Here’s the brutal truth about living stingy: There are WAY too many people out there that are living beyond their means in the name of “living their best life.” They say, “I’ll just plan this killer vacation, all on credit, and figure it out later.”
If only it were that easy…If you’re serious about achieving your financial goals, you need to be mindful of where your money is actually going and start living below your means instead. Otherwise, you’ll be throwing spaghetti at a wall hoping that something sticks.
Today, we’re going to discuss living stingy, specifically in the context of your personal spending choices (and not your charitable giving or other noble commitments). The best part? Living stingy, while it sounds dreadful, is the complete opposite. You will find that being stingy and living on less is the path to financial freedom!
What does living stingy really mean?
Stingy. Yuck. This is one of the least flattering words that can be used to describe someone. And rightly so. Stingy means not generous or liberal, sparing or scant in using or spending.
But what if I were to tell you that when it comes to personal finance, stinginess, in every positive angle of the word, could actually be the difference between you retiring comfortably or having to work well into your retirement years. It could be the parachute that could save you from endless (and mindless) spending on things that add no value to your life.
So, what is living stingy in a financially responsible way? It’s the process of being mindful of what you spend your money on as well as the act of thinking critically about the amount of time you invested working so you can make a specific purchase.
Said differently, living stingy can be compared to being thrifty or using money carefully with wisdom.
Is living stingy a bad thing?
It sounds cheap, doesn’t it? Living stingy often gets a bad rap because it immediately draws up images of someone skimping on purchases, couponing like crazy, and refusing to share with others.
However, this is not always true. Why? Because:
- Being mindful of your money (or spending freely) does not automatically make a person generous or stingy. The two don’t always go hand in hand.
- Living stingy is closely tied to budgeting. When it comes to budgeting, one of the underlying principles is developing an awareness of where your money is going. This, in turn, leads to making better, more thoughtful purchase decisions and not just depriving yourself of enjoyable purchases.
To be clear, stinginess done wrong can quickly fall into all shades of self-centeredness, greed, and selfishness. As much as possible, if you see others in need, do your part to help. If someone is short on physical goods and you can help, lend a hand. Living stingy is no excuse to hold back on helping others in need.
Instead, it’s an opportunity to scale back on self-focused purchases that you have no need for that are limiting your future financial prospects. So instead of viewing stinginess as a vice, think of it as a way of life that can dramatically alter your financial trajectory.
Advantages and disadvantages of living stingy
Now that you know what living stingy means, let's cover the pros and cons of this way of living.
Pros of stingy living
Being stingy definitely has its benefits. Here are a few examples:
True appreciation of the value of goods
Once you start to live stingily, your entire perspective will change. What may in the past have been a simple purchase that you bought impulsively while out shopping will now turn into a genuine conversation with yourself about what really matters to you.
If you’ve ever been saddled with debt, you’ll know how restrictive it can be. At times, you’ll feel owned by your finances instead of owning your money as big chunks of it automatically go to making monthly payments.
Living stingy will “cost” you the ability to make purchase decisions on a whim but will buy you the true financial freedom to live life on your own terms and not terms dictated by your credit card company.
Budgeting will become a foundational principle in your financial routine, thanks to living stingy. And there’s a reason for it. Budgeting helps you to plan your spending in advance, which in turn restricts any possibility of failure.
Cons of stingy living
Living this lifestyle is about balance, and sometimes when overdone can cause disadvantages. Here are a couple of reasons why stingy living can be difficult.
Life isn’t lived in a vacuum. Inevitably, you’ll have to make financial decisions that involve friends and family, and your new approach to money may not be taken warmly. Under such scenarios, what can you do? What often helps is managing expectations upfront.
A classic example that I have encountered quite a few times myself is around eating out for a friend’s birthday or another celebratory event. When you’re with a big group, you’ll often find that some people come prepared to splurge and will order bottles of wine and a full 3-course meal.
If you’re not planning to spend much, it may be wise to have a quick conversation on the side with the host letting them know that you’re excited to attend the dinner and that you’re looking to stay within the cost of your meal.
That way, when the bill comes, and someone who you don’t know is put in charge of splitting the bill, your host can set boundaries on how the bill should be handled.
Taking it all too far
As with anything else in life, stinginess, when done in excess, could negatively impact your level of enjoyment of your day-to-day routine and your social interactions. It can lead to self-denial and missed opportunities to meet and fellowship with others, all in the name of being frugal.
Wisdom must be exercised, and strong consideration should be made on what you value and what you’re willing to do without.
15 Ways to start living stingy
Are you ready to give stingy living a try? It's amazing how much simpler your life can be and how much money you can save with just a few adjustments. Check out these 15 ways you can start being more stingy.
1. Ask yourself, “Does my spending spark joy?”
Over the years, I’ve struggled with one thing – shiny object syndrome. I’ve fallen victim to social media and marketing tactics countless times – the smooth sales scripts, the 30-second videos that convince you that you absolutely have to have this item now before the offer ends, and the life-changing benefits influencers swear by when showcasing products.
The result? Money down the drain, and my life looking exactly as it did before the purchase. Now, I’m a lot wiser for it. I always pause and ask myself, will this spark joy (as discussed by Marie Kondo with her KonMari Method)? A month from now, or even 2 years from now, will I have made use of this item? Having that honest conversation with myself has saved me hundreds.
2. Create a budget that works
Money, without a purpose, will grow wings and fly to an unknown destination. You’ve likely had a month where you received your paycheck and casually spent it without blinking an eye. Before you know it, the end of the month arrives, and you have no idea where your precious dollars disappeared to!
Sound familiar? I thought so because I’ve been there too. The best way to beat this and start living stingy is to create a monthly budget that works. Choosing the right budgeting method will help you keep a close eye on your money and help you stick to it!
3. Set financial goals for success
Without goals, your money will be at the mercy of all your immediate wants masquerading as “needs.” Clearly defining goals helps you to clarify what you really want for yourself financially. I live in a big city with a great public transport system. At one point, I thought owning a car would be an amazing convenience.
However, when I started thinking of my long-term goals and counting the cost of car ownership in a city where it's not necessary, I quickly revised my priorities. I realized that monthly payments on a car, astronomically high parking fees, maintenance fees, and gas would slow me down from reaching my desired goals by a couple of years.
A great starting point for determining your goals is ensuring you have a strong why for planning to accomplish your dreams. It's not enough to base your goals on what society deems to be the gold standard; instead, it's important to really look within and see what is consistent with your lifestyle and hopes.
4. Review your subscription plans
Ever encountered sneaky expenses? If you haven’t, you’ve likely never signed up for anything online. It’s so easy to plop your credit card information onto a website with full intentions to cancel and then simply forget about it.
Subscriptions costs can add up fast! If you want to have quick financial wins, canceling some of your unnecessary subscriptions will set you on the path to financial freedom.
5. Start living stingy by decluttering your home
If you look around your house, there will undoubtedly be goods that are in great condition but simply gathering dust. You probably thought you would have great use for them when you bought them, or you’ve looked at them every day for the past 2 years, promising yourself that you’ll start using them tomorrow.
Declutter your home and sell the items that no longer serve you. It's never been easier to put these up on Craigslist, eBay Facebook Marketplace and earn back some of your money on them.
6. Be stingy with your time
We’ve all been robbed almost daily. How so? By time thieves. Facebook, Instagram, email, and sometimes people can all be thieves of our limited and productive time. If you don’t manage your time well, life won’t wait for you to catch up.
Like everything else, stinginess with time must come with wisdom and perspective, especially when it comes to human relationships. While you may want to limit the time spent on Netflix with friends, you don’t want to skimp on quality time with family and other close associations.
Stinginess with time also comes with applied diligence. Finding smart and creative ways to accomplish tasks dramatically improves your time spent on tasks giving you more opportunities to rest. Time freedom gives you opportunities to pursue new hobbies, work on a side hustle or simply relax and recharge your mental batteries.
7. Stop spending money to start living stingy
If there’s one thing that we can often confuse about money and how we spend it, it’s this: a higher price tag does not always mean greater value. In some categories, spending more money in the hopes of receiving better results makes sense. This is true in the case of health care and other vital functions of our well-being.
However, is the expensive brunch you want to go for more valuable than a fun day of free frisbee in the park? That’s completely debatable. When thinking of activities, think of the cost vs. the benefit. Often, you’ll find that there are many creative ways to benefit recreationally without spending a dime. All it needs is some creativity.
8. Shop for cheaper insurance
A big part of stingy living is getting the best bang for your buck! One way to do this is to shop around for cheaper insurance. Some companies may offer a promotion for switching to them. You can also ask your current provider if they have any discounts for being a safe driver.
Sometimes you get a discounted rate for low-mileage too. For instance, if you drive under a certain number of miles per year, then you can get a reduced rate. Be sure to shop around for the best deal to save on car expenses!
9. Stop dining out
Americans spend thousands of dollars every year eating out. Simply eating more meals at home can drastically reduce your food expenses. Of course, you don't have to never dine out. Start by cutting out one meal a week.
Since the average cost for a meal at a restaurant is about $12-$15 (sometimes more), that can save you $48-$60 a month, that's $576-$720 in a year! See how much living stingy can save you simply by eating one meal at home a week!
10. Use cash-back apps and coupons
If you have to shop why not save money when you do it! Cash-back apps such as Rakuten, Ibotta, and Be Frugal offers cash-back opportunities by shopping through their app. You might be surprised at how much those discounts add up over time.
Another great way to save is using coupons. It's easier than ever to become a couponer, thanks to digital coupons. There's a ton of coupon sites you can use and even clip them to your discount store card too!
11. Pay yourself first
The secret to living stingy is to pay yourself first. Putting your financial goals first by saving before you spend money is the key to success.
It's super easy to wait and put money in your savings last, but for many of us, this leads to either forgetting to do it or not having any funds left over to deposit. So, set up a weekly automatic deposit into your savings accounts to start paying yourself first.
12. Save your tax refunds and bonuses
Did you get a big tax refund or bonus from work? Pretend like you didn't and sock that money away in your rainy-day fund or invest it. The average federal tax refund is over $2,500. That's quite a chunk of cash you can use towards your financial goals instead of spending it.
13. Cancel cable
Cable can get ridiculously expensive. In fact, the average consumer pays over $200 a month. That's $2,400 a year! I think saving that money for a fun trip is a better idea. You can easily slash your cable bill by finding other alternatives. This is an easy way to start stingy living!
14. Become a savvy shopper
Part of stingy living is becoming a savvy shopper. That means reducing grocery costs, shopping the sales, and buying items preowned. You can save up to 50% off retail prices simply by purchasing them used. So, start being savvy with your purchases and keep more cash in your pocket.
15. Round up your savings
So, a fun and simple way to be stingy is to round up your savings. There are a couple of ways you can do this. One way is to round up your transactions in your checkbook register. For instance, let's say you purchase an item for $9.24 on your debit card.
When you balance your checkbook, you will round up the amount to the next dollar, which is $10! Not only is it easier to balance your checkbook, but you will create a cushion in your checking account too.
Another way is to find a bank that offers a round-up account. This is the same premise as to how you would do it yourself in your checkbook, but the bank takes the amount and deposits it into your savings account. So, all of your spare change is being saved for you automatically!
Why you should consider living stingy
Living stingy will open doors for you that you might not realize are within your financial reach. It will help you set boundaries around what truly matters and weed out time-wasters. It will also help you to really pause and think about what makes you truly happy and fulfilled.
Almost no one would pass up the opportunity for an all-expenses-paid trip to Australia for vacation. However, if you asked those same people if they could pull it off based on their finances, most would say no.
What many people don’t realize, though, is that having a defined goal (i.e., a trip to Australia next December) and mindfully working towards it (i.e., cutting out wasteful spending on clothes and unnecessary subscriptions) could really help in making this dream a reality.
If you’ve been standing on the outside looking in at the world of personal finance, why not take the first step today? It’s never too late to begin. Start now by enrolling in our free financial courses to help you reach your financial goals!