4 Foes of Frugality

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Look out for these things if you want to save money and consume less.

Frugality is a form of environmentalism. When you choose not to spend your money on superfluous stuff, you play a tiny role in decreasing demand for a product, which in turn reduces production and related resource extraction. Of course this isn't what retailers and manufacturers want to hear, but for the future survival of our planet, it is crucial to curb consumption.

Being frugal, however, is easier said than done. It is hard to keep money in one's pocket, particularly with the barrage of extremely cool-looking stuff that most of us face on a daily basis. The best approach is to identify what Trent Hamm calls "the enemies of good-spending habits" and figure out how to handle them. Hamm offers a list of 12 'enemies', but I'd like to share four below, as these are the ones I struggle with the most.

1. Hanging out in stores

It sounds so simple, but going into stores – both online and in person – often results in purchases being made that are unnecessary. Rather than face that inevitable battle of logic and desire, I now avoid going in unless there's an actual item I need. That is advice that Hamm really drives home:

"Don’t go to stores without a specific purpose. Unless you are intending on buying at least one specific item, don’t go to stores, online or off. They’re merely places to convince you to buy, and they’re using almost every trick they can to nudge you toward doing so."

2. Sales

If there's an item you actually need and it happens to be on sale, fantastic! But to buy an item you don't need because it's on sale is still a waste of money. You're probably further ahead buying only necessities and paying full price than falling for the lure of sales on a regular basis.

In Hamm's words, "If you don’t have a genuine use for that item, the money is better off sitting in your bank account rather than in the pockets of that retailer."

3. Social Media

For a while I enthusiastically followed sustainable fashion retailers I liked on Instagram, but then I realized that all those beautiful pictures and astute product placement just made me feel worse. I would feel utterly convinced that I needed those sandals, that skirt, another backpack, only to have the urge pass in a few days when something else popped up.

Lesson learned? Instagram is not a place to follow retailers if you're trying to keep money in your pocket. Save the platform for friends.

4. Friends

After hanging out recently with a group of well-dressed women, I raced home and filled an online shopping cart with clothes similar to the ones I'd admired on them. A few hours later I emptied it because I realized that these were not things I needed. It was disappointing, but now I can hardly remember what was in there.

Friends have a powerful influence over what we buy, and it's important to surround yourself with likeminded people, or people who do not make you feel pressured to spend money in ways that make you uncomfortable. (Read: FOMO spending is a real problem for young people)

I think it's important, too, to find what grounds you – like a little personal hack that immediately adjusts your perspective and keeps you focused on the bigger picture. For me, that's thinking about places I want to visit and imagining clothing purchases as a percentage of future plane, train, or boat tickets to faraway destinations. I instantly lose the urge to follow through with pointless shopping.

There's no magic bullet solution to saving. It can be a slog, but it can be made easier by minimizing temptation in the ways described above.