The Best-Kept Secret to Frugal Living
It’s easy to take the checklist approach to personal finance and frugality. Save more. Check. Spend less. Check. Invest wisely. Check.
While that works for some people, though, there are others who find it impossible and even the most conscientious Type A will have moments where they’re not motivated by check boxes and lists of numbers.
Without the right motivations, financially responsible, frugal living isn’t only difficult, it’s impossible. Sure, you might be able to maintain momentum long enough to pay down some credit cards or make it through a rough patch, but you won’t make long-term lifestyle changes. (See also: 25 Frugal Changes You Can Make Today)
To do that, you need to do more than change how you act. You need to do more than change how you think. The secret?
Be content with your life as it is.
The best path to becoming frugal through and through is to realize and appreciate what you have. Only then will you be free from the desire for more, because you won’t be looking to the next thing, the next purchase, to make your life complete.
Being content means recognizing that no one possession nor amount of possessions will ever make you happy or fulfill you. It means realizing that you will never have it all. And it means choosing the life you have, with its difficulties and frustrations as well as its special joys, over any life, past or present, that now only exists in your head.
Finding contentment means learning to be present, and to choose the now. Often, it means making that choice over and over and over again, every time you feel discontent rising in you, even under hard circumstances.
The content stance acknowledges that life as it is isn’t perfect and that it never will be. Becoming content might mean making peace with a past where you had more things and more financial freedom, and choosing to live in the present instead. Or it might mean choosing this moment’s financial hardships instead of focusing on dreams of future abundance, even when that’s what you’re working towards every day.
The point of contentment isn’t a trance-like unawareness of the difficult things in your life, but to accept them, particularly if you can’t do anything about them. When you’ve done this, you won’t need to buy into consumerism’s cycles because you won’t need to spend to be happy.
Contentment comes easier for some people than for others, but anyone can find it. Start small. Begin to notice your frustrations and things that you wish were different. Instead of trying to change them or make yourself happier, just hold these things. Look at them, examining them and how you react to them.
As you do this, you’ll find in yourself the growing ability to just let these things go and let them be. And as this ability grows, you’ll find yourself spending less, because you won’t need it anymore.
Tips for Finding Contentment
Remind yourself of what you have when confronted with what you don’t have.
Ask yourself if a purchase will make you happier long-term, or whether you’re buying for short-term pleasure.
Stay away from advertising: watch movies and TV on DVD; determine the articles you want to read from the table of contents in a magazine, instead of by flipping through; copy and past web content into a blank document to read
Spend time with people you love who love you back.
Learn to form meaningful relationships that go beyond “How are you?” and “The chicken sure looks great.”
Discover how you feel when you’re discontent - common signs include tightened muscles in your neck, shoulders and back, stomachaches, general malaise.
Tell yourself the truth - “I have enough.”
End each day by remembering the moments that you liked best and the ones that meant the most to you.