Manage Money

5 min read

March 26, 2021

Your Guide to Living Stingy

Do people call you stingy? Here's why that may not be such a bad thing — and how to know if the stingy lifestyle is right for you.

“Stingy” is perhaps one of the most unflattering words in the English dictionary. Often associated with being cheap, the term tends to have a negative connotation as it implies saving money at the expense of your quality of life. 

For example, the popular FIRE movement — Financially Independent Retire Early — suggests that stinginess will enable you to save enough and retire early. However, many people have pushed back against the movement to create spin-offs that allow you to save and invest in such a way that you don’t need to compromise your quality of life in early retirement.

So, Is Living Stingy a Bad Thing?

Not necessarily. While a clear benefit of this lifestyle is being able to save more money, this way of life is also dependent on knowing where and how you’re spending your money, carefully budgeting, and being mindful of your overall expenses. 

By living stingy, you are likely to run into less credit card debt, as well as more likely to avoid lifestyle inflation. This means that even if your income rises, or you receive a substantial bonus, you’ll maintain the same expenses — thus helping you to save more when you earn more.

Nevertheless, the cons include overdoing it and failing to enjoy the pleasures of life. Living stingy often means strictly sticking to your budget and that can come with a great deal of compromises, from turning down a celebratory dinner with friends to having to forgo a trip with your family. After all, it’s impossible to save money if you’re spending it extravagantly.

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Is Living Stingy Right For You?

Living stingy can be the perfect short-term goal for people hoping to save up for a large expense, pay off loans, or embrace the FIRE movement. In the long-term, however, this lifestyle can be tough to maintain — and this is where frugality comes into the picture. 

While frugal and stingy living are similar, frugality allows you to save money without doing it at the expense of your living situation. As frugal people don't make quite the level of compromise that stingy people do, frugality is considered a more sustainable form of budgeting.

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How Do You Live Stingy?

1. Set a Budget (Preferably Zero-Based)

The first step to living stingy is setting a budget — one that requires compromises and maximizes savings by genuinely forcing you to sacrifice certain living comforts that are discretionary.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by embracing a zero-based budget. In a zero-based budget, your income minus your expenses always equals zero, to ensure you aren’t spending outside your means. This system also  requires you to track all of your expenses, even irregular ones. 

This method can be tough if your income stream is inconsistent month-to-month but, if you’re able to, a zero-based system will allow you to cut down on expenses and contribute to a savings fund. The more stringent your budgeting, the more your savings will grow as your expenses decrease. 

For those who aren't looking to embrace stinginess in the long-term, their savings during their zero-budget sprint often turn into an emergency fund — a successful method for many types of savings goals.

Living stingy has its pros and cons.

2. Try No-Spend Challenges

Try and challenge yourself to stick to a necessity-based budget, such as a cap of $50 a week on groceries. You can also take on a no-spend challenge with a group of friends, if you’re trying to save up for an expensive trip together.

It can be fun to find ways to socialize and spend time with loved ones that don’t involve high expenses, so approach these challenges with a positive attitude. For example, find ways to spend time with friends that involve walks, picnics, or museum visits instead of bottomless brunch or shopping splurges.

3. Embrace Minimalism

One of the easiest ways to live stingy is to embrace minimalism. Find creative ways to style your clothing so that you have multiple outfit options even with just a handful of basic pieces.

You can also declutter your space by selling unused or lightly worn clothes and furniture to trim down your necessities to the basics. Get used to cooking with fewer utensils and “essentials” so that you’re not tempted to splurge on a flashy smoothie blender or InstaPot if you don’t really need it. 

While minimalism isn’t always synonymous with saving money — after all, even just having a few expensive pieces can cost more than having many cheaper items — embracing the minimalist movement can allow you to maintain a stingier lifestyle for a longer period of time, as you won’t need as much to get by on a day-to-day basis.

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Keertana Anandraj
Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.

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