Can frugal and fabulous really go together?

My Fabulously Frugal Lifestyle

by Shaunna Privratsky

Admittedly, the title seems a bit incongruous. The word frugal sounds like a mournful foghorn, conjuring up images of a bedraggled waif sorting through coins for a crust of bread. Fabulous brings to mind glorious vacations, luxurious automobiles, and fancy dinners. They go together like mud and silk.

What if you could combine the two successfully? What if you could live a wonderful life on a shoestring budget? That, my friends, is my ultimate goal. I've been frugal all my life from my humble but pretty great childhood to my mac-and-cheese (without the cheese) phase in college, to my current circumstances, caring for my disabled husband and trying to make ends meet.

Are you struggling as well? Would you like to live luxuriously on less? Here are some concrete steps you can take on your frugal and fabulous journey.

  1. Reassess your priorities. This is where you get down and dirty with your spending plan. Take a look at exactly how much you are spending and look for ways to cut back. Your goal is to make more money than you spend. If your plan is not equaling out, you must either increase your income or cut your spending or do a little of both.
  2. Protect yourself with an emergency fund. Save a little bit from every check. Pay yourself first or it will be gone. Even just a little bit each month will grow. Your peace of mind will grow as well, as you gradually build up a cushion for life's big and small blows that seem to come from nowhere.
  3. Start your emergency fund today. Here are 11 easy ways to find $1000 for an emergency fund.

  4. Pay down your debt. As important as it is to have an emergency fund, it is equally important to eliminate as much debt as possible. Use the snowball method, which is paying the highest amount first and then putting that amount to the next smallest and then the next until you are completely debt free! You will feel a tremendous relief like a huge burden is lifted from your shoulders. Avoid future debt by paying for items in cash (save up for that new couch or fancy party dress), saying "no" to easy-credit loans, and absolutely, positively never taking out a payday loan.
  5. Being frugal increases your creativity! If you need something, use what you have or look for something used. Thrift stores are a treasure trove of gently-used items with lots of life left in them at a fraction of the cost.
  6. You will become self-sufficient. Learn to do household repairs and you will save a ton of money. YouTube abounds with step-by-step instructions on repairing anything from a leaky faucet to your lawn mower. The more you do yourself, the less you will have to pay for an "expert."
  7. Know your limits. I still hate to touch electrical wires after an unfortunate incident when I was changing out a light fixture. I'd turned off the breaker marked "upstairs bath" but still got a huge shock when I put my pliers into the wires. The next thing I knew, I was knocked off the counter from the jolt. Amazingly, I didn't break anything, but it could have been much worse.
  8. Learn to be happy with what you have. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by being thankful for a home to live in, food to eat, and your family and friends. If you are always pining for what is out of reach financially, you will never have enough. Even if you get that coveted item, there will always be one more thing you really, really want and can't have.
  9. Set goals for those dreams you have. Do you wish for a new car? Save your money, build up your credit score, and make it happen. Watch for sales and compare vehicles on the web. Do you long for a dream vacation? Again, build up your savings and search out the best deals. Anything is doable if you set your mind to it.
  10. Make a game of it. You don't want to trudge through life, resentful of never having enough money. Save your coins and cash them in for a special treat like an outing with your teenage son or a movie you've been dying to see in a theater, complete with unhealthy snacks and loads of calories. Or only use your leftover $1 bills for a trip to the thrift store for some half-priced books to read.
  11. Set aside a little fun money every month, even when your budget is so tight it squeals. If you never have anything to look forward to, you will rebel and ruin all of your hard work of dollar-stretching.
  12. Stick to it! The hardest thing to do is to stick to it. Sure, there are times when I wish I could just go into a store and buy anything I want, but then I ask myself, "What do I need that I don't have? I have everything I need." Motivate yourself by setting a long-term goal like paying off your mortgage or retiring early. Envision what your life will be like when you reach that goal. It will be fabulous!
  13. When you meet your spending goals, celebrate! Acknowledge your hard work and diligence with a little luxury, within your spending plan, of course.

Related: Affordable Little Luxuries

Whether you are frugal from necessity or just to make your life better, being frugal can be fun. It is a rush to find something you really needed at a huge discount or cut your weekly food budget in half with coupons. Learn to love your fabulously frugal life.

Reviewed March 2018

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Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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