Frugal fatigue is a popular term thrown around on a lot of personal finance blogs. Apparently it’s as contagious as mono. And evidently I must have missed the vaccination against it because I have a severe case. Symptoms include being sick of penny pinching, hyperventilating when you open your son’s summer tuition bill, and sleepless nights as you debate what else you can cut out of the budget or whether you can squeeze a second job in.
As I’ve already talked about, non-stop it probably seems to everyone who knows me, the budget has been stretched increasingly thin since losing Michael’s Social Security money last summer. In preparation of losing another huge chunk of money next summer when Nick graduates I’m trying to be proactive on several levels. My primary mission at this point is to sell my current condo and either move into an apartment or, preferably, a smaller and cheaper condo. I’ve been scraping together a bit of money for some necessary repairs/improvements to my current place before putting it on the market in anticipation of this.
One of my favorite sayings is “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.” And unfortunately, it’s proven to be true again as we recently discovered that my son’s required summer class is going to cost us about $1700 out of pocket and we’ve got to come up with this money by the end of July. It’s not that we were unaware of this bill. Michael found a grant that paid for half of his summer class and we were advised we could roll the balance onto his student loans but we just found out that you have to take a certain number of credit hours during the summer to do that and his class doesn’t meet the requirements. On top of that the first two things on my “prepare the house to sell” list that I’ve priced out have come in quite a bit higher then I was expecting.
I found out about the tuition bill and one of the higher repair estimates right before we were scheduled to take our annual Holiday World vacation. This is our only scheduled vacation this year. It consists of a day and a half at a nearby amusement park and since it was only going to be me and my older son (since the younger one sadly elected to skip this year so he could work extra hours), we’re talking about approximate expenses of $250-300 between the one night hotel stay, park tickets, food and gas. This shouldn’t have been a big deal at all considering this would be our only vacation this summer but suddenly it was a big deal and I was tempted to cancel our plans.
I debated back and forth for several days but ultimately I chose to go. The fact that my 19-year old still wanted to go on this annual trip with me and our friends, and knowing he would be starting his summer class a few weeks later, and his grueling sophomore year of nursing school a few weeks after that was the main reason I didn’t cancel but partly it was based on my frugal fatigue. I was tired of skipping out on fun things I wanted to do because of money. I had already missed out on an outing part of my book club was doing to a haunted hotel in our city that was featured in one of our books we’d read because I didn’t want to pay the $25 when tickets first went on sale and they sold out before I got around to getting them. Yes, I had $25 in my bank account so don’t think that I’m completely destitute and set up a Go-fund me account or anything, I just thought I could put it off until the next paycheck and then I thought maybe one more paycheck and then I forgot about it…
What’s the remedy for frugal fatigue? Obviously I’ve given up on money falling out of the sky anytime soon. The bills coming up aren’t going away. My son’s tuition bill is the priority, followed very closely by the repairs needed to get out house on the market as quickly as possible but here’s how I’m going to combat my fatigue. I’m going to focus on all those little things that most people probably take for granted. I love to read but I don’t have to buy books, we have several great library branches close to me and I’m just as happy to wander my local Barnes and Noble store as a stress buster without actually purchasing anything. A $3 bottle of fabulous-smelling Sweet Honeysuckle and Orange Peel body wash in the morning can start my morning off a little better. I love to go to the movies, it’s my favorite budget-buster. If I have a little extra in the funds department then I try to catch the first showing of the day, which is the cheapest ticket. If funds are tighter then I can find a $1 Redbox movie or better yet find something I’ve recorded on my DVR or on Netflix.
Hopefully things aren’t always going to be so tough financially. Hopefully this is just a short season in my life that’s a little tough and I’ll get back to a point where I can walk into Target and pick up that cute top or a new laptop or splurge and see two movies in one weekend and get the large diet coke and popcorn with extra butter. I have my friends and family and cheap guilty pleasures to get me through my frugal fatigue until then though.