Frugal Fatigue – What It Is and How to Fight It

Have you ever been inspired to start a new diet or exercise habit only to find yourself done with it after a week or two?

I have. And it’s usually because I bit off way more than I could chew. Or I wanted immediate results instead of being patient and sticking to the plan.

Much like counting calories, eliminating certain foods from your diet, and getting up early to go to the gym, being frugal all the time can wear you down to the point of throwing in the towel.

If you’ve been limiting your spending for any time, there have probably been moments when you felt sick of it. I know I’ve felt it.

I’ve been tempted to go somewhere, buy something, or do something I know would blow up my budget several times. Because of my commitment to frugality and living below my means, sometimes I’ve felt like a social outcast, a cheapskate, and someone who obsesses over money.

That’s frugal fatigue.

What Is Frugal Fatigue?

Frugal fatigue is the overwhelming feeling of being sick of living frugally. It typically sets in after living a frugal lifestyle and sticking to a tight budget for an extended time. You feel exhausted, deprived, and physically and emotionally tired from having to watch every penny.

Feeling this way can lead to reckless impulse spending. Delaying gratification and being strict with your money for a long period might cause you to snap, go on a wild spending spree, and completely wreck your budget.

Spending money wisely, getting out of debt, and saving for the future are all critical, but it’s also essential to allow yourself some room for fun.

What Causes Frugal Fatigue?

Frugal fatigue or budget burnout can happen to anyone. The longer you’ve been living according to a strict budget, the more likely it is to set in. Several things can trigger it, including:

Goals that are Too Ambitious

SMART financial goals are critical to financial health and a good source of motivation. What if you thought you’d have a down payment for a house in a year? It’s easy to bring your lunch to work and take a staycation instead of traveling when you know the money you save will fund a down payment for a house.

But what if, after all your expenses, you’re only able to save a few dollars?

Saving enough for a down payment feels impossible. That feeling of hopelessness can lead you to give up on being frugal.

Unplanned Expenses

When you’re living on a tight budget, any expense you were not expecting can put you back to square one. A major car repair, a trip to the emergency room, or your water heater suddenly dying could erase your savings.

Rather than starting over, you might feel defeated and want to scrap the whole plan.

Saying No To Friends and Family

When you commit to living on a strict budget, you frequently have to say no thank you to meals out, drinks, and other social events. Someone may come to you for help that you can’t provide. After a while, you might feel cut off and alone.

Stressing Over Money

You’ve probably stressed about money for some time, even before you started following a budget. But what if you’re still losing sleep over money problems and obsessing over every penny? You might temporarily ignore the whole plan and splurge to make yourself feel better.

Slow Progress

One of the main reasons I’ve tried many popular diet plans and failed to stick with any of them long is a lack of patience.

I don’t hate vegetables. I hate not getting results as fast as I’d like.

It’s tough to stay motivated when you feel you’re not progressing toward your goals despite cutting back and saying no all the time.

Ways to Fight Frugal Fatigue Syndrome

Eating at home instead of dining out, waiting for clearance sales to buy clothes, and clipping coupons can become a grind. Luckily, there are many ways to fix frugal fatigue without giving up. Here are some ideas to help you stay on track and get past frugal fatigue:

Re-Evaluate Your Goals

As with any lifestyle change, it’s easy to go all out right away with big ambitious goals rather than easing into it. That leads to burnout and giving up. You can take it one step at a time.

Maybe you commit to tracking your spending for a week, cut up your credit cards, or start making coffee at home instead of hitting Starbucks. You don’t have to go from overspending to extreme frugality overnight with no plan in place.

Setting achievable shorter-term goals rids you of that feeling of not making any progress. Doing this helped me get over my last bout of frugal fatigue.

I was feeling down about our finances. I realized all the goals we’d set would take a long time to reach. I just needed to break down some of our goals into bite-size pieces.

For example, in addition to the longer-term goal of retiring all our credit card debt, I added little specific milestones like paying off card one in six months. Doing that helped me get over the burnout I was feeling.

Change Your Budget

The purpose of a budget is not to torture yourself or drive yourself crazy. Several budgeting methods can help you hit your financial goals. Some are less time-consuming than others, and some are well suited to helping you accomplish a specific goal.

Perhaps your current budget leaves no room for fun, and it’s driving you crazy. Being a little more flexible might not get you where you want to go as quickly, but the added peace of mind might be worth the trade-off if you’re feeling like giving up.

Celebrate Your Wins

To stay motivated, acknowledge your progress no matter how small. You’re doing better now than before you started, so give yourself a high five.

That doesn’t mean going out and booking your dream vacation or buying a whole new wardrobe, but you deserve a small reward. A nice meal out will do the trick as long as you don’t go crazy and wipe out all your hard work.

Take a Break

It’s normal to allow for recovery time between exercise sessions. We all take days off from work. It might be a good idea to take a short break from frugal living.

That doesn’t mean ignoring all your bills, plunging yourself deeper into debt, or buying whatever catches your eye. Maybe you don’t maximize your savings this month, or you pay just the minimum on your credit cards for a month.

Financially it might not be for the best, but mentally it might be what you need to carry on.

Find Low and No-Cost Ways to Have Fun

If you feel like you have no social life or are just stressed out, remember that there are plenty of ways to have a good time without spending money.

You can enjoy the outdoors by yourself or with friends. Hiking, bike rides, and picnics in the summer or ice skating, sledding, and caroling in the winter are all fun, low-cost activities. You can visit a museum, go to the library, or have a game night or movie night.

Find Ways to Earn More Money

Spending less money isn’t the only way to save money and reach your goals. Making more money would help you save for specific goals, pay down debt, and fund your retirement without forcing you to make do with less. Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways to make extra money.

You can ask for a raise at work. Getting a second job, seasonal work, doing tasks via the gig economy, starting a low-cost side hustle, and freelancing in your spare time if you have in-demand skills are also good options.

Moving Past Frugality Fatigue

Frugal people raised me to be frugal. I still get sick of it sometimes even though I know the benefits of frugal living are worth it. I have veered off course a few times, thanks to frugal fatigue.

But I know it’s only temporary.

You can fix frugal fatigue by reminding yourself that you don’t have to be perfect. Congratulate yourself for every win. It’s OK to reward yourself or take a short break.

Realize that you’re better off now than you were before. Resolve to get back on track as soon as possible.

Featured Image Credit: Pexels

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Sara Graham is a frugal living and household budgeting expert. Her writing has appeared on MSN Money, The Good Men Project, Fairygodboss, and several other online publications. She is the co-founder of, a personal finance and frugal living blog.