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Creative Frugality – How to Build an Outstanding Skill (+Save Money)

Want to spend less money?

And gain a valuable skill in the process?

Practice being creative while coming up with ways to spend less.

The idea of spending less and being frugal may trigger feelings of scarcity or lack. However, creative frugality can leave you feeling empowered and a bit clever.

When you add creativity to your frugality, it’s a two-for-one deal.

Because like an eager puppy wanting to go on a walk, your brain wants exercise.

Creative frugality can lead the way, turning saving money into a fun new hobby.

Read on to learn more.

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What Is Creative Frugality?

Creative frugality is the skill of pausing to think creatively before solving life’s problems or meeting your wants or needs with the default solution of money.

Let’s break down what it means to be creative and frugal.

Being Creative

Being creative, per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “having the quality of something created rather than imitated: IMAGINATIVE.”

With creative frugality, you create novel solutions or new ways of fulfilling your wants or needs. Instead of mindlessly imitating what the rest of the world does, you create your own way forward.

Being Frugal

Being frugal is when you are careful or intentional about how you spend money. You break the cycle of perceiving a want or need and then immediately spending money to meet it.

Instead, you pause and think first, asking yourself if there’s another way to meet this want or need besides spending money. You look for alternatives, and if there are none, you look for ways to spend less.

An example is choosing to entertain at home versus going out to a restaurant. Going to a restaurant is the default, expensive choice, but having a small party at home can be a fun, creative option.

Instead of pulling out your wallet to meet your need for family, friendship, and fun, you exercise a bit of creativity. Picking out decorations and cooking and baking are all excellent outlets for creativity.

Another example is developing the skill of decorating your home without walking into retail stores and buying what you see at full price. Instead, you find alternatives. Repurposed items, yard sales, antique or thrift store finds can add beautiful touches to your environment. Using your creative skills not only costs less, but your home is a better reflection of you and your tastes versus off-the-shelf décor.

Creative frugality can become a powerful part of your life, saving you money, providing mental exercise, and allowing you to have fun in the process.

How Does Frugality Develop Your Creativity?

Have you ever stared at a blank page? It’s tough to begin because you could write, draw, or paint anything at all, and the endless options are intimidating. But with a constraint, like writing prompts, you can dive right in.

Constraints give you structure or a framework, and those guidelines bolster your ability to get creative.

As this article by Thomas Oppong in Inc. states, constraints promote creativity.

“Constraints: you actually need them to get good at creating something remarkable. You need the limitations to inspire better thinking — thinking that challenges the status quo.

Your brain is constantly in efficient mode, looking for ways to use less energy. And often, unless forced, you don’t think much at all.

Constraints force you to think.”

Frugality is a constraint on what you spend, and that constraint is what promotes creativity.

For example, one of the spending priorities in my values-based budget is education. Having that constraint means I needed to get creative since the online courses I love can get pricey.

Many expensive online courses don’t give you individual feedback, so the value is in the information and the exercises or activities to move what you’ve learned from theory to action. And guess what? A humble and inexpensive book can contain plenty of exercises to practice!

This is an excellent way to meet my need for learning while not overspending.

By putting constraints on what you can spend, you may find your own creativity expanding, finding ways to spend less while still meeting your needs.

What If the Idea of Frugality Depresses You?

There is some awful advice around frugality, where you’re supposed to act in unethical ways or use downright gross methods to save money. That’s being cheap, not frugal, and it depresses me too!

Frugality does not mean doing things that make you feel terrible or giving up what you value most. It’s simply a mindful way of prioritizing your spending and getting the most benefit out of your money.

If the very suggestion of frugality depresses you, you may want to check your money mindset. A money mindset that leans towards scarcity, or where you feel like you’ll never have enough, is a painful place to be.

Frugality is merely a way to be intentional in your spending.

Frugality and an abundance mindset or the feeling of having enough can coexist.

Instead of letting the idea of frugality depress you, change your focus to its enjoyable, creative aspects and see it as a fun challenge.

Build Your Creative Frugality Muscle

The best way to develop creative frugality is to make it a habit. As Twyla Tharp, a choreographer and author of The Creative Habit states:

“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.”

So, before you spend money, ask yourself, “how could I exercise my creativity muscle?”

Use your imagination first. Don’t imitate what everyone else does. You may come up with a solution that is far better than anything money could buy.

Even if you can’t come up with a frugal solution, making this a habit develops creativity, and creative frugality can become a part of your life.

Think first. Spend later.

If you want to learn more, check out my mindful spending guide.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash