How to Avoid Frugal Fatigue as a Couple

I believe Retire by 40 coined the term “frugal fatigue”, whereby an individual is so consistently frugal that after a certain period of time, the person gets tired of being stingy and ends up splurging.  It can be very rewarding being frugal, but being frugal 24/7 can be tiring for the soul.  Just like a strict diet, if you restrict yourself too much, you end up gluttonous and that’s not good either.  It’s human nature and we can’t help it.

Since my boyfriend and I have moved in together, we haven’t gone out to eat very much.  When we were dating and not living together, we would probably go out for dinner or lunches once to twice a week. We have been eating home cooked meals daily. Although our bank book and restaurant budget is happy, and although it’s nice to be able to enjoy our new home together and eat in it, it can have the potential to wear you down as a couple.  I think having the day in- day out routine of coming home and eating dinner, watching television together etc. can have the tendency to make things mundane.  It sort of crept up on me, this realization that my boyfriend and I have not been spending much time outside of the home together (unless you count shopping at Costco as quality time spent together).

Couple Pictures, Images and Photos

As I’ve found out, it is very important to set time out as a couple to try out new things.  It’s important to spend time doing something other than watching Storage Wars and How I Met your Mother together.  Otherwise, your relationship becomes duller than you would like it to be.  I don’t even have children and I am already feeling the need to have a “date night” whereby we have the opportunity to enjoy time together.

So here is what my boyfriend and I are attempting to do in order to avoid frugal fatigue:

How to Avoid Frugal Fatigue:

  • Allot one day of the week to spend together: First off, you must make time out for each other (my boyfriend and I are learning this the hard way…sleeping together on the same bed doesn’t count as spending time together).With busy, hectic schedules of dual income earners, it can be difficult to justify time set out to enjoy each others company… but it is so important to maintain the health (and sanity) of your relationship.
  • Eat Out: As much as I disdain having to spend money to eat something I can make at home, I am learning that it is important eat out once in a while.  Now, I am not saying that in order to avoid frugal fatigue (and fatigue from each other), you have to dine at $40/person establishments every week.  I think what we are planning to do is spend our date night eating out at $10/person places (e.g. a rotation of my beloved cheap and good eats restaurants), and perhaps once a month or every two months, “splurge” and eat at a place where the bill would total up to about $25-$30 a person.
  • Take advantage of the Daily Deals- Being frugal doesn’t necessarily have to mean not having fun.  There have been lots of interesting different experiences that have been popping up in my emails (I have a love hate relationship with Groupon as you know).  For example, a friend of mine recently did an art canvas wine session where they provide wine, canvas, and paint.  You provide the creativity.   I’m sure she would not have tried it if it wasn’t 63% off. There are many new experiences available in your town or city, I’m sure of it.  Heck, apparently they even have a Groupon app where you can see the Groupon of the day and use it that day (how’s that for spontaneity?).  The 63% off appeases to the frugal-ness in you as a couple.  The unique experience appeases to the need for new adventures as a couple.
  • Plan an inexpensive getaway- Going away doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be expensive.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to go away to a week long all inclusive vacation for $1345 a pop.  There are plenty of inexpensive weekend getaways, including camping, shacking up in a motel and exploring areas in your province or state, and even going on a day trip to explore another city nearby.

I think that the key to avoid frugal fatigue as a couple is to communicate, communicate, and communicate.  Plan ahead and voice your goals, needs, and wants.  Be open to spontaneity (allowing yourself to have fun but not splurge) and structure (setting time out for each other) at the same time. Most importantly, have these goals together.

Readers, how do you personally avoid frugal fatigue as a couple?

About

Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

32 Responses to How to Avoid Frugal Fatigue as a Couple

  1. it’s exactly like a weight loss program… after a long period, you crave way too much the “bad” food, so it’s better to have one meal of “bad” food per week than trying to keep the program going for months.

    • @Etienne- Yah! bingo. I think that’s human nature. Maybe that’s why Jenny Craig is so successful as compared to lets say, the South Beach Diet?

  2. I do not mind being frugal most of the time and occasionally splurging. By being mostly frugal you have the money for most splurges. I think spending time together out of the house, even if it is not expensive is important. Picnics are fun, so are making a special “expensive” meal at home.

    • @Ginger- I find that if I splurge, I end up feeling guilty about the splurge and then splurge some more. I think it’s like a diet. If I refrain myself completely from eating fries. I eat a fry and then I gobble down the whole thing before I know it. But that’s just me- I have no self control lol.

  3. I would strongly encourage you to try to do things together outside the home as much as possible.

    Once you have kids, it’s a LOT harder and more expensive if you need a sitter. You can’t just “go out” on the spur of the moment.

    • @Mike- Thanks Mike- took your advice and watched Harry Potter last night. It was great! I don’t anticipate having kids for at least 2-3 years, so I will definitely try to cherish the ability to be spontaneous now.

  4. Whether I am rich or poor, I love things where I can get a lot of value from. Hence, I see myself as “value conscious”! My wife and I will pick up lunch at a little grocery store in Malibu and go to the beach. We will go to the movies using discount tickets and have an inexpensive dinner around $20. Occasionally, we go to the museum for the afternoon. Allrelatively inexpensive experiences.

    • @krantcents- Me too- that’s a good word for it “value conscious”. I enjoy doing activities that cost less than they usually do. It makes the experience much more enjoyable, I find.

  5. My boyfriend and I just put a deposit on a home together last night – we’re excited, but aware that we may run into frugal fatigue very soon (we’re already close enough saving for the home!). Thank you for the timely post!

    I think it’s most important when you know you’re at frugal fatigue, acknowledge it, and commit to each other to change it, together.

    • @J- Congratulations!!! I warn you, frugal fatigue will creep up with the closing costs/furniture etc. it is more than you would think! :(

  6. Thanks for the mention, but I think frugal fatigue existed long before I blog about it. :) You should find some free things to do together. I’m sure there are tons of free concerts/play/movies in Vancouver. It’s a huge city. Am I wrong? We used to skip out of work a bit early on Friday and try all the happy hours around the city. It was a lot of fun and cheaper than a full on dinner plus you get to try expensive places for lower price. Enjoy your time together while you’re young and childless. hahaha. :D

    • @retirebyforty- You’re welcome :) You’re right- there’s lots of free things to do in the city. Happy hour sounds like a good plan! however, I don’t usually get off work until 6pm or so :( I will take your advice- enjoy the time without children. Though baby RB40 is so cute and worth all the time sacrifice, no?

  7. This post is a great reminder that you cannot cut fun out of your lives altogether. Finding inexpensive ways to have fun and spend time with loved ones and significant others is great therapy for the soul – and it will prevent you from becoming resentful about not having the money to do other things.

    • @Travis- Yeah, I think that’s what we were slowly developing- a bit of resentment. I guess my frugalness has gone into overdrive with the mortgage in a way.

    • @Jessie- Yay! I’m glad people can relate :) I was thinking that I was going to get reamed out for being too frivolous from the hardcore PF blogger community ;)

  8. Thanks for writing this! I think this is starting to creep up on me and BF, as well. We have been cooking more, but with summer patios and friends beckoning, it is hard to be diligent at staying in and cooking our own meals.

    I find that even changing up something small can make a big difference. Last time we had dinner, BF lit some candles and the mood was completely different. Like we had our own private table at a restaurant :)

    • @fabulouslyfrugirl- to be honest, I didn’t realize it until I took a step back to think about it. Your BF sounds really sweet! Candelit dinner at home- c’est romantique!

  9. Eating out is actually a great way of breaking the routine without breaking the budget as well as going out for a movie.

    We also try to squeeze in a getaway to a nearby Canadian city for a couple of days as it also has a positive impact on a relationship. We all go through frugal fatigue, some of us were just not ware of the condition’s name :)

    • @BeatingTheIndex- Yeah, that’s one thing I want to work on- small short getaways. I think these are all important things to keep the relationship healthy.

  10. Very good timing reading this now! My fiance & I are going from no rent back to renting + expenses weekly & we have all these frugal plans to stay at home eating home-cooked meals every night. But I think the fact that we’re moving so close to a major shopping centre with dozens of restaurants would still mean that we would eat out every so often. Plus we still have a ‘date night’ tradition as well every couple of weeks – we’re just itching to go out & do something!

    • @Miss J- I think sanity and a healthy relationship is probably more important than frugal plans to eat at home every night. But that’s just me :) If I had tons of time on my hands I would love to cook every day.. but a full time job with 9.5 hour days, blogging, taking care of the dog… it’s just a bit much to be trying to cook daily, I think. Glad we’re together on this, sister!

  11. My wife and I tend to go the thrifty route for a few weeks at a time and to a maximum of a month – especially if we have a fairly significant purchase to prepare for.

    After that point however, we tend to hit a ‘point of no return’ in that if we don’t go out and splurge a bit (say go out for supper, see a movie, etc), one of us will either go insane or get to the point where things become totally dysfunctional.

    Under normal circumstances, we try to eat out once a week or treat ourselves to something.

    I think it’s important to live a bit while at the same time be financial responsible.

    Nice post!

    • @TWC- Thanks :) I’m glad I’m not alone- and glad to see you do the same as you and your wife strike me as a financially responsible couple. I think it’s easier to go insane (and perhaps become resentful of the other person) when there is someone there to go insane on… versus living with yourself, I mean.

  12. Very good post. I can certainly relate to frugal fatigue. You highlighted the importance of communication. I think the communication, cooperation and being on the same page as your spouse/partner is key. Otherwise, a lot of resentment, frustration and tension can build up.

  13. On the list of things Petri fails to address here is that a huge penalty for modern married couples is the “community property” requirement in Wisconsin (one of only nine states to retain it). In an age where both partners typically work and have personal credit, the less stellar financial history of one person directly impacts the other the moment they sign the license. I know several couples who cohabitate unmarried in large part because one doesn’t want the other’s debt or liabilities. Remove that penalty and see what happens.

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