Frugal and Happy

A lot of people question the idea of being frugal. There is a widely held belief that when you are frugal, you are depriving yourself. “If you have the money, why not spend it?” people often say; or “What’s the point of being frugal when you make enough to spend more?” For me, being frugal is a choice. When I’m frugal on most of my purchases, I have the freedom to spend more on things I really want. A frugal mindset makes you think before you spend.

A Frugal Mind – You Must Scrutinize Your Budget

What Are You Spending Money On?

When I currently look at all my expenses, which fortunately does not include a mortgage or a car payment, I can easily live on about $12,000 a year. However, that number does not include any major expenses that come along every so often, usually unexpectedly, nor does it include health care insurance which can be very pricey. Last year for instance, I had to: replace the tires on my car, repair my roof, and cut the trees in my front yard to comply with my homeowner’s association. I will probably also have to replace my AC unit and water heater soon. Although these “unexpected” expenses pop up, I still plan for them by setting up an Emergency Savings fund to cover these expenses. If you know these expenses are coming at some time, you can start to research the potential costs and get estimates. You can still be frugal (not cheap) with unexpected expenses.

In order to get my spending down to this level, I took a hard look at everything I spend money on about 3-4 years ago. As I looked at each item, I questioned whether that expense really made me happy. Reading the book Your Money or Your Life, really gives you a deeper understanding of how each of us will trade life energy (time) for the things we spend money on. As you pay that $100 cable bill, reflect on how many hours you had to work to pay for it. Scrutinize your budget to know what truly makes you happy and you may soon find yourself developing a frugal mindset.

You Can Be Happy (and Frugal)

You can be satisfied and happy on a small income.
Happiness is a Frugal Squirrel

If you create a sense of frugality in your routine, being frugal becomes a mental game. The larger the effort you make, the greater the result. Healthy habits in finance, health, and fitness is all about discipline, control and hard work. If you adopt frugal habits, you will find you don’t cave in to impulses. My favorite frugal habits:

  • Anticipate purchases. Research prices and available choices, including buying new and used.
  • Don’t waste anything. Food, lotion, toothpaste, beauty products. Use every last drop. Don’t let expiration dates scare you (most dates are required by law, but it doesn’t always mean the product is bad).
  • Use less. Question your habits, often using too much is wasteful. Use less toothpaste and laundry detergent, consolidate your shopping trips.
  • Reuse, recycle, and repair. There are a lot of things you can reuse, like food containers if you wash them thoroughly. If you do your part to reduce your carbon footprint, you will also save yourself some money. Buy things used (clothes, shoes, furniture) and donate the stuff you don’t need anymore.
  • Borrow. If there is something your will need only for a short time, see if you can borrow it from a friend rather than buy it yourself. Additionally, utilize the library for borrowing books, music, and dvd’s.
  • Be kind to others. People will remember how you make them feel more than the material things you give. Give compliments, say thank you, open doors for others, smile and say hi… those are the things that can put a smile on someone’s face. And it doesn’t cost you a thing!

Being Frugal is a Positive Thing

Frugality should never be thought of as a negative thing. It’s a shift in your mindset and a change in your habits. You learn to adopt a routine and a mindset that cherishes the things you already have. Appreciate small luxuries, and don’t feel the need to keep up with your friends, co-workers and family. When you focus on the things that matter to you, you will truly feel so much happier. Be frugal, be happy… enjoy the little things in life.

What kinds of things are you frugal about? Do you think you can cut your expenses and be happier?

8 thoughts on “Frugal and Happy

  1. I love this post – the message is right on! You absolutely CAN be frugal AND happy!
    My husband and I decided that when we had children, I would stay home with them… meaning, we are now a one income household, and have been for 4 years now. While he does have a good job, we were noticing that expenses always exceeded income, and we kept having to dip into our savings – NOT a great long term plan!
    So, we got ourselves on to a written budget about a year ago using a computer and phone app called YNAB (have you heard of it? It’s AMAZING!!). We’re now living much more frugally yet happily – we find we are never fighting about money, and we’re even saving and giving regularly! It’s SO freeing when you have a plan in place for your income BEFORE you spend it. And you sure feel good when you know you’re being SMART about your money! 🙂

    1. Hi Marlaine – Thanks for your comment. It’s so great to see folks like you make the decision to live the life you want and adapt your spending to accommodate your new lifestyle. Staying home with your kids is so rewarding, and now that you have a plan in place, I’m sure it’s less stressful (at least on the financial side of things – ha ha). Being frugal can bring many rewards.

      I’ve heard many good things about YNAB, but haven’t used it myself. I will have to take a look at it and review it here. Thanks for stopping by! ~Jen

  2. Hi . We are frugal and it has become such a way of life that it is upsetting to see things being wasted. And it is obscene for me to see wealth splashed around when there are people living on the streets and starving.
    Humans are a strange and selfish creature in regard to wealth and waste.
    A simple frugal life can be rich and rewarding, rather than destructive and polluting.
    Thanks for creating a website that will contribute to the good in the world.

    1. Hi Janelle – You are so right about there being so much waste. I wrote another article about reducing food waste (http://www.thewisesquirrel.com/how-can-we-reduce-food-waste), since it was enlightening to learn that we waste 40-50 percent of the harvested food in America. When there are so many people starving and barely able to survive, how can we throw so much away every day and not give it a second thought? I believe people need to start being more conscious about where their money is going.

      You are right on point that a simple, frugal life can be rich and rewarding. It’s about how you live your life and truly appreciate the little things on a daily basis. Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments. ~Jen

  3. I am very impressed with this posting. The message you are giving us here is so important. So very many people in the world today are so caught up in spending every penny they make and then some for all kinds of things they could do without.

    As with any improvement process we can always do a little better if we analyze the situation and are truthful with ourselves.

    I like the approach of speaking about frugality. I thank you for this important post.

    1. Hi Frank – I agree, people get caught up so easily in keeping up with their friends and family that they don’t think about what is really making them happy… or if they can really afford what they are spending money on. Improvements take time and being truthful with yourself can be difficult. Small changes can make all the difference. Thanks for stopping by and your comment. ~Jen

  4. I certainly think that you can be frugal and be happy because you know you are not wasting money but being sensible about what you’re spending it on.

    When you own a house and car, you sometimes can be hit with unexpected expenses, so if you are frugal and put money aside for contingencies like these, then you are unlikely to get caught when the unexpected happens.

    The other good thing about being frugal is that if there is something you want and you want to reward yourself or someone else, then you can go & get it if you have the savings there.

    You have written a good post on being frugal and I think a lot of people can learn from your experience, well done.

    1. Hi Adrian! Your comment is spot on with the benefits of being frugal – you will be prepared when the unexpected happens and not stress if you want to reward yourself. Thanks for stopping by! ~Jen

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