Monday, January 4

How do you keep from feeling deprived?

Most people associate frugality with self-deprivation. Most of us know that this doesn't have to be the case.

But it's also true that a lot of people do go into extreme frugality -- at least when they are winnowing down credit card debt. Other people live close to the bone out of necessity. Still others prefer a minimalist approach.

So this all begs the question: How do you live this way without feeling deprived?

I suppose the question is less interesting to people who are on a temporary crash-course in frugality. If you know that it will take exactly one year of being miserly, well it's probably a lot easier to stomach. You can just count down the days every time a rogue, materialistic desire washes over you.

But what about people who are running a marathon rather than sprinting? What do you folks do? Are there certain priorities that you're willing to budget for? Do you use your rewards programs as "fun money"?

Tim and I have a mix of ways we budget for sanity savers, as we call them: rewards programs, coupons, loyalty programs, and mystery shopping.

Honestly, this post was going to be an all-encompassing list of those items. But the more I look at it, the more each subject merits its own post. So I think I will, instead, do a series.

In the meantime, tell me what your priorities are. What are you willing to spend a little on? What's your ceiling for these so-called sanity savers? What techniques or programs do you use to get affordable entertainment or luxuries?



Blogger Bouncing Back said...

Good question. I guess it means figuring out what gives you true satisfaction as opposed to "immediate gratification" because you have purchased an item. I give myself a coffee shop budget of $20/month. I stick $20 on a gift card and once or twice a week I stop at our local coffee shop and get a "fancy" coffee guilt free. If I run out before the end of the month, I simply don't go until the next months allotment is put on the card. I think the hardest part about serious debt reduction or serious savings is finding the balance between savings/paying down debt and the occassional treat. I have also made it clear to family and friends that I really don't need "things" in my life, unless it's a very specific item and I'm really very happy with a gift card in any denomination ($5, $10, etc) to a number of my favorite stores. I can then use the cards for occassional personal reward. I have also combined cards and happily reported back to people that their lovely card was used to help me purchase my new bookcase, my new to me TV, etc.

January 4, 2010 at 7:36 AM

Blogger Meg said...

Getting rid of the t.v., eliminating as much junk mail as possible (like catalogs), and staying away from stores has really helped. We can't totally stay away from marketing, but it really does help to not be surrounded by things you shouldn't buy. I don't presume to know how things work for you, but I think if I were to be a serious coupon clipper or mystery shop I'd feel A LOT more deprived because I'd constantly be seeing things and thinking, "Oh, I want that! I want that! I want that!"

Another big thing is to do things you can enjoy without spending a lot of money. Go to the library, watch free videos online, go for a walk, learn about your local flora and fauna, go star gazing, go to community events, make a good but cheap meal out of fresh local ingredients. Get out of the habit of thinking about things to buy.

Finally, in all of this, I've found my attitude towards "stuff" has really changed. I don't feel deprived of stuff. I've become rather minimalist. The more stuff I've gotten rid of, the less stuff I've wanted. I've really learned to appreciate open space and not having clutter. There are a few things I still want, but I definitely don't want to fill my house up with more clutter, even if it were free. Heck, even if someone was paying me!

So, while I certainly enjoy spending money occasionally on things I really, really want and/or need, and I really look forward to traveling more some day, I can't say I feel deprived -- which is something I couldn't say back in the day when I was running up the credit cards buying more and more stuff. I've even gotten rid of most of that stuff (though I am still working on getting rid of the debt). And even were we to receive some huge sum of money unexpectedly, I don't really see my husband or I changing our lifestyle much.

January 4, 2010 at 12:55 PM

Blogger Abigail said...

Bouncing Back,

I love the coffee card idea! I'll have to think if there's a way to use that in my own life. (We don't drink coffee.) I think it sort of goes with the envelope method: Once it's empty, it's empty and you have to make do.

I love gift cards too! There are a select few stores that I prefer, and it's always fabulous to be able to tell someone that his/her gift card went to a much-needed expense.


I like your ideas a lot. I've always been a couch potato, though if I didn't have the fatigue, I'd like to think I'd get out more. Still, there are places like the botanical gardens that I want to see. And the Grand Canyon is a few hours' drive away, so we hope to make a three day trip at some point. (Get there, maybe look around a little, spend a full day looking around, finish up and drive home.)

Also good are free days/passes to things of interest like museums. Here, the library offers free passes that you "rent" for a week at a time to a local museum. We need to schedule a couple of those, I think!

As for minimalism, I'm definitely coming around to that way of thinking. I doubt I'll ever be a true minimalist. I like clothes and such and will probably continue that trend. But lately I've been trying to buy only things we need, rather than things that catch our eye. It seems a lot easier to do right after Christmas, when you still feel inundated by gifts that need a home!

But, as I'll discuss in the mystery shopping section, I don't do a lot of retail shops. I mainly try for "experience" shops.

January 4, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I went back to grad school in my late 20s, I knew it would be hard to scale back, so I looked at my finances and determined (and told my friends) that I could continue to do the things I wanted to do if I just stopped buying the things I wanted to buy. It made it a lot easier to stop buying clothes, etc, knowing I could go out with friends, take vacations, etc. Also, I've since read in various studies that experiences tend to make us happier than things -so I guess I just stumbled upon that by luck.
Of course, as you said in your post, I thought it'd be for a limited time (3 years of law school), and heck, I had clothes, etc I could continue wearing that I already owned. Now that I'm done with school (and a top school), I have been unable to find full-time legal work, and have done a variety of temp work, part-time legal work, etc...and it's now, in the marathon stage, that the fears and feeling of deprivation has set great topic, and I'm looking fwd to reading other people's posts!

January 4, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Blogger Abigail said...

PS. Even as a couch potato, I find that DVRs' ability to skip through commercials are a huge boost to avoiding marketing.

January 4, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Anonymous John DeFlumeri Jr said...

You have have everything you want, as long as you learn to want what is achievable!

John DeFlumeri Jr

January 4, 2010 at 4:38 PM

Anonymous Lulu said...

I started a 'splurge fund' where I put in a small amount every month and then every now and then I just use whatever the balance is to get something I want. I do not do it too often but when I see that I have $45 that I can just spend without feeling guilty then it is worth it.

I also make sure to budget one fun thing into my regular I like scented body splashes and I will get one in my regular grocery budget. That way I have a small indulgence but I am not breaking the budget.

January 5, 2010 at 6:58 AM

Anonymous Becca said...

I think I just got used to frugal living and I've always been like this all my life, so it's not hard. There was a short time after I got my first job, that I started spending and going out a lot, but I have returned to my natural self, and more saavy too.

January 9, 2010 at 6:03 PM


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