Our guest post this week is from Mr and Mrs Picky Pincher, who began married life with a huge student and consumer debt and living payday-to-payday in the way that is so typical of how many live their lives. That is until one day they had a revelation and realised that by making some big changes to how used their money, they could ditch the debt and start working towards financial freedom and early retirement.
Their regular blog provides us with insights into how they’re achieving their goal and the lessons learned along the way, as well as their weekly frugal food guide.
So with no further ado, take it away Picky Pinchers…….
It was the summer of 2015 and Mr. Picky Pincher and I had just started our frugal overhaul. We were in debt up to our eyeballs, living paycheck to paycheck, and were desperate for a way out. After becoming avid followers of Mr. Money Mustache, we created a plan to get out of debt. We were incredibly harsh and ambitious with our money-saving plans: no eating out, no extraneous purchases, no buying beer. The list of austerity measures went on and on.
A week after making this declaration, I was slouched on the couch with Chinese takeout, a new manicure, and a Guinness in said manicured hand.
It took just a few days to fall off the frugal wagon and I felt like a total failure. I hated how little self control I had. I wanted to throw in the towel and just stay in debt and cry over a gallon of ice cream.
But once I took a step back, I realized that self control wasn’t my problem. I was trying to live a lifestyle that wasn’t suited for me; I was trying to punish my spendy self of the past by depriving myself of the things I loved.
I’ve since adjusted my approach to saving money and living frugally. Being frugal means you still spend money—it’s just on the things that matter most to you, instead of, say, a Ferrari. I adjusted my behavior and found that saving money really wasn’t so bad after all!
Here’s how you can live frugally without hating yourself.
1. Drop the word “deserve” from your vocabulary
My “treat’cho self” attitude got me into a mess of trouble.
“I didn’t spend any money this week! … I deserve a fancy chocolate bar.”
“We saved $500 this month! Let’s buy a new couch!”
“I contributed to my retirement account! I’m gonna go buy a new purse to celebrate! Go me!”
I did these things because I thought I “deserved” them. I did a positive thing and wanted to reward myself for good behavior. It’s all positive reinforcement, right?
These “deserved” treats were thinly veiled steps off of the frugal bandwagon. There’s nothing wrong with a treat here and there, but these treats were frequent and expensive! They were making a dent in the savings Mr. Picky Pincher and I worked so hard to establish.
I had to challenge my idea that I deserved to be rewarded for doing the right thing. The reward was financial security, not a new purse. The whole point of switching to a frugal lifestyle was to save money and prioritize needs over wants. Having a deserving attitude negated the entire experience that I wanted for myself.
2. Build in non-monetary treats and rewards
I still build in little treats because I believe completely abstaining from anything fun and joyful will make you miserable—and more likely to spend money!
The great thing about fun is that it doesn’t have to cost a damn thing.
For example, Mr. Picky Pincher recently got a raise at work. Instead of going out for a big steak dinner to celebrate, we cooked crepes for cheap at home. It was a new experience for us and the crepes were SO GOOD. We had fun together while celebrating a little win—without breaking the bank.
Whether something good has happened or whether my day absolutely sucked, I build in small rewards throughout the day. I’ll take a long, hot bath with fancy Epsom salts. I’ll sit outside and drink a beer on my porch. I’ll give myself time to play a favorite old video game. These things are fun and cheap to do, and I do them often.
It’s all about adding little moments of happiness to your day—and they don’t have to cost anything.
3. Don’t stay cooped up in the house
Being a homebody isn’t frugal. If you constantly deny yourself the joy of leaving the house and having fun, it’s easy to feel resentful.
Mr. Picky Pincher and I were a one car household for a few months. One weekend Mr. Picky Pincher had to take the car to a conference, which meant I was carless for three days! I just stayed in our sad little apartment, trying to pass the time by baking.
It was depressing.
Even though I didn’t have a lot of money or even a car, I could have taken a ten minute walk to the park to chill out. Or I could have invited friends over for a walk. I could have done anything, but I chose to be cooped up in the house away from the sunshine, and I was miserable.
You can still get out of the house without spending money. Make sure you schedule in some face time with the world outside your bedroom every day.
4. Find frugal ways to do the things you already love
We all have hobbies. But sometimes these hobbies can get pretty pricey. Instead of cutting out hobbies altogether, find new ways to do the things you love.
For example, I love to sew. I’m actually horrible at sewing, but I like to practice and pretend I’m good at it. Anyway, sewing can get pretty expensive. Factor in the supplies, sewing machine, fabric, patterns, etc., and you’re looking at a lotta money down the drain. I got my sewing fix on the cheap by inheriting a vintage sewing machine, which eliminated that cost. I also started buying fabric at thrift stores to make outfits and scoring $2 patterns at the department store instead of more expensive patterns at specialty craft stores.
I also freaking love to play video games, which are also stupidly expensive. I keep my hobby manageable by only buying one new game a year and making the most of the consoles I have. I don’t buy brand new games or consoles as soon as they come out. Sometimes I’ll wait 6 months to buy them used.
Don’t stop doing what you love just because you’re trying to live more simply. There are smarter, frugal ways to do what you love.
5. Don’t be cheap
There is a big, big difference between being frugal and being cheap. To me, cheap people skimp on the things that actually matter. This includes health, safety, and quality.
I was so tempted to skimp on a lot of these items myself during our financial overhaul. I would delay doctor’s appointments. I delayed going to the dentist because I was scared of the bill (and of the dentist, to be honest). I wore holes into my shoes and didn’t want to spend the money to replace them.
Frugal people still spend money! If you refuse to go to the doctor or have holes in your clothes, you’re not going to be happy about saving money. Trim the fat in your budget in other areas, like food expenses, before cutting out necessities.
The Bottom Line
Saving money shouldn’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. Build in common sense ways to be kind to yourself while cutting expenses. Live a happy, frugal life while allowing yourself to be fulfilled—and you can live frugally without hating yourself.
We want to know: How do you stay happy and frugal?