When many people think of living a frugal lifestyle they imagine having to go without and never being able to enjoy their favorite things. The real truth is that a frugal lifestyle can be freeing and zen.

Many people are under the impression that living a frugal lifestyle is nearly impossible. When you throw in the idea that you could be happy living this way, well, people don’t often believe you at first according to ZenHabits.

Here’s the thing about living a luxurious lifestyle—especially when your income doesn’t allow it—once you get the hang of it, you’ll be happier.

Establishing the difference between your wants and your needs can be a bit tricky at first, but once you start to get in the pattern of it there will be a huge weight lifted off your shoulders.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that their wants are one of the main causes of their stress. How is this? Here’s an example:

A waitress had a long night of serving rowdy customers and she wants to find a way to unwind for the night. She stops on her way home to pick up a bottle of wine and a magazine. She is now out roughly $20.

When she gets home she pours herself a glass and starts flipping through her magazine. She comes across an ad in the magazine with her favorite celebrity promoting their new clothing line. As a dedicated fan, she wants gear from this line so she goes online and places an order. Now, she’s out an additional $100.

You might be thinking “$120 isn’t very much,” but let’s take a deeper look.

All those little purchases may have been more money than she made in her shift that night. The very same shift that caused her enough stress to think she needed those items.

How often does your stress lead to you making bad financial decisions? Do you cheer yourself up with lavish, little impulse purchases?

Limiting impulse purchases

Cutting out your impulse buys is one of the most important things to do when beginning your path towards a more frugal lifestyle. Next time you are about to make an impulse purchase remember this: the more money you spend on material items, the more time you will have to spend at work not enjoying them.

impulse buys

Many people spend the majority of their week working to pay off their debts. Well, how much of their debt-money was spent on necessary items.

Have you ever swiped your credit card for dinner at your favorite restaurant? Or maybe for an outfit for a night out? Every time you do that you have to pay for your fun later on. More times than not, it wasn’t worth the cost.

To avoid these debts, we need to stick to spending our money on what’s necessary. Don’t let that scare you. This doesn’t mean you will be living like a peasant and churning your own butter (unless you want to). Buying only what’s necessary means only what’s necessary for your happiness.

There are a lot of things that are not necessary but still bring people happiness. Your goal should be to weed out the unnecessary. Some things like your utility bills, rent/mortgage, or food are completely necessary no matter what, but there are a lot of things that sit on the line. Ask yourself, do you need them?

Food is a necessity to live, but it’s important to shop smart. Make a budget before you go and only buy what you need. Know what foods are necessary and which are treats.

Clothing is another thing that sits on the line of impulsive and necessary. We need clothes every day, and we need different clothes for different occasions. You wouldn’t wear the same clothes you wore for a jog around the park to a dinner event with your boss.

However, a lot of people are guilty of using different occasions as an excuse to buy more outfits than they need. This results in having a lot of pieces in your closet that only get worn a handful of times.

Something you may have never thought of about having a lot of clothes is that it complicates your life. A frugal lifestyle is all about simplicity, and there’s nothing simplistic about having too much of anything.

Tips for a frugal and zen lifestyle

Give yourself an allowance

Give yourself a weekly or monthly allowance for impulse buys according to your budget. Even if it’s a small amount it will still make it feel like you are not bound to a bunch of strict rules.

There is one rule you need to set in place for your allowance though. The amount you set is the amount you get. Once it’s spent, it’s gone and you can’t get more until next time. This will help you have control over what you pick to spend it on.

Check your bank account daily

Keep an eye on your spending by checking your bank account every day to see your balance. This will help you keep your spending in check. It is also a good way to keep an eye out for any unverified charges.

Hang out with like-minded people

The easiest way to stay on track with your frugal lifestyle—while still enjoying life—is to find friends who are also living the frugal life! If your friends are all about luxury goods, you may be tempted to keep up with them. Put down those Gucci loafers!

No spend days

Have a day where you don’t spend a single cent. The next time you do it, aim for two days. Then move forward with a third and fourth day of not spending money. Keep challenging yourself to see how many days in a row you can go without buying anything.

Avoid temptation

If you don’t go into the mall, you won’t be tempted to spend money on things you don’t need. Stores have made it a lot easier for you to buy their products from the comfort of your own home, so you will also need to limit your screen time to avoid online shopping.

Find free activities

There’s no point in making all these changes if you aren’t teaching the same values to your kids. It can be tough teaching kids about living a frugal life when they interact with so many other kids who might be getting spoiled with toys and electronics.

Teach your kids the value of frugal activities. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun.

When it comes to living a more frugal life, here is some more food for thought:

  • Take advantage of benefits and perks from your workplace, even if it is just a free cup of coffee.
  • Make a weekly budget with the family.
  • Only take cash as spending money when you go out.
  • Know the difference between want and need.
  • Spend your tax return wisely.
  • Keep track of your financial progress.
  • Most importantly, be grateful for what you have.

Frugal activities for the whole family

Whoever said a frugal family night can’t be fun have no idea what they are talking about. One of the most peaceful things about frugal activities is not having the stress of worrying about how you will pay for them later.

With the right company, you don’t need to spend a dime to have fun. Here are some ideas for frugal activities the whole family will enjoy.

A family hike

North Americans are getting lazier by the day. To knock off two problems at once, take your family for a hike. Keep your family active as you guys enjoy the sights of mother nature together.

Dinner and a movie at home

A lot of families love going out to dinner and catching a movie together. A night out can be costly, so try a more frugal spin on the classic dinner and a movie night.

Pick an affordable meal that the family can make together. Everyone gets a job to help out getting the meal ready. Then, when it’s done you can stream a family-friendly movie for way less than cinema tickets would cost.

Beach days

What’s more relaxing than a little bit of fun in the sun? Probably knowing that it won’t cost anything to bring your family to the beach for the day. This is only possible when the weather is right, so make sure you take advantage of those sunny days.

Game night

A family game night is always fun and doesn’t have to be expensive. Teach your kids some of the games you used to play when you were younger that didn’t require technology. Your kids may have so much fun that they encourage their friends to put down the video games.

Spend a day at the park

Pack up a picnic and take your family to the park. Have a fun afternoon getting fresh air and playing on the swingset. There’s even a good chance that other kids will be there for your little ones to play with.

Kids love bikes

Bikes fall under the category as necessary because they are a mode of transportation that encourages exercise. Your family can have a lot of fun together taking bike rides throughout your community.

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