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Throughout my college years and
early adulthood, I struggled with
yo-yo dieting. I was never at risk
of becoming dangerously over-
weight, but I had about 20 pounds to lose
thanks to constant chocolate, junk food and
For several years, I tried to work around
those cravings. If I worked out for 20 min-
utes, I could justify eating pizza, or if I took
the latest drugstore formula promising a
speedier metabolism, I could continue to
indulge in my twice daily hot chocolate
habit. Unsurprisingly, none of it worked.
It wasn t until I changed my approach
to food and my habits of consumption that
I was finally able to conquer those 20
pounds. When I ditched the excuses, jus-
tifications and comprises for having a soda
or dessert or whatever other unhealthy
habits I engaged in, I uncovered a healthy
lifestyle that allowed me not only lose the
unwanted weight but to maintain my new-
found fitness for years to come.
For the most part, people have an under-
standing of what s bad for them and they
also have an overwhelming desire to be fit.
But for many, that knowledge and desire
alone aren t enough. Until healthy habits
become part of a daily routine, there s no
hope for a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
The same is true of financial habits. Peo-
ple generally know what their spending
limitations are and they also have a desire
to be wealthy (or at least solvent), but those
two things alone aren t enough to produce
If spending smarter is on your list of
New Years resolutions, consider imple-
menting these frugal habits to take back control of
1. Take responsibility: as a mindset as well as
a habit, taking responsibility for your finances is the
first step toward spending smarter. Though it may
not always feel like it, the way in which we spend
our money is our choice. When you choose to take
responsibility and choose to spend less than you
earn, you choose financial fitness.
Control discretionary spending: In his column,
"The Invisible Rich," Knight Kiplinger writes that
"the biggest barrier to becoming rich is living like
you re rich before you are." In other words, the more
frivolously you spend on unnecessary expenses, the
more you crowd out the savings that will enable you
to enjoy a wealthy future.
2. Distinguish wants from needs: be honest
with yourself about expenses that are truly necessary.
Yes, you need a place to live, but no, it doesn t have
to be a massive loft in the most expensive neigh-
borhood in town. Yes, you need to eat, but it doesn t
have to be in the form of pricey artisan tacos.
Also, keep in mind that just because you ve always
had a certain expense, it doesn t make it a necessary
expense. Cable is prime example.
3. Prioritise: Frugality isn t about cutting out all
spending beyond the basics; it s about identifying
the things that provide the greatest value and pri-
oritising your spending to align with those values.
4. Stick to your values: As Clayton Christensen
writes in his essay, "How Will You Measure Your
Life," "It s easier to hold to your principles 100
percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 per
cent of the time."
In other words, once you cross the line once, it s
easier to do again and again and again. Hence the
need for habits.
I found this to be particularly true in my quest
for fitness. It was much simpler to simply eliminate
soda from my diet than it was to try moderating it.
When I started implementing frugality as a lifestyle,
I adopted a similar approach, cutting out the aimless
shopping trips and "browsing" that inevitably ended
in a purchase and adopting a policy of sticking to
a list or ordering online so as not to be tempted into
5. Practice gratitude: The best way to combat
unnecessary spending temptations is to remain
grounded in gratitude. Frugality, like fitness, is a
lifestyle, and part of that lifestyle is existing in such
a way that you become content with what you have,
rather than constantly feeling the need more. By
developing the habit of gratitude and recognising
what you re grateful for each and every day, you ll
become frugal simply by virtue of realising that you
have all you need already. US News
Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City-based
actress and freelance writer.
How to develop frugal habits
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