Staying Motivated for the Long Haul

by Kelly · 13 comments

in Living Frugally


One of the biggest problems I have with my journey towards living a more frugal life is staying motivated. I have now been actively working on improving my finances for more than a year and a half. And while this may not seem like a long time to those who have been trying to get out of debt for longer than me, it seems plenty long enough.

I’m learning about frugality and living a more frugal life for many reasons. Some are financial (trying to get rid of past debt and save for the future), some are environmental (being frugal means that I leave a smaller environmental footprint), and some are, if not exactly moral, strongly motivated by my values (I think it’s wrong to over-consume, when there are so many people out there with nothing). So the first way that I keep myself motivated to stay the frugal course is by reminding myself of why I am frugal.

I also use my children as motivators– what parent wouldn’t? I don’t want them to grow up with financial problems, and I know that by being more frugal I will be better able to provide for their needs, both psychological and financial. I rely a lot on other people to help keep me going: my friends who share frugal tips with me, or others who commiserate over not always having enough money to pay the bills. And it goes without saying that the Almost Frugal readers, you guys, are a huge motivator for me.

Finally,  I stay motivated by having concrete goals, and reminding myself of them often. For example, when we were thinking of buying a house a few years ago, I put pictures of houses and real estate listings on the door of the fridge as a motivator to save money. Now I carry deposit slips for my ING emergency fund account in my wallet, right next to my checkbook, so that when extra money comes my way, I can send it off to be deposited immediately.

It’s hard maintaining any level of intensity over the long haul– that’s why gyms, packed full on January 2nd, are back to pre new year’s activity levels by March 15th! But it can be done… and like most other things, it’s easier with a little help from your friends.

How do you stay motivated to be frugal, to pay off debt, to save your extra money?


1 Kristy @ Master Your April 20, 2009

For me it's about breaking things into smaller bites so I don't feel overwhelmed. I have a notebook I created some years ago where I paste a pictorial representation of my goal into the book. For example, right now I'm trying to save up so that I can spend next summer studying abroad. That means I've got to save PTO for work and I've got to save the money for the trip. It's with school, so there's tuition (room and board included), travel expenses, food, spending money, not to mention I still have to have the money to cover bills and expenses back home – though if I have all of the PTO, that should be no problem. So, I've cut out a couple of pictures of London (where I'm going) and various other things that I plan to see and do on that trip and I've created a montage on a piece of paper and stuck it in my notebook. I flip through the notebook every night as a reminder of what I'm working towards.

Something else I do, and this I got from a personal life coach our company hired to come talk to us, is I write a personal mission statement. But, I write it in the future, so it reads like I've already succeeded at the task(s) I'm working towards. The coach recommended that I read this at least three times a day, or whenever I feel negative or down and out. It's pretty interesting the effect it has on you. I highly recommend it. I was completely resistant at first, but as soon as I dropped that and just did the exercise how he asked, I felt better and was finding more creative ways to get there.

<abbr>Kristy @ Master Your Card´s last blog post..Weekly Round Up</abbr>

2 Nicole April 20, 2009

I save $25 a week in my "European Vacation" account. Everytime I have an urge to buy a pair of shoes or want to chuck my leftovers and go out to eat, I think of that and I stop. Long term goals, and supportive people around you, I think are key in staying on the frugal wagon for the long haul.

<abbr>Nicole´s last blog post..Three Things I Learned Booking A Last Minute Plane Ticket</abbr>

3 Kika April 20, 2009

One of my biggest motivators for living frugally is the freedom to be a SAHM and homeschooling parent to my three children. When I start to feel sorry for myself or long for stuff or vacations that I cannot afford, I just look at my kids and am reminded that I am living my dream right now! I so appreciate having like-minded people in my life to talk with and glean ideas from. Like you, too, I want to be an excellent role model for my kids so that they grow up knowing how to dream, set goals and work towards them, even when it requires sacrifice along the way.

4 The American Homemak April 20, 2009

I am frugal because I have to be… LOL What better motivator is that? And the more money I save in day to day living, the more I spend on fun things like thrift stores… he he he

I sometimes struggle wishing we could take vacations and drive nicer cars, but I know we're doing the best we can in the situation we're in.

5 Craig April 20, 2009

I agree, it's hard to stay motivated when there is so much immediate temptation to do things and spend money. Try to have a goal to work towards always help.

6 Jb April 21, 2009

I’ve been struggling with this in the years I’ve been struggling with my debt. I seem to be okay for 2 or 3 months, and then just crumble for a few weeks. I spend the next several months undoing the damage & am right back to where I started. *sigh*

Right now I’ve resorted to posting notes & pictures & lists around my apartment to remind me of things, like what my current debt load is, what I’m going to save for when I’m done paying things off, that kind of thing.

But it’s definitely hard.

Jb´s last blog post..New Budgeting Plan In Place

7 Kate April 21, 2009

I just found your blog on the Wisebread Top 100 and this is such a relevant post to my life right now! I’ve been really good about being frugal all year, but with the weather warming up, I have the urge to shop. Of course, shopping on my credit card in precisely what got me into debt, so now the only plastic I use is a debit card. But, I know that I need to stay on the straight and narrow. It reminds me a little of something I saw on the Martha Stewart show today about a book called The Power of Small- basically, the little things we do have a big effect on our lives. So for me, it’s putting down that pair of shoes and walking away!

Kate´s last blog post..A Little Advice on Job Searching during the Recession– Gallery Job Style

8 Jennifer April 22, 2009

It is hard to saty motivated, but seeing your progress each month should help. You can do it! Look how far you have come.

Jennifer´s last blog post..Gardening and Composting

9 Laura @ no more spending April 22, 2009

I’m struggling to stay motivated at the moment, but reading posts like this helps me get back on track..thanks Kelly 🙂

10 Kristin April 23, 2009

These were inspiring to read and keep me on the right track to saving money/being more frugal! As always…another great post Kelly!

Kristin´s last blog post..RedBox-A Cheap Night In

11 Sally April 23, 2009

I suppose I am in the ‘getting rid of debt and saving for the future’ category. Trying to set an example to my children about responsibility too.

12 Cara May 4, 2009


I live in France too. I actually find it easier living here because there are fewer differences between the "haves and "have -nots"…it's a culture where it seems everyone is pretty careful with their money. That being said I love clothes and work (from my home, but with clients) so I tend to rationalize too many neat clothes purchases. I am getting much better, DH is a natural cheapskate (I am the free spirit!) and he helps me see our progress and our priorities. We are debt-free as of a year ago, except the house, and actually have SAVINGS. This is VERY motivating! We are even taking a big vacation this year with CASH, with three kids in tow! THanks for a really good topic. I need all the continuous motivation I can get.

13 fairydust July 7, 2009

we went through bankruptcy more than a decade ago and I don’t EVER want to be in that position again. Ever. That’s our motivation 🙂
.-= fairydust´s last blog ..Hey, Look! It’s Monday!! =-.

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