For 2015, Its Time to Put the Fun in Frugal

By Markets Fool.com

Budgeting makes most people groan, and it's easy to understand why. The idea of reining it in and becoming frugal feels like the financial equivalent of forsaking steak for rice cakes (no offense to anyone who prefers rice cakes).

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In other words, you're just sure it's going to be painful.

But what if it wasn't? Here are three ways to make it fun to be frugal.

Embrace your inner Nucky
Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, as played by Steve Buscemi on the show Boardwalk Empire, always walks around with a wad of cash. Every time he needs to pay for something, out comes the roll of hundreds, drawing envious glances from everyone around.

Paying cash has benefits greater than impressing others. It's an amazing way to keep track of your spending without having to resort to taking notes, adding numbers, or remembering anything, and it's also a good way to help you hold your horses when that spending starts to get out of hand.

But thinking of it as the road to self-control is the opposite of fun. I'd rather think of my wad of grocery money as my own modern-day version of Nucky -- so what that it's better counted in tens, not hundreds, and financed by writing, not bootlegging?

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It's even more fun if you keep your cash in a roll and imagine yourself wearing a fedora.

Learn to cook
I know, I know, you hate cooking. But hear me out.

Cooking has benefits. Back in the day, I lived in Boston and every day I shopped at Whole Foods and ate really nice meals, even though I made very little money.

How could I manage this? By enjoying food and learning to cook.

It turns out that in-season fruits and vegetables are really, really affordable. And it also turns out that saying something like, "I'm making a lot of dishes with root vegetables lately -- they're in season!" is likely to get you admiring looks from people who don't realize that you're also being incredibly cheap.

It should be noted that the same logic applies to drinking. Instead of going to bars, try making your own cocktails. You'll feel like a rock star and your friends will have a really fun time.

Redirect to healthier habits
Speaking of cocktails, activities like happy hour are a major drain on your money -- not to mention your health.

To get away from all that without becoming a hermit, trick your friends into joining you for healthier activities. For example, suggest a walk and a coffee, or ask a friend to join you for rock climbing or some other class at your gym.

It's even more effective if you frame the invitation as them helping you to stick to your New Year's resolutions or getting the courage to try something new.

Now, you might object that doing a class at a gym costs money, and you'd be right. But there are a ton of things you can do for free or very little money -- running, a trip to the beach, a game of tennis at your local high school, etc.

Of course, you'll find that some people will be reluctant to venture far from the familiar happy hour, but I bet you'll find a surprising number will be game to try something new. And for those who won't, invite them for dinner or cocktails at your place. Cheaper, super fun, and totally satisfying -- especially when financed by that wad of cash and a fedora.

The article For 2015, Its Time to Put the Fun in Frugal originally appeared on Fool.com.

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