Tuesday, April 26, 2011

8 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Frugally Fatigued

Living frugally is a lifestyle choice, plain and simple. There are various ways to live frugally and simply and you can take it as far {or not so far} as you want to.  For some, living frugally is a means to an end, something that is only temporary until a debt is paid off or major purchase is made. For other people, living frugally is a matter of necessity -- the result of a job loss or change, an illness, a new baby, an unexpected expense. For others, it's a more permanent thing, a way to balance and prioritize. No way is right or wrong, per se. Like so many lifestyle choices, it's a personal decision that only you can make. You know better than anyone what will and won't work for yourself and your family. 

No matter where you fall on the frugality spectrum, just about everyone who tries to have a more thrifty and simple lifestyle are prone to burn-out and fatigue. If you don't stay focused, it's easy to fall off the wagon and go back to old, not-so-thrifty habits.  Here are just a few ways you can sabotage and sink your frugal efforts. Trust me, I've learned from experience. 

1. Don't have clear, specific goals.
In my opinion, living a frugal lifestyle is pointless if you don't have clearly-set goals. For example, if I'm going to stand over a toilet and rinse a dirty diaper with a homemade sprayer as many times as I already have, you'd better believe that I have good reason why I'm going to the extra trouble. I'd rather use the money we'd spend on diapers to pay off our car. I'd rather save the money for my family's emergency fund. Heck, I'd rather spend the money on something I actually want instead of wasting it on diapers. 
Why go to the trouble to cook from scratch, use homemade cleaning products, cloth diaper the baby, sew for your family, grow a garden, or any other frugal practices if you don't have something to motivate you?  Just having extra money isn't enough. Be specific. Ask yourself: What are you going to do with that money?  How will it benefit you and your family? What is going to make your efforts worthwhile for you?

2. Forget your limitations and overwhelm yourself.
You can't do everything, no matter how hard you try. I'd like to sew clothes for my kids, cook homemade meals every night, bake bread, get crafty and decorate my house, build up my emergency food storage, create a beauty routine using homemade facial masks and exfoliators, scrub down the bathtubs, balance the checkbook, create works of fingerpainted art with my son, plan a month of dinners, and organize my closets, all while finding time to go out on a date with my husband and write the the great American novel. It ain't gonna happen. At least not all at once.

To be successful at living frugally, you have to find a balance. It's all about give or take. You don't have to do everything. Consider the "season" of your life right now. What are your priorities?  Right now, as I'm trying to figure out how to juggle two kids, I'm cutting myself some slack. The house doesn't look perfect; it's just barely good enough. We've been eating out a little more than I'd like to admit, but it keeps me sane for now. I'm still doing a lot of the things I did before I had the baby, but I'm also scaling back a bit. Am I still living a frugal lifestyle? Of course. I'm just adapting.

3. Take on an "all or nothing" mentality.
I'm a perfectionist, so this is huge one for me. I'm constantly trying to overcome an "all or nothing" mentality in various aspects of my life. Let me speak from experience, it doesn't get you anywhere and it certainly doesn't make you productive.

For Christmas last year, my husband gave me a pasta maker -- one of those ones you turn by hand, straight from Italy. I love it. If you've never had homemade pasta, you're missing out. Plus, it's super-frugal -- all you need to make pasta is eggs and flour. I was determined to start making all our pasta from scratch (since you can make big batches at a time, dry it out, and store for later).  Yeah, that didn't last long. Granted, I'll still make homemade pasta from time to time (it's ridiculously good in lasagna), but not all the time.  I've made these types of concessions for a bunch of things: I'm pretty good about making homemade bread lately, but sometimes I just pick up a loaf at the store. I'm using cloth diapers all day, but I use disposables at night (it's just too hard for me to do all the cloth stuff at 2 AM). I'm taking a break from the homemade laundry detergent now that I'm doing a load of diapers almost daily. Not doing everything perfectly all the time isn't a cop-out -- it's being human .

4. Neglect and deprive yourself.
Again, I write from experience. It's so easy to get wrapped up in doing things for everyone else that you forget yourself. Playing a martyr won't make you feel better. That's why I think it's crucial to give yourself an allowance, or as Dave Ramsey calls it, "blow money". This is an amount of money in your budget that you can use to buy whatever you want. Every month, my husband and I give ourselves an "allowance" -- he spends his, more often than not, on the latest video game; I usually spend mine on books, clothes, or I save it up for a bigger purchase. {That red Le Creuset set will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.} Treating yourself goes a long way in keeping you from feeling deprived, which makes living frugally a lot easier.

5. Forget the old adage "Time is money."
Sure it's cheaper to churn your own butter (especially since the prices have gone up lately), but is it worth your time?  One of the keys to living a frugal lifestyle is to figure out how much your time is worth. I first came across this idea of figuring out the hourly worth of frugal tasks in The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. She explains it like this:
"Many people think of their hourly worth in terms of their gross pay and presume that any effort that provides a smaller hourly yield isn't worth their time. On the other end of the spectrum, some people spend all their time doing things that provide very small economic yields (and that they dislike doing), while forgoing activities that save a greater amount of money."
She goes on to explain how she figures out how much her tasks really are worth:
"I often time how many minutes a job requires to determine how many times I could, in theory, complete the job in an hour. I then calculate how  much money a job saves. I multiply the times per hour by the savings per job to determine the hourly value. For example: A 10-minute task saves $2. The task could be done six times an hour. The hourly worth is $12 per hour."
Now I'm not saying you need to get a stopwatch out, time yourself, and do the math for every frugal activity you do. But, it's a good thing to keep in mind. Go back to the homemade pasta I mentioned earlier: it's time consuming and it probably only saves me a dollar or two each time I make a batch. My hourly rate is probably not very high. But since I enjoy doing it and the results are superior to the store bought kind, I'll make pasta occasionally, but definitely not as part of my frugal routine.  Everyone has a different hourly rate because everyone has different priorities, strengths, talents, and resources.

6. Be the only one on board in your home.
This one doesn't need much explanation. If you're going to cut back when no one else is willing, you won't get very far. Same goes for budgets, spending, and goals -- if you're not the same page with the people in your household, especially your spouse (if applicable), you will find yourself frustrated and not nearly as successful. This is where clear goals come into play -- if you can explain that you're doing all the frugal things for a specific reason, you'll more than likely get some cooperation.

7. Keep it boring. Keep it tedious. Don't learn anything new.
To quote the author of The Tightwad Gazette again, "Frugality without creativity is deprivation." {If you're interested in the book, you can read my review here. I have mixed feelings about it.}  I'm constantly on the lookout for new tips, tricks, ideas, recipes, and techniques to help me save money.  I approach saving money as a challenge. How can I reuse this? How can I make do with what I've already got? How can I bypass this extra expense? Call me crazy, but if you get creative, it can be kind of fun. Really. You know that feeling when you find a really good deal for something you want and/or need? That's how I feel (to varying degrees, of course) about doing all the frugal things I do. Plus, it's extra rewarding when those efforts pay off, like when a debt is gone, when a big purchase is made with cash, or when you feel the peace that comes with living within your means.

8. Feel sorry for yourself that you have to do all of this.
It can be easy to start feeling sorry for yourself when you see others splurging on things you want, when you see how conveniently some people seem to live (Quick aside: Dave Ramsey says, "Don't even consider keeping up with the Joneses. They're broke!"). It's easy to feel sorry for yourself when you have to go without certain things. If you don't find some aspect of a frugal lifestyle enjoyable or stimulating, it's going to be hard to stick with. It's kind of like a crash diet. Sure, you can eat cabbage for every meal and lose weight, but you won't stick with it.  Same goes for living frugally: if you treat it like drudgery, something you -- poor you -- have to do, you'll be miserable. Who wants to do anything that makes them miserable? 

Don't get me wrong -- I don't get giddy over homemade cleaners (or do I? Anyone who's read this blog for any amount of time knows my fondness for baking soda and vinegar). I don't dance around the kitchen because I get to make another loaf of bread. You won't find me sighing with contentment as I dump yet another load of diapers into the washing machine. That said, the way I stay consistent is that I focus on the positive aspects of these tasks. I focus not only on the money saving benefits, but also the health, environmental, and family benefits, among others. I still get tired, I'm certainly not perfect, but I keep going. When you change your attitude, you can give the smallest tasks meaning. Just doing that will go a long way in helping you live a frugal lifestyle.


Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I often think about how much my time is worth. Since I still do contract work occasionally (where I charge an hourly rate), it's easy for me to think in these terms. Just time with my kids is worth more to me than many things. I mostly do time-consuming things that have more than a monetary gain -- like baking my own bread. It doesn't take THAT long, honestly, and in addition to saving money (and reducing packaging waste), I'm making super fresh more nutritious bread that TASTES better and I have complete control over the ingredients.

Sofia Britts said...

If one does not set goals in his lifetime, then it must be stressful. It is hard to manage finances when you are not planning to put into something big that is life changing or pleasurable. Goals give meanings to everything that we do, and they lessen the fatigue that we feel sometimes.

Sofia Britts

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