Between eating one-third of a ramen noodle container for every other meal, carpooling to work on the back of a donkey (probably cheaper than a car) and living with 43 roommates, the whole frugality game, while fiscally encouraging, can be spiritually and emotionally draining at the same time. So, how do you strike a balance? What does that even look like? And most importantly, how do you do it all while staying out of the miserable red-zone, where your mood is concerned? Here are a few ways to do just that:
Don’t go for too much too soon
As in, don’t fall into the “too much too soon” trap. If you are new to a frugal lifestyle — if you used to ride a jaguar instead of a donkey to work and carry a golden scepter in the process — then you should probably ease into frugality like the deep-end of a frigid pool: tippy-toes first! So, don’t go from eating eggs benedict every meal to eating six cheerios for every meal. See what I mean? Start off nice and slowly, and restrict certain aspects of your lifestyle piecemeal instead of all at once. Maybe make a spreadsheet and input what each week is going to look like, and make it progressively more frugal. And, also, know when you are being frugal enough and don’t push your boundaries past the breaking point where you have a breakdown and buy seven grand pianos.
Have some fun-funds put away
If you have been bringing two-day-old iced coffee to work, fitting 20 loads of laundry in one machine and avoiding the nice shopping neighborhoods for months, then you might consider having a little bit of a “taking a break” fund. What they call a “slush fund.” If you are saving or even just trying to pay down debt (or both), it is still important to give yourself a good time now and then. You need to reward yourself, or else you are going to crash and burn. And you are going to crash and burn hard, too. After all, being nice to yourself is how you are going to make the frugal lifestyle last for a longer time — or possibly forever.
Be frugal through extravagance (now and then)
Well, maybe not extravagance. Maybe that is going a little bit too far with it. But, at the same time, it might be important for you to loosen the reins for yourself just a tad bit once in a while. Maybe take a week a month or perhaps just a couple of days off from the frugal game and maybe live it up just a little bit. Relatively speaking, that is! That way, when you go back to being frugal, you will look at the whole thing through fresh eyes. Again, it is all about finding ways not to burn out and burn out hard (as in never be frugal again in your entire life hard).
Perhaps you don’t have to be quite so lenient with yourself; just cut yourself some slack. All it might mean for you is a weekend getaway or a romantic vacation with your significant other. It could even be as simple as going out for dinner and to the movies with some friends or family members. As long as you are sure to get right back on the wagon, you should allow yourself a bit of this sort of thing from time to time.
Have a reward system
If you do not have a reward system of some kind in place, then you are truly missing out. Not just on fun or pleasure, but, in fact, on how far a frugal lifestyle can get you (as counterintuitive as that may seem). Research shows that taking breaks allows us to keep ourselves going harder and longer while not taking breaks might work for a while but then you will — you guessed it — crash and burn hard.
Perhaps consider each time you save a certain amount of money through your oh-so-frugal ways you go … I don’t know … buy 1,000 bananas … or something less strange. It really is up to you how you choose to reward yourself. The important thing is that it is consistent — that you can rely on the reward system to kick in on a fairly regular, non-erratic basis.
Remember your goals
And by remember I do not mean passive remembrance, but rather active remembrance. Active remembering is different from passive remembering in that you sit down and decide to meditate upon your goals, write them down in a journal or hang a poster of them up on your wall to see every morning when you wake up. It could just mean taking a look back at how far you have come. You could think about your retirement, debt-free, or Malibu-living goals (although let’s be real, nobody can afford that).
Maybe every morning you can devote five minutes to thinking, writing or spoken-word poetrying about why you are doing what you are doing and what it can get for you in the future. Look back at your past, at how well you are doing in the present and look forward to the exciting future that is afforded you through frugality. Try to remember exactly how you felt when you decided to do this. There must have been a good reason! Maybe even do some reading up on the subject, create a blog or join a support group to help you remember all of this stuff.
Don’t use only one basket
Is that unclear? What I meant was that you should not put all of your eggs in one basket; you can consider ways to earn more money even while you are being frugal. These options are not mutually exclusive, after all. Always be looking for new, more and better work. Update your cover letter, prune your resume and hand out gift baskets in front of important executive offices (OK, maybe not that last bit). But it is true that there is another path to wealth-creation that doesn’t necessarily entail living on less. Side hustles, here you come! Plus, obviously, the more that you work the more that you get to spend.