10 Ways to Overcome Frugal Fatigue
During one March a few years ago, I didn’t spend any money on fun and entertainment. I have an entertainment category in my budget, but I just happened not to dip into it. When I reviewed my budget at the end of the month, I was so happy with my lack of spending that I committed to keeping it going. You can already see where this is going, huh? I made it through April without spending much. By the end of May, I was grouchy and tired of denying myself fun.
Then my thoughts turned to how much fun I would miss out on during the upcoming summer months. I was already unhappy most weekends, not to mention that my friends and partner didn’t understand why I was declining their invitations. I knew I couldn’t go on like this. I was suffering from frugal fatigue.
After learning more about frugal fatigue, I decided that I could have fun and still make progress towards my financial goals. Here’s a look at some of the things I did and a few other suggestions you might find helpful to overcome it too.
What is frugal fatigue?
Frugal fatigue is when you’re exhausted by living frugally. You’re mentally tired and overwhelmed with the constant effort to live a low-cost lifestyle. I don’t mean comfortable low-cost living. I mean pinching pennies until it hurts. This can be compounded by the stress of constant money worries such as trying to pay off student loans or supporting a family on one income. You may be tired of depriving yourself of the things you want. You might even be tempted to throw your budget out the window and spend away.
Signs of frugal fatigue
You go hog wild spending one day.
You don’t care anymore. You don’t look at your bills or bank accounts. You stop thinking about anything related to your finances.
You’re overly stressed about your finances.
You’re depressed about frugal living.
You miss out on quality time and activities with friends and family due to finances.
You argue with friends and family about spending on activities and things that are otherwise reasonable.
What you can do
Go ahead and spend a little
It’s okay to spend money on things that aren’t necessary. Focus your spending on what makes you happy. If you like artisanal coffee or attending a yoga class, then go ahead and enjoy it. Frugal living shouldn’t make you miserable. In my case, I love taking my family and friends out for a meal. I can make something edible at home, but I love treating them, spending time together, trying new restaurants, and eating good food!
Then set aside some money for fun
When you make your budget or review it each month, try adding a category for fun/entertainment. Then fund it with a reasonable amount of money. That may mean you have to adjust the rest of your budget a bit to accommodate it. If you’re in a strong enough financial position, consider a modified budget in which you set aside money for your required expenses (e.g., rent, bills, savings, retirement contributions, etc.) and whatever you have leftover is discretionary spending. The key to this is to cover every other expense first.
Set aside time to treat yourself
Instead of focusing on all the things that are happening around you, set aside some time for treating yourself. It could be once a week or just once a month. You can have a day of inexpensive indulgence so you don’t feel deprived but refreshed instead. It may be what you need to keep your spirits up and stay on track financially.
Related post: 25 Frugal Ways to Treat Yourself
Make a vision board
Vision boards are a great motivational tool because you have a constant visual reminder of what you want to achieve. The best ones have pictures and inspirational sayings that are meaningful to you. It might include pictures of the house that you’re going to buy, the wedding that you’ll have, and the children you’ll raise. Whatever your goals are, you can put them into picture form and hang the board someplace where you’ll see it regularly.
Adjust and prioritize your goals
Sometimes frugal fatigue is a good thing because it tells us we’re being unrealistic with our goals. If you plan to save $1000 every month, but it’s only possible to save $500 after doing all the math, then you’re giving yourself undue stress and misery. Adjust your goals to reflect what’s realistic for you. That doesn’t mean slacking completely on your financial goals, just taking a little longer to reach them. Perhaps the student loans that you’re trying to pay off in 36 months can be paid off in 38 months instead so that you keep your sanity.
Once you have some new goals in place, think about which ones you would like to prioritize. I’d love to be able to pay for or fund my emergency fund, savings, retirement accounts, health insurance, education fees, and so forth to the maximum every year, but I accept that it may not happen. Instead, I focus on two or three for the moment and commit to returning to the other ones at a later date.
An example of this is putting 10% into your 401(k) right now and increasing that percentage every year as your income increases. Or you can decide to skip funding a 529 plan right now because you don’t have any children to send to college for at least the next 18 years.
Be flexible on how you meet your goals
One way to make strict frugal living easier is to be flexible about where you save and where you spend. One month might be devoted to cooking and eating at home every day. The next month you might have some meals out but save by doing no-spend weekends. You don’t have to do every frugal, money-saving thing possible simultaneously. Living a lifestyle of frugality is should be sustainable or at least tolerable rather than feel like 30 days of deprivation.
Related post: 50 Ways to Spend Less & Save More in the New Year
Take a break
Everyone needs a break sometimes. It’s normal to take a vacation from work and a breather from working out from time to time. So why not take a break from frugal living? It can be a short and modest break, like deciding not to think about money for a week. You can go about your daily routine but not stress over your purchases. Or you can take a break from saving for one month and save the other 11 months of the year. Sounds pretty logical, right?
Get your partner on board
One reason people get frugal fatigue is because partners, family, and friends aren’t on board with a frugal lifestyle. They want to go out to eat or go to the movies while you want to save money. It’s not fun to turn down invitations or feel like a party pooper. One way to overcome this is to let people close to you know that you’re committed to spending less and saving more. Then offer suggestions for things that you can do together that don’t cost a lot. You might be surprised at how well people take to your commitment once they know about it. When I was paying off my student loans, my friends and family were understanding when I declined invitations or suggested other activities because they knew why I was doing it.
Related post: How to Talk Finances with Your Partner
Earn more money
This is a different approach to frugal fatigue. Instead of cutting back on spending and fiddling with your budget to make things work, it might be easier to earn a little more money for the things you want to buy and do. You don’t need another full-time job to earn some extra income. It can be as simple as selling a few things around your house in your free time. Just about everyone I know has extra clothes and household items lying around their house unused. Once you’ve sold all the extra you can manage, there are other side jobs available such as doing freelance work, offering your skills on TaskRabbit, joining in paid research studies, and my favorite of selling thrifted clothing.
Related post: 5 Tips to Sell Your Clothes Online
Look at people who have less than you
Sometimes getting a different perspective on things helps to keep you going. When it comes to finances, it’s easy to forget that most of us have enough at least to cover our necessities. If you have a stable job that allows you a roof over your head and a full stomach each night, then you’re doing better than a lot of other people. You can fall prey to viewing your glass as half empty if you constantly think about how much more you want to earn and all the things you don’t have.
I don’t mean to suggest you should be complacent about your life situation. And I’m sure you aren’t if you’re reading personal finance and frugal living blogs like this one.
I live in San Francisco, where every day I pass homeless people and other people down on their luck. It’s not uncommon for me to hear people say that they’re looking for a job or on their way somewhere to pay a bill or pay back some money. Every morning I see elderly people collecting cans from garbage bins and bringing them to collection centers to make a few dollars. People make do on a lot less than I have, even in my most frugal moments. I live a very comfortable life. Seeing those people reminds me how good I have it and then it’s not so hard to give up some entertainment or small luxuries once in a while.
Related post: 10 Ways to Show Gratitude All Year Round
Frugal fatigue is completely normal. When you deprive yourself of anything, you can only do it for so long before your willpower gives out. If your current level of frugalness is giving you fatigue, then it requires a change. Try any of the tips above to tackle your fatigue and develop a more sustainable frugal lifestyle.
Do you ever feel frugal fatigue? What do you do to combat it? What would you recommend people do without falling off track towards their goals?