5 Ways To Battle Frugal Fatigue

If your New Year’s Resolution was to be more frugal in 2010, like many of us, you may be getting sick of it by now. There are good reasons for this. Being frugal is an exercise in discipline–telling yourself no over and over again for the benefit of a larger goal. This routine can become oppressive over time and lead to a sense of malaise, listlessness, and mild depression. There is a name for this phenomenon. It’s called frugal fatigue.
Frugal fatigue just means you’re tired of being thrifty. You want to have some fun and spend some money instead of always saying no to yourself. But experiencing this temporary emotional state doesn’t mean you have to fall off the frugal wagon completely. It just means that you have to acknowledge and deal with the feelings so that you can get on with being thrifty. Here are five ways I have found to battle frugal fatigue:
1. Remember Your Goals. It helps to reassess why you are doing this in the first place. Look at the positives, not what you can’t do–go out to dinner, go shopping, buy a new car, etc.–but what you will be able to do because of this lifestyle–save for retirement, go on a trip, pay off your debt (which, while unglamorous, means more freedom in your life). Look at what you have achieved so far and what you will achieve if you keep on with this.
2. Try Something New. Frugal fatigue comes from routine. You end up feeling trapped in your house and like you aren’t allowed to do anything. So, try something new. Cook a new recipe, try a new sport, go thrift store shopping with a tight budget, or have friends over for board game night. Make some fun for yourself that doesn’t focus on spending a lot of money, and you will feel better.
3. Get Some Frugal Inspiration. I just read the book Possum Living by Dolly Freed–who I recently posted a short documentary on–and it got me all gung-ho about self-sufficiency again. It’s important to have things like that. Read some frugal forums or The Tightwad Gazette or stare at growing your savings account or talk to your favorite frugal friend. Do something to get excited about frugality and it will feel more fun.
4. Count Your Blessings. You could just think about all the things you have in life, or you could literally count your blessings–for example, open your refrigerator and look at all the food you have, and then make a plan on how you’re going to use it up. Or look at all the paint cans in the garage and make a new project around them. The idea is to focus on what you have, the blessings, and then use them. Why? Using your resources makes you feel richer.
5. Buy Something. If frugal fatigue is really bad, go out and do something that costs money. That’s right. Treat yourself. Unless you are desperately poor, you can probably afford to go out to one dinner or buy yourself one item at the store. This could backfire and reignite your love of spending, but I’m guessing that if you have been wanting to do something for awhile and you’ve been telling yourself no, doing it will be enough to keep frugal fatigue at bay. Any discipline system needs small rewards as much as the big ones to keep you motivated. If you have been doing well, maybe it’s time for one of those small rewards.
Besides, it is cheaper in the long run to do something you really want and then go back to frugality than it is to fall off the wagon altogether because you feel discouraged. So, unless your goals are unbending, I say it’s time to bend a little.
And then, onward, frugal bunnies! You thrifty bees, you.

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