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Bronni here – this guest post is from WFH money maker and famous Twitter grump Jon from The Money Shed.
The internet is awash with people shouting about how great it is to live a frugal life. After all, if you don’t have much spare cash in your bank account after your bills have been paid then you probably rejoice in cutting costs. The problem here, however, is that it’s often dressed up as an optional way of living when the reality is that it’s usually forced onto the individual because they can’t afford to pay for certain things.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sensible spending. There’s no point in wasting money for the sake of it. But there is a big difference between being money conscious and scrimping on things for the sake of maintaining the trendy frugal tag. Self-imposed poverty isn’t something that really interests me, and it certainly isn’t a way to ‘live your best life’.
How to live frugally
Okay, before you reach for the pitchforks to come after someone who clearly doesn’t understand your plight, I’ve been in the same position. Worrying about money isn’t something to joke about. It’s the kind of thing that occupies your mind all day and then stops you from sleeping at night. The cycle is seemingly endless.
One of the biggest issues I faced was to do with cash flow. As I’m self-employed, payments would reach my bank account at random times in the month. This would make things difficult because my electricity supplier seemed to want to take my money on a specific day. What jerks!
I’d convinced myself that payment timing was the problem and that the solution was to live more frugally so less cash would be leaving my account. This worked to a point. Switching energy suppliers, cancelling my unused gym membership, and hunting around for better insurance prices cut costs.
But then it dawned on me that I was still struggling. Despite spending less, the cash flow issues persisted. It was time to save more money, so I headed back to the drawing board. Before I knew it, my Friday night pizza was replaced with a money-saving slow cooker recipe, my morning coffeeshop run turned into home brand instant coffee disappointment, and my cash dependant hobbies were a distant memory.
The truth is that frugal living sucks. It will save you a little bit of money here and there but it’s a miserable way to live. People talk about the difference between wants and needs but a Friday night pizza after a tough working week was something that made me happy, the coffeeshop run was an enjoyable start to the working day, and I was passionate about my weekend hobbies.
If you’re going to live your best life, it shouldn’t require you to give up everything you enjoy. The real issue wasn’t that I was spending too much. It was that I wasn’t earning enough.
Higher earnings vs frugal living
Let’s take it back a little bit. Finding ways to save money on things like energy suppliers and unused subscriptions is worth doing. It’s a way to not waste money on things that have no impact on your daily life.
But there is a difference between doing that and cutting all your favourite things out of your life. It’s the fast route to misery.
The problem many people face is that they’re not earning enough money. It can be difficult to hear because it seems like a tough ask to increase your monthly wage. Cutting costs is easy but you’re unlikely to save enough to make it worth the potential long-term unhappiness.
The solution is to find ways to increase your earnings so you can continue to enjoy the things you want as well as the things you need.
How to earn more money
How you go about increasing your income will depend on your current situation. If you’re in full time employment, then it could be the time to look for a promotion or seek a higher salary elsewhere.
Everyone can earn extra cash at home. You could sign up for apps that pay you to undertake market research tasks, get paid to take surveys online, do some mystery shopping, grab some free cash from matched betting, start a side business related to your hobbies and interests, teach a language, offer your creative services online, start a side business, transcribe audio dictation, build an affiliate marketing website, create a blog that earns from advertising, and so on.
Bronni again: Jon’s site has literally hundreds of ways to make money on it. When I was saving for my house I was bang into mystery shopping, I once got paid hundreds of pounds to get drunk in fancy London hotels for free… True story!
There are loads of ways to make extra money that will help you much more than shopping in the value sections of supermarkets and growing your own wilted herbs on a windowsill.
How to save money without being frugal
Of course, not being part of the frugal living movement doesn’t mean that you should spend more cash than you really need to. If you’re looking to buy something, then it’s often worthwhile to look at price comparison and latest-offer websites. Supermarkets regularly have vouchers and offers on the things that you’d actually like to buy rather than what you think you should buy to save a few pennies.
Ultimately, the key to a happy life in these scenarios is balance. Saving money isn’t a bad thing if you’re not sacrificing everything you enjoy in order to do it. If this is the case, then it might be time to recognise that the real issue is likely to be that you aren’t earning enough rather than spending too much.
All joking aside, it can be tough if you feel like you don’t have enough money. Not everyone is in a position to be able to get a promotion at work or apply for high-paying roles that require experience and qualifications. Nevertheless, there are other ways to earn money, as listed above, that are likely to be a better option than removing everything you enjoy from your life. A mixture of the two could be the perfect recipe but don’t give up the things you enjoy most without putting up a fight. Your future self will thank you for it when you’re enjoying that morning coffeeshop run and Friday night pizza.