Being frugal is a lot like agreeing to pick someone up from the airport. It sounds easy enough when you agree to it, but when it's time to actually do it, ugh, what a pain. If you have a hard time sticking to a frugal habit, design your lifestyle in a way that makes frugality the default.
Photo by Jacob Edward
Personal finance site Go Curry Cracker talks about the concept of "Lifestyle Design" as explained by Tim Ferriss in the The 4-Hour Work Week. The idea is to design your life in a way that makes certain tasks easier than others. A really basic example of this is keeping healthy foods on hand if you want to eat healthier. So if you're craving a row of Oreos instead, that means you have to get in the car, go to the grocery store, and wait in line. As tasty and tempting as Oreos are, you'll probably go for the healthy snack instead because it's easier.
Basically, you use your laziness in your favour, limit your options, and guide yourself to choose the better habit. Here's one example of how Jeremy of Go Curry Cracker implemented this strategy to keep up with his own habit goals:
Some people are naturally frugal. I'm naturally lazy. (Just ask my wife.)
After a long day of work, who wants to hop on a bicycle or wait on the street corner for a bus? Not me, I'll drive, thanks. Oh, it's raining? I'll drive, thanks. That meeting is 100 meters away in another building? I'll drive, thanks.
Funny thing… if you don't have a car, it becomes impossible to drive.
So I sold my sweet ride and 3 things immediately happened:
1) I stopped driving 2) I started biking 3) I saved beaucoup bucks
If you think the advice is to get rid of your car and cycle everywhere, you're missing the point.
The point is to design your own lifestyle in a way that supports the specific frugal habits you want to adopt (or any habits, really). Look at your own budget, make a list of areas you want to cut back on, then brainstorm ways to design your lifestyle accordingly.
My biggest problem spending area, for example, is restaurants. So I brainstormed a few ways I could design my lifestyle to cut back on my spending in this category:
- Invite friends over for potluck dinner on Sunday nights instead of ordering takeaway.
- Stop being so cheap when I go grocery shopping. Buy enough food so I can eat lunch at home instead of ordering takeaway.
- Instead of meeting my friend at a coffee shop, where I'm tempted to spend money on snacks, ask to meet at my place, where snacks are cheaper and healthier.
Again, you have to do what works for you, based on your own lifestyle and savings goals. No matter your situation and goals, though, the idea is the same: Design your lifestyle in a way that sets yourself up for success.