Frugality: How the pandemic is changing our spending habits

Thursday July 22 2021

Shoppers in a supermarket. In hard times, one should spend money on only essential things. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA

By Charlotte Ninsiima

One of the biggest lessons we have learned from Covid-19 is to be frugal, there is no choice, we don’t get to vote on it.

The Economist refers frugality as one of the three principles of good management, whether in the best of times or the worst. Frugal doesn’t mean cheap, it means being economical with resources. Stretching what little assets you have, and coming up with an imaginative solution to a business problem.

Frugality is an integral part of wealth creation. We tend to delay it because of public opinion, trying to please other people.

During the recent National Social Security Fund (NSSF) webinar, themed ‘Frugality to wealth’, Ms Susan Kanyemibwa, the Central Bank secretary defined frugality as being prudent, disciplined, and economic with the resource allocation.

To Mr Charles Ocici, the executive director of Enterprise Uganda, it is a trait associated with every investor; maximising the reward from every resource that one has.

Frugal people plan, budget, and never take irrational decisions. Ms Kanyemibwa says a frugal person looks at how much they earn now and what the future will look like. As you plan or budget, you also factor in a line of saving a little for future use.


“A frugal person lives within or below means so that they are comfortable enough to afford a future tomorrow. You cut out a lot of expenses and wastage,” she says.

Frugality has got a medium-term outlook. All great investors have exhibited it because they deploy the resources economically and have retained the customer through value addition to the consumer of your solutions.

Frugal and acquiring wealth

There should be a disconnection between wealth creation and emotions.  Mr Ocici says when you get resources, pose any excitement or emotions and immediately allocate them for purposes of generating wealth that will stay.

“Wealth is when you apportion your salary into different percentages; 50 per cent for spending, 30 per cent to saving and investment, 10 per cent could go to charity, 10 per cent for an emergency fund. Wealth requires calmness when you are seeing money,” he says.

Frugality requires one to have a look at what they have and do the apportioning. It does not mean you hurt yourself but weigh in on what you can depend on and be happy with it.

“Procure what you need and then you can plan to procure what you want later. When you do that, you can set aside some resources. Saving alone is not good enough to invest in because there are vehicles for investments so that it grows and, in the process, you are creating wealth,” Ms Kanyemibwa says.

Breaching the dependency syndrome

Mr Ocici says never imagine you are a source of livelihood to the survival of people. Teach people to start a living on their own. The limited resources that you have, ought to be channeled differently for them to start using for modest investments. Savings should be directed to vehicles of investment to create sustainable income.

“By 40 years, one’s side income should earn at least 20 per cent of your current salary. It is very risky to be independent on one source of income. By the time you are 45, earnings should be 50 per cent. At 55 years, income from your side hustles should be 150 per cent and you can choose to concentrate on your side income. Financial disruption is a delicate thing at old age because obligations continue to come in.”


Frugality requires not to have a certain salary. It is a mindset thing on how to apportion income for a sustainable wealth creation momentum.

As a young person, whatever skill, resource, or competence you have, serves as your starting point.


Loans are part of any economy’s financial health. The borrower must know the purpose of the loan and where the resources for loan repayment will emanate from. Loans have no shortcut.

“Any debt contracted and one has no steady way of liquidating it, it disturbs your mind. As a professional, you will not be efficient, as a business you will not be focusing on serving the customer better. Scale down what created a debt so that you don’t try to plug this debt while you are creating another in a month,” Mr Ocici says.

Be proactive

According to Money Ning, the first habit to develop is to take responsibility. If you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself. Regardless of how you were raised or how you were treated at school, you can choose your behavior now.

Being proactive means understanding that you are in control of your day-to-day interactions, and thereby, the direction your life takes. This is in stark comparison to a reactive person, who is often affected by their environment and will find external sources to blame for their behaviour.

Begin with the end in mind

Those who are effective in achieving their goals can envisage their desired result despite the obstacles. Effective people adhere to this habit based on the principle that all things are created twice; there is first the mental creation, then the physical creation. The physical creation follows the mental creation the same way that a building follows its blueprints.

Put first things first

Knowing why you’re doing something is an incredible motivator in helping you transform a mental creation into the actual physical creation of your goal.

Ask yourself what things are that you find most valuable and worthy to you. When you put these things first, you’ll be organizing and managing your time around your personal priorities to make them a reality.


At its base, communication is the desire to be heard and understood. Most people will listen with the intention to reply to what you’re saying, rather than to understand what you’ve said. To effectively communicate, you need to first understand. If you communicate with the sole intention of being understood, you may ignore what others are saying and miss their meaning entirely.  Don’t just wait for your turn to talk; pay attention to what people are trying to tell you.