How to live frugally month after month

Sticking With a Frugal Lifestyle

by Gary Foreman


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I've been reading your column and have decided to change my financial habits. I'm tired of being in debt and never knowing where my paycheck goes, but I'm not sure if I have what it takes to stay with it. Is there some advice or help that you can give me to make this a real lifestyle change?
Judi

Congratulations on your decision to improve your lifestyle and your wisdom to recognize that it will take determination and a good plan to make it work. Let's see if we can't give you some tools to help you achieve your frugal goals.

Let's break our suggestions into two broad categories. The first category includes things that require other people. And, the second category includes changes you can do by yourself.

There are a number of benefits of doing some group frugal living activities. You'll develop new friends who will encourage your journey. That's especially helpful in a world where many measure themselves and others based on material possessions.

You'll also find that groups tend to create their own excitement and momentum. That's important to help keep you motivated.

One of the easiest things to do is to join or form a coupon swapping group. Any place where you meet with the same people regularly will work, including your job, health club, church, kids' playgroup, etc. Not only will you enjoy the group dynamic, but also you'll have more useful coupons and save more money.

It's harder, but more beneficial, to form a frugal living group. Find some like-minded people. Agree to meet in person or online on a regular basis. Share your goals and how you plan to achieve them. Then report back as you make progress (or fail to make progress).

If sharing finances with a group is too public for you, choose someone you know and trust to hold you accountable. Studies show that we're much more likely to attain a goal if we tell someone else about it.

See if any purchasing groups are available to you. The most common ones buy bulk groceries, including everything from fresh produce to whole sides of beef. These groups take a bit of coordination, but the savings can be significant, especially if you're into organic or locally grown food.

If you have kids, join a babysitting co-op. You'll significantly reduce the cost of date night. And, spending more time with your mate could help avoid an expensive divorce lawyer bill later!

Join or form a neighborhood group to share rarely used items. How often do you need an extension ladder or a carpet shampooer? It's probably not enough to justify buying it. The group could be as simple as a list of items that each neighbor has that they'd be willing to lend out. Some groups ask that the borrower "rent" the item for a few dollars. Others do it just to be neighborly.

Next, do some things that don't require others to join with you. Make them a part of your routine.

Tweet your bargains. Post them on Facebook. Celebrate your wins. Be proud of your new lifestyle.

Plan on rewarding yourself along the way. We all like rewards. Decide on what you'll give yourself when you stick to your plan for three months or when build your emergency fund to a certain level. You might even want to put a picture of the reward in plain sight as a reminder and motivator.

Have a specific plan of action. Don't just say that you want to save money. Decide that you'll spend the first month working on reducing your grocery bill. You might choose the second month for your household utility bills. Then do a little research and determine specific actions you can take within each challenge.

Have a recovery plan. Most of us will miss the target occasionally. That's discouraging. If you have a recovery plan, you won't be tempted to give up. You'll get back on track again.

Be proud of yourself. Not only are you taking control of your financial future, but also you're proving to yourself that you have the ability to stay with a project for the long-term.


Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and he's a regular contributor to CreditCards.com. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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