How to Develop a Robust Frugal Mindset

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Are you trying to build a frugal mindset so you can start living a more frugal lifestyle, but it just isn’t working for you like you thought it would?  

Maybe you tried meal planning for a few weeks, but now you are back to ordering takeout or circling the drive-thru more than just once or twice a week.

Or perhaps a couple of weeks ago you made a decision you weren’t going to spend money on clothes, home decor, or _________ (insert your obsession here), and now you just got done buying some new stuff because you felt like you deserved it.  

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you try to make a change with longstanding habits, if your heart and mind aren’t fully in it, it can be so hard to change! 

I find this to be true in so many areas of my life.  

For example, I have tried hard to be a morning person and wake up early to write, work out, or even just have time to eat breakfast before I go to work for the day.  But when my alarm goes off, my hand automatically goes right to the snooze button.  

And I find myself drifting back to sleep for another 5 minutes…and then another 5 minutes…and another 5 minutes.

I’ve also made several attempts to stay on top of my house cleaning and even made a schedule to try to clean one little thing after work every day.  

One thing.  

One little thing every weekday that would take me 10 minutes to clean, but would make a huge difference in the time I have to spend cleaning on my cherished weekends.  

Do you think I could keep up with it?  Nope.  

My point is, habits are so incredibly hard to break.  If you are used to ordering food during the week or buying your favorite things whenever you want them without thinking twice about it, that is going to be pretty hard to change.

But it is possible…if your heart and your mind are ready for that change.  

That is where building a frugal mindset comes into play.  

How to Develop a Robust Frugal Mindset

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.  If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  You can read my full disclosure here.  

How to Develop a Robust Frugal Mindset

What does it mean when you have a frugal mindset?

You might be wondering what a mindset actually is.  

According to an article in Psychology Today, a mindset is a belief that dictates how you react to a situation.  Your mindset can help you identify situations that would benefit you, or your mindset can set you up for failure. 

You may have read a lot about money mindset lately.  It’s been talked about by lots of financial gurus, and for good reason (check out my post on money mindset here).  Your money mindset is what influences how you handle your money.  

So as you can imagine, money mindset is so important when it comes to being successful with reaching your financial goals!  

But today I want to write about how you can develop a strong frugal mindset.  

While money mindset deals with your overall beliefs and values about money, a frugal mindset deals more specifically with your beliefs about spending.  A frugal mindset means that you are using your money intentionally today to help better your financial life in the future.  

Many people think being frugal is synonymous with being cheap.  This is not so!

Being frugal is about making well-thought-out, planned decisions about how you will spend your money so you can live the life you want to live.  

It is not about being a miser and hoarding your money.  A frugal lifestyle is a way of life that allows you to make choices about how you live your life without letting money influence your choices.  

If you are just starting to learn about frugal living, check out my post The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Frugal Living to learn more.  

Now onto what you have been waiting for…how to develop your frugal mindset!  

The steps I am going to walk you through below coincide with my Frugal Living Workbook.  You can download and print out my workbook to follow along with this post.  

Download your Frugal Living Workbook here.

Frugal Mindset:  What is your "why"?

Steps to developing a frugal mindset

1. Determine why you want to modify your mindset

As I said earlier, changing the habits that you have had for years is not an easy thing to do.  So determining why you want to transition to a frugal mindset and a frugal lifestyle is super important!  

You see, when you actually sit down and think about why you want to change, it will help you to understand yourself better.  And becoming fully aware of your current money situation is the first step to making changes!

So go ahead and write down the reason you want to develop a frugal mindset somewhere so you can easily refer back to it.  

Next, try brainstorming other ways that living frugally will help improve your overall life and happiness.  Go ahead and make a list to help you organize your thoughts.

Once you find your purpose and see how living frugally will benefit you, it will make it easier to get motivated to make changes.  

2. Have a family meeting

Sit down with your partner to talk about why you should start living more frugally.  You will need to work together as a team to find success.  

Brainstorm a few ways each person can help contribute to your family’s new frugal lifestyle. Maybe your partner will start packing his lunch for work most days. And perhaps you are willing to start doing your own manicures. The key is that you work together to make a plan.

If you have kids, you may want to consider including them in your discussions.  If you can get your kids thinking frugally from a young age, you can really help to set them up for financial success in the future.  

frugal mindset: spilled jar of coins

3. Brainstorm how to make more lifestyle changes

This is where the fun starts (at least I think so)!  Here is a quick exercise to help you start getting in the frugal mindset!

I want you to make 3 different lists.

In the first list, I want you to write down the things that you value most that you don’t mind spending money on.  These should be things that are your priority because you can’t (or don’t want to) live without them. 

Just to give you an example, here are some things of high priority that I would include on my list:

  • Family vacations
  • Sports fees for the kids
  • Going out for ice cream as a family
  • Special gifts for family and friends
  • Pool membership for the summer
  • Home projects

These are things that are important to us that we spend money on, even though we are quite a frugal-minded family.

After you do this, see if you can come up with some ideas on how to spend less money on these things.  

Here are some examples of how we save on some of the things above:

  • Look for ways to save money while on our beach vacations (see the list here)
  • Research local pool membership fees and join a less expensive pool
  • Use coupons, the Local Flavor app, or Groupon for ice cream (or buy store-bought and have ice cream at home)
  • Use Rakuten when shopping online for gifts or look for sales, coupons, promo codes, etc
  • DIY as many home projects as possible

For the second list, I want you to write down the things that don’t really matter to you that you want to stop spending your money on.  These should be the things that don’t add value to your life that you could live without. Things like subscriptions, frequently eating out, new clothes, home decor, etc.

Then do the same thing as you did above and write down how you will stop or decrease your spending on those things.  

So maybe you will cancel a monthly subscription, plan to eat out only once a week, limit your clothes purchase to things you absolutely need, and shop for home decor items at thrift stores (or stop buying altogether).  

You get the idea!

For the third list, I want you to do the same thing, but with your household expenses.  So I realize most of your household expenses are necessary (electric, gas, mortgage, water bill, etc), however, some of those expenses could potentially be reduced with a little thought and action.

Make a list of your household expenses that could be reduced. 

Then brainstorm ways you could reduce each one.  So maybe you could have a programmable thermostat installed, hang some of your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer, turn lights off more consistently, trade in your newer car for a reliable used one that you wouldn’t have a payment on, or refinance your mortgage for a lower interest rate. 

Again these are just examples of potential ways you could spend less money on your expenses to allow you to live more frugally.  You’ll have to come up with things that are appropriate for your situation.

The importance of this exercise is to get you thinking more frugally and start to work toward that frugal mindset!  Once you can develop your frugal mindset, intentional spending becomes so much easier and a lot less like work.  

4. Begin implementing changes slowly

Once you have a few frugal ideas to try, start implementing them one at a time.  Don’t try to change too many things at once or you risk becoming overwhelmed, confused, and burned out.  

And those things are never good!  

The important thing to remember when implementing the frugal ideas you came up with is that you are doing this for a reason!  Everything you do should have a reason or else what is the point of doing it?  

Don’t forget to read back over your reason for making the change to a frugal mindset and your list of how making this lifestyle change will benefit you in the long run.  

frugal mindset: keep track of frugal wins

5. Keep track of frugal wins

Small wins and successes over a period of time can be so motivating!  Keep a log or journal of your transition to a frugal mindset and frugal lifestyle so you can read back over them.  

I have included a tracker to log your frugal wins in my Frugal Living Workbook.  You can download it here! 

6. Surround yourself with frugal-minded friends

One more thing you can do to help develop a strong frugal mindset is to hang out with your friends that are frugal people.  Frugal people totally get each other lol! 

Try to avoid spending a lot of time around people that tend to be materialistic, critical, or narrow-minded, at least until you are in the frugal flow and have built your frugal confidence!  

Peer pressure and keeping up with the Joneses are real.  And those two things could potentially throw you off course for developing your frugal mindset.  

Benefits of a frugal mindset

Now that you know how to build your frugal mindset, let’s talk about the benefits of having a frugal mindset!

Live below means

When you have a frugal mindset, it helps you to live below your means.  In other words, you don’t spend more money than you bring in.  

How does having a frugal mindset help you to not spend money you don’t actually have?

When you have a frugal mindset, you look at your spending options very closely and carefully.  You start to analyze your tentative purchases before you decide to buy them.  

When someone has a frugal mindset, the person typically will analyze the purchase before buying by asking themselves the following 6 questions:

  • Do I need the item?
  • Will the item bring me happiness or joy?
  • Can I borrow the item?
  • Can I make the item?
  • Can I buy the item secondhand?
  • Where can I find the best deal on the item?

When you get in the habit of asking yourself these types of questions about possible purchases, it helps to avoid impulse buys.  It also helps you to decide if something is really worth spending the money on and bringing into your life (and home).

The less you buy, the fewer bills you have.  The fewer bills you have, the easier it is to live below your means.  

Check out my guide for how to live below your means here.  

Frugal mindset: sign saying "difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations"

Live a more simple, minimalist lifestyle

Having a frugal mindset also helps you to live more simply.  You aren’t as focused on the newest, bright, and shiny material things.  

Bringing fewer new things into your home will help you to live a more of a minimalist lifestyle.  You will have fewer things to clean, fewer things to take care of, and fewer things to find spots for within your home.  

Having a frugal mindset helps you to focus on what is most important to you (your values, and beliefs) and helps you to make decisions regarding your spending based on those things.  

Less stress and worrying about money

Another awesome benefit of a frugal mindset is feeling less money-related stress.  If you are living below your means and don’t have a large amount of debt, you will feel better about your financial situation.  

You will be able to relax more easily, sleep better at night, and worry less about money.  

Reach financial goals more quickly

A frugal mindset will help you to reach your money goals more quickly.  Whether your goal is to pay off debt, save for a family vacation, live off one income to stay home with your babies, or save for a down payment on a home, having a frugal mindset and living more frugally will help get you there.  

Reach financial wellness

Financial wellness is your ability to effectively manage your finances over time.  It includes being able to pay your bills on time, save money for the future, handle unexpected expenses, and staying on track toward meeting your long-term financial goals.

When you have a frugal mindset, you are basing your spending decisions on your values, beliefs, and goals.  A frugal mindset will help you to keep your money under control and achieve good financial health.  

Reach financial independence (FI)

Ever heard of FIRE?  Financial Independence Retire Early has a whole community of like-minded people who are working towards having enough passive income from investments so they don’t have to work to pay for their living expenses ever again.  

Having a frugal mindset and living a frugal lifestyle is a way of life many people in the FIRE community adopt to help them reach financial independence (FI). 

And the thing is, it works! Spending intentionally and living frugally has helped many people reach FI.  Of course, frugal living isn’t the only aspect of achieving FI, but it is definitely an important part of it.  

Don’t forget to print out my Frugal Living Workbook to help you on your journey toward developing a frugal mindset and living a more frugal lifestyle.  

Now let’s talk about how you will know you have built your robust frugal mindset!

woman's hand dropping coin into piggy bank

How to know if you have developed a frugal mindset

See a difference in your spending habits

You will definitely notice a change in your spending habits when your mindset has changed.  You’ll begin to think through every purchase before you make it.  

You know those 6 questions I mentioned earlier in this post that frugal-minded people use to decide if they will make a purchase or not?  

Those questions will become second nature to you and you won’t even realize you are thinking them in your head when you go to buy something. 

You’ll also notice fewer impulse buys when you are shopping!

Watch your debt start to dwindle

When you have transformed your mindset into a frugal one, you will begin to notice your debt decreasing.  As you free up more money from changing your spending habits, you will be able to make larger monthly payments to pay down your debt more quickly.  

See money in your account at the end of every month

Lastly, you will start to see that you have money left over after paying all your bills every month.  If you have been living paycheck to paycheck, this will be such an awesome feeling!  

You can put that money to work for you in so many ways.  Some different ways you could use that extra money are:

  • Funding a 3-6 month emergency fund
  • Saving for a down payment on a home
  • Increasing your retirement account contributions
  • Investing in low-cost index funds

The bottom line is, having extra money left in your account every month is a great sign that you are working your way toward financial wellness.  Keep up the good work!

Final Thoughts

Developing a frugal mindset is not something that happens overnight.  Your heart and mind need to be ready to make a change.  

But by figuring out your purpose and goals for changing your mindset and developing an individualized plan of action for you and your family, you can set yourself up for success.

The hard work and dedication you put into changing your mindset and living more frugally will ultimately help you and your family live a happier, more fulfilling life.  

Do you have a frugal mindset?  How did you find success when developing your frugal mindset?  Please let me know in the comments! 

6 Steps to Develop a Robust Frugal Mindset
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