thoughtfully prudent use of resources, not being wasteful

a.k.a. economy, efficiency, thrift

(This is another virtue whose definition seems to have shifted over time. When Cicero, in Tusculan Disuptations, describes frugality as combining fortitude, justice, and prudence in one package, says the cowardly man cannot be called frugal, and says frugality’s “peculiar property seems to be to govern and appease all tendencies to too eager desire after anything, to restrain lust, and to preserve a decent steadiness in everything,” he pretty clearly is talking about something other than the “frugality” we describe by that term in modern English… maybe something more like temperance?)

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • extravagance
  • miserliness (vice of excess)
  • niggardliness (vice of excess)
  • parsimony (vice of excess)
  • squandering
  • stinginess (vice of excess)
  • wastefulness

Virtues possibly in tension

How to acquire or strengthen it


Notes and links

Mentioned elsewhere

  • One of the 13 virtues on Ben Franklin’s list: “Make no expense but to good to others or yourself: i.e. waste nothing.” Franklin pairs frugality with industry as the two virtues best adopted for financial security: “[W]aste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do, and with them every thing.” (He also recommends the punctual and proactive payment of debts, as being a way of maintaining good credit. Is there a named-virtue for that?)
  • “Thrifty” is one of the virtues in the Boy Scout Law.
  • One of William De Witt Hyde’s virtues

Inspirational quotes

  • William Penn warns against taking frugality to the extreme of stinginess or miserliness: “Frugality is good, if liberality be joined with it. The first is leaving off superfluous expenses; the last bestowing them to the benefit of others that need. The first, without the last, begins covetousness; the last, without the first, begins prodigality. Both together make an excellent temper.”
  • “Frugality indeed looks forward, and round about; not only considers the man himself, but compassionates his family; knows, that when the exactest computation is made that can be beforehand, there will still be found many unforeseen desiderata in the calendar of his expenses; is apprehensive of the world, and accidents, and new occasions, that may arise, though they are not yet in being; and therefore endeavors wisely to lay in as much as may give him some kind of security against future wants and casualties, without which provision no man, whose sense is not quite lost or circumscribed within the present minute, can be very easy. To this end, it not only cuts off all profusion and extravagance, but even deducts something from that which, according to the present appearance, might be afforded—and chooses rather that he should live upon half allowance now, than be exposed (or expose anybody else) to the danger of starving hereafter, when full meals and former plenty shall make poverty and fasting more insupportable. But still it forbids no instance of generosity, or even magnificence, which is agreeable to the man’s station and circumstances, or (which is tantamount) to the truth of his case.” ―William Wollaston
  • Non intelligunt homines quàm magnum vectigal sit parsimonia “Men don’t understand how great a revenue sparingness is” (Cicero, Paradoxa Stoicorum).
  • “It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright.” ―Benjamin Franklin (as Poor Richard)