Be Frugal, Be Happy

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Who knew that penny-pinching could be the secret to lifelong happiness?

We talk a lot about frugality on TreeHugger because we believe that it is intimately tied to living a green and sustainable life. By making do with less, you actively protest the rampant consumerism that afflicts our society and lessen (ever so slightly) the demand for new manufacturing and the extraction of resources.

We also love frugality because it makes people happier. Frugality, it has been shown time and again, does not make people feel limited or constricted; rather, it is phenomenally liberating, and with that liberation from financial concerns comes a great sense of happiness. Frugality improves people's quality of life, makes them feel more confident, and boosts their overall mood.

These benefits to frugality are being examined in an eight-week book study series on The Simple Dollar blog. Each week, Trent Hamm offers a detailed discussion about one chapter from "The Wisdom of Frugality" by Emrys Westacott. While I have not (yet) read the book myself, the articles are fascinating.

So, how exactly does frugality make one happier? Hamm gives numerous detailed responses in his latest article, but I'd like to draw attention to just a few key points.

1. It allows a person to work less and have more free time.

A frugal person does not need that much money to sustain their lifestyle, which means they don't need to put in as much at work to meet their needs. This opens up time to pursue activities one might find more pleasurable than work -- hobbies, sports, volunteering, etc. Perhaps your work is your passion, in which case work all you want! But there is a significant mental shift when you don't have to work for the money, but choose to do it because you love it.

2. It promotes serenity through detachment.

This point is particularly relevant in today's hyper-scheduled culture. The less you have to do, buy, or maintain, the fewer things you need to worry about and feel attached to. Your life will be less busy and less stressful, which creates mental space for serenity. Writes Hamm:

"The higher our standard of living, the more we feel attached to the things that we might lose – our expensive home, our expensive habits, and so on. Living simply counters that sense of attachment – we have less to lose. You can’t take away a person’s cultivated mind, their deep enjoyment of nature, or things like that."

3. It prepares a person for tough times.

You never know what the future will hold, which is why it's smart to be ready for anything. The crash of 2008 should be a reminder of that, and with ever-increasing global political instability and household debt at record levels (at least in Canada), now's as good a time as any to prepare for the worst. Do this by being frugal and industrious. Invest, save an emergency fund, buy insurance, establish a strong social network.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Hamm's insights into frugality and happiness, so I strongly urge you to read the (much longer) original post here.