The frugal lifestyle isn’t about skimping and self-denial. It’s about making your life easier and worrying less about money. Follow these tips to begin your journey.
The most common question I get about living a frugal lifestyle is, “does it actually make you happier?” People wonder how denying yourself free spending could lead to anything but misery. After I talk to them about what a frugal lifestyle means and what it can achieve, their question isn’t why but HOW!
The frugal lifestyle isn’t about self-denial and sacrifice, it’s about saving what can be saved and an awareness of your own spending habits.
I can tell you that since I’ve embraced the frugal lifestyle, it has opened up a whole new world and my credit rating has never been higher. I am no longer restricted by my income because I know how to spend and how to save. I actually feel more freedom and less stress, because finally I am able to meet my obligations and save for my future.
Your frugal lifestyle needs a reason
While a frugal lifestyle may eventually lead to less stress and more money, it’s never easy to change your spending habits. Try doing it without a reason and you’re likely to fall on old ways.
Why do you want to live the frugal lifestyle and live on less? Is it to retire early or buy your dream home? Maybe you’d like to travel more or maybe you just want to stop worrying about money. I spent more than 50 years worrying about money, arguing about money and just not having enough money. I can tell you that the frugal lifestyle is a huge relief and has made my life easier.
Whatever your own personal catalyst, write it down. Keep pictures of your dream goals around the house or the office. Having a visual goal is extremely important. You’ll also need to keep track of your progress to stay motivated. Check your budget savings after each month to see how much you saved and where you could have improved.
It takes between eight and 12 weeks to form a new habit so don’t expect change overnight. Set a frugal lifestyle goal of three months. Push yourself and stay motivated for at least that long and you’ll form some great spending habits that will feel more natural.
Ease slowly into a frugal lifestyle. It´s can be like so many New Year’s resolutions or it can be the way to a new life.
The frugal lifestyle and keeping your budget
Like I said, I haven’t always been the Frugal Grandma. I rarely pay full price for something now and would like to say I’m a pretty good negotiator but it hasn’t always been the case. Before I made a commitment to the frugal lifestyle and really looked at my budget, I had no idea where my money was going.
If you don’t already have a budget worksheet, I like the one provided by Kiplinger which is customizable for your income and expenses.
It’s important to use actual expenses when you’re working through your budget. Use the past three months of bills so you have a good average of what you’re paying out each month. Don´t forget to factor in discretionary money for you to spend. A frugal lifestyle is about living on less, not feeling deprived.
Now total all your earnings from all sources. After you subtract your earnings, this is the amount you have left over at the end of the month. Go over your budget and determine where you are willing to make sacrifices to get out of debt.
If you’re stuck for ideas on how to save money, check out our huge resource roundup post with expert ideas from 40 personal finance bloggers.
Remember this is a journey, not a quick fix so resist the temptation to cut your spending to the bone and become a frugal hermit. It’s more important to set realistic financial goals and a budget you can keep rather than setting unrealistic goals and then falling back on old spending habits.
What if a frugal lifestyle is still not enough?
If you’ve worked through your budget, cutting expenses where you can, and it’s still not enough then you might have to consider finding a little extra money. Even if it’s just for a couple of months, check out our series on ways to make extra cash and pull yourself out of debt.
Work on ways to find extra money that you enjoy doing. You never know, you may just find your dream job that you’ll want to do for the rest of your life.
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Remember though, this extra money isn’t necessarily ‘extra’. This is money to get you back on a steady footing where you can begin your frugal lifestyle without huge cuts to spending.
Understand that there will be slip-ups. Keep your mind on your ultimate goals and just get back on the proverbial financial horse. Take your time and make reasonable spending decisions. You don’t have to adopt a frugal lifestyle all at once.
Work on your budget this week and resolve to start saving in steps. Before you know it, you’ll be living the frugal lifestyle and it will feel like second nature. You’ll be saving more and be just as happy, even happier, than you were before because you are not constantly worrying about money.
Please join me next week and we’ll talk about ways to fit your grocery bill into your new frugal lifestyle. Frugal Grandma
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.