To some, the idea of being frugal sounds like a death trap. Where’s the dotted line? If I want to be frugal, I know I need to sign off ever having any fun. This line of thinking complexly misunderstands frugality.
To start, you might want to review what I think are the key differences between being frugal and being cheap. Frugality wrongly practiced can feel like a trap. However, frugality practiced properly will be liberating and will allow you to truly enjoy yourself.
Here are four qualities of whose who are frugal and have fun:
1. Frugal People Establish and Focus On Goals
Frugality is about finding the areas of life where you truly want to say yes. What are your greatest joys and passions? What are your hobbies? You can never be frugal until you identify your goals. Once you have some personal goals, they become your motivation for being frugal.
For example, my wife and I love to travel. As a result, we know that when we save money in other parts of life we are enabling ourselves to do what we truly enjoy. This way when we ask if we can afford a family vacation, the answer will be yes.
Frugal people know how to say no to useless and meaningful expenses so they can say ‘yes’ to the activities they really enjoy. They know how to create a proper balance to avoid extreme frugality.
2. Frugal People are Willing to Exert Effort To Reach Their Goals
Many frugal alternatives require a little extra effort. It might mean a few extra moments searching for a coupon code online or cutting out a coupon. Frugal people take time because they know how to save money with coupons. It could be rewashing a cup instead of throwing it out. But, a frugal person knows she must exert a little more energy in order to accomplish the goal she is focusing on. They focus on the best ways to save money.
3. Frugal People Enjoy the Excitement of Frugality
I’ll admit. This paragraph must reveal my true colors as a super geek …
You cannot be frugal because someone wants you to be. Forced frugality would be terribly restrictive. However, for some (like myself) frugality offers excitement and challenge. Where can I find the cheap books? How can I get the best deal on a rental car? None of this is burdensome because I enjoy the frugal life.
4. Frugal People are Always Creative
Frugality means find more ways to say yes. For example, you could form a frugal community and find that you can go on just as many dates as before. Now you use friends to babysit and have a homemade dinner instead of spending money at the restaurant. When you do eat out, you know the best ways to save money eating out.
To be a frugal ‘yes man’, you must master the art of initiation and redirect.
Initiation: “Hey, do you want to come over for dinner and a movie at our house on Thursday night.” This way you control the cost of dinner, watch a rented movie, and still get time to spend with your friends.
Redirect: Your friend says, “Hey, do you want to grab some dinner and catch a movie?”
You respond by saying – “You know, we were thinking about having you guys over for dinner some time. Would you be interested in bringing a dish and coming to our place instead? We’d be happy to rent a movie.”
Frugal people look for creative alternatives so they can do the things they truly enjoy.
This is the ultimate irony of frugality. One person might skip the movies so they can go on vacation. Another will skip the vacation so they can go to every new release. Both parties have opposite goals, but they use frugality as a vehicle to help them accomplish their goals.
While spenders see frugality as imprisonment, the truly frugal recognize that frugal choices open the doors to a host of possibilities in the future. As a result, frugal people often feel liberated instead of the commonly perceived miserable.
Any other suggestions? How do you practice frugality without giving up on the fun parts of life?
Craig is a fulltime missionary in Papua New Guinea who writes Money Help For Christians and Help Me Travel Cheap, a frugal family travel blog. He is the author of Money Wisdom From Proverbs, has a Masters of Divinity degree, and (most importantly) eats homemade pizza with his family every Friday night.
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