Frugal Chic


I touched on this subject last year, but it seems even more timely now.

 Here are a few ideas to live frugally but chicly. I know there are many, many more:


Value experiences over “things


Living a frugal chic lifestyle means spending your leisure time with friends lingering over a cafe au lait at the neighborhood coffeeshop instead of meeting that same friend for a shopping excursion at the mall.



It seems many Europeans — especially French and Italians in particular — agree.


“Our next vacation means much more to us than a new car and we would never sacrifice the former for the latter except in case of dire necessity. Give us being and feeling over having any day,” — Mireille Guiliano of French Women Don’t Get Fat.


Many Europeans have had to be frugal — credit is not as easily obtained there and people are unable to spend money they don’t have. It is very eurochic to only spend what you can afford and to save up for something special. Having less access to credit, encourages Europeans to prioritize their spending for maximum satisfaction.


In C’est La Vie, the author writes, “People in France made less money than those in the Unites States but still lived better — partly because of this slower pace of life, partly because of the cultural importance of a good meal (with good wine, bien sur) and partly because with less discretionary income, priorities were better defined. If a French peson had to choose between new clothes or a concert ticket, the ticket usually won out.”


Choose quality over quanity

This applies to everything you own: kitchen accoutrements, knicknacks, bed linens, dishes, art objects and especially clothes! American women tend to go overboard clothes shopping. Conversely, European women do not. They also do not feel the need to  wear a new outfit for each day of the week. I actually have more than one relative who keeps a chart of what they wear each day so they don’t duplicate outfits. I’m afraid I must disappoint them greatly. Europeans, instead, invest in quality and wear their “good clothes” over and over again. In his book Freakin’ Fabulous, Clinton Kelly observed how the French did this shamelessly.


“… by the time Friday rolled around people were wearing the same outfits they wore on Monday! … they cared more about quality than quantity … they actually paid more for clothes that fit them well and wore them more often.”


If you notice, in most French or Italian movies, the characters will be dressed in the same outfit in different scenes. In “Happily Ever After” the stylish Charlotte Gainsbourg wore the same tweed slacks, silk blouse and dark cardigan in several scenes over several days. Observation of my European friends has shown this is true to life. Europeans wear outfits repeatedly with style and flair.


I’ve mentioned this on my blog before, but it bears repeating:


In the book “Simple Isn’t Easy” the authors quote a French architect saying “American closets shock me. So much, too much. No one can dress well with so many clothes.”


In the same book, shoe designer Manolo Blahnik says, “It is a question of selection, to choose less. That is something that Americans do not understand. They think that more is better.”


clothesitaly.jpgclotheslinevenice1.jpg  Living Green is Frugal Chic

 Frugality dovetails nicely with taking care of the earth. Many habits that will save you money are also good for the environment.

— Cloth napkins. It is chic to use cloth napkins, but it also saves you money you would spend on paper towels or napkins.

— Using canvas totes or baskets when marketing is chic and earth friendly. One of my local grocers actually gives shoppers a 5 cent credit for each bag they bring from home. And what feels chicer than strolling the Farmer’s Market with a French market basket slung over your shoulder filled with locally grown produce, flowers and artisan cheeses.

 — Line-drying your clothes can save you money and prolong the life of your clothing and linens.

 — Walking and bicycling as often as possible is good for you body, spirit and pocketbook. I love to walk or bike to the market, the library, the cafe and to buy wine.

 — Grow your own vegetables and herbs. Tres chic and very European. Frugality at its best, in my book.

 — Avoiding waste. Recycle. We get a credit on our utility bill for doing so. Buy in bulk to cut down on packaging while saving money. Shop your own kitchen cabinets and refrigerator before marketing. Find creative ways to use every bit of a food item that you can.

In a 2003 Washington Post article, Marcia M. Mitchell writes about being “French and Frugal” and how the French housewife “squeezes every tasty bite, every nourishing drop, every last crumb of sustenance from the carefully considered contents of her market basket.

“Nothing — I repeat nothing — will be wasted.  When she puts out the family trash at the end of the week, it could fit into a coffee can.”

Mitchell’s article mentions using chicken carcasses for soup and turning overripe fruit into dessert toppings.

While living in France, Mitchell said her own kitchen habits were transformed:

“Now I find myself giving serious attention to stuff I used to throw away with aristocratic nonchalance. It’s not just a matter of having to pinch my Euro-pennies in tight times, it’s also about being resourceful and adventuresome.”