Living stingy is a compliment for some people, yet a derogatory term for others. Some people who embrace the stingy term are proud of their lack of spending and the ability to get a good deal. While this is certainly a motivator to help you get ahead in life, you are often competing with karma.
However, if you’re one of the 59% of Americans currently living paycheck to paycheck, a stingy lifestyle may be your only option to finally get ahead.
Full disclosure – people have referred to me as living stingy at times. It always seemed to have a negative connotation with it, but I wasn’t sure why.
“Stingy” in the dictionary means: “unwilling to give or spend; ungenerous.” While the beginning of the definition sounds pretty good, the last word is a shot to the gut. I don’t think many people want to be labeled as an ungenerous person.
When I think of ungenerous, I think of the kid at Christmas who finishes opening a pile of presents and then says, “is that it?” That’s not really what I want to be associated with. However, I love the idea of being unwilling to spend on things I don’t need. I’m looking for more of a stingy lite type of life.
Is Living Stingy A Bad Thing?
Define bad. Living life by only spending money on things that bring you value and being intentional with your budget can be classified as living stingy. I think most of us would agree that when we start getting into being ungenerous or deceiving others to get ahead financially, we cross the line.
To answer the question, I don’t think being overly cautious about spending is a bad thing. However, it is a slippery slope – and one that I fell into early on in my debt-free journey.
I was so focused on saving money and getting out of debt that I was a bit extreme and frustrated my immediate family members. I felt guilty for buying anything that wasn’t essential to my survival.
Unfortunately, this is no way to live. If you have been blessed with money, it’s expected you use your money wisely. This doesn’t mean you can’t spend money occasionally on things that bring you temporary happiness.
Vacations and experiences are a great way to use money responsibility, even though it technically isn’t a necessity. Of course, as long as you don’t use your credit card repeatedly on that magical debt filled trip to Disney Land.
Why Living Stingy Gets A Bad Rap
If you are responsibly stingy (I should trademark that), it can be frustrating when people regularly comment about how you refuse to spend money. Because I like living stingy lite, I have several people who routinely comment on my lifestyle. However, my biggest critics are the ones who have the most debt. Many of my spendy friends believe we should live in the moment and trust the future will work out how it is meant to be.
Unfortunately, I’m not that carefree, and I believe we should live life now and in the future. Just because I put 24% of my income towards retirement doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my life now.
My family and I spend heavily on experiences but little to no money on “things.” This has drawn contact criticism we have become accustomed to.
So What Is Living Stingy?
To make it painfully clear, living stingy involves drastically cutting your spending on things that do not bring you value. It involves being purposeful about your budget and intentionally directing all of your extra money to get out of debt or reach a financial goal.
Living stingy can also involve an ungrateful and ungenerous attitude, which should be avoided at all costs. What goes around comes around, and this is especially true with how we handle our financial blessings.
By embracing a stingy lifestyle with a clear purpose and plan, you can use this strategy to skyrocket your progress toward your financial goals. Imagine being debt-free and living in a paid-off house. You heard me right – living without a mortgage or rent. That’s what we have been able to do in our 30s – by being intentional with our spending.
With the right mindset and discipline, there really is no limit to what you can financially achieve. It will take a bit of sacrifice and perhaps a little pain, but if you want your financial stress to be a distant memory, a stingy lifestyle may be the perfect option.
11 Tips To Start Living Stingy To Reach Your Goals
If you’re ready to start your stingy living journey because you’re sick and tired of being broke, these tips will quickly help you get back on track.
#1. Create Clear Goals And Expectations
To achieve the best results, you need to have a clear goal set before considering living stingy. Goals give us a purpose and keep us motivated. If you need some inspiration, you can set financial goals like these:
- Create an emergency fund
- Pay off all of your debt
- Pay off your mortgage
- Invest 18% of your income for retirement
- Go out of state on vacation each year
- Save up for a house on the beach
- Pay off your student loans
- Fund an emergency savings account with six months of living expenses
- Increase your net worth
- Purchase real estate
- Invest in the stock market
The sky is the limit! To help you visualize these goals, I have created free money goal coloring pages to keep you motivated.
My wife and I used these coloring pages to keep our eye on the prize and achieve our dream of paying off our mortgage early.
#2. Create A Monthly Budget / Monthly Financial Plan
A monthly budget or a monthly spending plan is the secret weapon to achieve your financial goals and dreams. By telling your money where to go rather than wondering where it went each month, you can be intentional about spending.
A spending plan can be used to allocate money to the things you enjoy and bring you value.
Rather than feeling limited by a budget, it can actually free you and give you a reason to spend. For instance, my wife and I both have a “fun money” account, and we budget this each month. This fun money can be used on anything we want without feeling guilty for spending.
Give your money a purpose and guarantee your money goes towards a goal you highly value rather than frivolous spending on junk.
I wrote a detailed article about budgeting here as well as the 50/30/20 budget method.
#3. Complete A No Spend Challenge
No spending challenges are a great way to shock your system into saving money. There are all types of no spend challenges available that range from:
- No Spend Month – refusing to spend money on anything other than needs for a whole month.
- No Spend Monthly Challenge – refusing to spend money on your usual habits, such as coffee, entertainment, or other routine purchases.
- No Buy year – challenging yourself to stop spending in a specific area for an entire year.
A no-spend challenge is a drastic challenge to help you reset your daily spending habits to realize what truly brings you value and what you can live without. This is a great way to go all-in on living stingy.
#4. Eliminate Your Unnecessary Subscriptions
Most of our non-stingy habits come from routine spending. Monthly subscription plans are a great tool to keep companies wealthy while you struggle to make ends meet.
For the longest time, my father has paid for a cable TV subscription. He enjoys watching television, but he was paying an arm and a leg for this service. After years of nagging, he finally cut the cord last month.
After about two weeks, he told me he was not missing cable. He put a TV antenna in the attic, so he still watches all the local sports and primetime channels for free. He also added a streaming service that is less than $20 a month for those other shows he enjoys.
I have been on the no cable bandwagon for years, and I have been able to save thousands of dollars. Canceling subscriptions to your monthly services may be needed to give you a little extra cash flow.
#5 Use Cashback Apps For Shopping
In the age of financial technology (fintech), saving money through automation is easier than ever. My wife and I use several automated apps to save money on our everyday purchases without having to jump through hoops.
Rakuten (formally eBates), is one of our favorites. What I like about Rakuten is installing the Chrome extension, which automatically tells me if an individual website is eligible for cashback. No more signing up for a million different “deals” just to save a buck. Rakuten is fully automated and is worth it to run in the background and save me money.
If you want to give Rakuten a try, check it out here.
If you want more information about Rakuten, I wrote a detailed review here.
Because I’m stingy, whenever I buy something online and see that “have a promo code or coupon” box, I immediately search Google to see if I can save a couple of dollars. However, more often than not, I’m frustrated by all the spam sites I have to visit with outdated coupon codes.
This is why Honey is one of my favorite extensions. When I’m on a checkout page, all I do is click the Honey app extension, and it automatically tries coupon codes for me. No more searching through endless garbage sites on Google!
If you want to give Honey a try, you can check it out here.
If you want to read my detailed Honey review, head over to this related page.
#6. Stop Overpaying In Taxes
If you get a tax refund every year, you’re doing it wrong. I’m all about being generous, but stop lending your money to the government each year interest-free. When you receive a tax refund, you paid too much in taxes over the year, and they are giving you your money back.
Think of it this way. You technically gave the government extra money all year for free. Yes, you got your money back, but that was a free loan.
Take your money back and earn interest on it by reducing the amount of taxes you pay during the year. Speak with your accountant to ensure you don’t pay too little and end up with a large tax bill at the end of the year. Work with your financial professional and do your best to break even with your taxes.
#7. Complete A Pantry Challenge
This one hits close to home for me. A pantry challenge involves eating only the food you have in your pantry for an entire month (or until you run out). Every week, I hear my kids tell me, “there’s no food in this house.” The reason for this is we usually run out of the food and snacks that we enjoy the most.
Our usual Costco trips involve buying the same things over and over. We tend to eat the same things each week, but there is a ton of food in our pantry we never touch. Our usual eating routines often lead to waste by not consuming the food in the back of the pantry that we just don’t feel like making or eating.
Do a pantry challenge by using all the ingredients and food items in your freezer, pantry, and refrigerator to make unconventional meals. By eating the food you already have, you can significantly impact your monthly food budget.
#8. Pack Your Lunch
This one is a no brainer, and you already know you should be bringing your lunch to work rather than eating out at a restaurant every day. Unfortunately, knowledge is useless without action.
Make the choice today to get on board by making your lunch each night, so it’s available in the morning. Don’t expect you will have enough energy every morning to make your lunch every day before work. Set yourself up for success by following a meal planning structure and by creating better habits.
By packing your lunch, your budget and gut health will thank you.
#9. Live On Way Less Than You Make
If you make $3,000 a month, don’t make a monthly budget to spend $3,000. Try pretending you make less than you actually do, and budget accordingly. For instance, my wife and I still live off the same budget we have had for the past ten years. My income has increased, but our budget has not.
By learning to live off less than you make, you can live stingy and save a ton of money with little to no effort. If you get a raise at work, don’t reward yourself by making a large purchase and going further into debt. Stash the raise and use it to achieve your financial goals while still budgeting a lower amount.
#10. Buy Or Sell Gift Cards
Do you routinely get gift cards for your birthday or holidays to places you never visit? I have several gift cards in my junk drawer that have sat for months because they are for businesses or restaurants I never frequent.
There are websites like Raise.com, where you can sell your gift cards for cash! However, you obviously won’t get full price for the gift cards you sell, but you will get more money than if you let them expire in a drawer.
You can also buy gift cards to your local grocery store and other favorite stores at a discounted price! If you plan ahead, you can purchase discounted gift cards for your routine purchases. Now that’s a living stingy lifestyle hack!
#11. Shop Around For Car Insurance
Most of us have the same vehicle insurance company we have had for years – and the insurance companies know it. Because you’re a loyal customer, many companies will slowly increase their rates over time hoping you don’t shop around.
My grandfather taught me the trick of shopping around for car insurance every three years. This gives your current company enough time to start increasing their rates but gives you a set timeline for when you will check out their competitors.
If you find a lower rate but are happy with your company, give your insurance company a call and let them know you have found a cheaper alternative. Ask them what they are willing to do to keep your business.
Is Living Stingy Worth It? – Advantages
By focusing on a minimalist lifestyle focused on intentional spending, you can quickly achieve several beneficial advantages. Personal finance is a learned trait, and sound financial habits can take time to develop.
Because I have trained myself to live on less than I make and clearly define needs and wants, I am in complete control of my finances. While I can’t control life or the unpredictable and inconvenient vehicle breakdown, I can control how much I put in my emergency fund to ensure I can pay cash for any repairs.
The financial control I have achieved is based solely on my learned ability to manage my money rather than my money leading my life. Being stingy has allowed me to put my money where I place my value.
Contentment And Appreciation
By eliminating the bells and whistles in your life, you can get back to the basics and appreciate the small things in life that have so much meaning. Rather than spending all your days off working a side job, the stingy living lifestyle can free up your time to enjoy with family and those who mean the most to you.
Working side hustles is a great way to accelerate your debt payoff, but if you’re working side hustles to maintain a frivolous lifestyle, you’re doing it wrong. Time is the most limited resource; don’t waste it.
Financial independence is the idea that you no longer need to work unless you want to. By creating passive income streams (your money makes money for you), you can live off the interest and other side projects that work for you.
Living stingy can increase your savings and investing rate to achieve the financial independence goal many people dream about.
Disadvantages Of Living Stingy
Be prepared to be shunned by your friends who spend more than they make. There is definitely a stigma to being stingy, and it can cause friction in some of your relationships.
Living stingy can also cause you to overthink purchases. Remember, it’s not about spending the absolute minimum by eating out of the garbage. A stingy lifestyle focuses only on using your money on things that bring you value. Spending money is acceptable as long as it’s not frivolous and out of habit.
Don’t Be That Person
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, living stingy can also translate into a lack of generosity. From my previous experience as a food service worker, do not be cheap when it comes to tipping your waiter or waitress. There’s a difference between saving yourself money or hurting someone else due to your lack of spending.
If you don’t like tipping waiters or waitresses 20%, don’t go to a restaurant. Just like you deserve to be paid for your work, so do they. This is often where stingy people cut corners, and it is a bad practice.
Being stingy doesn’t mean you can’t spend money. If you like your morning coffee at the local coffee shop, put it in the budget! Life is too short not to enjoy the little things in life. Just be sure those “special occasion” purchases are few and far between.
Putting It All Together
Most of us can afford to cut back on some of our unnecessary expenses. You work hard to make money, and each dollar represents time spent to earn it. Give every dollar and every penny a purpose. If that means living stingy, then so be it.