(This is an excerpt from my book, The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living.)
I’m willing to bet that it’s not just me.
Even though frugality has changed my life for the better and allowed me to afford things I never should be able to on my income, sometimes I chafe at the restrictions.
Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time, frugality is fun. Cheapskatery is a challenge that I relish. Doing something for free or cheap that other people spend money on gives me a little rush and I feel like I’ve “won.”
But every once in awhile, I wish I could spend freely without worrying about tomorrow. Sometimes, I want to go crazy at the grocery store and buy stuff because I want it, not because it’s on sale. Occasionally, I would like to splurge without the guilt.
When I feel like that, my motivation to do the activities that keep things cheap is about zero.
Do you ever lose your frugal mojo? These tips will help you stay motivated.
Give yourself a break.
Sometimes we all need it. Look in your budget and see if there is room for a little splurge. I find that for me, the best splurges are activities and not things most of the time. If I go buy something, often it only makes me happy for an hour or two. (Like a little kid with too many Christmas presents.)
Obviously, there are some things that prove this wrong – yarn, for example, gives me a long period of enjoyment because not only do I get to spend time making something, I get to enjoy the something I made, too.
But for the most part, if I’m going to spend some money, I grab my daughter and we head out on a road trip to have a little adventure. We might grab a meal out while we’re gone, and we’ll do something, like touring a cavern or visiting a historic place. Then, you are out and enjoying yourself on a carefree day while making memories with the people you love.
I always still handle money carefully and don’t allow this to give me permission to go hog wild. I withdraw cash from the ATM in the amount that I plan to spend and use my debit card ONLY in the case of an emergency.
Think about your goal.
Whatever your goal is, whether it’s early retirement, one parent staying home with the kids, being debt-free, putting your kid through college, leaving your job to go back to school, or moving to a dream location, keep that goal front and center. (In the next article, I’ll share the specifics of my own goal and exactly how I plan to get there.)
Find pictures that represent your goal and put them everywhere. Nothing keeps your motivation higher than a glimpse at the reason you’re living this life.
Think about what happens if you quit.
Sometimes a little negative reinforcement is in order, too.
What if you stop your frugal momentum? Will you be in the same place doing the same thing in five years instead of reaching your dream? Will the interest on your debt have stacked up to the point that paying it off will be a lot more daunting? Will you lose important things, like your home or car? Will your child have to go into debt for his or her education?
Knowing what you DON’T want is every bit as important as knowing what you DO want.
Spend time with like-minded people.
Okay, let’s face it. There’s nothing that makes you feel worse than going places with a spendthrift who is worse than a frat boy with a keg trying to get all the girls to have “just one more drink.”
Peer pressure is not the sole problem of teenagers and college kids. With adults, it’s just as bad, especially when you consider that those adults trying to get you to “live a little” may just want some justification for their own bad spending habits.
And it isn’t only friends who can make you feel bad. I remember when I was a young mom going out with some relatives. They didn’t really understand how desperate my financial situation was, and they’d constantly point out “great deals” for my little one and look at me disapprovingly when I didn’t snap them up. I felt HORRIBLE after a day out with them because, even though it was unintentional, their constant urging to spend when I had nothing available left me feeling guilty and embarrassed.
The joy of like-minded friends is that they don’t want to go out and frivolously spend money any more than you do. You can go to each other’s homes and enjoy a fresh-baked muffin and a cup of coffee and nobody is chomping at the bit to go to Starbucks and spend $10 apiece on the same treat. They’ll be your partner in crime going to yard sales and thrift stores. They will cheer on your cheap solutions instead of staring at you with their mouths agape in horror.
Indulge in frugality “porn.”
No, get your mind out of the gutter. By “porn” I mean immerse yourself in frugality. Find websites to check out. Reread this book. Go to Pinterest and search up budget-friendly DIYs. Read Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette yet again.
The last thing you want to do is watch regular TV with all the commercials for things you don’t need or flip through a magazine with all manner of designer things that cost more than you make in a month. Marketers go to school for a long time to learn how to make you want things you don’t need.
I like to keep a list of web destinations that will make me feel good about my frugal lifestyle. There are all sorts of sites out there dedicated to upcycling and frugal living that will make you feel inspired just looking at them.
Think about how much better off you are now that you’re in thrift mode.
This one is kind of mean, but also incredibly satisfying. If ever you’re feeling like the last kid picked for the dodgeball game, sit there and add up what other people are spending on things you get cheaply or for free.
Indulge for a moment in a feeling of superiority as you calculate their probably monthly budget and compare it to what you figure they make for a living. Then think about how much debt they must be in to live their current lifestyle. If you resist the urge to rub it in their spendy little faces, nobody is hurt by this exercise and you’ll feel smug and happy.
Hey, I warned you it was kind of mean, but be honest – wasn’t it fun?
Remember how great thrift is for the environment.
Instead of focusing on being cheap, think about the environment.
The awesome side effect of hardcore frugality is that it is much better for Mother Earth. We aren’t out there buying stuff in plastic packaging to be discarded each week. Most of us put far less garbage out to the curb than our spendier friends. We buy things from thrift stores and yard sales that would otherwise be on the way to a landfill.
We are like Neighborhood Greenpeace with our thrifty ways, right?
Give to others.
While things may be tight in your life right now, it’s a pretty sure bet that there are other people who are in worse shape. Realizing this will make you feel fortunate instead of morose about your own situation.
Do you have some pantry goods that you could spare to help somebody less fortunate? Is there a good deed you could do, like mowing the elderly neighbor’s lawn for her? Many people think that frugality rules out generosity, but I think it is just the opposite. It makes you really think about how hard it is to get by in the world these days and that makes you a much more compassionate person.
Even when I was incredibly broke, each week when we went to the grocery store, I would get my girls to pick out a package of pasta and a can of sauce to put in the food bank box near the exit of the store. We figured that would provide a warm meal to somebody that might not have one, and for the $2 it cost at the time, it was one small thing we could do for others. This helped my daughters too because if you are able to help others, you can’t possibly be that badly off, right?
What about you?
Do you ever get unmotivated? Do you ever find it difficult to stick to your frugal ways?
How do you crank up your thrifty mojo when you just want to spend money like everybody else does? Share your best tips in the comments.
(If you enjoyed this, please check out my book, The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living.)