How to be Frugal Because You Want to, Not Because You Have to
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When it comes to adopting a frugal lifestyle, does the reason for your frugality matter?
I think so. There’s a big difference between being frugal because you want to and being frugal because you have to.
When I was a recent college graduate, I had to be frugal because I had very little money. I set a monthly grocery budget for my household of $300 not because I wanted to, but because we couldn’t afford to spend and more than that.
If you can relate to having a lower income and struggling to make ends meet, you’ll notice that once your financial situation improves and you have a little more money, it’s easy to feel tempted to inflate your lifestyle and ditch your frugal habits.
This can be a big mistake which is why I believe it’s better to focus on transitioning from being frugal by necessity to being frugal by choice.
With it being financial literacy month, I’d like to give you a few practical ways to focus on adopting a frugal lifestyle by choice so you can practice frugality long-term after you get your finances back on track.
Focus on the Benefits of a frugal life
To continue your frugal lifestyle even after you’ve increased your income and improved your financial situation, motivate yourself by focusing on the key benefits of frugality.
Frugality allows you to make the most of what you already have and get creative instead of being trained to run out and spend money all the time on things you may not really want or even need.
You can gain a greater appreciation for what you have, which can result in being able to live more intentionally.
Being frugal also allows you to spend money on the things that matter most to you and avoid spending money on what doesn’t. For example, if you like to travel, you can still go on trips while maintaining a frugal lifestyle.
You just may not do other things that you don’t really care for like dining out every Friday night or paying for an expensive gym membership.
Being frugal can also make you more financially secure since you’ll be more likely to invest, build an emergency fund and afford to live comfortable. As an added benefit, you’ll feel less stressed about money when you commit to living frugally long-term.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I was worried about money and how I would pay my bills. I’m not making millions of dollars either, even though my income has practically quadrupled since I started living frugally.
Had I given up my frugal lifestyle once I started making more money and resorted to spending more and making random splurges, I probably would have a tighter budget or even racked up more debt by now.
When you realize the benefit of frugal living, it will definitely make you second guess wanting to give up all those advantages.
Don’t Always Obsess Over the Price Tag
People confuse frugality with being cheap all the time. Cheap people tend to focus solely on price and getting the best bang for their buck where frugal people focus on quality and their values.
A frugal person shouldn’t be afraid to spend money if it’s for a good cause especially if they can afford it. I’d be lying if I said that I never look at prices because it’s still a huge factor but it’s not always the deciding factor for me.
If you want to spend more money on quality clothes that will last way longer than clothes made with cheaper materials, go for it. It will probably save you money in the long run too.
If you’re at the grocery store and can score a good bulk deal by buying more food items that you need and enjoy eating, there’s nothing wrong with spending a little more money.
Don’t view frugality as limiting or deprivation. It’s not always all about the numbers and spending as little as possible. Cutting corners by spending as little as possible all the time is not sustainable long-term but frugality is.
Make It a Way of Life
If you want to become frugal by choice, you have to make it a lifestyle. The great thing about adopting a frugal lifestyle is that you can customize your level of frugality to fit your needs and preferences.
For example, I know some people who don’t dine out at all or only rarely for birthdays as a part of their frugal lifestyle while others do dine out more.
I pay for two gym memberships because I really value my health and don’t have the willpower to work out at home.
On the other hand, we hardly buy any clothing in my household and practically all my furniture is used. I used to value shop a lot, but no longer find it important so I don’t spend my money in that area too much these days.
When it comes to furnishing or decorating my home, I realized how expensive it can be and found creative ways to spend less money but still meet my needs.
Take a look at your values and financial goals. What do you want to accomplish in the next few years? How can you adjust your budget and lifestyle to help you get where you want to be?
Ultimately, you can take the easy path and choose to live a frugal lifestyle instead of just winging it and spending money mindlessly.
As a final word, it’s important to realize that it’s your life and you can control your future by the choices you make. Instead of letting your money control you and feeling forced to live a certain way, you can choose your own lifestyle and adopt the frugal habits you want to have.
Are you in a position to be frugal by choice? Have you ever had to be frugal by necessity? What benefits has frugality provided you? What financial goals do you have that frugality can help you meet?