The solutions to many extraordinary worldwide problems can, perhaps, be found quite ordinarily through the application of a frugal living mindset.
Recently in my classroom, my students and I examined some of the most pressing problems in the world and also the idea that these problems will likely they be same ones for which they will need to find solutions as they get older. We looked at problems like world hunger, poverty, homelessness, terrorism, child labour, pollution, global climate change and a range of other important problems.
We then set out to categorize them as either environmental, economic, political, or social issues. At first, many of the issues seemed clear cut and easy to categorize. As we continued with our discussion, however, we soon started to discover that while some issues may have a predominant theme, they are all connected to the other themes as well.
A problem like global climate change, for example, may seem like a clearly ‘environmental’ issue. While it is true that global climate change is an environmental issue, it is also a much broader issue. Through discussion, we soon came to the realization that global climate change can also be driven by and result in an impact upon economic, political, and social areas as well. World issues are complex and interconnected. In a post I published several years ago, I outlined the core principles of a frugal living mindset. I believe that this mindset is an effective tool for helping to tackle these important issues both now and for the future. Our children need these skills.
Let me explain.
Independent Thinking and Decision-Making
One of the key principles of the frugal living mindset is independent thinking and decision-making. ‘Group think’ is encouraged by a social media world that favours attention-grabbing at the expense of deep contextual thinking. Social media has a tendency to polarize our thinking. It is easy to ‘like’ a post as a gesture in support of an idea or thought, but engagement with the issue often ends right there. Debate and meaningful discussion is often neglected.
A frugal mindset is predicated on independent thinking and decision-making. It removes itself from the limiters of seeking social approval and being ‘liked’. We do not need more ‘yes’ people and approval-seekers to solve the world’s problems. We need brave and novel thinkers who are able to look at problems both personally and holistically, to draw upon their own knowledge and experience, to make and act upon the many connections that are inherent to complex issues, and to be brave enough to follow through with their goals.
Frugal thinkers are great at doing this, as they often tend to plan and act with the end in mind while taking into account all the potential obstacles and supports. They are risk-takers and holistic thinkers, and this is built upon a high level of self-confidence and resulting willingness to move ‘against the grain’. Frugal thinkers can act as important agents of change and novel thinkers that can help provide alternative solutions to many of the world’s biggest problems by thinking independently and offering solutions outside of the ‘norm’.
Goal setting starts with deciding what you want and then setting a clear plan to get it. Frugal people are great at doing this because they are, by my definition, goal setters and achievers. They plan and work with a goal in mind and modify aspects of their plan as needed all along the way in order to achieve their goals.
We need goal setters and hard-working achievers in order to solve many of the world’s biggest problems. It is not enough to simply share a post or ‘like’ a comment. These basic actions are not enough. We need people to set goals, create a plan, and follow through with it. There is an underlying need for perseverance in order to make this work, and frugal-minded people persevere. They make sacrifices and decisions today that will help them to ultimately achieve their goals.
Frugal living solutions could offer something different to the current framework, by being more proactive, goal-driven, accountable, and purposeful.
Further complicating solving the world’s biggest problems, is the problem of overload and resulting ‘donor fatigue’. Social media is useful at sharing worthy causes and at soliciting support in order to help them. The problem is that there is simply an enormous amount of need in the world and this can be too much to many who are presented with endless worthy causes on a minute-by-minute basis through their Twitter and Facebook feeds. It can be too much.
Frugal people are skilled at prioritizing. They take the time to think about what is most important and prioritize these things in their lives. This is extremely useful and powerful as it allows effort and money to go towards supporting the things that really matter most. This is a purely subjective exercise, but it is personal, intentional, and purposeful. We will need to prioritize world issues and address them accordingly so as to focus our effort on achieving our ‘most pressing’ issues.
A frugal thinker, for example, may prioritize buying fair trade products and/or supporting local manufacturers and/or growers in order to help them achieve their own personal and global goals of promoting local self-sufficiency and/or helping to help solve the problem of income inequality in other parts of the world.
Viewing the Big Picture
People who have a frugal living mindset work hard at filtering out all the extraneous stuff so that they can have a clear view of the big picture. This helps to set meaningful goals and to find a plan that ‘works best’ for them in order to achieve them. In the context of the world’s biggest problems, it is easy to lose sight of the many threads that connect them. It is convenient to distil big problems into merely unconnected and/or special interests. Perhaps it is a subconscious coping mechanism.
The problem with this, however, is that we can actually work against solving these problems by entrenching and supporting our segmented views. When we look at big problems in these simplistic terms, we lose sight of the big picture. It is counterproductive for individuals to support the view that problem ‘A’ is purely political, because it can ignore the reality of complexity and, therefore, make solving the problem much more difficult (if not impossible).
A frugal living mindset focuses on the interactions between factors that can help or hinder progress towards achieving a goal. It seeks out synergies [more about this later].
When we look at a big global issue such a world poverty, for example, it is often defined as an economic and/or social issue. World poverty is an economic and social issue, but it is also an environmental and political issue. The best solutions to this problem will look at the interactions between these issues and use a holistic approach.
People will do whatever it takes to feed themselves and their families. In an economic sense, disparity of wealth can drive people to desperate measures. They will find a way to get what they need. This can result in rapid environmental degradation as well as social unrest and resulting political upheaval. Solving world poverty requires an approach that takes these factors into account. It requires a holistic view.
For too long, world poverty has been seen as an issue that can be solved by donating food to poor people or by providing interest-bearing loans to their governments by richer nations vis-à-vis the IMF and World Bank. This is a short-sighted and piecemeal approach that does not work. In fact, it can be argued that such an approach actually exacerbates the underlying issues by further increasing the inequitable distribution of wealth.
Any plan to solve world poverty must provide opportunities for families to become self-sufficient. There are many ways to do this, and it is not my intention to offer a detailed plan of action here, but rather to contend that you cannot solve a complicated problem like this without looking at the whole picture. A frugal living, big picture mindset, is an ideal paradigm for helping to tackle issues like these once and for all.
Frugal minded thinkers can use this awareness by thinking about why a t-shirt made in Bangladesh costs $2.00 while a Canadian-made t-shirt costs $30.00. Inputs into making a t-shirt are equal; you need materials, design, and labour. It is a difference in how these inputs are priced that make the difference in the checkout price. Your purchases have political, economic, social, and environmental impacts. Frugal minded thinkers understand this.
Wanting to Learn More and To Understand Things
The prevalent decontextualization of information in our social media world has made understanding the complexity of many issues more challenging. Yes, we do have increased access to lots of information like never before, but it is often presented to us as snippets and soundbites. In a world oversaturated with information, it is the attention-grabbing qualities of a headline that often win out over context and in-depth analysis.
Frugal minded individuals may find this ‘information overload’ to be a source of cognitive dissonance. There can be a potential conflict between the amount of information available and the oftentimes contradictory or triviality of information surrounding many important global issues.
Fortunately, frugal minded people are good at undertaking purpose-driven research so that they can formulate a sensible plan. They do this regularly when setting personal and investment goals and tend to be very thoughtful and thorough in their research. Frugal people take the time to do so, because these and other issues are important to them. They realize that conducting careful research is fundamental to achieving their goals.
This same thinking is what drives frugal minded people to seek real value versus only looking at the initial ‘cost’ of something. Oftentimes, it is the more initially expensive item that represents better value in the long term. You can only do this effectively when you have a good understanding and knowledge of the things that drive prices and real ultimate value.
Looking For Synergies
You may have heard of the classic idiom “killing two birds with one stone”. Frugal minded people are great at finding solutions that solve multiple problems simultaneously. They look for elegance in solutions by seeking out synergies.
Tackling a big problem like world hunger, for example, will not only prevent people from dying and improve their overall health (social), but it will improve the overall economic health of the countries they live in by reducing the need to alleviate hunger at a governmental level. Promoting self-sufficiency through food security will also have political impacts, by increasing the overall level of well-being and happiness in any given country. It will also have positive environmental impacts, as poor individuals will no longer be driven to gain food security by any means necessary (oftentimes at the expense of the environment).
Looking at big problems as also potential big solutions to a broad range of problems, is a positive and powerful mindset. It makes us think carefully about how to best prioritize issues and to focus on a broad range of potentially positive outcomes by seeking out synergies. Embracing a frugal living mindset can help us to solve world problems by helping us to understand the interconnectedness of many issues, to formulate a plan that takes advantage of synergies, and to help us maintain a strong focus on the outcomes we hope to achieve.
We are facing a wide range of world problems that must be solved. The ‘old ways’ of dealing with them through the promotion of piecemeal agendas, self-interest, and narrow-minded thinking are not working. We require a new mindset and approach to dealing with these pressing issues. Perhaps the foundations of frugal minded thinking are a good alternative.
You can adopt frugal living ideas in your own lives and can further expand this thinking in new ways to help solve major global issues. No, these problems are not at all simple or easy to solve, but a frugal mindset could be a fundamental change in the right direction. Check out The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Frugal People to get started in transforming your own life. You can also examine How Frugal Living Benefits Children in order to help them develop this very elegant and powerful mindset as well.
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Jason @ froogalism.com
Author: Jason Milburn Google