How To Overcome Frugal Fatigue

Are you tired of being frugal all the time?  Does saving those pennies feel like a ton of effort for a tiny return?  Do you ever want to just give up saving and go on a wild spending spree?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, you could be experiencing Frugal Fatigue.  What’s Frugal Fatigue? — The tiredness an individual can develop from maintaining an extremely frugal lifestyle.

Well, today’s post is dedicated to everyone out there feeling a little Frugal Fatigue….Mr. Tako is here to help!


Maximum Effort?

No kidding guys, saving money takes a lot of effort.  Instead of extreme convenience, a frugal lifestyle takes a conscious effort to avoid convenience.  In exchange, we save money.

If you’re anything like me, you do all kinds of stuff to save money.  Instead of eating-out, you cook meals at home.  You line-dry your laundry.  Instead of buying books online, you borrow from the library.  Maybe you DIY home or auto repairs.  Perhaps you chop wood for heating…

Any money saving technique you can think of — it takes effort.  Sometimes a HUGE amount of effort for just a few dollars.

You know what?  Nobody ever said financial independence was going to be easy!  In a world completely addicted to convenience, having to put forth extra effort means you’re doing something right!

Anything truly worth achieving in life requires extra effort…even if it just means climbing into the washing machine.

I’ve been there….I really have.  At times, frugality just feels like hard work.  I would occasionally wonder if it was all worth it. 

Now, from the other side of the fence, I have to say — Yes, it is absolutely worth the effort!

So how do we overcome this feeling of fatigue and carry on saving?


1. Find A Medium Pace

It’s important to realize that, like anything, frugality can be taken WAY too far — You could forgo heat in the winter to save money.  You could use junk mail for toilet paper.  The meals you prepare could be optimized for monetary efficiency only, not flavor.  

You could utilize every waking moment to save money….and in the end, you’ll be exhausted.  Eventually you’d give-in to frugal fatigue.

That’s why I’m an advocate for a Goldilocks approach to frugality:  Not too much.  Not too little.  Just enough frugality.

How do you know if you have your frugality dialed to “just enough”?  I personally look for two things:  A good savings rate (around 50%), and a pace you’re happy to sustain for decades.

Why a decades? — Well, because you’re going to be saving for a LONG time.  Being able to live happily with that level of frugality is key.  Inevitably, you’re going to be saving money for so long, those frugal behaviors eventually become like habits.  More than likely they’re going stick with you for the rest of your life.

So unless you like wiping your butt with junk mail, find a frugal pace that’s going to work long-term.


2. Mix-It-Up!

Are you beginning to tire of all the money saving techniques you’ve had in place for years?  Did it use to be fun, but now it’s all just work?  Maybe it’s time you “mixed things up” a bit.

When frugality is fresh, and new, it feels “fun”.  But after enough repetition, any “fun” can easily turn into “work”.  After you’ve been at it for years, the familiarity transforms it into a chore.

So mix things up!  Try out new money saving techniques.  Or switch frugal tasks with your spouse.   Retire some old frugal strategies and adopt new ones.  Variety is the spicy of life!

You could even try giving yourself a new frugal challenge once a month to keep things different and interesting!


3. Non-Monetary Benefits

When frugality has got you down, remember:  Frugality isn’t only about the money.  There’s a load of non-monetary benefits to all kinds of frugal activities:

  • Cook meals at home instead of eating-out means you’re eating healthier.
  • Biking or walking to work instead of driving means you’re keeping fit, and reducing carbon emissions at the same time.
  • Buying used instead of new means you’re keeping trash out of the landfill.
  • Handling a home-DIY project means you’re learning valuable skills for the future.
  • And so on!

There’s tons of examples where frugality also has good “side benefits”.  The point is: Frugality improves our lives in more ways than financial ones.  Remind yourself about all those side benefits when feeling a little fatigued.  It’s not just about money!

You may just find yourself even more dedicated to frugality when you remember the extra reasons of why it’s great!


4.  Review Your Goals And Successes

Humans enjoy doing what they’re good at.  The feeling of success and skillfulness keeps us motivated.  When we’re good at something, we do more of it.  With continued practice we even improve, which further feeds that positive cycle.

Conversely, the things we’re not good at, we don’t like to do.  We avoid them instead.  The lesson here is — keep frugality on a positive track!

A great way to avoid frugal fatigue is to simply show yourself how great your doing:  regularly check frugal progress against your financial goals.  

I do this once a month in a spreadsheet and then post the results in my regular dividend and expenses post.  

Tracking progress is worth it, no matter how small! Seeing the progress is what’s important!

Keeping track of progress helps visualize your success — Look at how much money you’ve saved!  Maybe you planned to save $10k/year and you’ve already blown past that.  Congratulations!  That’s going to feel pretty good when you first see it!

Keep this positive feedback-loop going and you might suddenly find frugality an enjoyable endeavor!


5.  Stop Comparing

Honestly, the hardest part of frugality is our own absurd expectations.  We constantly compare ourselves against our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors….people who might not actually BE frugal at all.

When your neighbor buys that new Porsche, do you feel a little bit jealous?  You just might.  But does that make any sense?  He’s not even trying to save money.  He bought his car on credit.

Do we compare ourselves to starving people in the poorest parts of Africa?  How about the working poor in Asia?  It’s unlikely!  They’re the wrong comparison set!  

It’s the same with friends and family — why would you continue to compare yourself against them?  Your life has changed.  Stop comparing yourself to spendy people!

When we compare ourselves to others, we inevitably set expectations.  Most of those expectations are not going to be reality for a frugal person.


6.  Splurge A Little

OK, last but not least is — “Splurge A Little”.  Yes, you heard me right!  Spend some money!  Sometimes overcoming Frugal Fatigue is just a matter of loosening the purse strings a little to “have some fun” once in while.  

I’m not saying “spend with abandon” of course!  I’m saying, find a little area of your life where splurging a little extra money is going to bring you a lot of happiness.

Sometimes we can take saving a little too far.  If you’re constantly pushing to save, you could be pushing yourself into a unhappy direction.  That’s a dangerous place to be.  Humans aren’t unfeeling machines.  You need to enjoy life too!  Frugality should be about gaining happiness, not removing it.

So find yourself that little luxury that makes you happy, and then allow it.  

No, not something you merely like…find something you absolutely love.  Maximum happiness from dollars spent is what we’re looking for!

Sushi Platter
One of the Tako family’s favorite splurges is fresh homemade sushi. We love sushi!

Maybe your thing is coffee like FrugalWoods — Allow yourself to buy that high-end coffee.  Enjoy every second you drink it.  

Maybe you love eating out at new restaurants, like Joe over at RetireBy40.  Whatever your passion, let yourself do what you love!  You’ll enjoy your frugal life more!

But plan for it.  Manage the expense to a reasonable level…one that fits with your frugal goals.


[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2]

22 thoughts on “How To Overcome Frugal Fatigue

  • October 15, 2016 at 5:24 AM

    These are great ideas and I love that your focus is on ENJOYING it but planning for it. Loving that coffee or restaurant meal is what brings you pleasure – don’t get down on yourself for that. Most of us in the financial independence/early retirement world are frugal and save in so many ways – you have to allow for something you enjoy. I’m not a sushi fan – but boy is that a beautiful plate of food!

    • October 17, 2016 at 9:37 PM

      It was a beautiful sushi plate — Mrs. Tako did a wonderful job on that one!

  • October 15, 2016 at 6:31 AM

    Nice sushi!

    The diet approach to finance never works – and paper cuts on your butt from junk mail isn’t cool. We are frugal but only where it’s sustainable as a lifestyle we can enjoy. Travel was a category we couldn’t cut out, instead we found ways to travel for cheap.

    Our lifestyle has been honed to maximize happiness per dollar and not just dollars 🙂

  • October 15, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    Hilarious and I couldn’t agree more. Like one of the things I can’t handle right now is washing and ironing my dress clothes. But I am really into driving cheap ugly old cars. That’s like my main calling card. If I had a theme song it would be part of the chorus. But don’t ask me to do my own yard work or iron shirts. Or use junk mail in the way you described LOL.

    I try to take the top 2 or 3 expenses and slash them – and then enjoy a moderate treatment of the others. Sometimes we eat out – but with 5 kids not often. Sometimes I buy my lunch at work – but that is the exception to the rule. “What’s best next?” is always in my thinking. Discipline but with moderation. Love to see the shout outs to other sites and supporting others in the PF community. I’ll be back for more TAKO.

  • October 15, 2016 at 2:41 PM

    Thanks for the tips! I am a particularly strong proponent of number 1. I treat my frugality habits like all of my other habits, which means that any changes need to be sustainable. I would rather make a small change that I can stick to than a huge change that I’ll flame out on after a month. At least with small changes I can continue to improve with a big backslide.

    • October 17, 2016 at 9:38 PM

      Yep, it’s all about what you can sustain long term!

  • October 16, 2016 at 5:42 AM

    Excellent thoughts, Mr. Tako. I think we’ve gotten pretty good at finding a balance. We save money where we can, and spend where it matters to us.

    Our latest splurge was an impulse buy on 4 round trip tickets to Paris over spring break. The price was right, and we’ve never been to France. We’ll burn some firewood this winter, shop at Aldi, and pack lunches for long road trips, but we’re not afraid to spend a little on travel.


    • October 16, 2016 at 10:32 AM

      That’s awesome! I’ve never been to France either. Enjoy the trip!

      • October 16, 2016 at 3:03 PM

        Oh, I’m sure we will! We’ve got a couple days in Iceland on the way back. I wish we had more time, but time will be on our side soon enough after FIRE.

        I forgot to mention that I can’t read the words “Medium Pace” and not think of the Adam Sandler love song. You’re welcome.


  • October 17, 2016 at 5:02 AM

    I love the concept of “just enough frugality.” The limit is different for everyone, but the key is to just be as frugal as you’re comfortable with. For example, I tried walking to work instead of driving, but found it wasn’t for me. Some folks go carless altogether, but for me that was over the line.

    We avoid frugal fatigue by taking baby steps and celebrating all of our goals along the way! We’ll usually celebrate with a nicer version of our homemade meals. For example, we might make crab for dinner instead of chicken. While it costs a little more, we’re still getting a damn good meal for pennies while having a little victory treat!

    • October 17, 2016 at 9:40 PM

      Crab dinner! Hey, we do that too! It’s nearly crab season in the pacific northwest — I can’t wait to get my hands on some crab!

  • October 17, 2016 at 5:13 PM

    I love the thought on spending money on things that I actually value. I am super frugal on most things but eating out with friends at lunch is not one of them.

    I am willing to forgo Starbucks coffee, fancy dinner meals and nice cars.

    But eating BBQ with my buddies at work is something I look forward to each week. To me it makes it all worth it knowing that I’m still enjoying life while saving towards my financial goals.

    • October 17, 2016 at 9:44 PM

      I’ve noticed that many people have something like your “BBQ with buddies”. Just a special thing that makes them happy.

      Absolutely nothing wrong with it! Just don’t have like a dozen of those things. 😉

  • October 17, 2016 at 9:25 PM

    Nicely written! The key, I think, is to be honest with yourself about who you are, and set yourself up for success. If you are not a firewood-chopping-junk-mail-wiping badass, pretending that you are is going to result in failure (and soreness where you’d rather not be sore). The thing to do is to focus on your areas of strength (e.g. are you an immigrant, used to living quite happily in a small amount of space? maybe that can be your financial superpower – don’t spend money on a large house if you can be perfectly happy without it) and use them to your frugal advantage. Oh, and apply the Pareto Principle where you can and get the biggest bang for your buck.

    • October 17, 2016 at 9:45 PM

      Completely agree with you Mrs. BITA. Understand who you are, and focus on your strengths!

  • October 18, 2016 at 5:43 AM

    Sometimes, I think about people in the developing / undeveloped countries and I realized how much I have and how fortunate I am. Even if I cannot retire early like you, or good as my co-workers, or rich as my friend, it is still okay to accept where I am and be happy with it. Too much expectation can only drown you mentally.

  • October 18, 2016 at 8:20 AM

    Love your articles….especially this one. It reminds of my goals, and since I have a tendency to be all or nothing, this is a reminder that I should be racing as the turtle versus the hare.

    Right now I am going through each category that we are spending money on and figuring out how to make it less expensive. For instance…we were spending $50 a week on bread(we have 2 teenagers (3 kids at home total) and a husband that is an athlete) so I decided to teach myself how to make homemade bread. This will save $45/week or $2,340 a year. I am lucky that my job allows me to work from home so I can just work the bread making into my schedule. But $2,340 is a fairly big stepping stone to FI.

    • October 21, 2016 at 1:36 PM

      @ Marisa – huge step! and the bread will taste far better and be be better for you – only thing you have to watch out for is that the half life of homemade bread is extremely short – everybody gobbles it up 🙂

  • October 19, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    Good post Tako san!

    I’ve now reached a level where I feel spending money would mean some level of inconvenience to me. I’m an introvert, and sometimes that goes to insane levels: I don’t want to ride a taxi or go to a hairdresser because I’m afraid it would mean I have to engage into random chit-chat which I hate. I’d rather DIY repairs at home to avoid having to discuss the cost of the repair with the handyman. I don’t want to go to a restaurant because I know the kids will make a mess and also won’t like anything on the menu (meaning my own enjoyment of the evening will be less than if we ate at home)…

    I’m actually finding very few things I’d be willing to spend money on nowadays, except for the occasional at-home entertainment with the kids (renting a movie, buying a board game,…)

  • October 23, 2016 at 6:26 AM

    I would even venture to call it a lifestyle rather than a habit. Find what works for you and go with it!
    I realized how ingrained this was when we had friends over and I didn’t even think about using paper plates. I just got out our normal dishes, and when a guest brought disposable plates and plastic silverware “to help out,” I cringed internally at the waste and having to throw all of it away. We compost and recycle, so making a lot of trash when there’s an easy alternative hurts my soul a bit.

  • October 24, 2016 at 9:11 AM

    Great post,

    I would agree that finding your pace is important but to also realize that your pace will change at different times of life. I find that some years are better than others. We were frugal and saving well for a while then relaxed our reigns for a bit when we renovated our house. Now we are tightening back down again. I guess that kind of segway’s into your #2 to mix it up.

  • March 26, 2018 at 5:13 PM

    I splurged a little tonight. I’ve had this craving to buy something for the past few days. A lot of it is all the spring and Easter stuff out in stores. I don’t need more knick nacks. However the peeps display lured me in. I also do not need a full size package of peeps. But they have a small package of 5! Just enough!
    I have now bought a silly spring thing and can hopefully let go of whatever urge that was. As a bonus, they were on sale for less than $1. Frugal splurge! 🙂


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