Wealth in Proportion – Learn to Live a Frugal Life

When you learn to take wealth in proportion, it can change your whole outlook on money.  Henry David Thoreau says it best:

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden

street sign pole with three options - Wealth, Health, Happiness

Although I consider myself an extremely wealthy woman, by society’s standards I ‘don’t have a pot to pee in, nor a window to throw it out of’.

Sorry for the crassness, but that is the way we are viewed quite often. If, in fact, we are talking cold hard cash, then those who look down their noses at us are probably right. But to use a familiar cliché, they are guilty of judging a book by its cover.

a set of balance scales with 'wants' on one side and 'needs' on the other

How to Live with Proportions

To live a simple and frugal life and be as sustainable as possible, you look at wealth in proportion. Think of a set of scales that are balanced.

On one side, you may have to give up quite a bit of the ‘new and improved’ versions of material possessions. In order to have ‘everything’ there is a frenetic quality to life – always working harder, longer hours to make enough money to have them.

But to balance out a lack of material possessions, you gain more than you give up. The latest technology may not be in your pocket, but your garden is overflowing with fresh food. You spend more time enjoying life, rather than accumulating more stuff.

Wealth in Frugality

woman's hands holding a wicker basket filled with tomatoes, radishes, carrots, peppers, and other vegetables

The three R’s (reuse, repurpose, recycle) are your mantra, with the first two being dominant. Around here, we apply these three so much, there isn’t enough left over to send to the recycling plant.

It isn’t much a matter of being ‘green’, but a matter of having enough money left over at the end of the month to keep the lights on and the animals fed. So, we use things until they no longer work for their intended purpose.

If there is enough left over, we repurpose what remains until there is so little left it is tossed in the compost pile. Which in turn, feeds our vegetable gardens, which fills our pantries and our bellies!

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Being frugal also means to think twice about what you purchase. I want a new spinning wheel, but when I balance the cost to the income we have and the outgo that slips through our fingers before the check clears the bank, I know a wheel is a dream that will just have to wait awhile.

Instead, I will spend that money on supplies for the farm and plenty of vegetable seeds. Having those is like having pure gold!

If I want something new, I always have to ask myself

  • Can it produce an income?
  • Is it absolutely necessary?
  • Does it have long-term benefits?

A spinning wheel doesn’t fit any of the three (but I can try hard to justify #3 with the Sanity plea – crafting is relaxing and helps me to maintain that sanity!)

What is Wealth…Really?

white 3-deck yacht in calm waters with a tree-filled hill in the background

If money is what makes you wealthy, my question is, what are you going to do if you lose your job? There are many a ‘rich’ people who show that wealth on the outside with an accumulation of stuff – new boats, the latest model vehicle, designer clothes, and the latest greatest gadgets.

However, if you took a close look at their finances…let’s just say I would hate to be them if they ever lost their job. Their debt ratio is out of this world.

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I may not have much in the way of material possessions, but we are so close to not owing anyone anything that I could care less about having a new boat. (The Country Boy, however, is still drooling about having a yacht in the pond, kinda like the uncles in Secondhand Lions. Sigh…)

My wealth doesn’t come from the size of my bank accounts, or the value of my land. And I don’t feel I have to show it by having a useless yacht.

My wealth comes from living a life of hard work. I can come inside in the evenings and have a heart that is full because I know I did my best and it shows.

Where True Wealth Comes From

a nest of fresh eggs in colors of white, cream, brown, blue and pink

Wealth in proportion comes from contentment. I don’t have the stress of keeping up with the Jones’, and am happy with what I have, rather than worrying about what I don’t have.

My wealth comes from a God who loves me enough to give me the talents I have to make this Simple Life work. And Who loves me enough to tell me a firm ‘NO!’ when I go off on one of my want tangents.

True wealth comes from my heart, not from what others tell me it is. And if I am going to have an accumulation of anything, I prefer the accumulation of eggs in the nest boxes, ready to gather.

Give it Some Thought

rustic barn with rusted tin roof

Think about this the next time you see someone who makes you wish you ‘had what they have’. Will it really make you happy? Is it going to add to the contentment of your life? Or will it just feed your need to look good to others?

I will admit – our place would never make it to ‘Farmitectural’ Digest. But it is a farm. It is open space with a beauty all its own. It is calming, chaotic, fun, exasperating, heartbreaking and joy-filled, sometimes all at once.

But it is our life, and I have learned the art of seeing wealth in proportion to what we have. And I thank God every day for it.

Monetary wealth? All fine and good. We could use a new barn right about now. But in the long run, I am just happy with where I am, who I am and what I have. I’ll leave the rest of it up to God.

Tips for adding Wealth to your Life

tan and white rooster with a red comb standing in a green pasture

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. This is a wonderful attitude! I don’t live on a farm, but I do spend quite a bit of time making food from scratch, line-drying my laundry, and similar tasks that I don’t “have” to do when I could pay to have it done for me–but by not paying for these things, I have more financial freedom so that I can hold out for jobs I really want to do rather than selling my soul for a higher income. I also avoid buying new, full-priced stuff or “convenience size” packages but do without many things and look for bargains on others.

    This morning, my first-grader’s teacher told the kids to take 20 minutes away from their remote-learning screens and read a book. She wanted to read aloud to me The Tiny Seed, a book we got free in a Cheerios box when her now 15-year-old brother was a preschooler. It’s really just a little staple-bound pamphlet, but the beautiful illustrations are in full color, and our family has enjoyed that book hundreds and hundreds of times! THAT is wealth!

    1. I love your outlook on life, Becca! I agree whole-heartedly. And I will certainly check out the story you recommended!

  2. I worked my whole life in educational positions. I made a good salary but nothing that would qualify as wealthy. Now I live on the retirement income I paid into. Again, not wealthy but ample enough to live a comfortable and fun filled life. – Margy

  3. Julie,
    I enjoyed this post immensely…even though I am about as far from living on a farm as one can be…..Everything you mentioned in this post about living frugally and be applied to preparing for retirement. Both my husband and I retired early at 62 years old and living frugally was how we prepared and we still continue to do so..Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Thank you, Debbie! It is also a post near and dear to my own heart. We are still working on our retirement plans, but are getting very close. Living frugally doesn’t mean ‘living without’. Instead, it is enriching in so many ways!!!

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