How to Deal When You’re Forced to be Frugal

forced to be frugal

I would like to welcome back Jen from The Happy Homeowner who’ll be joining us every Thursday from now on.  :)


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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About the author:

Jen is the owner of The Happy Homeowner, where she writes about living a healthy, balanced life one cent at a time. Previously, she paid off $14K in credit card debt in less than a year and hasn’t looked back since. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.. You can connect via Twitter / Facebook.

55 comments on “How to Deal When You’re Forced to be Frugal

  1. I just am frugal because if I cut down in some areas I can indulge in other things I may want.

  2. Wow I really enjoyed that last paragraph, and it’s so true. I was watching Million Dollar Listing: New York yesterday and when Hurricane Sandy hit and everything was out for a few days, he had no friends or family to go to and no one was trying to call him. He realized how lonely he was when work stopped and that he had no one. Relationships are such an important part of life; far more important than having a huge house or spending money on extravagant things.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Can Unlimited Plans be Affordable? The Search for Affordable Cell Phone ServiceMy Profile

  3. I like living a frugal lifestyle because there is no point in wasting more than you need. That said, if you are forced to extreme frugality, that can be tough. But there are tons of awesome free things, a hike, a sunset, the library, etc. it forces you to be resourceful and find more ways to make money go further.
    pauline recently posted..Side Hustle series: Make money at partiesMy Profile

  4. Celebrating the small successes is pretty important. Especially if you’re making a drastic change like you ended up doing. I’m frugal where I can be because I’d rather take an awesome vacation with my wife and see the world than have 5 iPads, 4 TVs and 3 cars, even though I can currently afford those.
    JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit recently posted..Net Worth Update – June 2013My Profile

  5. I don’t mind being frugal/cheap whatever name people want to give it. I enjoy my lifestyle because it fits what my family wants and the goals we have set. Being able to have money to do things and to know that we are not struggling but building wealth and enjoying life while doing so is a goal of ours. I don’t feel the need to buy things just because other are doing so or because people think I should. Why waste money? I know people who buy a new TV every few years for no reason but its what makes them happy and I dont bother them about it. The funny thing is we aren’t being forced to be frugal we choose to be.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted..Real Estate Investing How Do I StartMy Profile

  6. I think it all comes down to understanding what you truly value. If you can narrow your focus down to just the few things that are really important to you, it becomes easier to cut out some of the other stuff. It can be scary to think about losing things you’ve had for a long time, but most of the time I find that I barely miss them when they’re gone. We all have a lot we think we need, when the reality is that we’d be totally fine without it.
    Matt Becker recently posted..How to Beat 80% of Investors With 1% of the EffortMy Profile

  7. I have always been fairly good with money. When I turned 18 I ran my credit cards up to $1,500 but that’s as much credit debt I’ve ever had. At about 20 I got really interested in pf and have been since then. In the last year my circumstances have forced be to be *extremely* frugal and it has been hard. I now have to watch every dollar I spend but I think it will only make me stronger in the long run.
    Alexa recently posted..Planning for Christmas in July (and Mission Unspoiling)My Profile

  8. My family chooses to be frugal so that my wife can stay home with our little boy. It’s all about cutting back on things that don’t mean much to you so that you can concentrate on what truly is important to you. In our case, this is my wife staying home with our son. Sure, there are times when we get tired of the “frugal” lifestyle, but overall we’re quite happy with it.
    Justin @ The Family Finances recently posted..Five Tips for Managing Your Debt When You’re in Over Your HeadMy Profile

  9. It’s not always easy being frugal, but it’s worth it. I think you bring up a great point that people need to be happy with what they have and not strive for the next materialistic item. I find that being tough for me at points because I’m always thinking about what I want next. It’s easy to wish away today and not realize how good we have it.
    Jake @ Common Cents Wealth recently posted..Photo Thursday: Cincinnati Reds Game & No Hitter!My Profile

  10. Great advice John. For us once we built our house we pretty much had no choice but to live a frugal lifestyle. No more ordering out, or buying things on the whim. I think this was easier for me than my wife but we’ve both learned to adjust over time.

  11. You’re definitely right that in the end, the material things don’t matter. For myself, the only reason I don’t mind being frugal is I am always paranoid that someone is putting one over on me. I never want to pay too much for something and then end up not purchasing anything.
    Greg @ recently posted..Make Your Smart Phone Pay for ItselfMy Profile

  12. I became frugal last September. Since then I’ve eliminated more than $6,000 in debt and put away $5,300. Being frugal allows me my small luxuries, buying a more expensive skein of yarn for that Christmas gift I’m making or anonymously buying someone’s lunch at Taco Bell on the rare occasion I go there. Those things bring me pleasure and being frugal gives me the opportunity to save more then 60% of my salary and still indulge myself occasionally.

  13. From undergoing a few years of extreme frugalness forced by studying full time while supporting myself, I have found that I am now content with less than I used to be. As the saying goes “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I’m glad I don’t have to be so strict with my frugalness now, but there is comfort in knowing that I have got through it once and I could do it again if I had to.
    Financial Independence recently posted..BitCoin Investment: The case against itMy Profile

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