I have long aspired to be more frugal than I actually am. Not just to save money, although that is, I will admit, a primary motivator, but to lessen my footprint on the earth as well. But in times past I’ve found it easy to slip into non-frugal habits. Over the past month I discovered the simplest way by far for me to motivate myself to cultivate and keep frugal habits is having a budget.
Living within a budget, and I am referring to a very well-mapped down to the last penny of income budget, makes me think not only about every dollar I spend, but also about how to make every dollar go further, and how to keep from spending that dollar in the first place if I can. It acts as an automatic check on anything in my life that is inherently wasteful. I think just a little bit more about everything I do from using paper towels vs cloth napkins, leaving a light or the television on when I leave the room, to even turning the television on in the first place. Just a simple little thought to “is this how I want to spend this next dollar” or “I don’t need to spend that dollar in this manner right now”. It is amazing to me how many ways having a budget has affected my lifestyle. Not in single huge ways, but a flood of little ways adds up to a large (or at least medium-sized) overall change.
And even over just the past month, I have seen positive monetary “rewards” to my more frugal behavior. My electric bill and gas bill went down a little bit, I put less gasoline in my car than either of the two months previous, and I spent less money on nickel and dime type stuff that usually results in a big chunk of monthly discretionary spending. Over the course of last month by spending less money on frivolous or non-necessary purchases, I was able to make smarter long term choices (like adding some more CFLs to our house) instead of spending that money on things I wanted but didn’t need. I am a sucker for a “clearance” sign even if I never would have bought that thing in the first place if it wasn’t on clearance, and I was able to mostly overcome that impulse by thinking about the budget. And overall, our bottom line for last month’s budget when all was said and done ended up in a nice little surplus that we can put into savings and watch grow.
Overall, I’m delighted that we started using a really mapped out budget, for reasons I never would have guessed before we started. It never occurred to me that a budget would help make me act more frugally. And I am hoping to acquire more and more frugal habits the longer we continue. Next up, making my own baby wipes. That has got to be more environmentally friendly than the ones we buy I think, and should save some money too. A win-win.