How the 7 Deadly Sins Warn Us to Live Frugally

Yes, you read correctly. Surprisingly, the 7 Deadly Sins, though originally intended to warn against eternal damnation, do point out the negative aspects of not living frugally as well. By avoiding these deadly sins, you should find yourself saving money (in addition to the benefit of living a good and honest life).

Also known as Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, the 7 Deadly Sins were originally classified to educate and instruct followers in early Christian times about immoral human tendencies. The list of 7 has changed drastically over time, from biblical times to modern day. Through the list’s many transformations, the 7 were finally agreed upon as the following: gluttony, lust, sloth, greed, envy, wrath and pride.

While the sins were outlined way back in the Book of Proverbs, their influence is seen everywhere: in art, poetry, plays, movies, and more. Dante wrote about the sins in his famous work “The Divine Comedy,” in which he described how some of the sins lead directly to the circles of hell (scary stuff). Later than that, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the sins in “The Parson’s Tale” which was a part of the renowned The Canterbury Tales. As a modern day example, some of you may recall Brad Pitt in the 1995 movie Se7en where a serial killer targets victims who are guilty of each deadly sin.

So what do the sins have to do with saving money, you may ask. It turns out that by doing the exact opposite of these mortal sins, you should find yourself living a pleasantly frugal lifestyle. If these vices have been a source of inspiration for writers, artists and more, why not for frugalistas? Let’s take a look at the 7 Deadliest Sins and discover the financial benefits of avoiding them.

Gluttony

Gluttony refers to over-indulgence or over-consumption to the point of waste. DeadlySins.com refers to gluttony as “the inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.” In other words, eating more than you need to eat is considered a big no-no. Spending too much money on too much food is gluttonous. Food in excess and creating waste is gluttonous. In the United States, a country that has the highest obesity rate and is used to the option of “supersizing,” we are surrounded by opportunities to be gluttonous.

So eating just as much as you need and being mindful of waste is what should be done instead according to the sins. Sort of sounds like a frugal concept, doesn’t it?

In Christian religions, gluttony is considered a sin because excessive desire and consumption of food takes away from the needy. This reminds me heavily of a common phrase I’ve heard often, especially from parents: “Finish your food! There are starving people in the world!” Food isn’t easy to get in all places of the world, so we should respect the fact that we are able to eat and therefore consume what we need to consume to remain happy and healthy. If you have an excess of food (i.e. canned goods that you’re not using) you could donate them to a food drive, for example.

In order to avoid gluttony, take the frugal route. Eat what is necessary and don’t create waste. Save leftovers and transform them into other meals. Apart from avoiding the sin of gluttony and blowing up like a balloon, you’ll also save money.

Lust

Lust is usually attributed to sexuality, for the typical definition of lust as outlined by descriptions of the deadly sins portray it as an inordinate craving for pleasures of the body. In modern times, however, lust is often contrasted with love; love being an emotion of strong affection and attachment while lust is the initial sexual desire brought about by appearance and physical attraction.

How does this apply to frugality? Stay with me, friends.

While out shopping, how many times have you fallen in love with a coat or a comforter or an appliance that just looks like a dream? Sure, the price is astronomical, but you can visualize that one thing looking fabulous on you or in your home. Without even checking out its features, composition, etc., you’ve fallen in love with that product and you just have to have it. Sounds pretty lustful to me.

Just as with people, what’s important is on the inside. Corny, yes. But true. Belongings are not all about physical appearance. Functionality, usability, and such things are much more important when dealing with clothing, appliances, etc. In the end, who cares if you don’t have the perfect-looking washing machine as long as it is functional and energy efficient? Why would you get a beautiful bright red Ferrari convertible if you live in a place that only has two months of true summer?

It’s easy to get caught up in appearances. I’m not saying that looks don’t matter, but lustful behavior is dangerous. Make sure to at least try and do your research before falling in “love,” both with people and with things, and making an investment or a purchase.

Greed

This deadly sin may have the most obvious tie-in for our purposes. Greed, the excessive desire and pursuit of wealth, status and power, is widely acknowledged as a very negative human characteristic. Greed is much like gluttony, except that it refers more to material possessions and wealth.

Greedy people are never happy with what they have. They have a constant desire for more. The things that they have are not necessarily the things that they need; they are the things that they want. Frugal people, on the other hand, are able to tell the difference between what they want and what they need. They resist the urge to have more just for the sake of having more.

The key to avoiding greed is keeping in mind what is necessary in life. Sure, you can also have treats that you absolutely don’t need that just make you happy. That doesn’t necessarily make you greedy. For example, I don’t need to own a keyboard, but I enjoy playing and practicing, so I believe my investment was justified. However, if I bought a grand piano just to have the best of the best (and I don’t use my piano that often, and I’m not that great at playing the piano anyway), that would probably constitute greedy behavior. If you start buying things just to own the most things or the best things, you may need to take reflective a look at your life and your choices.

Sloth

Sloth refers to laziness or indifference, or the avoidance of work (whether physical or spiritual). This may be the most passive of the deadly sins, for it refers to the lack of something, not the act of something. As we all know, though, indifference and laziness can be a curse for people hoping to save money everywhere.

If you’re not willing to do a bit of work and research when it comes to shopping or acquiring items (big things like appliances or cars, and even small things like bathroom accessories) then you are certainly not going to find the best deals and discounts. If you’re too lazy to fix small problems around your home, they will most likely grow into big, expensive problems. If you don’t even try to DIY when possible, you’ll waste money on professional services.

Remaining active and avoiding melancholy will undoubtedly save you money in many cases. So while sloth may be the least sinful of the deadly sins, it may save you a great deal to avoid the pitfall of indifference.

Wrath

So admittedly, this is the most difficult sin to connect to frugality. Wrath, or anger, involves uncontrolled feelings of hatred, impatience, revenge or rage. Now, being happy as opposed to being angry all the time will ensure that you have a better life emotionally, but I can’t say that it will save you much money.

However, acting off of feelings of impatience or anger may lead you to do things that you’ll regret later. Much like with crimes of passion, strong emotions often prevent logic in situations. I have no experience with the following, but the first thing that comes to mind is divorce. So strong are feelings and emotions here that they can completely interfere with plans and logical decisions about money, property and belongings. I can’t say that these strong emotions are always avoidable, but it is good to be mindful of how emotions can alter our decisions. The sin of wrath can at least warn us about the dangers of leading with our hearts rather than our heads when it comes to money matters.

Envy

Envy is not only the desire for other people’s traits, statuses, abilities or situations. It also involves sorrow for another person’s “good.” People who are envious are usually described as being “green with envy” or as being influenced by the “green-eyed monster.”

People who are envious of their neighbor’s wealth or situation are more likely to try and “keep up with the Jones'” which is a way to find yourself in some serious debt. According to a study done by Yahoo! Finance, over 43% of Americans live beyond their means. I’m willing to bet that many of these people do this to keep up appearances. They want to appear richer than they are to others. But why?

Envy is a very strong deadly sin. The lesson we can learn from people who find themselves overcome with envy is to try and be content and be able to work with what we have. You may not live in a mansion with big iron gates, but then again, you may live in a perfectly comfortable house and not have to deal with piles and piles of debt.

It’s only natural to be jealous of Mr. and Mrs. Next-Door Neighbor’s beautiful home and luxury car, but that’s because there is one major difference between jealousy and envy. Envy is definitely more malicious. It involves rejoicing in the misfortune of others or lamenting others’ achievements and good situations. That’s just plain mean, people.

There is no need to be envious of those around you. Don’t perceive yourself as lacking or deprived. Focus on your own situation and what works for you. The best that you can have and create for yourself may be a better situation than the “millionaire” drowning in their own debt next door. Who knows?

Pride

This mortal sin is sometimes referred to as the root of all other sins. Pride can be defined as vanity, the excessive belief in one’s own abilities, or the desire to be more attractive or important than others. Pride, to me, can result in a failure to acknowledge the good work, resourcefulness, or helpfulness of others.

I’m reminded strongly of the stereotype that men hate to ask for directions (not necessarily true, of course, gentlemen). Instead, they’ll drive around, waste gas, and get lost just to prove that they didn’t need help. There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, there are tons of situations in which you’ll save money if you do. Just think of sharing services or tools with neighbors, carpooling, and clothing swaps. Others can help you and you can help others. Don’t let excessive pride get in the way of money savings!

Also, pride can be a big contributing factor in getting oneself into debt. If you’re in debt and you have too much pride to reach out and ask for help (i.e. credit counseling or budget planning assistance), then you’ll most likely find yourself in a whole lot of financial trouble. Admitting that you need help is the first step to remedying problems and handling excessive debt.

Other Sins

There were other sins that didn’t quite make the list of 7; extravagance (the frequent purchase of luxury goods) and acedia (neglect to take care of something one should do) among them. These other sins also warn of the pitfalls of anti-frugal living. Even though these sins were mostly defined to point the way to damnation in religions around the world, they surprisingly provide us with modern money-saving advice. Thankfully, you’re not likely to burn in eternal fires if you don’t live a frugal lifestyle, but it may help to use the sins as outline for what not to do and how not to act in order to save.

What examples have you seen where these sins tie into frugality? Do you have any other “sin,” emotion or behavior examples that encourage frugality? We’d love to here your ideas. Thanks for reading and, as always, thanks for being a Tip Hero!

Photo credit: LC Photography