September 27, 2007, 7:00 am

The Frugal Reflex

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Frugal
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I establish an interesting theory about being frugal. I constantly wonder why several people have the incredible ability to save money wherever they go whatever they do. They always manage to save a few bucks here and there. Therefore, they have more money in their pockets; not me!

Most of the time, I am on the other opposite. I buy stuff wherever I go and it’s not necessarily deals! This is where I determined that these people must have developed what I called The Frugal Reflex.

It is an ability that you will gain throughout your life. Some people will never acquire this reflex and their wallet will suffer desperately. I think that for the frugal of us, every time that they are about to buy something, the Frugal Reflex kicks in and make ask themselves a ton of questions: “Do I really need it right now? Can’t I buy the same thing cheaper elsewhere? What are my needs? Can I find a cheaper substitute? What is the best way to get what I need?”.

These questions are not 100% purchase proof but you will still take the time to think about it. Most of the things we buy are the result of an impulsion. If you have the Frugal Reflex, you will avoid your a part of your emotions and make a more rational purchase. In fact, emotional purchases are the biggest source of wasted money. “I really want it, it’s so cool! Is it that cool or I am just being manipulate by some marketing genius here?”.

How to build The Frugal Reflex

Being frugal is not the easiest thing to do. It’s like quitting smoking or drinking. Spending is another addiction. If you don’t take much money with you when you go out, chances are that you will not spend much money. What about credit card? There is only one rule to use credit cards correctly: you can buy whatever you want with your credit card, as long as you pay it off at the end of the month. If you follow this simple rule, you will definitely start asking yourself some questions and save some money!

Another way to develop the Frugal Reflex is to establish a budget. You have to know your numbers by heart. In fact, if you are keeping track of all your expenses for your budget, you will get the Frugal Reflex every time you are about to spend money on something. Even better, it will probably force you to find creative way to not spend money in order to stick to your budget.

Determining goals in term of money saved is another way to build a stronger Frugal Relex. If you try to save $1,000 within the next six month, you will try to save money a little bit every day. So days after days, you will strengthen up your ability to save money. I’ll come back later on with another post on this method as I am trying it right now. I love to be my blog’s guinea pig!

The Frugal Reflex is all about self control. Control your soul, control your mind and control your body. These are the key to live a better life (with more money in your pockets!).

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I find a good trick is that if it costs more than $100 (like a new electronic toy), wait a day before buying it. A lot of the time, the urge to buy the toy will subside.

My best trick is to only go shopping once a week… If I have a time crunch to buy all the necessities (food, gas etc.), then I’m less likely to be in a mall or electronic store standing in line buying an impulse purchase 😀

This does only work best once you’ve already figured out the cheapest way to satisfy your necessities…

Hey Man, I’d argue that Frugality (like excellence) is actually a habit coupled with an inner happiness.

Short-term it’s about control, but control is hard and habits are easy, so long-term it’s about habits. The Frugal Reflex is therefore the sum of Frugal habits that have been developed.

This is actually why I have a rough time with the concept of “budgeting and sticking to it”. The more “things” that you budget and control, the more balls that you must correctly juggle, which requires exponentially more effort and control.

I think that naturally frugal people actually do it the other way. They organize their expenses so that money for food, rent, savings and bills are all just funneled into the right boxes. Now all they have to worry about spending is the left-over cash.

When people start jumping through the gauntlet of questions: “Do I really need it right now? Can’t I buy the same thing cheaper elsewhere? What are my needs? Can I find a cheaper substitute? What is the best way to get what I need?”. I actually believe that they are being “inverse spending addicts”. Running through the gauntlet of questions will definitely make you frugal, but second-guessing yourself like that is isn’t healthy.

I mean, don’t you already know your needs? Don’t you know if you need stuff now? Why are you looking at stuff you may not need, unless you’re planning on buying it with “fun money”? Why are you even making “needs” decision while standing in the store? Didn’t you bring a list, don’t you have a “bucket” for this stuff?

Your approach to frugality actually sounds like you’re trying to be an “anti-spending” addict rather than trying to be a “pro-saving” saviour. You’re trying to “spend less so that you can save more” rather than trying to “save more and simply live with less”.

Your ultimate goal is savings, but you’ve just put savings last: “spend less, save more”. The whole point is “pay yourself first”. So save first and live with what’s left over. Then you don’t need to ask yourself 20 questions with every purchase, you just need to ask yourself if you’re “happy spending this money for that item”.

Kris has a neat idea to suppress the “spending addiction”. But it’s just a “stop-gap”, not a solution. At some point you have to no longer “want to go shopping”. Waiting a day can help curb buyer’s remorse, but why are you buying stuff that makes you remorseful? Didn’t you really want this thing before you went out and bought it?

Like I said happiness and habits. It means making of habit of paying yourself first and then driving your purchases based on your desires. Then the frugality will follow.

Karen McCall, founder of, has this saying: “You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.”

A frugal lifestyles means figuring out what you *really, really* need…and going for it (usually, it’s not another pair of shoes!)

Barbara Stanny, author, “Overcoming Underearning”

by: The Financial Blogger | September 27th, 2007 (8:14 pm)

MDJ, Kris, these are pretty good trick to control yourself. I’ll keep good note of it.

Gates, you should have been a psychologist, not an engineer 😉 In French, there is an old sayings that goes like this:
You can not have the butter and the money from the butter. However, I would like to keep the butter but also make the money I would get by selling the butter. In other words; I want it all 😈

The problem is that I don’t see why I would not get everything. So I have to stop spending then I can save more. On the other side, I am trying to develop this state of mind where I need less. I might be able to reach a balance 🙂

I might be able to reach a balance

Or you might go crazy! 🙂


I have a new “tool” for my frugal reflex! After having a yard sale last weekend and watching thousands of dollars worth of items go for next to nothing, my new mantra is “how much can I recoup in a yard sale.” The answer is almost always NOTHING! It makes me stop and think about how much that new blouse/toy/gadget is REALLY worth!

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