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Avoid frugality burnout

By on January 12, 2008

photo by kroziewski
If you’ve been focused on frugality for a while, at some point you’ll probably feel discouraged, frustrated or even think about giving up. It can be tough to stay focused on your goals when it seems everyone around you is spending like there’s no tomorrow.

You might start to think you deserve luxury, too. You know what is important but wish that — just once — you didn’t have to think about it. It can get tiring to make cheaper choices or overthink small decisions like what laundry detergent to buy. It’s enough to make you crack when you have so many other things to do every day. But when you make a less-than-optimal decision, don’t beat yourself up over it or throw in the towel.

CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK: If you give in to temptation with an occasional splurge or even a big shopping spree, it doesn’t mean you’ve totally failed and can’t bounce back. You can identify your spending triggers by tracking your spending and learning ways to combat your weaknesses. One way is to budget extra “mad money” to treat yourself on a regular basis so you don’t feel deprived. Plus, life happens. On any given day you might be fighting a cold, not get enough sleep or have a hectic schedule, so a higher-priced convenience to save time makes perfect sense. Frugality doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s OK if you need motivators such as rewards or indulgences to help you.

BABY STEPS: If you read books on frugality, realize that they are compilations of information. Even experts aren’t frugal all of the time. Pick and choose what is best for you. Take it day by day. You didn’t get in your current situation overnight, so improving it won’t happen in a day. It’s better to pour all your energy into one frugal strategy and gradually add more than it is to split your focus among 100 things and not achieve any of them. Moderation prevents frugality burnout.

REMEMBER YOUR GOALS: Sometimes all you need to stay on track is to acknowledge you’re making a choice to give up something in order to have something else. Remind yourself that each financial decision either brings you closer to or pushes you further from your goals. Take time to track your progress and success. Look over your budget as a reality check.

TREAT IT LIKE A GAME: You can play little games to have your cake and eat it too. If you feel like spending, buy secondhand or discounted items so as to lessen their impact on your budget. Just don’t go overboard. “Shop” at your own home by rediscovering things you have but might have forgotten about. See how they can be freshly used or displayed. You can buy items that will help you with your frugality, too. For example, buy a cookbook to try new recipes. Some people find it helpful to have a list of things to do, such as unfinished projects, when temptation strikes.

Do whatever it takes to help yourself. If you’re struggling, turn to friends or family to get the support you need. It’s OK to have some things you won’t do for the sake of frugality. There’s a difference between working hard and suffering in misery from deprivation. You’ll discover that when you stick with it, more options become available — and all your efforts will have paid off.


  1. Sara Noel

    1/12/2008 at 9:52 pm

    Hi Adam,
    Getting a deal IS exciting. 😀 I love sharing aka bragging what I’ve bought for less than full price.

    Thanks for visiting. It’s nice to “meet” you. Added you to my blogroll. 🙂 Your blog is great.

  2. phil H

    1/20/2008 at 9:46 pm

    First rule of living: NEVER pay full price unless it is the only one that exists or it is ‘to die for’ good.
    Second rule of living: He or she who pays the least wins.

    Conversation between Nephew’s Ex and I:

    She “I bought a XXXXX vacum too” {I had been saying how good mine was} “I got it at [name of store]. I paid 40 bucks.” Looks very pleased with herself.

    Me “That’s nice. I paid $15.00. ”

    She: “well I GOT one”

    Me: “Yeah but I can buy 2 more and be on the way to the third with what you paid for one. Which means I can buy more stuff with what I saved.”

    You know she stomped off.

    And we won’t go into the Palm for 7 buck…

  3. Pingback: How to Cope with Frugality Burnout ∞ Get Rich Slowly

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