Thrift is an essential skill for overcoming debt and building wealth. Even a billionaire like Warren Buffet preaches the virtues of pinching pennies. But can a frugal life be fun? What do you do when smart spending gets boring? That’s what Sarah wants to know:

How do you stave off frugality-induced boredom?  In the short-term, I always find frugality to be a challenge, and I enjoy saving money and finding bargains where I can, but it never fails:  After a few months of being good, I fall off the wagon and just don’t feel like doing it anymore, even though I know that our budget requires it. It’s not that we’re uber-frugal people depriving ourselves of any and every joy in life, but it just gets old after a while, you know?  How do you keep frugality fun and interesting? How do you avoid falling off the wagon?

I love this question. I, too, fall off the frugality wagon from time-to-time. I think we all do. It’s important not to beat yourself up when you make a mistake, though. Remember the big picture. Here are some strategies I use to stay focused:

  • Set goals. Frugality used to drive me crazy, too. Sometimes it still does. One thing that’s helped, especially over the past year, is to have goals in mind. Do I still want that MINI Cooper? You bet I do. And I want to buy some new furniture for the living room, a new bicycle, and some new clothes. But I keep reminding myself that becoming debt-free is more important. (And once I’ve licked my debt at the end of this month, I’ll begin focusing on my goal of becoming a full-time writer.) Goals help me get back on track when I lose my way.
  • Beware of the tedious stuff. I believe that if there’s something you do to save money that really bugs you every time you do it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. For example, some frugal folks rinse and reuse zip-loc bags. I can’t do that. It would drive me nuts. Could I save more if I did so? Sure, but at the cost of my sanity. Remember my maxim: Do what works for you. Find frugal things that make you feel good about yourself, and ditch those that make you loathe living.
  • Allow yourself a periodic splurge. Many diet plans incorporate one day (or meal) each week during which you can eat whatever you want. Try a similar concept with your money. Practice frugality on a regular basis, but set aside maybe one day a month to spend some pre-set amount of money at the mall or the record store or the garden center. Last year, I saved for a Nintendo Wii. I’m proud to have done so — it’s one of the first things I ever saved for instead of just buying. (Kris and I get a lot of use from it, too — right now, it’s dance battles every night!)
  • Pick one area of life in which you don’t exercise thrift. Kris and I, for example, like to eat at nice restaurants. We don’t eat out often, but when we do, we eat well. During these past three years, as I’ve eliminated my debt, I’ve cut back on many things, but I’ve intentionally always allowed myself to dine out at my favorite places. (It’s also true that I’ve continued to spend a lot on comic books, but that’s because I lack self-discipline.)
  • Read about other thrifty people. Whenever I leaf through The Complete Tightwad Gazette, I find myself rededicated to frugality. “If all these people can do the frugal things they share here,” I think, “then I can keep being thrifty, too.” Your public library probably has a dozen or so books on frugality — mine does.

These are a just few of the ways I work to keep frugality fun and interesting. Setting goals is the most important of these steps for me. Trent at The Simple Dollar recently wrote about the relationship between fun and frugality, too.

What about you? How many of you consider yourselves frugal? (If you don’t, what are the reasons frugality isn’t a priority for you?) What do you do when things get boring? How do you keep frugality fresh?