Failed Frugality: 5 Clues You’ve Gone Too Far
For most people, frugality is a lifestyle choice born out of necessity. A lost job, increase in expenses, or a battle with debt has forced them to take extreme measures to balance their budget. Sometimes, however, frugal choices can hinder you beyond the benefit of the dollar saved. Here are five tell-tale signs that you’ve done yourself no favors in your quest to cut costs.
You Spend More Than You Save
Unless you are investing for the future in a specialty item, there is usually no justification for spending more money via “frugal” methods than if you’d just done your normal shopping. This happens often with coupons, for example. I applaud those who’ve mastered the art of getting stuff for less (or even free), but I’m personally aware that using coupons most likely leaves me buying unnecessary things and ultimately increasing my shopping bill by at least 20% more than if I’d stuck to a list and didn’t entertain extra “deals.” Buying something on clearance (even at 90% off) isn’t a great buy if you didn’t have the money to begin with, or you didn’t need the thing you just bought.
You’re Not Fun to Be Around
Some folks will never be the life of the party, but that’s not what I’m talking about. If your obsession for cost-cutting has left you looking stingy and insane in the eyes of your friends, it could be that you need new friends. More likely, however, is the fact that you’ve let your penny-pinching ways rule every decision, and worse yet, it’s affected your relationships. If you’re intent on letting the almighty dollar invade every thought for the day, do us all a favor, and keep it to yourself. Some of us truly understand what it means to be frugal, but strive to keep it in balance with the rest of our lives. (For excellent reading on frugality as an obsession, I suggest reading Get Rich Slowly’s comments on the topic and The Simple Dollar’s response)
You Don’t Know Why You’re Doing It
The other day I tried to make dandelion wine. I allowed my kids to handpick every yellow bloom in our yard that morning and tried to follow the recipe I selected exactly as written. About a week after I’d let my potion set for the year, I began to smell something horrible coming from the corner of the room where I had it stored. It really, really stunk, and my craving for anything wine-related died. The kids complained, hubby was concerned, and I ended up dumping it out and calling it a futile experiment. I had decided to make wine out of a curiosity, but continued to let it smell up my kitchen out of stubbornness (I didn’t want to admit that I had failed.) If select attempts at frugality have you wondering “what the heck was I thinking?” it may be time to take up a new hobby (or start small with more simple cost-cutting strategies.)
Your Frugality Isn’t Safe
I’ve already covered this a bit in a previous article (“When Frugal Is Stupid”), but I feel it bears repeating. Some money-saving habits have the potential to cause harm, but only need a few extra safeguards to make them safe (making your own laundry soap, for example, would require extra care to keep little ones out of the commonly-used buckets that the soap is stored in.) Other tips (like reusing plastic containers that aren’t meant for food storage) can cause others to get sick or degrade the quality of your possessions. Before you head out into the Wild West of ultimate frugality, check with trusted sources to make sure you’re keeping it harmless.
You Hate It
Granted, most of us make frugal decisions out of necessity. Others, however, make the choice out of habit or the sense of control it gives them over a situation. If you’ve found yourself doing things that could save a bit here and there, but it’s left you despising money, life, or other people – maybe it’s time to take a hiatus. Life, after all, is meant to be experienced, and most of the precious experiences don’t cost much. Take time to assess where you’re saving, and where you’re simply causing extra work and heartache. If you’re able to loosen up on a few of your frugal rules (even for a little while) it might be worth taking a fresh stab at it after a small break. (Opportunities to save money generally aren’t going anywhere.)
Where are you at in your frugality? Are you new and growing? Have you been doing this “cheapskate” stuff for awhile? Do you still enjoy those times that you’ve succeeded in a plan to pinch pennies, or are you dreading the work involved with taking care of your finances? Share your tips for keeping frugality fresh with us. We’d love to hear how you do it!