When I started this frugal journey, there were times when I felt it was hopeless. Every time I would take a few steps forward and make some progress, some new big expense would hit and take me ten steps back. At times I thought I would never be able to save any money. I had friends and family tell me that it would be impossible to live without having some kind of credit card debt. They said that the cost of living was just too high and that it wasn’t possible to save money on certain things. That’s when I made the decision to just keep pushing and do the impossible to prove everyone wrong.
After completely paying off my credit card debt, having an emergency fund of over $5,000, and an effective budgeting system, I now have people asking me how I did it and what they can do to be more frugal. If you’re looking to live a fabulously frugal life, then you’ve come to the right place. This post is all about how you can be more frugal and by the end of it, you will have actionable steps you can start applying to your life immediately.
The first step is to have a better understand of what it means to be frugal. For starters, it’s not the same as being cheap. Being frugal is all about saving money where you can and finding the best value for your money. Buying the cheapest thing you can find is NOT the answer and is not how you become more frugal. Being frugal is all about maximizing your money and getting the most bang for your buck. Before you can start becoming frugal, you need to set yourself up for success.
How to Become More Frugal
Being frugal is a lifestyle choice and life habit. Like most habits, they don’t just happen overnight. It’s something you have to commit to and work towards. Trust me, it’s a habit worth working at. Learning how to live a more frugal life starts with shifting your mindset.
Shift your mindset
Society tells us that we have to have the latest and newest everything. That we haven’t “made it” until we have a house with a white picket fence and a Mercedes. It’s hard not to see others have things and want them ourselves. The grass always looks greener on the other side. The truth is, what you see on social media isn’t always the reality. Those people likely have crippling debt and are struggling just to keep their heads above water. Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s important to shift your mindset and realize that you don’t need all those things.
Think about your frugal journey not as a restriction or punishment. Think of it as a path forward to a future of financial freedom. Remember that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step” – Lao Tzu. That first step should be to forgive and forget your past financial mistakes. Dwelling on the past will not help you move forward. So many people fail at becoming more frugal because they focus on their past mistakes. They believe that it isn’t possible to fix their financial situation. It’s important to learn from those mistakes, but not to dwell on them. Use what you’ve learned to propel you forward to a life of frugality and financial independence. Small and practical money saving actions you put in place today will help you make more informed spending decisions in the future. All you have to do is shift your mindset.
Focus on financial literacy
Let’s be honest, they did not teach financial literacy in school. I learned how to find the square root of a perfect number but not how to do a budget or how interest rates work. You can blame our education system, you can blame my parents, you can blame greedy businesses, or you can blame society. The bottom line is, no matter who there is to blame – the responsibility now falls on your shoulders to become more financially literate. Educating yourself about finance and money management can go a long way in helping you become more frugal.
You can start with understanding why you need a budget and learning everything you can about how to set one up. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about your financial situation the better prepared you’ll be to fix it. When you understand your finances and have a budget, you control your money, and not the other way around. It’s important to strike a healthy balance between your wants and needs, and that’s not alway easy. However, understanding and evaluating your spending practices will allow you to implement changes so you can afford the things you care about most.
Get family and friends onboard
This is the hardest part. If you have a spouse, or family and friends that don’t support your frugal living goals, it can be challenging. My husband certainly wasn’t onboard at first – so I just had to take control. I took the lead and designed a budget for us. Going shopping and comparing pricing before making a purchase became my job. I started looking at our monthly bills and seeing where we could make cuts and find budget friendly alternatives. When my husband started to see that we were actually saving money and it was making a difference, he jumped onboard willingly. With friends and family, we started suggesting dinner and game nights at our place instead of going out to dinner and a movie. We found that not only was it a lot more budget friendly, but it was actually a lot more fun!
I know it can be hard to talk about money with your spouse, family, and friends. In fact, The FINRA Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study recently found that 55% of millennials get anxious discussing their finances. We are so scared of it that we allow ourselves to go further and further into debt just to try to please others and do things we really don’t want to. The truth is, talking about it and getting your family and friends onboard will only help you in your frugal journey. If they are truly your friends and family members, they’ll only want to support you and see you be successful in reaching your financial goals.
Be content with what you have
Most people, myself included, who are struggling financial are struggling because they are not living within their means. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, society pressures us to want to “Keep up with the Joneses”. After you buy a new car, you’re really happy and excited. Eventually that excitement wears off and you’ll want a different car in a few years. Almost every year, Apple comes out with a new iPhone. Even though you got one last year, you’re tempted by the new one and feel like you have to have it.
A big part of becoming more frugal is to not only live within your means, but to be content with what you have. Whenever I’m tempted to buy something new, I think about how there are so many people out there that don’t have a car at all or still have a flip phone. I’m more fortunate than I realize and should be happy with what I already have. It’s natural to always want more, but once you recognize this is part of the problem and shift your mindset – you’re well on your way to a fabulously frugal life.
Embracing a frugal lifestyle isn’t about not spending any money and declining all invitations to go out and have fun. It’s about being selective with what you spend your money on, and cutting back on the things that don’t matter. You have to have a good balance between your wants and needs and adopt a more future focused mindset. Remember that an enjoyable life doesn’t have to be expensive. So, how can you be more frugal? You’ve already started by reading this post. You’ve taken that first step, but the rest is up to you. Shifting your mindset, learning more about your financial situation, getting your family and friends onboard, and being content with what you have will go a long way with help you reach your frugal and financial goals.