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10 Ways to Jump-Start Your Frugal Life

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Being frugal is like learning to eat better. There are a new set of rules and you feel like you are being deprived. But it doesn’t have to be painful.

As with changing your diet, the key is to look at it as a lifestyle change. You don’t want to make yourself crazy, you want to make yourself happier by gaining financial control. Here are 10 ways to kick-start your frugality without too much pain:

1. Have a Goal You Can Achieve

Make sure you have a goal in mind. While saving for retirement is a great goal, it can also seem too vague and far away. Pick a specific goal that you can feel good about reaching, like saving 10% of each paycheck for retirement.

2. Define Your Needs

No judgment here – this is totally up to you. What are the things you aren’t willing to give up? Set those limits, and then scrimp on the other things. Also, you may find that while you want to watch a movie at least once a month, you don’t feel a need to do it in a theater.

3. Keep Track

By tracking your spending and reviewing your charges at the end of the day, week and/or month, you can see where you could have made better decisions. Don’t beat yourself up, but do better next time. Notice triggers – Saturdays my fridge is empty, and I tend to spend a lot eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps you need to change the timing of your grocery runs. By grocery shopping on Saturday morning, you can make sure you have options at home.

4. Make Dining in a Treat

Speaking of which, try eating at home more. Search the Web for great recipes and try making something new every week. This can be good for both your frugality and nutrition.

5. Give Your Credit Cards a Break

If you don’t carry enough cash in your pocket, don’t buy it right now. Give yourself a few days to think about the purchase and if you still think it’s a good idea, evaluate your budget to see if now is the time. You may determine that after saving for a month, you will be able to pay for it outright. (Of course you can put it on your credit card, but you’ll want to pay off the bill in full at the end of the month in order to avoid interest charges.)

6. Have a Spending Freeze

Or try a fun game where you challenge yourself not to spend money. Try going a weekend without spending money. Then try not spending for a whole week. How long can you go without spending any “extra” money?

7. Re-Introduce Yourself to the Library

But without “extra” money what will you do with your extra time? Get reacquainted with your local library. Libraries have books, music and movies. Many even have great digital lending, so you can borrow a book on your e-reader.

8. End the Email Enticements

I love seeing the latest J. Crew line but every time I get that email, I’m tempted to shop. Cancel your email subscriptions that tempt you to buy unnecessarily.

9. Shop in Your Home

You can still shop – just do it in your own closet. Use the things you already have – whether clothes, games or DVDs. Chances are you don’t have to buy anything to have something to wear this week. Look through the clothing you have stored away. Also, if you’re looking for a weekend activity, dust off those games and old movies.

10. Sell the Stuff

If you are not excited by the clothing you find in the closet or the old games you have under your bed, sell them. There is no need to keep all that clutter. If you don’t want your things anymore, you might as well get something for them. Selling your unwanted stuff will give you some extra money that you can add to your savings.

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