How to Deal When You’re Forced to be Frugal
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As Kermit the Frog once lamented, “It isn’t easy being green.” I think he was on to something, especially if you apply his wisdom to being frugal. For most of us, being frugal isn’t easy. In fact, it can be downright dreadful. In a world where material objects and exuding a facade of inflated success on the exterior is prized, it can be a tough pill to swallow when you’re faced with being forced to be frugal.
My Tough Road to Frugality
I learned this all too well myself years ago when I was staring down a $14,000 credit card balance. For years I had spent my way into oblivion, but I luckily had a wake-up call the size of Texas one day. That day literally changed my life, as it was then that I committed myself to a new, more frugal lifestyle.
I also went cold turkey on my spendaholic ways, got my butt in gear about paying off my debt, and slayed my proverbial debt dragon in less than a year. Along the way, I learned a thing or two about becoming a responsible consumer. Dare I say, a frugal consumer–one who was building a strong financial future for myself instead of being a slave to money for the rest of my life.
But don’t get me wrong–changing my ways wasn’t easy. It wasn’t sexy, or fun, or remotely enjoyable for a while. However, over the course of a few months, that began to change as I became more at ease with my new reality. Here are some of the things I learned along the way:
Embrace The Process
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been forced to become frugal by an external factor or you’ve just decided to make some changes proactively. If you don’t fully embrace your new reality, you won’t ever be able to maintain the new habits you put into place. As you work through each phase, remember that your goal is to keep moving forward despite any challenges or setbacks you have to overcome.
There will be good days and there will be bad days. The great news is that if you keep stepping forward, eventually the good will outweigh the bad.
Celebrate Small Successes
Maybe you’re no longer able to indulge in extravagant meals out. Perhaps you’ll have to scale back your gift-giving. You might even have to sell a car or your home. Rather than let yourself wallow in frustration and self-pity over what’s lost, concentrate your efforts on appreciating what you’ve gained: The ability to know (and respect!) your financial constraints, the strength to say ‘No’ when something doesn’t fit in the budget, and even the satisfaction of knowing you’re a strong person who can weather the storm no matter what life throws your way.
Celebrate the small wins (cooking a fantastic dinner at home at a fraction of the cost or choosing a free beach day instead of hitting up the mall with friends) as a way to motivate yourself. Take stock of your progress and use that information to catapult yourself forward.
Appreciate What Truly Matters in Life
At the end of the day, those things in the closet don’t hold a candle to the people and experiences in your life. There’s no shirt or suit or dress that’s going to hug and kiss you. There’s no car or vacation home that will keep you company when you’re feeling lonely. As you move towards embracing frugality, take some time to appreciate all of the non-monetary, non-materialistic joys in life.
Sure, you might have a tight budget but will that really prevent you from stopping to smell the roses? I certainly don’t think so…
What are your thoughts and opinions on living a frugal lifestyle?
Photo courtesy of: Stephen Depolo
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