Frugal Living is Not a Sprint. It’s a Marathon.

Frequently I get questions from people, asking how to save money. Often they want a rundown of all the different ways they can do things that impact their budget in a positive way.

The money-saving possibilities are endless, but you really have to pace yourself when changing your lifestyle. Unless you are suddenly unemployed and need to cut the budget 40% today, it’s best to step into the frugal lifestyle gradually. If you don’t, chances are the changes won’t last.

Frugal Living is Often a Time/Money Tradeoff

You pay a premium to save time. It takes less than 5 minutes to put a frozen lasagna in the oven for dinner, compared to the 30 minutes it takes to make a lasagna from scratch. But the frozen lasagna is more expensive.

Line drying laundry is much less expensive than running clothes through the dryer, but it takes twice as long. Food and personal items cost less, if you use coupons, but they take time to clip.

Most moves toward living more frugally are going to take time. And spending more time on frugal pursuits is often a difficult adjustment. It’s best to take it in baby steps.

Frugal Living is a Skill that Needs to be Learned

Frugal living takes skill. It requires organization. And like any skill, frugal living gets easier with time.

When you first learn to sew, it takes forever to remember how to thread the sewing machine. Pinning a pattern is a chore, and sewing a seam often takes more than one try.

So it goes with frugal living. Baking your own bread can seem to take forever, until you’ve done it enough times that it’s second nature. When you’re new at clipping and organizing coupons, it’s overwhelming. But when you have a practiced system in place, it gets a lot easier and goes a lot faster.

If you try to change too many aspects of your life at once, you’ll overwhelm yourself with all the skills you need to learn. Don’t go too quickly!

Frugal Living is a Marathon

You don’t have to be a frugal ninja overnight. If you’re interested in making a transition to living a more frugal lifestyle, take it slowly. Pick one thing that you are going to change this week.

Maybe you want to cut your grocery budget. A good start would be to plan your meals. Make a commitment to draw up a meal plan this week. Don’t worry about sales. Don’t worry about coupons. Just make the menu and follow it.

When you find that it’s second nature to make a menu every week, pull out the weekly sales flyers and base your menus on sales at the grocery store. When you master that, add couponing to your frugal efforts.

Step by step you’ll be making sustainable changes to your budget. And one day you’ll look back and realize you’ve become a frugal expert!

Photo by mattsches.


By , on Feb 17, 2010
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. SO TRUE. Great article. I have the frugal mindset down, I’m trying to think like a healthy person. Life consists of little habits, let’s make good ones. :)

  2. I do agree with it being a marathon, I just hope no one is scared away by the description. No one starts out with a full marathon, it takes baby steps to lead up to it. Start with one small thing and then go to the next. Build your habits one at a time and eventually you will get there. And it is OK if you cant handle something……just move on to the next one.

  3. Ted:

    I love how you say it is a learned skill. I think we are natural consumers. It has taken me about 6 years of overspending before I realized how much I needed to reign in and begin living frugally. I started, like someone said above, by ordering only water when eating out. Now I am baking my own bread, we make most meals from scratch, making breakfast each morning. Now its enjoyable and rewarding. The trick is to not go overboard and become a nutty saver so that it runs your life! Balance

  4. Most of the time I recycle, before I find it odd to keep empty boxes of body batter, bottle of coffee container and all that but then it becomes a habit and helped me cut cost in buying containers for just about anything. Another, I usually go to coffee shops just to sip a coffee but then when I realize how much money I spend monthly, I decided to just make my own latte :D … and little by little by little I completely get rid of the habit of stopping by a coffee shop. I’m not being hard on myself but I’m just trying to cut all vices. It’s really a marathon and hopefully I’ll reach the finish line in no time. :D

  5. Budget Gal Angie:

    Is this why I feel so tired, because I’m running a marathon? lol. I agree whole heartedly that living frugal is a work in progress and taking steps to change your spending habits will come naturally with practice.

  6. This is so true! It is so easy to get wrapped up in consumerism, but if we stop and take a look at something from our grandparents’ point of view we realize how crazy some of the things are that we spend money on. Like $5. cups of coffee drinks – FOR OUR CHILDREN!! Hello! Or re-decorating our homes for each passing season. These are things that have been dreamed up by retailers to encourage us to spend more money. Don’t fall for it!

  7. Its important to consider also that being frugal can be a habit that people develop. For example, once you get into the habit, of , say not ordering drinks with dinner, than that habit can stay with you. So not only is frugality a learned skill, its once that can become ingrained as a long term habit as well.

  8. To me, saving money is definitely a step-wise process. I think looking at where you can get the biggest bang for your unspent-buck is the best place to start. At the same time, each person needs to determine where they are willing to make changes, and where they won’t (or can’t). This is the part where saving money becomes a very personal thing — there is no “one size fits all” plan for everyone to cut their budget! All you can do is identify where the possibilities are, prioritize which you’ll work on first, then identify ways to accomplish your goals. Luckily, there are lots of great resources and ideas to help along the way! :)

  9. Kate:

    Great post! I think most of us can be really hard on ourselves because we aren’t budgeting ‘ninjas’ over night!

  10. Thankfully, I do everything perfectly, so I don’t worry about this stuff. (cough cough)

    Seriously, though, it’s a good thing to remember when perfectionistic stuff starts nagging. That said, I wouldn’t even recommend taking on one thing a week. I’d give it closer to a month. You might be able to focus on two skills in a month. But that’s as far as I’d take it, unless circumstances are REALLY dire.

  11. marci357:

    It’s also a mindset…. you have to get it engraved into your head that you don’t NEED everything that comes along. You have to get it engraved into your head NOT to pull out the wallet or credit card. You can make it a game to see how little it actually takes to get along :)

    It’s an Attitude! lol! Get one!

  12. Hmm that’s good advice. There are some things that I just automatically do that are frugal (like not paying full price for anything if i can possibly help it), but since I am trying to do even more I have to do just one things at a time. My next thing is to learn to bake my own bread.

  13. Joe:

    Yes, being frugal certainly is a lost art. Our Grandparents and parents had it down back in the 30s, 40s and 50s Americans seem to be lost along the way. Maybe its a good thing for those of us who enjoy the frugal lifestyle, this is the land of plenty. A person can live the good life without having to pay full price for anything if they are willing to go the extra mile. Home made bread for example, now that’s the good life !

  14. AngelSong:

    You are spot-on, once more. It takes just three weeks to form a new habit (or change an old one by putting new behavior in place of the old). An easy way to think about doing this is to take it just a single day at a time, and don’t worry about what happens next. Things do fall into place, and soon it takes little to add new skills. It is so easy to become completely overwhelmed with any change, if it is done too quickly or abruptly. This is why people who want to become better organized often cannot even begin.

  15. I agree. I know that some of the things I do are weird, but they are so second nature now that it doesn’t seem like it to me! I think this is one of the best tips out there. You’ve got to start slow with anything!

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