When You Feel Like a Frugal Failure

One of the most important steps on the journey to becoming more mindful of your money is learning to fail.  It is hard.  And painful.  And frustrating.  There will be times that you will want to quit, and just go back to living blissfully beyond your means.  It’s important to understand that this is a normal step in the process.  Any time you work to change your life, there will be pain to accompany the growth you are working so hard to achieve.

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This happened to me last night.  My family had decided to meet my sister at Chick-fil-a for dinner because they were doing a special Frozen night with Elsa and Anna.  When we arrived we had to park three parking lots away and walked in to the restaurant to find it covered in a sea of wall to wall people.  Being that I am quite claustrophobic, it was quickly decided that we would need to be leaving and eating somewhere else.  So the $20 Chick-fil-a dinner we had planned on became a $55 dinner at a steakhouse.  I was almost sick when the bill came, and not because the food was terrible.  $55 is a lot of money.  And for something that we put in our bodies that will quickly come out??  I was depressed for a while after leaving dinner.

It is so frustrating when I try so hard to live a frugal life and something unexpected comes up and derails all my efforts.  This feeling has also hit me when I am couponing and something doesn’t work out quite right.  When I first started using coupons I tried to go all out, working out huge scenarios to buy tons of products only to find the deal not working out at the store.  When something is out of stock or not the sale price advertised on my deal website, it blows everything out of whack when trying to do a huge deal.  At that point I am standing at the cash register with sweaty palms and a pounding heart on the verge of crying because all my hard work is crumbling before me.  Here’s what I have learned from these experiences (and oddly enough this ties in my failed dinner plans last night)

LET IT GO!  LET IT GO!

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There are going to be times when this lifestyle and the planning and figuring I’ve put in is just simply not going to work.  And I have to be okay with that.  Because when I am able to step back (after enjoying my well deserved pity party) I realize that all my efforts work together to bring about a change together, and no one thing is going to make or break my frugal lifestyle.  Instead of focusing on what I have messed up or what has not gone according to plan, I have to make sure that I focus just as much on what I am doing right.  Saving on groceries?  Check!  Eating out less?  Check!  Last night I had a talk with myself and realized that I had cooked at home 5 out of the last 6 nights, which made the extra $35 expense at dinner seem not so huge in proportion.  And with couponing, looking at the my receipt and seeing what I did save on brings about huge satisfaction.  Another things I have learned is that it is okay to return the items you messed up on!  Don’t feel like you are stuck with overpriced things because your deal didn’t add up.  Save your receipt and take it back.  And next week start small, focusing only on one or two deals at a time.  That will clear your mind and make it easier to balance things out if it doesn’t add up in your favor.

Learning to save money has a huge learning curve just like anything else.  It may or may not come easily to you, and either way it is going to be alright.  Start small, focus on the good, and cut yourself some slack are the keys to living a happy, balanced frugal lifestyle.

Also, in full disclosure, I did purchase $10 in lottery tickets last night since the jackpot was up to $900 million.  That is also one way to even out your frugal lifestyle, but since I didn’t win I will just keep on keeping on with my tried and true money saving methods 🙂

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Frugality 101

When you finally make the decision to gain control of your money, knowing where to begin can feel overwhelming.  Depression may set in as you envision a life of extreme frugality, filling your pantry with 100’s of Tic Tacs and Hamburger Helper, reusing floss, and dumpster diving for deals.  While those are all ways in which you can save money, you can also painlessly make simple lifestyle changes resulting in more money in your pocket.  Here are some simple ways to get you in the frugal mindset.

Begin with a budget.  It’s impossible to gain financial freedom when you are living in denial of your current money situation.  Be brutally honest, with yourself and with those who share the financial responsibility in your house.  Lay it all out on the line, baring the secrets you have hidden even from yourself.  That’s the painful part.  Now that it’s all out in the open, the fun can begin.  Make a plan.  Begin simply, writing down all your income and expenses on notebook paper with a freshly sharpened pencil.  Something about that will take you back to grade school and make you feel incredibly responsible.  Or use a premade budget form like the one here available from Dave Ramsey.  Bad news, if your expenses exceed your income, you are going to have to make some changes.  You can either generate more income, or look for ways to lower your expenses.

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Stop Eating Your Money.  The first budget my husband and I actually sat down and wrote out (5 years after we got married….) was shocking.  We live to eat.  And love to eat.  A lot.  We were spending almost a house payment on food.  Let that sink in.  A moment on the lips, a lifetime of living in debt.  Spending $15 at Subway, $30 at Applebee’s doesn’t seem like much at the time, but when you add it up to equal a house payment, the financial impact of those smallish amounts slaps you in the face.  Our problem was a lack of planning, every day 5:00 would sneak up on us and I would have no idea what to have for dinner.  Even when I had just spent $150 at the grocery store, all I saw were ingredients and no actual food because I had not made a plan.  Eating out is okay.  Eating out because you’ve not made a plan is not okay.  Begin by writing down your plan for every meal of the day for two weeks, including when you plan to eat out.  Sticking to this for every two weeks will have a huge impact on your monthly budget.  Even if you don’t shop the grocery sales and never clip a single coupon, planning your meals will make a significant difference in your food budget.

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Track It All.  Every last penny should be accounted for.  Since you made a plan for your money when you did your budget, you know if you have enough money to make a purchase.  Whether it’s a $3 coffee at Starbucks or a new Coach purse, you should be aware of a purchase’s place in your budget.  Writing down all your spending, no matter if you use a fancy app or a small notebook, keeps your honest and accountable.

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Most Basic Expense Tracker

These are just a few painless ways to begin to take control of your financial life.  Frugality is being aware of your money and choosing to use it in the wisest ways.  I hope through this blog that I’m able to help make you aware of deals and ideas to make you penny wise and avoid being pound foolish.