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Preventing the frugal doldrums

By on March 23, 2008

photo by ookikioo
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When I began my frugal journey, I was highly motivated to tighten the tightwad belt, but sometimes I felt poor. This feeling was due to the transition from living above my means to living within my means. I was making leaps and bounds with my personal finances, but it took hard work and determination not to fall into the old spending traps.

A few tips that helped pull me through my pity parties were learning not to compare myself to others, avoiding heavy marketing in magazines and on television, and appreciating my surroundings and my place in the world. If I really needed a pick-me-up, I would splurge on food that wasn’t on my regular grocery list, such as fresh cherries or quality cheeses. I still tend to splurge on perennials. My treats cost less than $15 and help me stay on track. I’m a firm believer in finding balance in frugal living. Enjoy your life and live a little. Just be sensible and stop buying what you can’t afford.

The following are tips from readers who share how they avoid feeling poor.

MEAL TIME: I like to go out to nice restaurants once in a while. We never go without using a coupon, and usually it’s “buy one entree get one free,” but it’s nice to be waited on instead of always waiting on everyone else. — Angela, California

I drag out the good china, linens and candles for dinner when we’re wishing we could eat out and the money isn’t there. Even spaghetti seems special when served that way. — Denise, Illinois

PARTY ON: I feel good when I can throw a good party. Even if it is just tea with a girlfriend. I pull out the china (it’s ugly, but it came with my husband) and make some scones and muffins, and we sit and chat. My husband and I also like board games. We frequently host “game days” and invite others for a day of fun. I cook from scratch, and our friends bring dishes to share, but I think the idea of still being able to play hostess and entertain even on a budget is the best part. — Cea, Maryland

PERSONAL ATTENTION: I regularly get my nails done and my eyebrows waxed. Some people say I am crazy for having these things done when I could be saving my money, but it makes me feel like a million bucks, and since my best friend is my nail/eyebrow tech, the amount I spend is nowhere near full price. — Trese, Oklahoma

NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: We go to a dollar movie theater not too far from us. It’s a small treat and helps me stay on the frugal track. — Latierra, Texas

I allow myself a few bucks to shop clearance racks. It’s a treat because it’s new and not secondhand. I don’t feel so poor because I have shifted my wants to cheaper wants, and that helps me. — Reba, Maryland

BRAND-NAME SPLURGE: I only buy name-brand coffee, dish liquid and toilet paper. It seems that using a few of my favorite name brands, as opposed to generics, makes me feel not so poor. Of course, I buy them when they’re on sale, but it still helps me not feel deprived. I go to consignment shops and buy designer clothes. Looking good makes me feel like people don’t view me as poor, even though I am frugal. — Jade, e-mail

FEEL GIRLIE: I take a long bath with bubbles and paint my toenails. It just makes me feel good. Then I put on a nice outfit, do my hair and makeup, and go have a cup of coffee or a soda at a local restaurant. It’s fun to get dressed up and enjoy the restaurant’s ambiance and not spend a fortune. Another thing I like to do is take advantage of free entertainment in our town. — Shel, Wyoming

PAMPERED FOR FREE: I feel rich when I’m using all my free samples I get in the mail. A lot of them are too pricey for me to buy the full size in the stores, so I get a couple of luxurious moments. I feel rich when I’m eating produce from my little backyard garden. It’s unbelievable the amount of produce you can get out of a very small plot. — Joline, West Virginia

TREAT YOUSELF DAILY: I keep myself from feeling poor by avoiding the stores and by treating myself to something nice daily. My daily routine might include tea from a china teapot with fruit and yogurt, visiting a local bookstore, or giving my feet a hot paraffin wax treatment while drinking homemade mocha and reading. — Bea, e-mail


  1. Daisygirl

    3/24/2008 at 8:15 am

    I splurge on really nice underwear. Usually I do this near my birthday and budget between $100-200 I go to a fancy lingerie store when they are having a big sale and I spend the money I have budgeted on the most gorgeous colorful bra and panty sets I can find.If you wait for a sale these are not much more expensive than you would buy at Walmart and I feel completely fabulous in them throughout the entire year.

  2. Amy

    3/24/2008 at 9:31 pm

    Great tips! It’s totally possible to not feel “poor” while being frugal…you just need to get creative!

  3. IntlMom

    3/25/2008 at 9:26 am

    The amount of enjoyment between a cup of brewed Starbucks and a cup of brewed Folgers is worth every delicious penny. I allow myself good coffee every day, it’s impossible to feel deprived while drinking delicious coffee!!

  4. julieb

    3/26/2008 at 4:04 pm

    Lately to avoid feeling like we are ‘living poor’ we have been splurging on a favorite restaurant. This week we decided to go for lunch instead of dinner though. Same meal, same portions but a reduced price. It was a wonderful time.

  5. Michelle

    3/27/2008 at 7:41 am

    Great tips. I agree 100% with needing to feel like I’m treating myself and not being ultra frugal all the time. If I deprive myself, I only end up binging and spending more money that I shouldn’t.

  6. Marie78

    3/29/2008 at 11:32 am

    I have gotten past feeling like we have given things up to live frugally. We splurge once in awhile, usually on dinner out, a nice hair cut (2x a year), We have started having coffee dates in the middle of the day once a week. We eat what we brought to work that day for lunch and then my fiance will pick me up at my job. We drive 5 -10 minutes from work, park for 75 cents, and we each order a $3 coffee. We get to spend time together in the middle of the busy day and it’s cheaper than eating out. When the weather is nice we get our coffee to go and we walk around the city streets and window shop for 1/2 hour, before going back to work.

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