The Philosophy of Frugality

Diogenes of Sinope was a philosopher in ancient Greece who was a cynic in the classical sense of the word. The classical view of cynicism was that, as Wikipedia nicely states it, “the purpose of life was to live a life of virtue in agreement with nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, sex, and fame, and by living a simple life free from all possessions.”

I can certainly understand and appreciate that perspective.

Anyway, during his time, Dionysius was the king of the city-state of Syracuse and he was, shall we say, a bit of a tyrant. He was cruel, suspicious, vindictive, and tended to reward those who would compliment him while having no qualms about leaving everyone else to rot.

It is said that a man named Aristippus, who had won himself a place in the court of Dionysius through careful manuevering, saw Diogenes cooking lentils for a meal. Aristippus said, “If you would only learn to compliment Dionysius, you wouldn’t have to live on lentils.”

Diogenes is said to have replied, “But if you would only learn to live on lentils, you wouldn’t have to flatter Dionysius.”

Diogenes understood on a deep level why frugality is a good life practice.

When you’re frugal and conserve your money, you aren’t as dependent upon the streams of income coming into your life. You might have a high-paying job, for example, but you’re not as dependent upon the income stream as you would be if you lived paycheck to paycheck.

Let’s say that, over a period of time, the environment of your workplace slowly becomes poisonous. The people you were close to move on to other jobs, while the new hires seem to be playing a lot of political games. There’s also an undercurrent of fear in the workplace and hours are ramping up.

A lot of people would want out of this situation.

A person who lives paycheck to paycheck is going to have to live with this to a certain extent. They’re likely going to have to play the political games to some extent to preserve their job and likely work a lot of overtime just to stay on the payroll.

On the other hand, a person who is frugal, has built up some savings, and doesn’t have to spend as much money just to get by isn’t going to have to play these games if they don’t want to. They can keep their nose down, look for other jobs, or even start planning the next act of their life.

Frugality provides quite a bit of freedom against people who would domineer your life.

I’m not frugal because it saves money. The money it saves – and the amount it reduces my spending – simply represents the freedom it gives me. It gave me the freedom to explore new career options. It has given me the freedom to spend a lot of time with my children that I would never otherwise have been able to.

Frugality is freedom.

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