Friday, July 26, 2013


"He is just frugal" said a brother from the Augustinians, with a look of disdain, referring to one of our superiors when we were in the order.

Father would buy his clothes in thrift stores. We never had paper towels or paper napkins. Sometimes we didn't use the dishwasher as washing the dishes by hand required less water.

I always been big on spending.

I always thought of frugality as something negative. Some call people who are frugal "cheap" and other less gentle terms.

In Nicaraguan culture you could be socially ostracized if you are perceived cheap by others, especially when it comes to sharing with your friends.

But looking deeper into simplicity and frugality, I realize now that being frugal is not about being cheap, but simply about being prudent in what you spend your money on.

Frugality has been recently brought to my attention by reading Walter Isaacson "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life".

Benjamin was big on frugality, and he praised this virtue, along with industry, as his key to success.

I do believe frugality is a virtue, but being honest, I just hate being frugal.

Whenever I practice frugality there is this sense that I'm missing out on something. It feels like being frugal actually takes more work. It hardly feels practical.

But virtues are not necessarily about being comfortable, or finding an easier way out. I believe, paraphrasing Richard J. Foster, that a virtuous life is a life that works.

We perform virtues because they need to be done, not because they are the easier way out.

In a world filled with consumerism and materialism, where over consumption is putting a toll not only on God's creation, but also the marginalized poor around the world, I see frugality as a virtuous necessity.

I believe that our over consumption (this time paraphrasing Pope Francis), our wasting away of goods, is like stealing from the poor.

And yet I do it time and time again.

I know I talked about simplicity before here, but now I want to work on this virtue, and be more intentional about it.

This Sunday I plan to get rid of a bunch of stuff that are still cluttering my room.

I will get rid of a bunch of CDs and books and just plain old stuff I never really use.

I am already excited about doing this and will report about it in a later post.

What is your take on being frugal? How do you practice this virtue? How can you grow in this virtue?


  1. My Auntie Gertrude is very frugal. She looks at people from on top of her spectacles so as not to wear out the lenses!

    The way I practice frugality, especially in supermarkets and shops, is to look at the price and then ask: "Is this really what I want to pay for this?" If say, a bottle of sauce is priced at $2.50; do I REALLY want to pay that?

    I have a saying: The price of something is the amount of money I want to pay for it. Not what they have priced it. If I don't agree with the price I don't buy the product; or go to another shop.

    God bless.

    1. Hi Victor:
      One thing I've been working on when I go to the store is ask the question, what do I really need?

      This simple question works!


      Jose D. Pinell.