What is the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word frugal?
Do you see an image of grumpy, old Ebenezer Scrooge sitting alone at his desk counting his money? Or perhaps you imagine yourself shivering in the dark, afraid of wasting money on heat or electricity?
If that’s what you think frugality is like you’re way off!
According to the dictionary the definition of frugal is:
Avoiding unnecessary expenditure either of money or of anything else which is to be used or consumed; avoiding waste
Notice it doesn’t say anything about depriving yourself. Quite the contrary, living a frugal lifestyle is all about setting priorities and making smart decisions so you don’t have to deprive yourself of the things you enjoy.
Saving Money Is Like Dieting
Imagine two people who are both trying to lose weight. One decides to put herself on a starvation diet and eat nothing but rice cakes and water. The other plans out her meals carefully and eats a healthy amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains while keeping unhealthy snacks to a minimum.
Who do you think is more likely to be successful?
Well, in the short term the one on the rice cake and water diet will probably see quicker results. She may lose the first few pounds almost immediately and get off to a quick head start over the sensible dieter.
But how long can she maintain that kind of diet? How long before she splurges and devours two pizzas and a chocolate cheesecake all by herself?
Meanwhile the sensible dieter can plug along happily because she understands that by making smart diet choices, and eating healthy as a rule, she can occasionally treat herself to something naughty without the world coming to an end.
In financial terms, some people go too far in trying to cut their expenses and before long they feel like they are depriving themselves. It isn’t easy to live like that. I doubt most people can last very long if they constantly feel deprived.
You have to find a happy middle ground where you can make frugal decisions and save money without feeling as if you are depriving yourself of all fun and enjoyment.
For example, I love watching movies. When my wife and I were first dating we went to the movies all the time (and spent a small fortune doing so). But these days we only see maybe 2 or 3 movies in the theater each year. We have different priorities now and it’s just not in the budget anymore.
So instead of spending $200 or more each month at the movie theater, I spend on the movie package from my cable provider. I get a whole bunch of premium movie channels and with their OnDemand channels I can watch them whenever I want. [Glen: We like to use Netflix to catch up on movies and TV series.]
We also borrow movies from our local library for free and we occasionally swap DVD’s with our friends so we all get to watch something new without having to spend any money. I still get to enjoy the movies I love. I just do it in a smarter way that doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg.
I don’t feel deprived at all…and that’s what makes it possible for me to stay the course and not give in to temptation.
This is a guest post written by Mike Collins of Saving Money Today. Check out Mike’s blog and discover tips for saving money, getting out of debt, and making extra money.