pack on craigslist for $150. That is an automatic 50% savings. So I took the pack back for a refund. So that is a frugal gene.

    I actually was scoffed at by my brother today when I suggested my dad sale his old grill on craigslist for $50-100. My brother said the money was not worth the time. That is a hard sale for me. I think craigslist is easy and the money is worth the time. The other option would be for him to find a way to haul a grill to Goodwill.

  15. Great post because I’ve been recently learning more on what minimalism is about. To add to this mix, I’ve also been increasing my environmental awareness, so I need a venn diagram on all three! In my life, I try to buy only what I need (my frugal side), but I go for the cheapest “good quality” item (frugal and minimal side?), and I try to screen them for their sustainability/eco-friendliness impact (environmental side). It’s been fun learning about all three spheres.

  16. I think I have tendencies towards both minimalism and frugality (If a physician with no kids who spends 1/3 of her ginormous salary can be considered frugal). I don’t like having unnecessary things, as I don’t like my space to be cluttered, and there are many things I’d rather do with my time than have to deal with stuff (cleaning it, sorting it, putting it away). Being a minimalist definitely results in me spending less money, as I rarely buy anything without considering whether I actually need it and whether its value is worth the hassle of owning it. I’ve also been able to live in a pretty small (i.e. inexpensive) apartment as a result of not having too much stuff that I need to store.

    As for the possibility that I will purge something that I need in the future, I just accept that as the cost of being a minimalist. I have definitely had to replace things that I’ve gotten rid of, but it’s rare, and the small cost of doing so is more than balanced out by the pleasure of living in a home that isn’t overcrowded with things. Of course, I’m privileged to be able to do this; I recognize that a lot of people simply don’t have the means to replace things that they’ve gotten rid of.

  17. I think there’s a lot of overlap between frugality and minimalism, and there’s a synergy as well. For example, buying something that’s a great deal is frugal, but still not a great idea if you’ll never use it. Minimalism makes me stop and ask if and when I’ll actually use it and if there’s a way to make do with something I already have or if I can borrow instead of buying. It’s better for my house (less clutter, less to clean) and better for the environment with less waste. Finally, it’s also better financially.

  18. I guess I’ve always been frugal, but our downsize is helping us shift to become more minimalist too. And it totally makes sense based on how you’ve described it. Our frugal ways led us to financial independence, but now that we’re there – we are looking at spending on fewer quality items to have in our smaller living spaces. I’ll need to do some reflecting on this as we make the shift. I’m afraid I’ll “default” to frugality (and more cheaper purchases) when they really don’t align with our end goals.

  19. I’ve found a pretty happy medium. I’m a born minimalist, but frugality had to become a conscious decision.

    What makes the pairing so formidable is the term “intentional living”. I can decide what’s best for me at the time I make a decision. If the minimalist and the frugal sides of me can reach some sort of compromise, I’m really happy.

    If they can’t, then I either don’t purchase or I think on it some more.

    As a member of the working poor, these types of decisions happen regularly and as with anything, practice makes all the difference.

    Enjoyed the article and I’m sure you’ll find your medium with some practice.

  20. So odd that I never thought about it this way. For whatever reason I treated the two as synonymous concepts. But how you break it down makes sense. Minimalism at it’s core is to keep things at a “minimum” and not necessarily doing so with the core objective being saving money. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Like many here, we are frugal but not minimalist. I definitely have a problem with books. I’m working on my addiction though. I hadn’t heard of some of those minimalist rules though and will head in that direction. Thanks for a creative post.

  22. Great piece PoF! I never actually thought about it like that. I was thinking since the end result is typically the same: less stuff and more time/money – it’s the same thing.

    I’m wrong. The conception of both couldn’t be more different. But there’s still a lot of people that co-mingle the two terms. There’s a whole YouTube series teaching you how to live as a minimalist when it seemed more like an application in frugality.

    I was born in the frugal camp for sure, just like you, my parents are frugal. Minimalist? Nope no way. If you made a quiz on frugalist vs minimalist I probably land 9/10 frugal.

    (thank you for the shout out by the way!!!)

  23. Thank you for breaking the differences down so succinctly! I’m definitely in the frugal neck of the woods, but I do have some minimalistic tendencies. I wonder where buying a house vs. renting a house would fall. Renting would provide freedom from owning, but if you see it as an investment…

    • Good question, Ms. Raggedly.

      I think you can practice frugality, minimalism, or both as a homeowner or a renter. Owning too much home is not very minimalistic, but tiny home owners are most certainly minimalist.


  24. I feel like I am a frugal minimalist. Every thing in our house has to have a purpose, we don’t buy something just in case, even if it’s cheap and good.
    But at the same time, I don’t mind to pay $$ if I know the quality is great and I will use for more and more, and even more.

    I don’t buy book and ebooks, I borrow them (OMG I used this B word) from a local library or friends.

  25. I’m frugal, and I’m not minimalist. I believe in buying paper towel in bulk at Costco to save money rather than spending $1 on a roll of paper towel at the Dollar Tree.

    I save baby stuff for our second children and don’t just throw away or donate everything once I realize I haven’t used them in a couple of months. It usually works out great for me.

    But I do think minimalism can help save money. 🙂

  26. I have always thought of them as being more similar than different but I have never thought about it in depth. I can see they are on opposite ends on some issues.

    I think I would classify myself as more a minimilast than a frugalist. I don’t buy a lot of stuff but when I do it tends to be top quality. MacBook pro, mirroless camera, rogue home gym. But a lot of the daily stuff I’m more frugal like shopping at Aldi and planning cheap meals for the week.

    • Good for you, Grant.

      A couple years ago, I ditched my bulky Nikon DSLR system for a mirrorless Olympus based system and I love it. Doesn’t make me a minimalist, but I’m trying to move in that direction.

      You certainly can practice aspects of both, but you can be all of one and none of the other. Do what works for you!


  27. I have been chastised in my household for throwing something out that we may someday “need”, so I suppose I identify more with minimalism. If something is sitting around unused for too long, it will one day soon be in the trash.

    Frugalism can work in combination with supreme organization, i.e. knowing exactly where that seldom-used item is when needed.

    Oh, I will never throw out my books or use a Kindle. I love to take notes in the margins and reread some book son occasion.

    Dr. C

  28. Interesting post. One more difference: Minimalist has no ‘fat’ to cut should the markets turn sour. Frugalist can cut his budget by at least 10% during lean times. Frugalist is thus better prepared for long term retirement. This frugalist also believes in latte addiction and an occasional wine.?

    • Hmmm… I think one could make a convincing counterargument. The minimalist isn’t necessarily frugal and can make more frugal choices in lean times when it comes to travel, food, not buying high-end items, etc…

      Someone already living frugally may not have as much wiggle room in the base budget.

      They could hash it over a bottle of cheap wine… or beer.


  29. Great post. Made me realize that many of the disputes we have in our household relate to my wife and I occupying different ends of the frugality-minimalism spectrum. I’m biased, but I think having less stuff frees up mental capital, even though it probably is not as cost effective.

    Unrelated, both frugality and minimalism are good for business. Companies are happy to market to consumers of either faith. After all, those lining up for door buster black Friday deals at Walmart are not the same people camping outside of the Apple Store.

    • Great points, Dave. We all know that couples argue about money, but it’s also true that couples argue about stuff. It’s taken me a long time to come around to the fact that it’s alright to let things go.

      Minimalist purchases (Apple) and furnishings tend to be high end. Have you ever been to a Design Within Reach store (or read the catalog)? “Within Reach” of the elite, maybe. Great stuff, though.


  30. I think we jump back and forth across that line. There are certain things that if i buy them i will spend the money to make sure they are quality but for other products i will be price sensitive on. I do most of my reading online or from the library but have a overflowing chest freezer.

    We buy the vast majority of clothes from thrift shops but always have boxes and boxes to give to them first.

    • I think yours is a great approach. Take the aspects of each that make sense to you and fit them into your best life. There’s no sense in following a strategy just to say you’re more minimalist than somebody else.

      We actually have two chest freezers. One for food (and pellet hops) and the other has been converted to a keezer (as seen on


  31. I’m frugal but not minimalist. Thankfully the math works out for me to be this way. 🙂 I look at people going for the minimalist lifestyle and I cheer them on. I know it just isn’t for me (or my wife) though.

    • I think some of what shapes our tendencies are our current and past surroundings.

      In urban areas, it’s more difficult to be frugal, but it certainly helps to be more minimalist. In smaller cities and rural areas where cost of living is much lower and space is not at a premium, frugalism reigns and minimalism serves less of a purpose (for most people).


  32. I’m not sure I agree with this, but I will have to ponder it further. It seems to be that frugality focuses on scarcity of money, while minimalism focuses on scarcity of time and attention, but aren’t time and money really the same thing?

    My take on minimalism is that you are eliminating anything from your life that does not add value, so you can get more value out of the things that remain. In your examples above, I think most minimalists would agree that if taking care of a big yard with many tools or having a paper library brings you joy, then they should keep these items. Minimalism is really in the eye of the beholder. It is a philosophy that stacks upon frugality rather that is at odds with it.

    Minimalism is about value, which I think is also at the heart of frugality. Sometimes paying more for fewer items that are perfect is more frugal that buying many items that are just good enough. I used to be more ‘frugal’ with my clothes purchases until I used the more ‘minimalist’ concept of ‘buying half as many, but spending twice as much.’ (which if I am not mistaken adds up to the same price). In this case I think I am being more minimalist, but no less frugal, and ultimately happier (better quality and fitting clothes, less waste, smaller closet, etc.).


    • I think you’ve identified the overlap in the Venn diagram.

      But whenever I’m in my house waiting for the spark of joy to hit when evaluating whether or not to keep something, I feel like I have a tiny winged minimalist over one shoulder and a cherub of a frugalist over the other.

      It’s the same thing when I see a great deal on the clearance rack or thrift store.

      The minimalist tells me to get rid of the thing and not to buy the deal, and the frugalist wants me to have them both. In the past, the frugal guy was louder, but the minimalist has been speaking to me more clearly in recent months.


      • I’m definitely frugal and working on the minimalist thing. With clothes, I only look at it if it’s already a great deal – but I tell myself that I’ll only buy if I LOVE it, and not buy based on how good the deal is. My closet has only added 3 pieces this past year.

  33. Nice comparison exercise. I’m somewhere in the middle. Striving for a simpler life. Reducing the number of items I have because they are no longer needed or because 1 thing can do the work of 6. But I hold on to things I still love or items that will be used 6 months from now.

    I love that I’m no longer using 4 bookshelves and 2 large storage shelves. That all my clothes fit in one closet. It’s easier to find things, remember what you even have, and value what you choose to own.

    It’s an ongoing process. Some days I can easily pack things up for donation, other days it’s an internal battle due to my frugal side.

    • I think you’re in the same place we are, Amy — maybe a step or two ahead.

      You’d think we would have downsized at some point with the multiple moves we’ve made over the years. I think we’re finally motivated to really cut down on our inventory.


  34. I mean, based on these rules, I would be both minimalist and frugal. I don’t hoard multiple gadgets for one purpose; I thoughtfully buy items that have multiple purposes. You can be frugal and still save your money to buy the best things (because you won’t have to keep buying cheap crap to replace other cheap crap). Overall I don’t feel like I’m a minimalist, though. I do hang on to things that I don’t use, mostly because there have been times where I’ve thrown something out and needed it six months later. I don’t have rules for my possessions, but I do purge every now and then to keep things clean.

  35. While I don’t think I’ve ever fit into the frugal camp, I have taken steps in the past year towards minimalist. I used to own hundreds of books, movies, and “just in case” gadgets. We donated about half our clothes, sold all our books and movies on Decluttr and eBay, and even gifted some furniture. Wouldn’t go back for anything. Now we’re trying to live somewhere in the happy medium with an apartment full of intentional purchases that meet our needs. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  36. Interesting post. I am definitely not a minimalist. Before a recent move, I gave away about 2000 books ( out of approx 5000), and it haunts me!

  37. Rather than be concerned about being a purist in either minimalism or frugality, perhaps we can adapt the best of both philosophies that suit our personality and avoid being the opposites (hoarder and spendthrift). I think that we can all agree that these opposite lifestyles are deleterious to our financial and emotional health.

  38. We’re a mix of the two depending on the topic and situation. I guess that’s the point, your application of either is personal. If you took each one to the extreme no variance conclusion the minimalist would have one set of clothes and live in one of those Japanese bed tubes. The frugal person meanwhile would go begging for free stuff in their spare time. I can’t say either one is anyone I’ve met in the fire community but those would be the extremes.

  39. I have much more frugal tendencies that minimalist tendencies, and I suspect that there are more frugal people than minimalist people. The culture we live in promotes owning more stuff, and a minimalist lifestyle isn’t good for business, unless you are throwing away/donating gently used things on a regular basis, which would be very expensive.

  40. Good article, as far as books are concerned I agree the library is the common ground. It is a perfect way to be both minimal and frugal. I would like to think of myself as both minimal and frugal; however I found it extremely difficult to part with all the books, binders, endless notes and markings from my medical education. I recently did this after moving 1 year ago, after being out of medical school for >6 years. I knew I would never use any of the items again, but seemed like I was throwing away so much time and effort. I felt like I was throwing away knowledge. In the end my minimalist reasoning won out and I donated all the books (now probably obsolete in the ever changing world of medicine) and threw away all the notes. I am glad I did, because I really have not thought about it until now. They would just be collecting dust in some closet. I still found the whole experience oddly emotional.

    • Letting go of these things is tough. I’m not at all surprised you found it to be emotional, because you spent so much of your time immersed in those books and notes. I still have a box of papers and clippings going back to my childhood.

      One trick I’ve begun to employ is to take pictures of the old clippings, knick knacks, etc… before parting with them. A digital image isn’t quite the same thing, but if you’re feeling that nostalgia, you can reminisce in a 21st century way with the pics.


      • Good idea, I think I may employ it to more personal items. The thought of looking at a digital picture of my medical school notes makes me cringe 🙂

  41. Interesting to think about PoF. I guess I don’t fit either category perfectly, not completely a minimalist or completely a frugalist.

    Everyone can throw things out and buy new again, but it’s monetarily inefficient, and also very wasteful. Definitely not very green.

    A frugalist can make use of ‘used’ items to be more efficient. It’s also greener, but at the cost of some additional storage space.

    Perhaps I’m more of an opportunist. I could care less about labels like ‘minimalism’ or ‘frugalism’. I mostly care about achieving goals in the most efficient manner possible. Sometimes that means having the ‘tools’ to achieve those goals. Sometimes it means removing the excess baggage.


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