Spring is a time for renewal and for making a fresh start. In many parts of North America, the trees are starting to bud, tulips are breaking through the thawing ground, and our mood has shifted. We are feeling more energized and positive about our future and what's next. The warmer weather makes us more optimistic and this puts us in a good mood. Often, being in a good mood is a precursor to spending money. Many of us will feel the urge to splurge and to go shopping to update our look, refresh our wardrobe or modernize our homes. It's exhilarating.
It's also time to spring ahead with some new, healthy and wonderful habits to kick start our personal finances to get them moving in the right direction. Many of us may be carrying old and out-dated habits that may not be working for us and could use some house-cleaning or tweaking to navigate through our economic reality. We know that incomes are not growing. The cost of living is increasing. Most of us are carrying record levels of debt. We are not saving money. And some of us feel we can never get ahead.
Getting into better financial shape starts simply with looking at our consumption patterns and learning to become more frugal with our money, time and resources. Let's be clear about one thing, being frugal is not about being cheap. Frugality is closely linked to mindfulness because it promotes mindful decision making or more self-aware about what we do with our money while seeking better outcomes. A better outcome would be saving or spending less money. Being frugal is in. Being cheap is out. Cheap stuff may have a purpose in our lives, for example small seasonal items. I have acquired a healthy disrespect for cheap stuff that is poorly made, breaks soon after purchase and ultimately ends up in the garbage or landfills.
Trends aside, there are compelling reasons to be frugal. Wikipedia tells us that "frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance...the tendency to acquire goods and services in a restrained manner, and resourceful use of already owned economic goods and services, to achieve a longer term goal."
Most of us have 1,001 things going on our lives. We are on auto-pilot. There is little time to stop, think and redirect. Changing our mindset or habits can be tricky because they are so ingrained. We want to spend our money with a clear purpose. You might be wondering how and where to start. Here are five easy ways to embrace frugality in your everyday routine and habits:
1. Shift your mindset. Start embracing a new approach to spending and everyday living. By hitting the pause button more often in our lives we can engage in more mindful decision making. When we become more mindful of our choices we can think through them with the goal of consuming with restraint, particularly with our money. Most of us have long term goals and the only way to achieve the ones that have financial implications is to embrace frugality.
2. Think long term. When we take a long term approach to our lives we can create energy and excitement for what's ahead. Living our best life today matters but when we live with restraint and resourcefulness, we are naturally preparing ourselves for our future. For example, spending less today may help to save money for tomorrow. When we shift our mindset away from short term toward long term thinking, we can create forward moving energy that is commanding. We are in charge and in control of our future.
3. Buy quality. We have finite financial resources but we must buy the best we can afford and need. For example, we know that buying high quality food is a must because it's full of nutrients and researchers have proven that better nutrition promotes longevity. Living a long and healthy life is the ultimate prize or goal, isn't it?
4. Spend sparingly. Quality comes at a price. Some of us may not be maximizing our money because we may feel couponing is only for people with limited financial resources. Our perceptions matter. We may feel "embarrassed" using coupons unless we are given one upon entering a store or redeem coupons online in order to avoid in person coupon-shaming that can happen at the checkout. How do we really feel about using coupons?
5. Shop at home first. Before you get rid of the clutter in your home, see if you can reuse or repurpose items. For example, a picture or vase when placed in another room could give it a fresh new look. Buy classic items because they have staying power. Trendy things come and go.
Frugality doesn't have to be restrictive. When we make it part of our everyday lives we will choose and achieve better outcomes. By learning to make more mindful decisions by increasing our self awareness, we will naturally begin to consume less. Empowered spending is in. It's that simple. Really!
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