The definition of frugal is "Prudence in Avoiding Waste". We all should be wise and thrifty, and reuse or recycle where possible, but here are some indicators when you just might be going too far to be frugal and are simply being cheap or possibly hoarding:
Does anyone here at ThriftyFun have any other ideas to share of what might be going too far to be frugal?
Deeli, thanks for the great post. I agree that there are sometimes that people are "penny wise but pound foolish." Here is one of my examples:
Sometimes I will buy a large bag of some produce at Costco, onions or cucumbers or peppers. It is always cheaper than at the grocery store, but usually a lot more than I would have ever bought normally. I find myself scrambling around before it goes bad, trying to find new ways to use it up or preserve it. Often, the last third of the bag winds up in the compost. I hate, hate, hate throwing away food but I can't stop myself from the lure of the giant bag of garlic for $4.99, or whatever.
Now, I try to only buy these "deals" if I have planned out how to use them up. But I have to have the plan FIRST, or I wind up with another batch of food waste. Sometimes I can split a large amount with a friend or, more often, I just need to pass on the "great deal."
Often times, frugality has to do with your own personality and lifestyle choices. It is much harder for a person to have a garden if they don't have a yard, so that might not be a good tip for an urban dweller. And the person who works from home can ignore the tips on packing lunches and saving on commuting.
I certainly don't follow all the tips that are posted here, I wouldn't have enough hours in the day! But I try to incorporate the ones that fit best in my life. I probably don't save much money canning my own jams and salsa over buying it on sale with coupons, etc., but I also enjoy it. My time is certainly worth something, but my pride in a job well done is also worthwhile.
Can't wait to see what everyone else shares about being "too frugal."
Deeli, this is wonderful...and good to print and save! I especially love the advice on not using questionable food and putting off seeing a doctor.
I remember an older aunt, long gone now and not impoverished, who tightly rationed out portions for holiday dinners (claiming to be "frugal") and what she actually did was take the joy out of a special occasion - there were definitely no second pieces of pumpkin pie!
I think the best way of being frugal is being wise with our resources, not to waste and always to find a way to share. And sometimes we just have to treat ourselves to some REALLY good dark chocolate, too :-)
These habits are more miserly than frugal! One reads of people dying as secret millionaires & leaving their $ to charity. I think charity begins at home & one should not deprive oneself of life's little pleasures. That attitude comes of fear of want, rather than enjoying what one has. I have seen miserly & overly-frugal family members and somehow their lives were a bit pinched. It's not necessary.
I have a few to add:
Letting someone else pick up the check all the time when you eat out.
Letting someone else do all the driving, and not chipping in for gas.
Great article, Deeli!
I just wanted to add one thing though. In the past on TF I've read where people were looking for ways to make their own hygiene products, i.e. sanitary napkins, tampons, underpants/bras and other items like these. There are some things that should just be bought NEW! Sure compare prices and value, but trying to "save money" by making these items is just too much!
Your article is great tho. Really spells it out where sometimes people think they are being frugal, when they are just being ridiculous.
My hubby's allergist rescued him from my stinginess. We had been sitting on an old fabric sofa for eons. It was to the point where it couldn't be vacuumed clean. Doc said get rid of the carpet and fabric upholstery! I wouldn't have spent the money otherwise but it was for his health's sake. I really am enjoying my new leather furniture and hard surface floors. It's much easier to keep clean too.
There are a few items on this list that I have done or do. I hate thinking back to when we had such little money that I did use "iffy" food for not wanting to waste the money by throwing it out and having not much left to eat.
I do a couple other items posted and do realize I am OCD but so far it hasn't gotten out of hand. I work hard in changing some of my ways.
All I can say is you are 100% correct on frugalness. I have always said there is a difference of being frugal or just being downright cheap. It is too bad that some people just don't understand the difference. I know that some people are on a tight budget and have to make do. But there are others ( we may all know someone) that just enjoys being cheap and then say they are frugal. Pick and choose what is important for you to save money or spend on. Give yourself some pleasure. Otherwise you might get to a point in your life with no friends or family no hobby and no joy for living. It could make you a real sourpuss.
Oh, dear - I've done some of those things, maybe most of them, at one time or another. One thing I've finally stopped doing is worrying about a tiny bit of food left in the can that I can't scrape out; it wouldn't even make a mouthful, much less make a difference in whether we had enough to eat, but when the kids were little I was religious about getting it all!
Another habit I'm kicking is hoarding. Since I discovered Freecycle, it's a lot easier to let go of things I don't really use - clothes I'm "going to diet back into", furniture & electronics we've replaced. We're going to take the magazines that we've read (the timeless ones in particular) to the VA hospital for their waiting rooms.
Deeli, I agree about most of your list of excessive frugalities. But, I've been reusing plastic water bottles for years! I wash them out with hot water and refill with cold water and refrigerate. I read that freezing them causes some problem with the plastic leaching into the water but not refrigerating.
I do admit I'll buy the giant size food products from Sam's sometimes and end up pitching what goes bad. Since we're only two in our family, it probably makes sense to get the smaller size or plan on freezing excess food purchases.
@Deeli Thanks Deeli for having the nerve to post your observations. About a year ago, I commented on a post and practically had my head taken off for it. This was, and still is, my definition of thrifty vs. frugal. Here is a partial post of the "frugal method" of repairing a screen door, plus my retort: "I will probably have the entire website jumping down my throat for criticizing this homemade screen door tip. How can anyone not afford to have a screen repaired, yet hang a curtain in an open doorway to the outside? There is Frugal and then there is Thrifty. In my world, the 2 do not intermingle and let me explain why. Being frugal is a mind set that could be most accurately described as a Puritanical lifestyle, a way of life that almost takes the joy out of living; the deprivation of the simplest of pleasures due to the negative/guilt feelings an impetuous purchase would bring. To buy oneself an off-the cuff gift or even a few flowers at a local store brings a spontaneity to life and a lift to the heart.
From the postings I read (and I read pages of them), the thrifty-based ideas say to me, "gee, why didn't I think of that?" The frugal posts, make me ask myself, "why would anyone go to such effort and trouble to save 5 cents?" I keep going back to the absolute prime example of frugality that I have come across; not having a screen on a door repaired, but rather hang a curtain in its place for the outside world to see."
I love to hear about sound, safe, and creative thrifty ideas without bringing frugality, miserly or hoarding-like behavior into the mix. And, I did notice in the comments above, hoarding behavior is mentioned frequently. I have always believed there is a correlation between the two.
Deeli, I agree with you. I like to save money on things, but always enjoy some of the extra things in life. There is a big difference between being thrifty & cheap! Thanks for sharing.
I agree with every word you wrote here. Really makes perfect sense and is a valuable lesson to learn.
I agree with all of your points EXCEPT earning more instead of saving. When one gets to a certain tax bracket the government penalizes you for working extra by taxing you at a very high rate. I have found it isn't worth my time to work more than 12 hrs of OT because taxes steal so much you can't even earn your base hourly salary. This is especially true for those of us without deductions. Bartering or working for cash may be helpful though. :>)
Oh, Deeli, this one really hit home with me! I've been in danger of slipping from thrifty to just plain cheap after living poor (not just moderately, but seriously poor) my entire adult life. My thrifty behavior and advance planning for windfalls is finally about to put us in a better financial position. Please, Lord, please don't let me spoil it by being ultra-cheap!
Frugality practiced responsibly is the saving grace for most families on extremely tight budgets. I believe what you're describing is being greedy or stringy, and that's a whole different kettle of fish. Watching my mom, I have to say that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to being victims of their own cheap and stingy habits. They eat food way beyond the safe zone, skimp on medications, refuse to use their AC/Heat for fear of running up the bill, etc. And many have hoarding symptoms, not wanting anyone else to get that item someone else is giving away or throwing out. It is up to family and friends to keep a close eye on the aging as this can quickly lead to a serious problem.
Thanks to everyone for leaving such great comments here and I hope there will be more! Thank you so much! Have responses for a couple of comments:
Shotpusher, I didn't necessarily mean working oodles of extra overtime but rather creative ways to earn extra money. Mine is entering contests here at ThriftyFun and, like you suggested, bartering. Your point about tax brackets is well taken and I thank you for sharing that with us!
Birdfeeder, I pray you will reconsider reusing plastic water bottles that are generally recycle #1 because they are composed with materials that are meant for one time use only and thereafter leach harmful chemicals. You could try other types of plastic bottle containers such as non-dairy creamers. They are recycle #2 and safe for reuse. They have a screw on lid with a spout that opens and closes you can drink from, the labels come off super easily and they look very much like many of the reusable water bottles that cost a lot of money in the stores. I am attaching a photo of a non-dairy creamer bottle that I reuse for water for you to see. :-)
I absolutely agree with everything, except: "You deny yourself even the tiniest of treats that would be good for you emotionally...". I don't understand the concept of splurging as a necessity. Why would I pay four dollars for a cup of coffee when I can make it at home for pennies? Does the $10 body lotion moisturize better than my free samples or cheap after coupon buys? Why pay $30 to eat out when I can cook all natural foods for a week at home for the same price? I don't feel that I am denying myself anything by being frugal. Instead, I have more money that can be allocated to other areas: seeds, charity, home repair, savings, etc.
Deeli, I loved your post and I do indeed recognize myself in several of your points!
Thriftyboo, I understand what you're saying. But in a way I think Deeli's point about treating yourself occasionally isn't that different from how you feel. She just finds different "treats" than you do.
For example, she mentions buying a cup of coffee or a meal at a restaurant, or buying a small bottle of a favorite lotion. These are little occasional splurges that contribute to her own emotional well-being.
And you mention buying seeds, giving to charity, adding to your home repair fund, and putting away some extra in your savings. These things are things that contribute to YOUR emotional well-being. And perhaps Deeli is doing all of these things too, as well as enjoying a store-bought treat or restaurant meal now and then.
Presuming everything in moderation and nobody is overextending their income, there are no right or wrong answers on how to enjoy the fruits of one's labor!
That is so funny to read, because I am the one that hung the lacy sheer panel in the doorway in the spring and summer to keep out flies! It was the best decicion I ever made and I have it again. It also stops drafts etc....I won money for that post as it was a contest winner.
I have saved tons of money for frugality and then I go and spend that money I save on something I really want.
I am so happy when I can send less to the landfill. You are so right about going too far and wasting gas to save a small amount from coupons.
Blessings, and keep on being frugal!
Excellent article and ethically sound; especially about stocking up on "free" items in stores and restaurants. I do find this activity as a form of stealing. In my world, frugality is expressed as taking, using, what is actually needed, and conscientiously discarding and recycling.
As I've written before, one example of being "too frugal" is the re-use (or alternate uses) of dryer sheets, because of the myriad of toxic chemicals they contain. They are quite dangerous, as they contain neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors, and carcinogens, and at the very least, may contribute to allergies. Yet, people are constantly thinking up new ways to use or re-use them, and "contributing" them to ThriftyFun. Please, just throw them away!
I posted more info here at TF under "Warning About Dryer Sheets", which is probably still in the archives.
Pixiedust, I agree with you about using dryer sheets. The only time I use one is when I've left a tissue in a pocket and find that there's tissue lint all over a load of clothing. I cut one in 3rds and only use a 3rd to tumble the load, and the lint goes to the filter. Sometimes in winter, when there's a lot of static electricity, I'll throw a 3rd in with a load, but I've also found that running a wire hanger over the clothes makes the static go away.
I think people overuse liquid fabric softener because they believe the commercials on TV. My MIL douses everything with fabric softener, and using one of her towels is like trying to dry off with a plastic bag.
I know someone quite elderly who waits all day to flush her potty. This is so unsanitary! She thinks she is being "frugal" by doing this.
I worry when I read about the use of home remedies when a visit to the doctor is in order. Example, several suggestions for ingrown toenails....but if you are a diabetic, it's not time to fool around saving money with home remedies when there is the issue of an infection. Some times you just need to see a doctor or risk your health further by trying to save money.
I found a useful rule of thumb in Richard Foster's "Freedom of Simplicity" - unless you really enjoy doing something yourself, or are very poor, think twice if it saves you less than you could reasonably get paid for the time that you spend
This is a pretty good post.
As a single person, it's hard for me to use up a bag of produce, even though the per pound price is cheaper. I often just get one large onion or bell pepper instead. With meat it's okay to get the big pack because I can freeze it in portions.
I've been a hoarder in the past so I have to be careful when it comes to saving anything that could be "useful", like product packaging. I don't want to get the behavior started again. Trust me, it isn't worth any little bit of money you might save.
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