Frugality and Deprivation Aren’t the Same Thing At All
by Mashum Mollah Our Blogs 22 May 2017
To some people, the word “frugality” means being a cheapskate or tightwad, someone whose entire existence revolves around saving a few pennies. That doesn’t sound like a very fulfilling life and indeed it isn’t. But frugality is really just about trimming the fat: cutting down on expenses without feeling as if you are depriving yourself. It may come as a surprise to you, but many people have discovered that a frugal lifestyle can be much more fulfilling than one of mindless spending.
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How do you get started on your own path to frugal fulfillment?
Find creative ways to cut expenses
Trimming the fat from your budget doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating your daily latte habit or canceling your pay-TV subscription. It certainly could include those items, but cost-cutting is an individual choice, and if you truly do not want to live without those 925 channels or that 925-calorie concoction, you can almost certainly find many other ways to cut costs.
For most folks housing is their greatest expense, and there are numerous ways to cut down in this area. Downsizing, getting a roommate, refinancing your home, or challenging your property tax assessment may be options for you.
Transportation is another major expense, and again you may have several choices. If you live in an area that if friendly to pedestrians and bikers, and/or one that has a good public transportation system, you can save a lot on driving expenses. If you do need to drive, carpooling or sharing a car can help you keep costs down. Searching for a better rate on your car insurance could save you a lot of money too, as long as you don’t trade needed coverage for a lower rate. Careful maintenance of your car will keep repair costs down.
Evaluate your utilities and other service providers too, including your mobile phone and Internet provider. Don’t take anything for granted, even if you have been using the same provider for years. If you have more than one choice for any given service, always shop around for a better deal.
There are dozens of other tips for saving money in the Forbes article linked to above, and if you want, even more, your search engine is your best friend. Some of these tips you’ve no doubt heard before, but others may be new to you. Again, don’t take anything for granted. Evaluate each and every expenditure in your life and figure out if there’s a way you either cut it out altogether or find a less expensive alternative without compromising quality. Before you know it, you’ll be embracing the frugal life as if you were born to it.
If you have to borrow money, be smart
Even if you have cut costs in every way possible and are otherwise managing your money responsibly, you simply cannot plan for every contingency. A car or appliance breakdown, a medical emergency, or a need for a home repair can occur at a time when you have no cash to spare, and borrowing money seems to be the only option. That’s fine as long as you’re smart about it… you know, frugal. Only borrow the amount you actually need to cover the expense, and only borrow if you are certain you can pay the loan back in time. Incurring late charges (or worse, defaulting on the loan) will hurt your credit and could really set you back financially.
If you have good credit you probably won’t have much trouble qualifying for a personal loan to cover your emergency. With bad credit, you also have options, although more than likely you will have to pay a higher interest rate. In any case, always shop around for a lender who can offer the most reasonable rates. It isn’t likely that you will find the information you need to compare lenders on any single lender’s website, but sites such as readies.co.uk offer side-by-side comparisons of many lenders’ rates and terms. The site also has reviews from real users to help give you a clearer idea of the customer experience you can expect.
If you are as frugal about borrowing as you are about every other aspect of your finances, you’ll be able to handle your emergency with a minimum amount of stress, and you may even boost your credit rating.
And remember that deprivation is not the point
This may be the most important “frugality tip” of all. If you are accustomed to whipping out a credit card or turning on an app whenever you see something you want, without giving it a second thought, you might feel a sense of deprivation when trying to adopt more conservative spending habits. But don’t worry; you will survive this transition.
Granted, reining in your impulses may take practice, and actually getting on a budget can take some getting used to as well. Frugality is a habit that doesn’t come easily or naturally to some people. But it’s important to remember that frugality is not the same thing as austerity or asceticism. Saving money is not about deprivation. It’s not about denying yourself and your family the things you need or even some of the things you want.
If you try to deprive yourself too much it’s very possible that you will either become bitter and resentful, or you will simply, at some point, throw all of your good intentions out the window. It’s somewhat like dieting to lose weight: eliminating all enjoyable foods and flavors from the menu can ultimately make you abandon your diet altogether as you scarf down an entire bag of cookies or a quart of ice cream.
Like dieting, money saving programs work best if you don’t go to extremes. You don’t have to impose a moratorium on shopping, going out to eat, or even taking a well-deserved holiday. With a little creativity and smart planning you can have as full and rich a life as you did in your spendthrift days – perhaps even fuller and richer (in all the ways that count!), because you’re learning to prioritize.
Smart money management involves finding a balance between spending and saving. It’s also about learning to distinguish between needs and wants, keeping in mind that there is nothing wrong with spending money on little luxuries once in a while. Indeed, rather than being synonymous with deprivation, frugality is about spending money on the things that matter to you the most. And one possible and very pleasant side effect of a frugal lifestyle is a reduction – or total elimination – of the stress that so often comes from mindless overspending.