Battle for your happiness: frugality vs extravagance

Simple living is associated with wisdom and happiness, but is a taste for luxury really that reprehensible?
Simple living is associated with wisdom and happiness, but is a taste for luxury really that reprehensible?

After the excess of the holiday season with all the overeating, over-gifting, over-decorating, and overdoing it, you might find yourself thinking about living a little more simply.

Why not? After all, the virtues of frugality and simple living have been praised for, oh, a couple thousand years or so of philosophy. But if frugality and simple living is so good for us, then why can it be so hard to practice? Maybe the advice of those ancient philosophers who favoured frugality is ready for an upgrade.

Emrys Westacott
Emrys Westacott is a professor of philosophy at Alfred University in Alfred, New York. In his book The Wisdom of Frugality: Why Less is More -- More or Less, he takes us on a trip through the the ancient and modern views of frugality.

"What makes you happy? Well it's mainly the simple things," says Emrys "It's living in a good community, it's doing the kinds of things you like to do, not having to work too hard, and enjoying the simple pleasures, particularly good company and good conversation."

But in the book, Emrys also takes a look at the pros and cons of an extravagant outlook.

"For many people, life is rich and life has lots to offer but some of those things cost money," he says. "If you want to travel around the world, if you want to see great concerts and go to museums, then you may have to spend money to do that."

But he also notes one could argue that a lot of what we consider important culture, are actually testaments to extravagance. He cites Renaissance Italy as an example: "Anyone who goes to Italy probably sees things like the artworks in Florence, the sculptures of Michelangelo and all the rest of it, well those things cost money."

Win a copy of the book!

In the spirit of frugality we have a single copy of The Wisdom of Frugality to give away. Leave a comment below with your wisest piece of advice on how to be frugal and Emrys' book may end up on your bookshelf. And in the spirit of extravagance, if you're the winning entry, you'll get a free Spark notebook too! Don't write it all in one place!

Contest closes Thursday January 12, 2017 at 5:00pm Eastern. CBC contest rules apply.


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