I’m a big fan of consuming less, but it can easily go overboard.
If you’re trying to save every penny you possible you can, you’re probably heading in the wrong direction.
Being frugal is cool, but the way you feel is more important. What you focus on, you attract.
If you focus on not having enough money and having to cut corners in every aspect of your life, you’re focusing on lack.
However, flip your perspective and instead give yourself leeway and you’ll notice a big difference in how you feel.
If you “can’t afford” something, it’s your decision whether you focus on the negative or the positive.
3 Signs That You’ve Taken It Too Far
There are many warning signs along the road from being a conscious spender to a cheap-skate. Here are just three that I run into on a regular basis:
1. Penny Squeezing. Whenever I’m in the store and I start comparing two packs of rice to each other, trying to save 20 cents, I stop. That’s when I know I’m taking this too far. Being wise about what you buy is one thing, but be aware of your mind, it’s easy to let it slide into absurdity.
2. Neglecting What You Want. For me, being frugal is not about starving yourself from pleasure. It’s about being aware of your decisions and what consequences they have. If I feel like a new computer is something I want and could use, then I have no problem spending extra money on getting a high-quality one that lasts for years.
3. Eliminating Fun. Again, trying to save money everywhere won’t work if you never let yourself have fun. It’s okay to go for a dinner outside, see a movie or even take a trip. There are no rules. You determine how you want to live your life.
5 Ways to Be Frugal and Feel Abundant
It’s possible to be frugal and feel great. I’m happier now than a few years ago when I had a lot more money lying around.
I’ve known people with five to ten times the amount of money that I have and they aren’t any happier. There came a point when I realized that money doesn’t have a big impact on your happiness once you reach a certain level.
I’m not saying I will be living like this for the rest of my life, but for now I’m loving it, as it frees my mind and allows me to do what I love.
1. Gratitude. The best attitude is a feeling of gratitude. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you have. There are no limits for what you can be grateful for. When I’m practicing gratefulness, I’m sometimes thankful for everything that I can come up with. For example. I’m thankful for:
- Having food
- A place to stay
- A great girlfriend
- A cool dog
- Spoons, forks and knives to eat with
- Running water
- Soft pillows
- A loving family
- My awesome sense of humor
The list goes on and on. It’s easy to take the luxuries we have for granted. Reminding myself that it’s a privilege to have a place to live, have running water and food on the table shifts my perspective completely.
2. Rewards. Whenever I feel like I’ve been overly frugal for a long period of time, I tend to reward myself in some way. I may go to the movies, make a feast with Ingela or whatever we feel like doing. My point is that you shouldn’t be afraid of rewarding yourself. We’re on this planet to enjoy ourselves, remember that. But also remember that you’re living frugally to live the way you want to live, so keep the balance and reward yourself without going overboard.
3. Focus. Where your focus goes, energy flows. Like I said above, if you’re constantly focusing on the negative, you’ll get more of it. Being positive is not about being ignorant. I see no reason to feel bad when you can feel good. If you’re looking at a new laptop and focusing on how bad it feels not to be able to buy it, that’s your decision. But why not focus your attention on your choice of not buying it right now, because it allows you to live the life you want. You can always save up for the laptop, if you really want it.
4. Prioritization. Being frugal is not about being cheap, it’s about having your priorities in order. Instead of owning a car, a house and a TV, you could save up for a trip, a move or just change the groove of your life. Ever since I’ve started working for myself, people have been asking me how I do it. When I tell them lots of hard work, they usually say they don’t have the time. No time to break free, but enough time to party, watch TV and complain? It’s all about priorities.
5. Purpose. I know this is a repetition of some of the points above, but it’s important enough to repeat. When you have a purpose for being frugal, you’ll stick with it and feel good. Whenever I think about buying something new and unnecessary, I think about my purpose. Why am I living the way I am? Do I want to buy a bunch of stuff or do I want to live the life I want? When you think like that, those small urges to consume become insignificant.
The bottom line is that being frugal doesn’t have to be boring, depriving and depressing. It all comes down to what you choose to focus on. In the end, it is your decision how you want to feel.
Srinivas Rao says
This post really resonates with the way I’ve been living my life ever since I escaped my 8 month unemployment period. I’ve not denied myself anything that I’ve really wanted, but I also stopped impulse purchases. For example, I’d been wanting a way to capture my time in the water when I surf and the camera was a 150 bucks. So I decided to buy it, and i’ll be eventually using it post pics to my blog as well. But, things like eating out and partying have become less of a priority. I also like the idea of rewards. It’s funny because I feel like I’ve made the same amount of money at previous times in my life, yet for some reason i feel like I have much more and it’s probably because i’m doing all the things you talk about here. Love the ideas in this post.
I’m looking forward to those surfing pictures! When I cut out all the clutter from my life, I suddenly had extra spending cash. It’s easy to go into impulse-mode and spend, then wonder what happened.
Nadia - Happy Lotus says
Often people use the word frual and it scares people. To be candid, I do not love the word because it conjures up images of just being cheap and dull. That said, I think it is better to be simple than frugal. Simple living means just having what you need and being happy with it. You can still be simple and have abundance. It all goes to the feeling of lack. When someone feels lack, they will experience lack. All a matter of perception. 🙂
I agree. Frugal isn’t the best word, but I had to use it at least once in an article title. Simplicity instead of frugality is an excellent way of putting it. Thanks for rocking, Nadia! 😉
Ben Weston says
I like the balance you strike here. Although I’m working off a circus acrobat’s income, I feel more abundant than ever. I spend money on the things that I value and don’t feel bad about it. I find that although saving money at every opportunity may actually save you some money, it’s sometimes not worth the mental and emotional expense of feeling like I’m lacking, like Nadia pointed out above. When you are grateful and appreciative of what you do have, it somehow seems to expand.
Circus acrobat? That’s awesome! When you spend consciously, things tend to work out a lot better.
Nathan Hangen says
This is a great piece, because it’s not loaded with a bunch of hypothetical and “wishy washy” crap. Don’t buy what you don’t need, don’t avoid pleasure, focus on the right things.
Exactly. In the end, we have to find what works for us and be honest with ourselves.
Alex Monroe says
Top of the line post dude! I can admit to being frugal every once in a while, something I get from my dad. The best feeling those is doing something rewarding. Just going out one night and enjoying yourself. But gratitude is definitely super important. If you can’t feel good about it at all then how the hell are you going to attract it?! Really enjoyed the read man.
You’ve nailed it, Alex!
I was going to say that I have been feeling lately that you’re protesting too much – like maybe you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re happy to be living a lower consumption lifestyle. But after reading this post, I have to agree that the endless cycle of buying more and wanting more, as an effort to fill some kind of void, is one of the biggest problems in the US right now. It’s an addiction, plain and simple. Why can nothing make us happy except a new pair of shoes, a new car, a fancy phone, a new HDTV…why?
My stepdaughter hurt herself last month on spring break – she broke her back – actually crushed a vertebrae and she made it all the way back from Costa Rica by herself. The doctors are amazed that she is not paralyzed! What good would a new car or the latest TV be if she were paralyzed at the age of 23?
I’ll bet each of us could cite an example of something that we really should be grateful for, yet we still want the TV!
Is it human nature? Did the early human beings need that drive for more…for better…for the next thing…to survive and flourish? I don’t know. I’m very conflicted, because I realize that I don’t need anything! – but I really want to replace the shrubs in front of my house, and fix the front walk, and re-do my kitchen, and take a vacation, and…..and…..and……
Thanks for making me think.
Living a simple life for me is rewarding and fun at the moment. While I enjoy not having a lot of stuff, I also enjoy experimenting with how minimalistic I can go. It’s all about testing for me.
Wow. I hope your stepdaughter heals fast! It’s tough, because it feels like there’s a war going on inside your head. My solution? I just do what I feel like doing and learn.
Jay Willingham - Campusbyte says
I remember when I first read “Rich Dad Poor Dad”.
I really took a quote from that book to heart “If you can grasp the idea that money is not real, you will grow rich faster.”
So many people become slaves to money – no matter how much they have, they are still miserable.
Great post Henri!
I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad years ago, but I do remember that I really liked that book and the concepts within it. Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves that money is just the middle-man, not the end goal.
Archan Mehta says
There have been innumerable cases of famous celebrities, such as Hollywood stars, professional athletes, Presidents, owners of companies, etc. who were initially seduced by wealth in the form of money, power and influence.
Succumbing to temptations, these people realized that their lives were empty–a damp squib. This happened over a period of time. And they felt lost.
In order to fill that void, they started to throw money at their problems: private jet, yacht, expensive jewelery, designer clothes, top-of-the-line gadgets, exotic vacations, you name it.
In the end, their life issues remained unresolved, and such people fell prey to the usual suspects: divorce, alimony, drugs, alcohol, neuroses, violence, etc.
“Money can’t buy me love,” sang the Beatles a long time ago. Money won’t bring you peace of mind either. What is important is to reach a higher state of consciousness, so you find what you are looking for within your own self. Conscious living is an inner game. Take the journey within and see the bankable results.
I completely agree, that money doesn’t bring happiness. I see so many people spending money just for the short term satisfaction of acquiring a new belonging, and then when the gloss wears off the new purchase they have to go out and buy something else. That just keeps people locked into the vicious cycle of having to earn just to spend. I think we need to shift our perspective and, as you suggest, learn to appreciate what we’ve got (which rapidly leads to a sense of richness) rather than constantly desiring more (a never ending goal).
I really like where your posts are heading at the moment, I’m looking forward to the next few.
And the way we can change the world is to lead by example. Sometimes people have to go through years of buying and consuming until they realize that it isn’t really what matters. Thanks for dropping by, Topi!
Mandy Lehto says
Being mindful can be very empowering. And being mindful of how we spend our time and money can also be rewarding, not only because we can make choices to blot out the material white noise, but also, when you DO buy something, it feels really great. Having a little of everything you want, all the time, can get stale fast. Plus, then you’re always skint. Having SOME of what you really, mindfully like/want/need is where it’s at. This skill to choose and to hit the override button on other occasions pays homage to having self-discipline (like going to the gym when you’d really rather slob out on the sofa). Good and good! One last thing: thanks for pointing out about saving 20p on a bag of rice. Being mindful shouldn’t mean losing the plot.
The path I took to reach the place I am at now, which is just the beginning, was to realize for myself what really works for me.
Always a pleasure to see you here, Mandy. Thanks!
This reminds me of a certain group of travelers that I occasionally meet on the road who have embarked on year-long round-the-world journies, but who must watch every penny they spend. Oftentimes, they skip certain towns, sights, etc., eat only rice every day and sleep in the grimiest, dirtiest places simply to save money even though they really want to be doing something else. I’ve always felt that 1 month of less restricted travel would be better than 12 months of painfully frugal travel.
When frugality becomes a negative aspect of our lives, you’re exactly right, it’s time to re-focus.
That doesn’t sound like a fun way to travel at all. A perfect example of frugality gone bad. Keep it simple, but remember to keep it fun! Awesome stuff, Earl!
Danny Cooper says
I agree with you both that this maybe this is not an IDEAL situation. However I’m guessing it was VERY enjoyable. To me it sounds like a great way to travel on a limit budget while also pushing your body to new limits.
That’s exactly the point I want to get across. You can be frugal and buy what you want. It’s all about wise and conscious spending. Thanks for reading, Moon!
Kenneth Smith says
I love your site!! The most important quality a person can have is gratitude. People with a strong sense of gratitude always feel some sense of hope. Without hope live gets real hard. Be thankful for every little thing.
Thanks, Kenneth! 🙂 Gratitude is very powerful, especially when you’re feeling down.
Being particularly nerdy myself, I’ve found technology to be one of those really amazing bridges when becoming frugal.
For example, I had a really bad habit of buying tons of books which I’d never read – this would cost me hundreds each month. I didn’t want to cut that out because it brought me so much joy to have the books but instead, what I did, was switch to online formats such as ebooks and audio. This kept all the fun of reading but without as heavy of cost and space being taken up.
You can really use that mentality for many different aspects of your life. Don’t want to continually spend money going out? Subscribe to Netflix or an MMO so you can still have fun during the night but not by dropping a hundred bucks for drinks you’ll regret in the morning.
That’s my two cents 🙂
I completely hear you on the physical books. That’s a problem I’ve been having, but like you, I’ve switched to ebooks, and will be buying a kindle soon, which will make it so much easier to travel with 10 books.
There are so many ways you can eliminate unnecessary spending. Good stuff! 🙂