If you know me in real life (and even if you don’t), you probably know that I’m so NOT naturally frugal. I’m definitely a natural spender.
I like spending money on nice things.
Pretty things call to me in stores, saying “Puh-lease buy me!”
Eating out with friends is one of my favorite hobbies.
Cash barely hits my wallet before I’ve spent it.
But, despite all of those things, I’ve been steadily paying off debt and building my savings.
How? Because I’ve found that just a few simple changes can help us natural spenders to finally because frugal. (At least by our standards.) 😉
Here are 6 things you must do if you’re ready to ditch the overspending and start embracing frugality.
1. Take a Pause
Admittedly, this first one is the hardest one for me! It’s something I’m still working on myself because it involves moving past excuses and learning to be more patient. Basically, it’s the 24, or 48 hour rule if you’ve ever heard of that.
Instead of buying something you think you “need”, or that shiny, sparkly thing screaming your name from the store shelf, take a pause.
Don’t give in to the temptation to buy something right away if you haven’t already been wanting or needing it, or thinking about buying it for a while.
These impulse purchases are something that we spenders tend to go way overboard on and this is one of the biggest ways we bust our budgets.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
“But, I live too far away to go back to store later.”
Have you heard of online shopping? Wait until you get home and if you still want it in a day or two, order it! You can almost always get a coupon code for free shipping, or use Ebates to get a cash back discount at tons of stores.
I used to use that excuse too, but if you’re ready to become frugal and stop overspending, excuses are your enemy.
2. Ask Yourself Questions
Changing your way of thinking from spender to saver isn’t going to happen overnight, but it can happen. One way to help yourself make that mindset shift is by asking yourself questions when you go shopping.
Try asking yourself:
- Do I really need this, or is it a want?
- If it’s a need, do I need it right now, or can it wait?
- Is there a cheaper alternative? Can I buy it used? Can I borrow it for free?
- Have I done anything to make my purchase less expensive, like using Ebates?
- If this is a replacement for something I have, can the one I have be fixed instead?
These are questions that naturally frugal people ask themselves all the time. But, for us spenders, we have to consciously remind ourselves to think this way until it becomes a habit.
The self-control needed to become frugal is very similar to that needed to lose weight.
3. Find a New Tribe
Have you ever heard the saying, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.”? Well, it’s true!
The people who you spend time with can have a huge impact on all aspects of your life, from helping you to eat healthy (or not!), to helping you make good money decisions (or not!). So, if you want to go from being a spender to being more frugal, you need to find a new tribe.
I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it’s going to be way harder for you to become frugal if you’re constantly hanging out with your spend-thrift friends.
Most likely, they aren’t going to be on board with your plan to stop spending money. (At least, not at first!) So, they’ll still want to go to expensive restaurants and go shopping at the mall.
If you truly want to become frugal, you need to hang out with frugal people. Some of their frugal-ness will rub off on you!
You can find these frugal people in a lot of different places, like in Facebook groups about frugality, or by starting your own personal finance blog.
You might also find out that some of your friends are more frugal than they let on, they just haven’t been talking about it.
Start the conversation! Tell your current friends and family about your new lease on life. You might be surprised that some of them have similar views. That’s who needs to be in your new tribe!
4. Track Everything
You probably already know if you’re a spender. But, you may not know exactly where your money is going.
Before you can make any big changes to your money habits, you ned to be informed about what you’ve been spending your money on.
If you do most of your shopping with debit and credit cards, you can use a free online tool, like Personal Capital, to help you track your spending. Or, if you spend a lot with cash, try writing it down so you don’t lose track of that money and get a better idea of what your spending looks like.
Before you track your spending, you may think you only spend $50 on eating out. But, when you look at Personal Capital at the end of the month, you’ll be able to see what you’ve truly spent at restaurants and it may not be pretty!
Knowing this information can help you make changes to your habits, like not going to the mall to kill time on the weekends, or not driving through Starbucks on your way to work as often.
5. Make a Realistic Budget
After you’ve got some data for how you’ve been spending your money, then you can create a realistic budget.
Many people think that creating a budget is the first step to getting your money in order and becoming frugal, but I disagree. I think it’s important to track your spending first, otherwise you may not have any idea how much you should realistically budget for your variable expenses.
For example, since you think you’ve been spending $50 on eating out each month, that might be how you set up your budget. But, that may be hard to stick to if you were actually spending $150 on eating out and you didn’t really know it!
Use the numbers from Personal Capital to help you set up your first budget. You might have to make some changes from month to month until you better at budgeting. Plus, not every month is the same anyway. A good budget works with your lifestyle, not the other way around!
6. Set Goals That Make You Feel Excited
If you’ve never been in control of your money before, it may feel very exciting to you when you finally start to become frugal.
You may get almost addicted to seeing your debt decrease and your savings increase each time you get paid. (Or is that just me?!)
While it’s very exciting just to get those financial basics in order, it’s also ok to set other goals that make you feel excited.
For example, create a savings account for an up-coming trip. Having that to look forward to will help you stay accountable and keep working at becoming more frugal.
Or, try saving up for a clothing purchase instead of buying it right away like you used to. You might even start to appreciate these things more since you saved up for them and paid in cash!
That excitement and empowerment is the real reward for becoming frugal.