A lot of people think being frugal is boring. But to be brutally honest, people who lack imagination and have no desire to leave their comfort zones are bored and boring no matter how much or how little they spend.
That said, when you’re frugal, being creative and open are particularly important, since you might otherwise end up spending the rest of your days decomposing in your office cubicle or, worse, in front of Channel 5 dramas.
Cultivate the following qualities and you’ll soon find that spending an extra $50 will do little to improve the life you’re already enjoying.
1. Willingness to try new things
A lot of people complain that they’re bored because they don’t have enough money. The real reason is that they don’t have enough interests.
Ask the typical Singaporean what their hobbies or interests are and you wouldn’t believe how many people would say “sleeping”, “eating” or “shopping”.
When you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you start avoiding a lot of the socially-sanctioned ways of having fun. If you used to open bottles of Martell with the other uncles at the pub or buy new outfits for the coming week, those days are now over.
If you’re the type of person whose first reaction to anything you’ve never done before is “yuck” or “eee”, there’s not much hope left for you.
Otherwise, you’ll find there’s a ton of stuff you can do without spending much money. Libraries, parks and museums will become your new best friends instead of overcrowded shopping malls.
The idea is not to feel like you’re suffering because you have to skip out on expensive activities, but rather to build your stable of interests so it becomes a no brainer to choose a cheaper activities that’s just as much fun.
2. Being open to doing things on your own
Choosing to save money already goes against what the general population tells you to do, which is to buy, buy, buy.
If you’ve chosen to be deliberate about saving money, you’re going to find yourself having to go it alone, at least some of the time. And unless you’re open to doing things on your own, you’re going to find yourself sitting home by the phone a lot.
The people I know with the most interesting lives tend to be those who can do things without needing a chaperone.
One of my friends constantly attends cultural events, from drum and bass gigs to talks about Middle Eastern philosophy, sometimes with friends, sometimes on his own. Another has ridden a motorcycle up to Thailand and Laos all alone.
Conversely, the people with the least interesting lives are the ones who are unable to occupy themselves when their friends are busy or cancel on them.
3. Not caring what other people think
Refuse one too many invitations to high tea or shoe shopping and people will start to think you’re weird. Heck, do just about anything on your own and people will think you’re a little strange. That’s the pack mentality for you.
In fact, part of the reason people find life boring is precisely because they care too much about what other people think. They end up living to please others, which isn’t very fun at all.
Too embarrassed to admit you’re still into Magic: The Gathering? Can’t tell your friends you’re rejecting their invite because you have to stay home and fertilise the plants? Think your interest in aerobics makes you too “auntie”?
If you want to have an interesting life on your own budget, you’re going to have to learn to turn a blind eye to what people are saying. Otherwise, go back to paying for overpriced cocktails.
4. Being open to interacting with all kinds of people
Though it might feel like it at times, you’re not alone. All your friends might have monthly budgets three times the size of yours, but there’s a whole bunch of frugal people you just haven’t met yet.
There’s a problem, though. In Singapore, more than in many other countries, people tend to hang out with a very narrow subset of the population.
Whatever the reason, when you start downsizing your budget, you’ll be a lot less lonely if you learn to interact with all kinds of people, including the kind your parents told you not to hang out with as a kid.
Perhaps everyone at your job can’t understand why anyone would want to eat in a place without air conditioning just to save $10. Or all your friends from school are now doctors, lawyers or heirs to businesses.
To a certain extent, changing your spending habits will change your interests and the sort of people around you. Quitting my job and living on a shoestring budget has definitely put me in touch with a lot more vagabond-types with a DIY mentality. I’ve met people who grow their own tomatoes on their balconies, know how to make their own guacamole while out hiking and can take me to spots in Singapore where there are (gasp) no crowds.
All it takes is learning how to come out of your shell.
5. Not being too lazy
The problem with finding fun on a budget is that it takes effort. It’s so much easier to just pay a bar $50 so they can open a few bottles of beer and blast some background music to which you can hum when the conversation gets awkward.
On the other hand, the people who manage to lead interesting lives on a budget are often resourceful, creative and give a damn about finding fun things to do.
Think about it this way.
Having an inexpensive meal at home can mean pouring some hot water into a Styrofoam container of dried noodles, or it can be you whipping up an awesome couscous salad alongside supermarket-bought sushi in the company of friends.
How do you keep yourself engaged on a budget? Let us know in the comments!