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How to keep up the enthusiasm for saving, fight 'frugal fatigue'

Avoid old spending habits by having fun -- with cheaper, imitation luxuries

By Gary Foreman

The New Frugal You
New Frugal You columnist Gary Foreman
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters. He writes "New Frugal You," a weekly Q&A column about frugal living, for CreditCards.com

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear New Frugal You,
Help! I'm running out of enthusiasm. I am doing well at spending less, but I'm miserable. No movies. No Starbucks. No restaurant meals. No fun. I know I have to spend less to crawl out of this debt hole ($5,000 in credit card debt at 19 percent), but I walk past that cute red blouse in the store window every day, and it's calling my name louder and louder. Can I get some advice on sticking to it? Or at least a pep talk? --
Sybil

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Sybil,
I know those voices, Sybil. I hear them, too! But, mine keep coming to me from a car dealer's lot ... from a new Corvette convertible ... calling me to the open road. But I do know where that voice is really coming from: the pit of a deep, dark bank vault.

You're right. Sometimes it is hard to pass by the things that we used to enjoy. But there are ways to make living frugally a little more pleasant.

Look for "little luxuries" that can make you feel good without putting your plastic at risk. Have a movie night at home. Turn off the lights. Make popcorn. Use a styrofoam drink cup for your soda. Throw some candy wrappers on the floor! Have your kids watch too so they can irritate you by texting their friends during the movie.

Or simulate the restraurant experience. Cook copycat recipes at home. You'll find knockoffs by searching for "copycat recipes." Many are easier than you'd think. Not only will you enjoy the sinful delight of consuming calories you don't need, but you'll also discover how easy most restraurant "secret recipes" really are.

If you can't totally avoid restraurants, modify how you visit them. Just go for coffee and dessert. Admit it, you only ate the vegetables because Mom made you. So now that you're an adult, just go for dessert. That's the most fun part of the meal anyway! And, if Mom asks, just tell her you ate the veggies at home.

Sometimes it can be helpful if you know what the voices are saying. You may think that the red blouse is saying "I'm marked down to $19.99." But in reality, it's asking you to pay twice that when you add in the 19 percent interest. And, you're also agreeing to keep paying for it after it goes out of style.

Another way to avoid "frugal fatigue" is to give yourself small rewards as you move toward your goal. Maybe I shouldn't listen to that Corvette, but once half the debt was paid, I could rent a neat car for a weekend.

Finally, don't walk where you hear the voices. You don't need to listen to their siren call. Change your path or it won't be long before you'll hear yourself tell a sales clerk, "I'll take it." Better to take a different route away from the store. Even if it takes you out of your way. Remember that the voice is calling you to a place that's a long way off your chosen path.

See related: Living well frugally, Frugality: Just a fad? Or will consumers keep saving?, Glossary of common credit card terms

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Published: June 3, 2010


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