Frugality vs Minimalism – what is the difference?

Big terms with little meaning

I love the way big terms – such as minimalism and frugality are thrown around without anyone really knowing their meaning. People think this is one and the same thing – I also thought so many moons ago! Luckily I have minimalist friends who corrected me.

Though I do not claim to be an expert, I have read a few books on minimalism and I am the so-called ‘Frugal’ Local!

Let’s start getting into this – what is the difference and what is the world coming to?


If you search for minimalism online, you will get quotes like these:

  • “sparing or economical as regards money or food.”
  • “simple and plain and costing little.”

In my opinion, there are levels of frugality, and extreme frugality could be interpreted as being stingy, ungenerous and selfish. Many people in the FIRE community (check the link here!) have manifested this behaviour (known as lean FIRE), where they cut back on all spending. This often includes not buying new clothes for several years, living on pap and bone broth, going vegan and selling their car in favour of a bicycle. 

These are mostly done for financial reasons, more than anything else. 

A more mild version of frugality is where you cut costs on things that you don’t really care about. We often spend so much money on things like expensive coffee, five-star hotels, expensive cars and boats – most of which we will not miss if it’s gone. These so-called ‘doodads’ eat into our cash flow and look really awesome on our balance sheet’s expenses column. 

Might it be worth it to cut a few expenses to save a bit more money? 

Small ideas on frugality

I have added my collection of thoughts on frugality. Here is the list:

  • Frugality has to do with money and spending. It’s just that you don’t spend R 2 when R 1 will do.
  • If you’re economical, it means that you don’t buy the most expensive brand for no apparent reason. You buy a cheaper brand that gives you the same value – or when you eat out, you go for the specials.
  • The concept of frugality implies living within your means.


Much has been written on minimalism. The internet is full of books, blogs and videos on how to become a minimalist. As with frugality, you will find that there is moderate and extreme minimalism.

Let’s first look at a few minimalist ideas.

  • Minimalism is a lifestyle more than anything else.
  • The movement advocates spending money on things that you value. 
  • It claims that we will never be satisfied with buying more things – as these things are the root of our unhappiness.
  • You should love everything that you own.

Mary Kondo, a decluttering expert, explains it beautifully when she states: “When you hold something in your hand, how does it make you feel? If you don’t feel the love, then throw it away.” She is advocating that you keep the things that make you happy. Don’t have things that evoke no emotion.

It’s also not a surprise that our homes have become substantially bigger over the last few years. 

Joshua Becker notes that if you follow the minimalist lifestyle, you will spend less time cleaning your house and more time living. Who in their right mind would want to spend their weekends and evenings cleaning their home?! 

Minimalism can be applied in many areas of our lives – what we eat and drink, how we live (our home and garden) and our job. For many of these, you will find projects online that have some interesting ideas about how to be happier in that area. They include:

  • People moving into small container homes to utilise their space better
  • An entrepreneur selling everything he owned, except 59 items (that included a laptop at least!)
  • Project 333 – women were encouraged to only have 33 items in their closet (including accessories), and to wear only that for a few months

Small ideas on minimalism

I have added a collection of thoughts on minimalism. Here is the list:

  • Minimalism is more about being happy – having the things around you that make you happy
  • Though not strictly anti-consumerism, it’s value-driven and encourages you to buy things that you truly love.
  • It’s more a life philosophy than an action. It’s about being aware of consumerism and choosing what you want and what you don’t
  • You want to have all the objects around you be meaningful, rather than clutter


Minimalism and frugality are not mutually exclusive. 

You can even select and implement both on an eclectic basis

The bottom line stays the same – earn more than you spend, and invest that which is leftover.

Happy investing

Notable sources

Here are some of the sources I have consulted and used: