I have a theory that applies to almost any area of life. It’s a theory I’ve learned by watching myself fail many times in my 24 years on this earth. The theory is that it’s (almost) always better to make smaller changes if you want them to be lasting changes. This can apply to frugality, healthy eating, exercise, or even daily Bible reading.
I don’t know how many times I’ve decided to start eating super healthy. I’d write down on a paper that I wouldn’t eat sugar, almost no white flour, lots of veggies and fruit and I’d usually set lofty exercise goals at the same time. Usually that lasted about a day or two….and I’d go back to eating my regular semi-healthy food and mediocre exercising.
On the other hand there have been some smaller changes I’ve made that I’ve been much more successful at sticking with. Neither Cameron or I grew up drinking much soda. In my family it wasn’t something we drank on a daily basis, instead it was more of a treat. So it was an easy decision for Cameron and I to not drink sodas. We only drink some maybe once a month. But what’s interesting is that we’ve stuck with that change, because it was just one small change. And I’m sure it’s done more for our health than my couple of days here and there of eating perfect.
Frugality can be the same way. If you’re used to using disposable everything, drive-thru every night, and never cooked from scratch in your life to over night washing cloth diapers, making your own bread, crackers, dressings and even laundry detergent, it might be a shock to your system and it’s very possible you’ll get burned out and go back to how you lived before, saving you very little money in the long run.
Even looking at my own frugality, a lot of it has happened over time. Slowly, every now and then adding a new frugal activity, not trying everything at once.
When we were first married (over 5 years ago):
- I bought more prepared foods than I do now.
- I never used baking soda or vinegar to clean with.
- I didn’t compare gas station prices to find cheaper ones.
- I didn’t reuse aluminum foil.
- I didn’t used coupons, and now I do occasionally.
- I didn’t look up the store’s weekly sales before shopping.
- I didn’t cook with beans as much (I don’t know how many pots of chili I made with hard beans that first year or two!).
- I used more hair conditioner than I do now.
- Even though I didn’t record my food waste then, I suspect that I wasted more.
All that to say, don’t feel like you have to try everything at once. Instead pick one or two things to change and focus on sticking with them. If you start say, simply checking out sales fliers before going to the store you might be able to save $5 a week, or $20 a month, or $240 a year! Wouldn’t that be better than doing every frugal activity for one week and that’s it?