Here’s the great thing about frugality and saving money. It’s almost foolproof. When you make a commitment to getting your finances on track, living more simply, and putting money away for the future you really can’t fail at it, as long as you keep trying. Some people tell me, “Oh, I tried frugality but I wasn’t any good at it,” or, “I wasn’t as good at managing my money as you are, so I gave it up.” I say this is hogwash. There’s no way to be so bad at being frugal that it’s worth giving up and spending money wildly for the rest of your life.
Any money you save is a victory. So you “only” saved $10 by using at the coupons at the grocery store. When compared to the person who saves $100, you feel like a failure. You’re not. You still saved $10. Maybe you don’t have coupon friendly stores near you. Maybe you don’t have the time to devote to couponing that the $100 saver has. Maybe you simply shop for different products than the $100 saver. You haven’t failed. You’ve succeeded at saving $10.
You’re not a failure if you don’t do everything by the book. The books tell you to give up all eating out, buying drinks at the vending machine, and spending on entertainment. Do you have to do all of this to be successful? No. Frugality is about knowing what’s important to you, keeping that, and dropping the non-essentials. I used to work in an office building that had an awesome Coke machine. The drinks weren’t canned, they were fountain-like. It was the kind of machine where the cup came down the chute, filled with crushed ice, and then the cola came in. I don’t know why these were so good. Maybe it was the water or the mixture, but I wasn’t giving them up.
When I started getting frugal, I knew I was supposed to give up this $1.00 per day addiction, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I opted to find money to cut elsewhere. It was a very easy choice to start buying more store brands and to stop eating lunch out three days a week. Those things weren’t important to me. The Cokes were my daily treat and I wanted to keep them. Could I have saved even more if I’d given them up? Sure, but my workday would not have been as pleasurable (and at that job those Cokes were sometimes the only thing that kept me from going berserk). I didn’t fail to be frugal. I succeeded at cutting down the other things in my life that weren’t important to me.
You’re also not a screw up if your first attempts at investing, starting a business, or buying insurance don’t turn out so well. These things have a learning curve. Your first investments likely won’t turn you into Warren Buffett overnight. The first months of your business won’t earn you millions. But at least you are trying and learning. There’s no failure in that, only success. Eventually you’ll learn and things will start working out.
You’re not a failure if you don’t grow your own food, make gifts, have a clothesline or make your own clothes, either. There are some frugal things that many of us don’t have the time, space, or talent to accomplish. That doesn’t mean we’ve failed at being frugal. It just means that we have different ways of being frugal than others. I can’t sew, but I know how to change my own oil. Because I stink at one skill doesn’t mean my frugality attempts are failing. It only means that I need to capitalize on the skills I do have.
The point is that frugality is very personal and unique to every individual. As long as you are trying to live below your means and to do the right things financially, you are succeeding. You might not get there at the same pace as other people, but as long as you’re on the path, you are succeeding. You don’t fail when something doesn’t work out. You learn what didn’t work. The only way to fail at frugality is to never try. Either that or to try, give up entirely, and let your finances go completely to pot. Other than that, you really can’t be bad at frugality.