Frugal Living 

How to Avoid Frugal Fatigue

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The recent recession has encouraged many of us to improve our financial habits — including cutting back on spending. Frugality has allowed many to regain financial footing. However, for some of us, it can become wearing to always be watching costs and pinching pennies.

Indeed, after right around three years of increased budget consciousness, many are feeling what is being dubbed “frugal fatigue.” Instead of closely watching your money, you might be tempted to return to former ways, bending your budget a little and perhaps carrying a balance on your credit card for a couple of months. Frugal fatigue sets in when you begin to feel deprived by your good financial habits. Here’s how to avoid frugal fatigue:

Mind Set: Focus on What You Have

One of the most important things you can do to avoid frugal fatigue is to focus on what you have, rather than constantly worrying about what you don’t. Look at your family and friends, and consider the enjoyment you get from being with them. Pull out some of the items you’ve had stored away and start using them again. Instead of pining over the latest video game, pull out a classic and reacquaint yourself with how much you love it.

Rather than thinking about the off-the-hook spring break you think you want, focus on some of the interesting things you can do nearby, and with people who are important to you. Often, we are so wrapped up in what we don’t have (and these things are rarely items that we need — or even really want), we forget to be grateful for what we do have. Create a “gratitude list” of things you have to help you get in a better mindset.

Enjoy What You Already Pay For

Your tax dollars pay for libraries, public parks and other “free” attractions. Go take advantage of these amenities. You can have access to any book you want for free at the library. You can also rent videos at many libraries, and read periodicals. Parks offer great recreation that allows quality time with the family, as well as getting you out in nature. Studies have shown that being outside can have a positive effect on your mood. Spend time with those you love outside, and you might not notice your frugal fatigue. You have a number of options, from local nature centers to libraries to farmers markets that open the world to you and cost very little.

Find Cheaper Versions of Activities You Enjoy

I like eating out. I also love going to the movies. These things can get expensive, and I get really grumpy if I don’t get to have a little of this variety of fun. My husband and I solve the problem by going to lunch rather than dinner. It costs less than half the price, and is still a great dining out experience. We hit the matinee instead of going to the evening show. It costs less — and the theater is less crowded. Plus, going out while our son is at school means we save money on babysitting costs.

Look for promotions for your favorite amusement parks, and take advantage of deal sites that can help you find discounts. You can also find out if there is a “free admission” day at the local museum (many museums have these), or if there is a family discount night at a local attraction.

Careful planning can reveal plenty of inexpensive options for your entertainment, giving you plenty to keep you occupied and avoid frugal fatigue.

{ 14 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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14 Responses to “How to Avoid Frugal Fatigue”

  1. Bey says:

    Good points, all, and great encouragement for all. Being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap, it means making sure you get value for money spent. Money spent shouldn’t be money you don’t have, though — perceived fatigue from keeping spending in line pales in comparison to the stress provided by being too deep in debt. BTW, your piece reminded me of Sheryl Crow’s “Soak up the Sun”.

  2. Bart says:

    Just thougt I would add this as a refresher from one of your older posts

    Free Admission to Museums from Bank of America Museums on Us

    • uclalien says:

      In my area, California’s Bay Area, a number of museums have 1 day per month with free admission. My sister has saved a ton of money by knowing exactly which museums offer free admission and when. Sure…those days tend to be a bit more crowded, especially during the summertime, but it isn’t too bad when you consider you’re saving $5-20 per person per museum visit.

    • E Breacan says:

      I actually used this discount about 3 weeks ago, I took my daughter to a science museum in Florida and was surprised at the counter when her admission was free when paying with my BofA card.

  3. zapeta says:

    I’ve had bouts of frugal fatigue, and I usually allow myself a small splurge. Now I am budgeting a small amount each month that is just money for me to play around with or spend on something I wouldn’t otherwise buy. This keeps my splurges to a minimum and allows me to budget for them.

    • daenyll says:

      I keep a misc category in budget for splurges and small things that don’t quite fit under my more general categories

    • skylog says:

      i think this is a good move. it is only natural for people to suffer from “frugal fatigue” from time to time. allowing yourself a small break when those times hit is a nice little reward for all your hard work. i like that you budget for this, it makes it just a little more “right.”

  4. My wife and I have just become debt free! It’s exciting, but we definitely have frugal fatigue and almost feel like we need a break from the saving.

    I think these ideas will help. We can still go out and do stuff, but it’s much cheaper! Thanks for the tips.

  5. IcantThinkofAcleverName says:

    This is what helps me: I have a savings account for spending just like an emergency fund or retirement savings account. It gives me something to look forward to.

  6. Shirley says:

    I think that the longer you practice sensible frugality, the more normal (habit?) it becomes and the fewer bouts of Frugal Fatigue pop up. For many of us, it is what we saw growing up and seems to be just the normal way of life. Needs and wants should both be budgeted for, as zapeta said here.

    Sad to say, a great many of the current generation of teens expect (and often get) immediate gratification and have missed out on that important life lesson.

    • skylog says:

      i agree with you shirley, i think this is the case with a lot that is discussed here when it comes to finances. the most important thing in so many ways is just “to start.” start saving, start budgeting, start investing…etc… sometimes it is the hardest part, put once you start, it does become “normal” and just a part of life.

  7. Diane says:

    Great tips! It seems everyone is pinching pennies these days and it’s easy to get tired! I take a break every few days, from cutting coupons, shopping, etc. so I don’t get burned out.


  8. Strebkr says:

    Its ok to go out and spend a little. Just make sure it fits in your goals and you have saved up for it. Don’t let your splurges derail your plans. You can still be frugal while letting yourself indulge a little from time to time.

  9. The Frugalist says:

    This article is not really about avoiding the fatigue of trying to be frugal, but actually not being wasteful. We can have a great time without spending lots of money. My friend and I once got a “fun card” and made an arrangement to share gass and parking and spend no more than 20 dollars at the park. That way we could go more often. Boy was that a problem. No one else that came with us had the discipline not spend on all of the expensive toys and food items. It’s harder when you have kids, but we are not kids! Almost everything inside the park was free. I saw some of my favorite performers (from my day)for free! Now, I go a lot of places alone. I can do more that way.

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