“The Art of Frugal Hedonism” and Finding Pleasure in Frugality

Frugality is simply seeking out the most effective use of your money and other resources, allowing you to enjoy life now while also preparing for a wonderful future. It’s like thinning out the garden of life — you’re removing the weeds and unhealthy plants so that the healthy plants can really thrive and bear abundant fruit.

Unfortunately, frugality can look a lot like deprivation. Frugality inherently means figuring out which things aren’t providing much value to you and saying no to them, but that’s often incorrectly translated into saying no to the things that bring us great pleasure in life.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb offers a different approach. This book presents frugality not as an exercise in loss, but as something that provides incredible beauty to appreciate in its own right. It’s entirely about not worrying about the weeds and instead focusing on the beauty of what’s being cultivated.

The book’s main argument is a simple one: the problem isn’t that frugal living denies us pleasure, it’s that we’ve come to deeply associate pleasure and spending money. Coupled with our natural short-term perspective on things, it becomes second nature for many of us to become highly focused on short-term pleasure that can mostly only be accessed by spending money. That, my friends, is a recipe for financial disaster.

Furthermore, the book argues that there is a great deal of pleasure to be found in the practices of frugality solely on their own merit, even without directly considering the financial benefits of doing so. There are a great many frugal practices that people engage in that are deeply fulfilling and enjoyable even outside of the fact that they are very financially responsible, and that filling your life with those practices creates a deeply fulfilling life, often fulfilling in ways that more expensive routines cannot match.

I recently had a conversation with one of the authors of The Art of Frugal Hedonism, Annie Raser-Rowland, about the book and her own experiences with frugal hedonism.

The Simple Dollar: What inspired you to write The Art of Frugal Hedonism?

Annie Raser-Rowland: The inspiration for writing the book was that there was a lack of other books discussing the pleasure of frugality. Rather, books on frugality seemed to focus on martyrdom and sacrifice, focusing on money-saving reasons, environmental reasons and so forth. There was very little material I could find that said that frugality was its own reward.

What’s the most powerful single step someone could take to begin to appreciate frugal hedonism?

Walk more as a form of transportation. Walk to the store, walk to the homes of friends, walk through a park. It improves your mood. It improves your health. It encourages you to start observing the world around you and connects you with your immediate surroundings. It saves money and starts to reshape your mentality on being an autonomous being rather than being reliant on infrastructure. Slow down. Stop when you find an interesting view or a nice place to sit. Treat it as a pleasurable activity.

If walking isn’t accessible to you, cooking more of your food at home is another simple thing you can do. Find something that you love to eat and cook it for yourself. It’s a pleasure in and of itself and it cultivates a sense of being autonomous and providing for your own needs.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected frugal living in general and the ideas in your book in particular?

The pandemic has caused people to become more creative and curious as shutdowns have forced them to try new things in their own homes and yards that they may not have otherwise tried. However, human contact and socializing has become more difficult, and that human contact is an essential part of frugal hedonism. There’s no easy way around that.

A big theme in your book is to make frugality into a social thing by finding low-cost experiences to share with friends. What kinds of shared frugal activities with friends could readers try?

Have lunch or coffee at home with friends. Ask them to bring along a bag of secondhand stuff they’re considering getting rid of and everyone just takes what they want. Another idea: food preparation together is wonderful, but it was uncomfortable at first to ask.

In general, make sure the tasks are easy so that people can be social. It’s why people have Tupperware parties. It gives context to a social occasion, so instead of Tupperware, make pesto or preserve some fruit together! Get people to go on a walk and go somewhere unusual, like to a spot with a good or unusual view.

Too long, didn’t read?

The Art of Frugal Hedonism brings a fresh perspective to the subject of frugality, one that very rarely seems to come up in books covering frugal tactics: frugality, in and of itself, provides a great deal of pleasure. The pleasure that frugality brings to the table, though, is one that often isn’t prevalent in the modern world. It doesn’t center around the consumption of products and services, but rather around the pleasure of appreciating the world around you, the joy of social contact and the delight found in discovering your own way of doing things.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

Reviewed by

  • Courtney Mihocik
    Courtney Mihocik
    Loans Editor

    Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, and elsewhere.