On a typical day, I’ll peruse several personal finance and self-improvement websites. I enjoy them, learn from them, and can apply the lessons to my own life and work. Today, however, I am finding myself disagreeing with much of what I am reading. That’s usually not the case. Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in, but I’m just a little taken aback by some of the advice I’m reading. I enjoy a frugal lifestyle; one not of materialism, but of living within my means and by my own values. But today I am seeing many blog posts and articles with tiresome advice.
I’ve seen several forums where readers ask questions about moments of weakness… “frugal fatigue” if you will. Say that a person is tired from a long day of work and lacks the energy to make the most frugal decisions, like making dinner at home, driving further to get cheaper gas, etc. This is an understandable situation, and one where I believe it’s okay to give yourself a break. Too tired to cook? Get takeout. Cheap gas is out of your way? Just go to the closer gas station this time.
It’s not always physical exhaustion, though. People can grow mentally weary of the frugal lifestyle. Some people feel the need to treat themselves and take a break from penny-pinching once in a while. Several of these forums are suggesting ways to get over these moments of weakness, and ways to plan ahead for just those scenarios. The advice is helpful, but I believe that sometimes it’s okay to succumb to these moments. Small rewards can give you a boost when you need it.
My point is, you have to give yourself a break once in a while. I’d hate to think of someone beating him/herself up over spending an extra 10 cents per gallon of gas because they were exhausted or didn’t have time to find a cheaper option. Say you get 10 gallons of gas. That’s comes to an extra $1.00 spent on gas for convenience.
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of frugal living; scraping every extra bit of savings you can get. But it’s important to see the big picture. Is that extra $1.00 for convenient gas going to bust your budget? What about an occasional $20-$30 for some takeout? Probably not, as long you limit such decisions.
I’m not suggesting that you give up on your frugal choices altogether. You just have to give yourself permission to slip once in a while for the sake of your sanity. Frugality doesn’t have to be driven by guilt and fear. It’s about being smart, responsible, and making choices based on your values and your budget. Recognize these moments of weakness and learn from them. You can minimize their occurrence as best you can, but it’s okay to allow yourself small breaks now and then.
I know that this lifestyle is about delayed gratification, and that you are building for a comfortable future. But there is a line that needs to be blurred once in a while to make this lifestyle more tolerable. Many of us do get joy out of being frugal; saving money, finding deals, spending less than the other guy, etc. I know I do, but many consumers live this life out of necessity, not sport. And that can get stressful.
Let go of the guilt and take the easy road once in a while. It will make the rewards of frugal living even more gratifying when you do have the strength to stick with it.
What do you think? Is it okay to slip a little? Or am I just getting soft after a few years of blogging?