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Q&A | All About Attitudes

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

A suggestion for a future Monday Q&A: I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about how to keep a positive attitude, specifically regarding frugality. Although I try to practice gratitude every day, I still find that one of my biggest obstacles is my attitude. I can get very down on myself if I “fail” by spending too much at the grocery store for example, and I tend to get very gloomy and defeatist. Any tips for staying up-beat and fun?

Slightly related is my feeling of awkwardness in dealing with situations where I have to say “no” to social events/ playdates that cost money. Is there a way to do this without bringing up money, or at least without feeling any sense of shame about “not having enough”? (I think this might be another “Attitude” thing.)

Another question I have is, how do you balance the practicality of having a very limited amount of “extra” money, with being generous and giving to others (the poor, neighbors, friends, etc.)? It seems too easy to slip into a tightwad/miserly frame of mind.

Thanks! –Lauren

I think it’s great that you’re thinking about these things! You’re right…attitude plays a major role in frugal living, and attitude alone can make the difference between miserable miserliness and joyful frugality.

Since there are three distinct questions here, I’ll answer them one at a time.


Staying Upbeat

I find that it’s easiest to stay upbeat about saving money if I frame it positively. For instance, instead of thinking, “I can’t spend my money on that.”, it’s better to think, “I’m choosing to keep myself out of debt/put money in my savings account.”

A fun challenge mindset also helps me (“How awesome can I make my home/meals/wardrobe on a limited budget?”)

Also, I’m not sure how tight your financial situation is, but if you have a little bit of wiggle room, give yourself some grace if you spend a little bit more on groceries one week.

You didn’t mention this specifically, but I just want to throw out there that comparison is a terrible thief of joy when it comes to money. It is so, so hard to be content on a tight budget if you focus on people who have more than you…that will just make you feel like you’ve got nothing. So, I find it helpful to stop looking at people with more, and to instead think about people who have so much less.

Thinking about people who live with less (both current and past) and who have managed to lead happy lives helps me to realize how much I have and also how possessions and money aren’t the most important things in life.

On a related note, sometimes you can feel like a failure if you compare yourself to other frugal people (“She only spent $85 on groceries this week and she thought that was really high?? I must be an abject failure at this frugal thing.”)

Everyone’s situations/family size/prices are different, so don’t compare yourself to other frugal people in an negative way. Do the best you can do, keep on trying, and give yourself some grace.

Saying No Socially

I know there’s often embarrassment associated with not having money, but here’s the thing: I don’t know your whole situation, but I can tell that you’re doing your best to be responsible with your money. If you were spending money willy-nilly, then you might have cause to be embarrassed.

But the income you have is the income you have (at least for right now), and you’re trying to manage it well, so if your friends look down on you for having to refuse some invites, I think that’s on them and not on you. Real friends won’t behave that way.

Practically speaking, I’m inclined to feel that honesty is the best choice. Instead of coming up with excuses, I’d suggest saying something like, “I’m so sorry, but we’re on a pretty tight budget right now, so I’ll have to say no. We’d love to get together with you for a picnic lunch at the park, though.”

picnic lunch

You can initiate budget-friendy get-togethers too…don’t wait for someone to invite you to something expensive.

(If you have any space in your budget, you could consider putting away a small amount of money each week for an occasional spendy outing. That might help you to feel less deprived.)

Generosity on a Budget

I am so, so familiar with the temptation to hang on to every extra penny, so I hear you there. Marrying a generous man has helped me out a lot (but since he’s already taken, that’s not helpful advice for you!)

Looking at people with less helps me to have a more merciful and generous attitude, and so does setting aside money specifically for the purpose of giving. We budget a portion of our money each money for charitable giving, and we do the same for gifts. Having money in an account for Christmas and birthdays helps me so much (we use online savings accounts for this purpose.)

If you have more time than money, consider giving time (volunteer at a charity, give a gift of service to someone on their birthday). And if you’re pretty good at the frugal thing, use your skills to be generous. Bake something to give as a gift, fix up a thrift store/freecycle find for someone, shop the clearance racks to find an awesome baby gift, and so on.

(On a related note, this post about giving meaningful gifts may be helpful.)

Hang in there, Lauren! You’re not alone, and even if you haven’t got lots of fellow frugal people to spend time with in real life, there are lots of us here on the web (and I think spending time, virtually or not, with other frugal people is a great way to stay on track and keep your motivation going).


Readers, I know a lot of you have experience with the difficulties Lauren is facing, so please do share your advice with her in the comments.


Joshua’s 365 post: Gardner Box

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Thursday 13th of February 2014

Speaking of attitudes....I was recently faced with a frugal dilemma. I was standing in line at Kohl's and realized my 20% off coupon expired last month and my new 15% off coupon was in the car. My purchase was $44 so 15% would have been a savings of $6.60. It was cold and raining outside so I immediately started I really want to run out into the cold wet rain just to save $6.60? Then I remembered my motto "it all adds up" and I put it into perspective. $6.60 will buy 6 dozen eggs at Aldi, which translates to a 2 egg breakfast for one person for 36 days. Is it worth it? HECK YES! Attitude adjusted!


Wednesday 28th of August 2013

Kristen, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your thoughtful answer. I also love the comments! So many people contributed such great ideas and perspectives. I'm really grateful and feeling inspired. Thanks again!!!

Betty Winslow

Tuesday 27th of August 2013

I can't remember a time when pinching pennies hasn't been at least one of my househlod concerns. I love to give gifts and support favorite charities and it's hard when the money isn't there. Here are a few of the things I do.

1. Use my FB platform to publicize coming events, like the local foster care agency's Princess for a Day party. They need donations of dresses, jewelry, etc. and I've been working on that on FB. 2. Shop local rummage sales on $1 a bag days and stock up on baby clothes for the crisis pregnancy center, which I take home, wash, and fold neatly before dropping it off for their hope chest program. You can also stock up on towels and sheets for a domestic violence center or a pet shelter, children's hats and gloves for the Salvation Army's winter programs..... etc. 3. Shop garage sales for the above. I also keep a stack of crisis pregnancy center business cards in my purse and hand them out at sales with lots of baby and maternity stuff, along with a comment that the center would gladly accept anything that doesn't sell.

I hope these ideas inspire you to find ways to help others despite low finances.

Mary Anne

Tuesday 27th of August 2013

Lauren, I've been where you are. I remember the challenge of making ends meet for just the necessities of life. It had to the grace of God that helped me not to feel sorry for myself but to meet the situation with an attitude of 'just how well can we live'. It turned out to be a very creative experience for me as I used what I found to decorate my home, clothe and feed us. One time I took several of the items I had made to a consignment store in a tourist area and they agreed to take one of my crafts of which they sold about 10 a month. One big lesson I've learned is we don't even tap into the deep well of God's resources until He is all we have. I have found it so amazing how I 'found' the exact size I needed or even more special - to come across something I'd really admired but didn't need. It was like a love gift from the Lord himself. When God does provides like this He gives plenty of opportunities to give Him credit. This usually happened at the grocery store when something wouldn't ring up and (cause I was watching the cash register to make sure the total wouldn't be more than I had) I would have to remind the cashier which always amazes them. I say," My God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and I'd rather have His blessings than this package of meat, etc." Recently I bought a $30 bathroom rug at WalMart that didn't ring up. That one earned a "God bless you!" and a hug. I could go on and on but now I look back on all my experiences and wouldn't trade them for just ordinary riches.


Tuesday 27th of August 2013

I try to make frugality fun or a learning experience when I can. That helps with any feelings of deprivation. This certainly works when doing stuff with the kids. When we choose to do something free or cheap and cheerful, rather than making it feel like they are missing out, it can feel as though they are doing so much more. A little creativity and engagement and they can experience things money can't buy and learn great new skllls. This also applies to adults. When I replicate a restaurant meal for a fraction of the cost, that's fun, and a challenge and I've learnt something new!

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