Have you ever gone on a budget?
How long did it take for you to give up?
We fail at budgeting once and then give up.
Until we realize that we still have $10,000 of debt in a credit card, a $20,000 car loan, and our student loans that won’t go away.
Why can’t we stick to a budget?
Budgets seem unsustainable and restrictive.
We want to do whatever we want and spend however we want. It’s our money. We worked for it. Therefore, we deserve it.
If your budget is unrealistic, too restrictive, and you’re miserable, you’re experiencing frugal fatigue.
So what’s the solution?
I will share with you nine ways to effectively avoid frugal fatigue.
And on top of that, these lifestyle changes will lead you to a new life.
A better life.
What is frugal fatigue?
Frugal fatigue is the overwhelming feeling of living on a strict budget with less money for an extended time.
You are feeling burnt out from that low-cost lifestyle.
Your budget does not give you a sustainable lifestyle, and you become frugally fatigued.
What contributes to frugal fatigue?
Not having a realistic budget, depriving yourself of the little joys in life, and bringing your budget to the bare bones contributes to frugal fatigue.
You always think about your budget and how you can’t do anything because it is not in the budget.
How do I know if I am becoming frugally fatigued?
Your budget brings you sadness, anger, and resentment.
You end up spending frivolously on small things as an act of rebellion.
You abandon your budget. You begin to spend emotionally and irrationally.
You start creeping back to your old ways because you are missing your past life.
What can I do to avoid frugal fatigue?
1. Name what matters
When people start being serious with their budget, the first mistake is to cut their budget to the bare bones and leave no wiggle room.
When looking at your budget and deciding what to cut out, ask yourself, “What brings me value? What brings me happiness and joy?”.
Identify these things and if it makes a significant impact on your budget, decrease it!
Scale back your expenses by 25% then 50% if you can.
Reassess every month on how it’s impacting your quality of life and your budget.
This habit gradually becomes a lifestyle change.
We are big foodies who love Japanese food, and we see eating out as an experience. We budget $500 a month for eating out for a family of 4.
2. Determine if your budget is realistic or not
When first creating a budget, people underestimate their spending.
The initial budget is not a true reflection of their spending.
Write down all of your expenses, literally!
You may need to do this for at least three months to get a true reflection of your actual spending.
Make your budget according to those numbers.
Once you have your stable expenses figured out (groceries, cable, phone, gas, insurance, etc.), add in the costs that fluctuate (eating out, shopping, etc.) and see if you need to decrease that.
Reassess your budget every month and adjust next month’s budget accordingly.
When we moved from England to Japan, our grocery and eating out budget was most affected.
We tracked our budget for several months to see what a reasonable grocery and eating out budget was for us.
Related Post: Purpose of Budgeting and How to Use It to Your Advantage
3. Create a budget line for having fun
When people need to go on a strict budget, they completely cut out the “have fun” budget.
Doing this will dramatically decrease quality of life, and frugal fatigue will kick in FAST!
Create a budget line for having fun, eating out, traveling, or whatever you desire.
If your budget is tight, then don’t budget a lot for it (maybe $40 every month), but at least it’s still there.
If you value it and it enhances your quality of life, keep it.
There are other ways to save money, such as lowering your cellphone bill or car insurance by shopping at other companies.
Our monthly budget includes a line for eating out, family fun, self-care, and clothes shopping, which total $700.
4. Create sinking funds with a goal in mind
No matter how good you are at budgeting, financial events that you can’t plan come up out of the blue.
Having a sinking fund can help alleviate those financial events.
Set up a savings account with the name of what the end goal is.
If it is for a car repair, name it a car repair fund and set a monetary goal.
Each month, contribute a small amount to that savings account until you reach the goal.
Once you meet the goal, stop contributing and use that money in other areas.
When an unexpected financial event comes up, your sinking fund will cover the expenses.
We have a sinking fund for car repairs, vacations, PCS (permanent change of station) move since we are in the military, annual expenses (i.e., car insurance), gifts, and family emergencies.
Related Post: Why Sinking Fund Categories May Be the Best Thing for Your Budget
5. Celebrate the wins
People can get caught up in saving money or paying down debt. They will not treat themselves when they reach a financial milestone.
However, depriving yourself of the little joys leads to frugal fatigue faster.
Once you reach a goal, do little things like eating out at a slightly more expensive restaurant or getting a unique, fancy dessert to celebrate with the family.
The Financial Independence journey is a marathon so celebrate big and small wins to keep motivated.
Once we reach a goal, we celebrate by going to an expensive family restaurant spending $80-$100 (guilt-free) vs. just going to our usual family restaurants where we spend $35-$45.
6. Surround yourself with like-minded people
The people you surround yourself with influence your behavior, thoughts, and beliefs.
Your environment and what you expose yourself to dictates your views and perception of the world.
If you are on the Financial Independence journey, finding like-minded people who are into saving, investing, and working towards retirement goals will keep you motivated.
If spenders surround you, frugal fatigue is hard to avoid. You will constantly be depriving yourself since people around you are doing the opposite.
If you can’t find like-minded people in person, find your community through active Facebook groups and influencers on Instagram/Twitter.
I found my kind of people on a Facebook group called Women’s Personal Finance (Women on FIRE). They are resourceful, intelligent, and powerful.
7. Remember your why
Being on a personal finance journey is long, so it’s easy to lose sight of the goal.
It’s even more complicated when the end goal is years or even decades away.
Remember your why.
What got you on the journey in the first place?
What is the ultimate goal?
The journey is challenging and exhausting, and it can propel you to becoming frugally fatigued.
But when you know what the end goal is, it will be much easier to stick to your finance journey.
We remember our why by talking about our dreams and how we want to live our retirement life.
We have weekly conversations about this.
Our goals feel achievable and more realistic the more we talk about and put details into it.
8. Earn more money
Increasing wealth means increasing your income and decreasing your expenses.
Reducing your costs can only get you so far until you become frugally fatigued.
Earning more money is the other part of the equation.
Ask for an increase at your job, get a side hustle or even get a whole new job at another company that pays more.
Stay-at-home parents can pick up a job for several hours a week if there is enough flexibility in family life.
Our current lifestyle is comfortable enough to have the quality of life that we enjoy while saving and investing for our future.
While waiting for my husband’s next promotion, I am looking for creative ways to earn an income without being physically away from my children.
9. Practice contentment and gratitude
Contentment is being pleased and satisfied with where you are in life.
Gratitude is the state of being appreciative and thankful for what you have.
How many people do you know have this?
Practice daily gratitude by listing out 3-5 things you are grateful for.
It can be things you have or events in your life that happened that day.
Do gratitudes at the dinner table, and everyone (including kids) say what they are grateful for.
Once you realize the small and big things in life that you are thankful for, you become content with what your family has.
We started doing this in 2018 when we found out about the Financial Independence world.
Gratitudes propelled our Financial Independence journey and net worth.
We don’t compare ourselves to others. Instead, we are hyper-focused on our journey, and we are content with the things we have.
How can I move past frugal fatigue?
Don’t deprive yourself of the things that matter. Please keep it in your life!
It’s okay to make changes slowly but make them!
It takes months to years to create habits that transform into a lifestyle.
Naming the things you are grateful for helps you focus on what you have and not on what you don’t have.
Contentment then comes naturally.
Contentment and gratitude become a lifestyle change that delivers lifelong results.
Related Post: Ultimate Checklist: How to Live Frugally on One Income
Okay, what’s next?
Frugal fatigue is avoidable.
It takes a while to find your family values and the quality of life you want to have.
Once you figure this out, it will be sustainable.
The life-changing habits will transform into a new lifestyle.
Imagine seeing your debt decreasing and going down to $0.
Imagine effortlessly contributing to retirement and your child’s college fund (if it matters to you).
Imagine going on a big family trip that you can afford.
Our most recent frugal fatigue experience was when we made our international move. We had to adjust our habits in our new environment while getting paid less.
Frugal fatigue happens to all of us. The important thing is to get past it.
Once you do these things I mentioned, you will avoid frugal fatigue too.
It will be a new way of living on a budget that doesn’t feel like a budget.
These lifestyle changes will give you a new life.
A better life is waiting for you.
You can do it.