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Being Frugal Doesn’t Mean You Have to Hate Life

By Jackie Lam
October 29, 2017

When it comes to saving money, you’ve most likely heard stories about cheapskates who go to extremes to save a buck. You know, the couple who sold their worldly possessions to live in a van to save rent. The guy who, in an effort to crush his debt in record time, dumpster dives for his meals. Or the miserly couple who never go out and have fun because they don’t want to spend money on parking.

They all seem miserable, living deprived existences, quibbling over saving a few cents and denying themselves of the joys of life.

These extremists give the rest of us frugal types a bad rap. Yet, as someone who has been somewhat obsessed with saving money, I’ve learned that being frugal doesn’t mean missing out. Quite the opposite. It actually can be a lot of fun.

Here’s how you can approach frugality so it doesn’t mean hating life:

Cultivate an abundant mindset

This is probably the first and most important step. If you try to save money without adopting a mindset of abundance, you will feel deprived. You may, in turn, lapse back into your old ways, or go on a damaging spending spree. On the other hand, a new positive mindset may make you feel happy – without the need to purchase material things.

I let go of the notion that I need a fancy car, or expensive designer clothes to be happy. Instead, I try to make the most of what I already have. By doing this, I recognize that I have more than I need.

Go on a purge

When I went on a massive purge last year, I saw just how much stuff I can do without. That, coupled with the fact that going minimalist can be more expensive than you think, made me think twice about all the stuff I accumulate. In particular, purging is tedious and I certainly don’t want to deal with getting rid of stuff all over again.

Get creative

For me, frugality is enjoyable because it is all about getting creative with your resources. How many uses can you come up with an empty spaghetti jar? And what are some hacks to save money on cable, or groceries, or everyday expenses?

Gamifying saving makes things even more enjoyable. For instance, during a staycation I’ll try to find the best breakfast burrito for under six dollars – turning frugality into a game. And, I enjoy participating in my local Time Bank, which is a collective of people who barter services and goods for time.

Enlist the participation of your friends

Clothing swaps, using discount codes at restaurants, and convos about free and fun events around town are all things you can do to extend your frugal ways – while also help your pals save money. However, there is a fine line between forcing your ways on your friends and politely making suggestions. I always aim to do the latter and express that my frugal lifestyle works for me. With that, I typically only offer up suggestions when asked.

Celebrate your frugal wins

Sure, we all have frugal fails — think of the botched discounted dental work that ended up costing more in the long run, or trying to go without internet for a few weeks to save some money (true story.) But, hopefully, you’ll have plenty of frugal wins to celebrate.

For instance, I love talking about how I snagged shoes for a dollar at a yard sale (yes, you read that correctly,) or how I managed to cook a week’s worth of healthy meals for under $30. When you’re proud, others will notice and maybe they’ll want to jump on your frugal bandwagon.

Plan for “safe and frivolous” spending

Not too long ago I was on a call with financial therapist Amanda Clayman to help her with some research. I learned that while I am extremely prudent with my savings, I’m also wary of my financial outlook.

As you might’ve guessed, I have trouble spending money. Clayman recommended I plan for “safe fun” with my money, which means saving up for some frivolous spending. This can mean a weekend getaway, or splurging on a fancy road bike I’ve had my eye on. By planning ahead for “guilt-free” spending, I won’t jeopardize my savings goals.

As you can see, being frugal can be a lot of fun. Instead of feeling deprived, it’s a way to infuse creativity and resourcefulness into your daily life. It’s also a great way to feel good about what you have. To me, this is what being frugal is all about.

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