6 Signs You're Not Frugal — You're Cheap!


We here at Wise Bread are big fans of the frugal life. When it comes to cooking our own food, getting the best mobile plan, or waiting for a sale to buy a big-ticket item, we're your people.

But frugality can go too far. How far is that, exactly? Here are some ideas that you can use to measure whether your frugality has been taken to an extreme and you've turned into a total cheapskate. (See also: 13 Ways to Save Money That Go Too Far)

1. You Are Miserable

Being frugal is about being wise, and it almost always comes with specific goals. Maybe you want to be frugal to save money, or to help the environment, or to live in a countercultural way. Whatever your reasons, they should be powerful enough for you that they make the effort you put into frugal living worthwhile. (See also: 25 Products You Think You Need But Really Don't)

But frugal living is not about feeling deprived and miserable. If you're feeling down about what you can and cannot spend money on, try to figure out what, exactly, is making you feel that way. If the item is something you can afford and it will truly add to your happiness, figure out how to add it into your budget.

2. Not Spending Is Making You Lonely

It can be healthy to give up social activities that cost a lot of money. Going out to happy hour several times a week, going on shopping sprees with your friends, or taking expensive vacations are all things that frugal people often cut out of their lives and their budgets when they want to stop spending. (See also: 10 Types of Friends Who Are Costing You Money)

The thing is, you have to replace those activities with something else social, or your frugality can cause you to end up feeling lonely and isolated. Sure, there are often less expensive ways to spend time with your friends but, very often, spending time with people means spending at least a little bit of money.

If you're finding yourself lonely and you think frugality might be the culprit, try setting up an inexpensive coffee date with a friend, or suggest an afternoon at a local park instead of an afternoon at the mall. And if all else fails, just spend some money. It is better to be less frugal but also less lonely than it is to save all your money but only spend time with yourself.

3. You Are Unhealthy

You know you're taking your frugal habits too far when you engage in unhealthy practices just to save money. This can include everything from regularly eating food that is past its expiration date to skipping doctors appointments and checkups because you don't want to spend. When you're putting your health and your future at risk in the name of saving a buck, you need to loosen those purse strings.

4. Saving a Little Takes a Lot of Your Time

Sure, you might be able to save a bit more if you get a quote from another insurance agent or clip all those coupons, but all of that also takes time. Since you probably have more that you want to do than just live frugally, you have to take your time into consideration when you're deciding whether a frugal choice is right for you or if it just turns you into a cheapskate.

Things like couponing can save you quite a bit of money, but organizing them and determining when to use them and how to combine them can also take a huge chunk of time. Unless you really like that work or you have some pressing need to save, your energy might be better spent elsewhere.

If you're not sure, calculate the value of your time. For instance, if you spend eight hours clipping coupons and you save only $40, your time was worth $5 an hour. If that's not enough for you, spend your time doing something else, instead.

5. Your Home Is Filled With Clutter

Sometimes, frugality can lead to feeling a lot of guilt about getting rid of anything, even things that don't work or should just be tossed. It can also lead to buying a lot of items that are on sale. Sometimes, these things are reasonable. But if you find that you never throw things away or your old things are taking over your space, it's probably time to dial back those behaviors before you become a pack rat.

6. You Never Spend Your Fun Money

Most of us have what my husband and I call "fun money." That's the money that we allocate each month toward our own personal spending. We do this so that we can buy the things that keep those feelings of deprivation far away. But if you're never spending your fun money, you might have taken frugality too far.

We all need some fun in our lives and, in our culture, that often requires spending money. If you're not spending your fun money, examine how happy you are and how much fun you're having. Have you cut that out of your life simply because you don't want to spend? Remind yourself that being frugal doesn't mean you don't take care of yourself, and let yourself spend some of the money you've set aside for that purpose.

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