What comes to mind when we hear the word “frugal”?

Being careful what you spend, adopting a sparing approach to spending, being thrifty, always being vigilant on expenses… yes, that mindset would describe most of us these days.

When we open the newspapers or read the news online, we are bombarded by negative information. Price hikes, GST, economy slowing down…doom and gloom seems to be in every headline. We feel depressed and afraid at the constant onslaught of bad news.
But my friends, should we really be feeling this way?

Let’s think back to the past, during the time of our parents and grandparents. Life was far from easy. They had very little money or resources, especially those who migrated to Malaysia from their home countries. They had to create their own financial opportunities in a new country, budget carefully and save money to provide for their families. It was a difficult time. Many also lived through two world wars, both periods of uncertainty, danger and scarcity.

How did the previous generations manage, and what can we learn from them?

Well, they were tough. Mentally and physically resilient. They worked hard. They did not crack under pressure or give into depression or fear at the bad news around them. They just got on with what they had to do. It was survival of the fittest.

Also, they adopted a frugal mindset. They were careful to conserve. They created more with less. In the olden days, people were natural recyclers. Nothing much went to waste. Everything had a purpose, and once that purpose had been fulfilled, the item was re-used or re-purposed. Every scrap of food was finished in some form or the other. Food was too precious to waste.

There was no such thing as consumerism then. No such thing as credit cards either. People only bought what they needed and what they could afford. Frivolous expenditure on unnecessary items was frowned upon. Everyone knew the value of being frugal, saving money and building up wealth.

And guess what? Adopting a frugal mindset stood them in good stead. With their limited resources, they not only survived through very difficult times and raised families, but educated their children and created a better life for the next generation.

6 Tips to Adopt Frugal Mindset

So, let’s look at some tips to adopt a frugal mindset and benefit from the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

1. Only buy what you need.

Sounds like a no-brainer? Think again. How much would we shave off our monthly expenses if we only bought what we really “need” as opposed to what we “want”.

2. Look for the best bargains on everything.

Or in other words, do not buy any product on impulse. Instead, plan ahead. Clip coupons, look for good deals and do research on prices.

3. Use everything more than once.

Let your creativity flow as you think up ways to reuse, repurpose, recycle. For example, if you have bought a plastic dispenser containing handwash, don’t throw away the dispenser once the handwash is used up. Instead, keep the dispenser and buy a softpack/refill in order to replace the handwash. Reuse your plastic bags from the grocery store to package rubbish instead of buying plastic bags for this purpose. Repurpose old clothes and towels into floor cloths, wiping cloths, dishcloths.

4. Be organized, be mindful, and plan in advance.

Plan ahead and be mindful in your use of resources. Plan your route and stops ahead to maximize fuel efficiency. Plan your grocery list for the week in advance so that you only buy what you need. Plan your movements around your home so that you don’t have all the lights and air cons on in the home at all times. Plan your budget to make room for both essentials and some nice-to-haves.

5. Be wary of the consumer trap.

Don’t be fooled by advertisements proclaiming the amazing benefits of certain brands and products. Unless such claims are based on tangible, independent evidence (not testimonials from satisfied customers who have most likely been paid to give a favourable review), don’t fall into the trap of parting with more cash than necessary. Forget the hype and instead, go for a cheaper equivalent.

6. Inculcate the right values in your children.

Kids can be a substantial cost-centre. Not understanding the value of money, they may pester you for the latest gadget or gizmo and throw tantrums if they are told they cannot have the item. Many an exhausted parent has succumbed to the temptation to just give in and buy the kids whatever they want, just for some peace at the supermarket or at home after a long day at work. However, this is not the way, as it will only serve to entrench the idea in the mind of the child that the more he demands, the quicker his wishes will be fulfilled by his parents.

Instead, from a young age, teach your children that money is a commodity that must be worked for and earned. Encourage them to save their money (from allowances or gifts) and budget in order to buy what they want, for themselves. School them in the benefits of adopting a frugal mindset, so they will learn from an early age that resources utilised wisely (whether time, money, food or material goods), will enable such resources to be multiplied and used to help others who are less fortunate.

Hopefully, these tips have given you an insight into how to adopt a frugal mindset. The benefits of doing so will reveal themselves to you soon enough, once you start! Happy saving and spending frugally! ?


Personal finance author and trainer

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