Playing Around: Frugality as a Game
Face it: most people don't find frugality fun. If you describe something as frugal, people tune you out. They walk away, bored, uninterested, or afraid they don't have the willpower to do whatever it is you're talking about. Describe a person as frugal and he immediately seems uninteresting, nitpicky, and maybe even annoying. Frugality turns us off, plain and simple. In fact, there are people who will not read this article because it has the word "frugal" in the title.
We are turned off by frugality for one of two reasons: it seems boring, like something our parents would be interested in, or we're afraid of it. We fear frugality because it requires willpower and our society doesn't exactly turn out people who can consistently choose something uncomfortable. It's a lot easier to never try than to try and fail, so we avoid frugality.
The truth is, frugality can be difficult, particularly when it is required and is not a lifestyly choice. However, being frugal does not have to be so burdensome. When we think of frugality as a game we play with ourselves (and maybe with our friends or family), it becomes less threatening and more achievable.
Full Contact Frugality
If you thrive on competition, compete against someone else in money matters. See if you can save more than your brother on any given day, or bet your best friend that you can spend less than she does on quality Christmas gifts. You can even use this concept to foster frugality in children: have them each see who can save the most in a month, then give a prize to the winner.
An added bonus to frugal competiton is that you will be more motivated to be frugal because it will cost you something to lose. Even if that "something" is only knowing that a friend outdid you, you probably don't want that to happen. Skipping dinner at your favorite restaurant for a sandwich at home because you want to win a bet may not be the purest motivation but it does keep the money in your wallet.
You can compete even if it's only against yourself. Try to spend less money on clothes this month than you did last month. Eat out one time less this week than you did last. Go for a "personal best" in your spending for holiday decorations. Even though you have less on the line, you'll find yourself feeling good when succeed at these competitions, too.
Problem Solving Frugality
Is the crossword puzzle your thing? Are you a wizard at chess? Then make frugality the same sort of game. Figure out new, money-saving ways to do everyday tasks and activities. Do you like to keep your car clean? What if you washed it yourself or paid a neighborhood kid to do it once a week? Which would save you more? Make it a game to figure out several different ways to do a task and then determine which one saves you the most money.
Once you get your mind moving in this pattern, you'll find yourself doing it without thinking. Seeing each task as a problem to solve as frugally as possible will become a way of life instead of something painful.
Frugality as a Sport
Do you like a good baseball game? Is college football just too crazy for you this year? Do you like to know all the stats on your favorite team? Then play your frugality the same way. Make a list of frugal rules you want to follow and come up with a way to give yourself points for following them. You can make your rules as complex as you want. Follow these rules as you go about your day. Assess your performance in the evening and score yourself based on your success. If you get above a certain score, or if you do better than the day before, give yourself a prize (or just feel satisfied in your achievement).
While this might feel a little odd at first, it's a great way to tackle several frugal goals at once. The rules will help you focus on the things you choose and the rest won't distract you from your goals.
In the End...
Whatever you do, make it enjoyable. If you don't enjoy it, you probably won't stick with it. If you can't think of a way to make things more fun in your situation, ask someone else or leave me a comment here. Achieving your goals is definitely worth the effort.