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
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.
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.