Frugality: Spend Less by Enjoying More
We are entering the season of advertising, deals, and coupons galore! Around every corner is an opportunity to spend money! In fact, we are always entering a new season of advertising and excuses to shop to save: From New Years’, to Memorial Day, Sweethearts Day, to after Christmas, there is always a new sale around the corner. But if joyful frugality is true, then there is a path to make it through the never ending holiday season without increasing your credit card balance or monthly spending and you’ll be able to gleefully log into your Personal Capital account to check your net worth.
Frugality is not just for one day or one month, it is best enjoyed daily. But for those of you who are new or reluctant to frugality, it may not come naturally. And that’s just fine! The greatest happiness is derived from work (or at least that’s what they say).
Frugality is best enjoyed, not demonized, or to be experienced without feelings of loss.
There may be times in your life where money is limited and frugality is forced and not a choice. Fortunately, I’ve only experienced that in college, where frugality is considered more normal. There is a lot of privilege that comes with choosing frugality.
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Some may tout couponing or shopping at five grocery stores as the trick to ultimate frugality. In fact I do both of those things (well not FIVE grocery stores, only three or four). Practicing frugality is much simpler than having a full binder of deals. Instead frugality is most easily achieved by simplifying your daily life.
How to simplify your life:
- Write out your ideal day. Be true to yourself, if you don’t enjoy curling up with a book, that’s fine. Write down what is true for you.
- Start saying no. Learn to say no nicely, and spend your time following your pursuits.
- Remove distractions. This may mean decluttering your home or eliminating social media (full of advertising). It may even mean spending less time with certain people that bring a lot of stress to your life (saying no helps with this one).
- Stop mindlessly shopping. Only go to the store when you need something. Bring a list. Stop thinking of shopping as a way to spend the day. This even includes thrift stores.
- Challenge the “must do” things in your life. Are you in a broomball league, but you don’t really enjoy playing most weeks? Then, stop playing. Do you roll your own pasta noodles, but hate the chore? Start buying noodles. What some people cheer as a necessary frugal or lifestyle practice may not be so necessary for you.
- Recognize the value of done, instead of hunting for perfection. When you choose frugality you will likely in source more tasks, which will mean they may not be perfect. If you stress over every last detail, then that drive to perfection will make you miserable.
- Automate your money. I wrote about that here.
- Embrace a hobby that you wish your had more time to enjoy. Frugality is best enjoyed, not demonized or with feelings of loss.
Frugal Tricks and Tools
Frugality is enjoyed by finding your values and passions. One of my favorite frugal tricks is incorporating gardening into my life.
Each year in the garden, I watch the seasons change, my skills progress, and have my knowledge challenged. I will never fully master gardening, no matter how good I get. Instead, I invest my time and enjoy learning. Every hour working in the garden or researching layouts and pests is another hour where I am spending less money. If I initially gardened to truly reduce my grocery bill I would have quit after year one. But now, after five years, I am seeing savings, which is an added benefit. By filling my time with a hobby I truly love, I spend less money, and don’t feel the sacrifice.
Loving learning will also ratchet up your frugality skills.
If you enjoy the process of learning a new task, such as cooking or installing hardwood flooring chores, your life will magically be full of fun pursuits. Learning also helps encourage brain activity which will help retain your cognitive functions as you age.
When I do need to spend money on non-grocery items I shop through Ebates to get cash back. I do not shop when I don’t actually need the item. But sometimes I actually do buy something new, when those times come I check Ebates (sign up through this link and earn $10 after your first $25 purchase).
When I do need to shop, I try to enjoy the process. If I realize that I am getting overwhelmed, stressed out, or going through analysis paralysis I stop shopping. I literally just walk out of the store (or close the web browser). I was clearly doing just fine without the item. If I really need/want what I was shopping for, I’ll venture out another day. Typically, I realize that I didn’t really want that thing. After all things don’t bring happiness and spending money delays my dream of FIRE.
How to Enjoy More
Yeah, it’s great and all to cut things out of your life to simplify and spend less money. But that alone will not bring greater happiness. How do you actually enjoy more?
- Practice mindfulness
- Reflect on experiences and pursue those you enjoy
- Surround yourself with positive people – Some people are predisposed to optimism and happiness. Bring people closer to you who project positivity, but are still real.
- Allow yourself to take time and space alone
- Don’t get in your own way
- Don’t optimize just for the sake of it
- Find stability in your life – Build an emergency fund so you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck and nurture those relationships that give you strength.
Enjoy More By Reducing Optimization
Okay, so I love optimization and engineering things, but it often causes more stress than benefit. Learning to accept that some things are good enough will help you to enjoy it. Here’s one of my common over-optimization struggles:
I go on a walk every day during my break at work. I find myself taking the most efficient route instead of wandering and really looking at the things around me. I am literally going on a walk to get a little bit of exercise and clear my head. There is no need to be direct in my path, but my brain is so laser focused on optimizing that I follow straight lines and the same route every day.
Has anyone also done that? When taking time for enjoyment allow yourself to veer from the norm, but accept that comforts are also enjoyable. I try to not judge myself for following the same route, but I also try to give myself space to try something new.
Take the time to be present you will enjoy more.
When you take delight in your daily life, your drive to spend money will decrease. Embracing frugality has helped me to find my values. Give yourself the space cut things out of your life that truly aren’t necessary. Then allow yourself the time to purposefully enjoy.
And hey, if you are looking for an excuse to spend money, check out my frugal holiday gift guide for some frugal gift ideas. (Spoiler, many are not physical gifts – and will require $0.)
How do you spend less and enjoy more?