Sara Noel at the Frugal Village blog recently shared some excellent advice about avoiding frugality burnout. “If you’ve been focused on frugality for a while,” she writes, “at some point you’ll probably feel discouraged, frustrated or even think about giving up.”

It can be tough to stay focused on your goals when it seems everyone around you is spending like there’s no tomorrow. [...] It can get tiring to make cheaper choices or overthink small decisions like what laundry detergent to buy. It’s enough to make you crack when you have so many other things to do every day. But when you make a less-than-optimal decision, don’t beat yourself up over it or throw in the towel.

What can you do when frugality seems like a burden? How can you keep going when your financial goals simply seem unattainable? Noel suggests four techniques:

  • Cut yourself some slack. If your budget is so tight that you feel deprived, you run the risk of giving up altogether. “Frugality doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” Noel says, and she’s right. As long as your remain focused on you goal, it’s okay to take a break from time-to-time. Just don’t overdo it. (Buying a DVD is a good way to blow off steam; buying a new HDTV is not.)
  • Take baby steps. Don’t try to do it all at once. Even frugality zealots don’t follow 100% of the things they write about. It’s important to choose a few ideas that work best for you, and to begin incorporating them into your life. Focus on a few projects at a time.
  • Remember your goals. The older I get, and the longer I pursue self-improvement, the more I realize how important it is to keep my goals in mind. We all make mistakes. We all get sidetracked. But by returning to my long-term goals, I’m able to get back on track again.
  • Treat it like a game. This is one of my favorites. I find that it’s so much easier to practice frugality when I make a game of it. How much can I buy for $20 at the thrift store? (A lot.) Which bread gives the best bang for the buck? (Milton’s Whole Grain Plus.) How far am I willing to walk to complete errands? (About two mile each way seems to be my limit.)

I’ve been working at this frugality thing for a couple of years now. Sometimes it’s easy — sometimes it’s not. But I, too, have learned not to beat myself up over silly mistakes. To me, an occasional indulgence is a sign that I’ve been denying myself too much, that I need to build a little pleasure into my life. When this happens, I look for ways to loosen up a little while still meeting my goals.

Sara Noel’s Frugal Village blog is just part of an extensive network of money-saving sites. The main Frugal Village site offers a variety of resources, including:

The vast Frugal Village empire is an excellent resource for those living on a budget. I look forward to digging through the archives in the coming weeks.