Isn’t it funny how each of us can view a certain word or phrase one way, while someone else can view it in a completely different way?  Take the word frugal for example.  What is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word frugal?

Do you immediately picture a little old lady living on Social Security sitting at her kitchen table cutting out coupons to make ends meet?

Or perhaps you see a cheapskate of a man living a Spartan existence because he refuses to open his wallet.  He’s probably wearing 3 sweaters so he doesn’t have to turn on the heat and sits in the dark all night to avoid using any electricity.

Depending on your point of view, either of those people could be called frugal (though for that second example I think I’d lean more toward crazy).  But to me, being frugal is defined a little bit differently.

I think living a frugal lifestyle is all about setting priorities and making smart choices.  You have to sit down and think about what is really important to you.  That could mean cooking exotic meals at home, traveling from one corner of the world to the next, or just spending time at home with a fun hobby.

Once you set your priorities and decide what is most important to you (after all your basic needs are met of course) then frugal living all comes down to making smart choices.  If you live below your means and spend less than you earn, you’ll have plenty of money to put toward those things you care most about.

Obviously if you want to maximize the amount you can spend on the most important things, you’ll probably want to minimize what you spend on the less important things.  That’s where those smart choices come in!

For example, let’s say you’re an aspiring chef.  You need to have good cooking utensils, pots, pans, and so on.  You also need quality ingredients including exotic things that the neighborhood supermarket might not carry.  If cooking restaurant quality meals at home is one of your priorities than you will need to budget more for food than someone who is happy with a box of mac and cheese.

But that’s ok.  If cooking is your priority it only makes sense that it takes up a bigger chunk of your budget.  You can still be frugal.  Just make sure that you reduce spending in other categories to make up for the extra large grocery bill.  For example, since you spend so much time in the kitchen you might not have time to watch a lot of television.  In that case you can quit spending a fortune on the Super Duper Deluxe Movie Package and stick with just the basic channels.  Take the money you save on movies and put it toward buying more delicious ingredients.

Do you see what I mean about priorities and smart decisions?  There’s no need to deprive yourself of all things fun in the name of frugality.  Just choose what is most important and cut out the rest.