Frugal living is not about being miserable. Instead, it will free up money for what you love. However, the surest road to frugal burnout is not knowing why you are being frugal and not having any set goals. So let us define your reason(s) for being frugal.
Living Below Your Means
This is the first post in a new series called Living Below Your Means. In this series, I hope to inspire you to take action and make lasting changes for the better in your life.
Before we really get into ways to live below your means, you have some work to do. Yes, you. I’ll share a secret with you – you only get out of this what you put into it.
I encourage you to have a dedicated notebook to work in during this Living Below Your Means series. I’m a big fan of Leuchtturm1917 dotted notebooks (affiliate link), but really any old notebook you have at hand will do the job.
Defining Your Why
If living below your means is going to work out in the long run for you, you’ll need to know what matters to you, not your mama, your best friend, your coworker or pastor. You need to know what YOU are saving for.
Open up your notebook (affiliate link) and start dreaming.
Do you want to go on a cruise? Buy land? Stay home with your children? What gets you excited?
What are the things that matter to you and bring you joy?
Write down all the things that come to mind. Then once you have a bunch of things, circle the ones that you know really ring true for you.
On the next page, write it in big letters.
This is your why. This is what will keep you going when the going gets tough and it will get tough. It might even get tough many times before you reach the point of living comfortably below your means but if you stick with it, you’ll get there.
Now you have a dedicated page that you can always return to when you need to be reminded why on earth you are even attempting this living below your means thing in the first place.
Where Has Your Money Gone?
The purpose of this blog series is to get the most out of your hard-earned money. For that to happen you have to do some thinking before you begin to make any changes.
Look back over the past year, what have you spent your money on? Don’t just think back, look back. Look at your budget, if you have one (If you don’t, don’t worry, we’ll make you one later). Look at bank statements, credit card statement, any kind of statements of how you actually spent your money.
You could add the different things up, like how much you spent in clothing stores, at the coffee shop and in fast-food restaurants. You don’t have to do it now though (I’ll force you to do that once we get to your budget). Just look at the numbers and let them seep in.
Are there a gazillion small charges?
Do you take out money from the bank and have no clue what you spent it on?
Do you have big, BIG, random charges almost every month?
Notice your spending patterns and write your observations down in your notebook (affiliate link). Write a sentence or two (or several pages if you feel like it) about why you think you’ve been spending this way.
Temporary Misery And What Really Matters
Now, I said earlier that frugal living is not about being miserable. I kinda lied. You might be miserable for a little while. However, that’s only until you figure out how much joy you get from actually living below your means. When you finally have enough money for that thing you always wanted to do. Once you see that you can still afford what really matters to you.
I say what really matters to you because you can’t have everything. You knew that I’m sure.
At least you know that everyone else can’t have everything. Somehow we tend to think we are the one exemption. We have our cake and eat it too.
Well, cakes are meant for eating, so eat them, but only your favourites. If you love rich chocolate cake, then don’t settle for anything less.
Make a List of Your Favourite Things
Figure out what your priorities are. Make a list of your favourite things, the things you don’t want to give up under any circumstances.
For most people, this list tends to be really long when they first set out to make it. There’s no right or wrong number but be realistic.
You’ll likely find that over the coming weeks and months you’ll be able to move things from this list to the next list you need to make.
Make a List of Things You Can Give Up
The second list you need to make is of things that you are willing to commit to giving up.
Base it on the observations you made from your statement on how you spent your money over the past 12 months.
As the must-have list shrink, this list will grow. Don’t be surprised if your list starts out really short but ends up being really long. That’s what happened to my list.
Here’s the brief version, in case you just skimmed this post (it’s okay, I do it too) but still want to make some lasting changes in your life for the better.
- Figure out why you want to live below your means. What fires you up?
- Look back at your spending the past year. Identify your patterns.
- What are your priorities? How do you want to keep spending?
- Make a list of things you can give up.
- Make a list of things you refuse to give up.