In order to improve your personal finances, you’ll be forced to make some sacrifices about your spending, living expenses, and how you save money.
Yet, one area of finances that gets people into financial trouble is overspending. Sometimes, you won’t even realize it is a bad habit until you take a good look at your current financial health.
That’s where the idea of “living stingy” can be helpful to break any bad spending habits.
However, the phrase sounds harsh or negative. And when I explore the definition below, the term is really not that flattering.
Living a stingy lifestyle doesn’t have to be a drag nor do you need to live this way permanently. Instead, it’s a useful strategy to help you save money and have purpose for your spending.
What Is Living Stingy?
Living stingy basically means being on a fairly tight budget and spending as little money as possible in all aspects of your life.
The concept of living stingy is to focus on delaying instant gratification in order to save for a future, where you can spend the money on something more rewarding.
For some people it may mean penny pinching, for others it may mean cutting out non-essentials such as takeaway or eating out. Your definition of stingy does depend on what your goals are and where you’re starting from.
And oftentimes, being stingy is often confused with being cheap or frugal. So what are the differences between the three?
Someone who is frugal is a person who takes into account both the cost and quality of an item. Frugality is mostly about being mindful about your spending.
Frugal living entails doing research before spending money on a specific item, who try to find the best quality for the lowest price and who look for ways to save money without lowering their lifestyle too much.
Someone who is cheap is an individual who focuses on the lowest cost possible. They don’t worry too much about the quality, they just want the lowest prices at all times.
People who are cheap are those who like to buy stuff because it’s on sale, always buy the lowest cost item, and are not concerned with factors like quality and will find ways to save even at the expense of others.
Both of those definitions are slightly different to being stingy, but also have overlap as well.
The word “stingy” actually has a pretty harsh definition where it means you are unwilling to spend or are ungenerous with money. Another way to look at it is you are being extremely cheap.
Although it may have a negative connotation, living stingy can be justifiable depending on the circumstances. But it also doesn’t mean you need to be a cheapskate or live this lifestyle forever.
Why You Might Want to Live Stingy
Living stingy is about lowering your costs and spending less as much as possible — in order to save and afford things later on in life.
You may want to live stingy if you are saving for a large purchase and are willing to delay some instant gratification for something large in the future (such as financial independence). It’s also a useful strategy to get yourself out of debt and build some breathing room for the time-being.
While this sounds good, the concept of living stingy is not perfect either. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the stingy lifestyle as it relates to your finances.
The Pros of Living Stingy
The main benefit of living stingy is that you can start to save a solid amount of money — which is something you may need urgently if you’re in a difficult position.
Learn to live with less
The other benefit is that you’ll get used to living on a small amount of money. This means that you’ll automatically need less money to live on in the future. You learn to live with less and don’t get distracted as easily by material things or upgrades on “stuff.”
This also translates into a lower amount money needed to retire, as you are accustomed to a lower standard of living. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy or have some nice things, but it can help you retire faster when you aren’t living a large lifestyle.
It also means you won’t notice too much of a difference if things get difficult and you need to tighten your budget for short periods of time.
Builds strong financial habits
Becoming stingy, you will be developing strong financial habits that will benefit you quickly and in the future.
Every time you save money, you’ll know you’re putting money towards your goals. It helps you have more money for your emergency fund, pay your bills on time and consistently, and ensures you are more prepared.
Plus, saving money is the first step to not living paycheck to paycheck — you’ll sleep better at night knowing any potential emergencies are covered and overall will hopefully have less financial stress.
The Cons of Living Stingy
Living stingy doesn’t come natural for many people. That’s why the main disadvantage with living stingy is that it can make some people unhappy and anxious.
It’s a fairly big lifestyle change, and not buying certain items or living at the same level of comfort can be a source of unhappiness.
On top of that, living stingy might mean you won’t go out to dinner as often or enjoy certain outdoor activities. This can also lower overall happiness since you may not be able to go to as many social events or enjoy certain hobbies.
However, a proper routine of living stingy will still allow you to find a balance and you can still enjoy some activities.
Another con, is that you may find some people look down on you for living stingy, such as your friends and family. If your friends are people who enjoy spending and don’t save, you may find it hard to keep up and say no to activities.
You’ll find yourself saying “no” more often and you may feel like you’re missing out or being a “buzzkill.”
But remember, living stingy for a period of time doesn’t mean you have to cut friends or family out of your life. Instead, it just means you need to spend less money while out with them or recommend new activities to do that fit your newer lifestyle.
How to Live Stingy Without Going Overboard
When it comes to living stingy, it can be difficult to find a healthy balance. At the end of the day, it’s a very personal lifestyle that really depends on every person’s circumstances, lifestyles and goals.
But you can live a more stingy lifestyle without destroying your quality of life too — even if the definition of stingy is a bit harsh.
Nor do you need to save every penny and never treat yourself. Certainly, this is a more aggressive way to save and improve your financial wellness — but you won’t need to live this way forever either.
Instead, you want to find a balance of cutting costs and spending less, without being a complete miser. Here’s how to live stingy without going overboard.
Create a financial plan
The first step to living stingy is to create a plan. This begins with writing down a list with all your goals such as getting out of debt, buying a house or building an emergency fund.
By focusing on one specific goal, it’ll be easier to create a plan and you’ll also be more motivated to reach it (just that number!). It’ll also be easier to decide which sacrifices to make and keep you motivated.
Activate your plan
The next step is to incorporate the plan into your daily routine. Do you need to set a spending limit? What expenses do you need to re-evaluate and change?
Take out a bank statement of the previous month and look for expenses you feel you could cut out.
Maybe you can try brewing your coffee at home instead of buying takeaway, or buying a great crock-pot and cook more at home.
If you want to keep a very tight budget, you can set a daily spending limit and make sure you don’t go over budget.
Evaluate your spending
Once you have your budget and plan in place for a bit, you’ll notice your habits changing and you won’t be tempted to overspend as much.
If you’re able to keep doing this for several months, then you know you’re not going overboard.
However, if you find yourself severely unhappy or struggling after one month, then maybe you need to relax the budget and give yourself more room to spend and ease into.
Cut expenses drastically
Besides activating a plan and monitor general spending, cutting your expenses drastically will be important too. Look, I’m not a fan of depriving yourself of essentials or even some luxuries. But, sometimes your financial situations call for some more extreme measures.
While I don’t recommend live in a shed in the woods with no amenities, you should look for ways to eliminate some expenses and cut back on others.
For example, some things you can do immediately:
- Cancel unnecessary subscriptions and unwanted ones. You can use a service like Trim to help or you can handle it on your own.
- Shop around for car insurance or home insurance to get better deals and prices. Take a look at Gabi — an online marketplace to find the best prices and deals.
- Lower your energy bills to save money and help the environment. Check out Arcadia to see if you can lower your costs where you live.
- Start buying in bulk or couponing more to spend less on food. And also, eliminate going out to eat or give yourself a strict budget for this.
Start to increase your income
Another thing you can look into is increasing your income to help you reach your goals and make living stingy a bit easier.
This could be something as simple as completing surveys online, taking on some work in the gig economy, selling your unused or older stuff online, or doing some freelance work online.
Working an extra hour or two every couple of days could pay off in the long run and help you reach your goal faster.
Think of living stingy as a way to delay your gratification.
Right now you may not be able to buy that new sofa or take that trip to Europe — but once you get out of debt or save for that emergency fund, you’ll be able to spend the money on something that truly satisfies you (such as that trip).
By living stingy today, you can start thinking and preparing for the future, whether that means a comfortable retirement, a fully-owned house or sending the kids off to college!
And remember, just because you are living the stingy lifestyle now, doesn’t mean you have to forever. It’s more of a temporary solution that can have long-term benefits for you.