When Are You Being Too Frugal?

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:

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  • You compromise your health by not seeking medical attention for something you know in your heart really should be checked out by a professional.

  • You compromise your safety by eating food that you know is iffy because it could be spoiled.

  • You reuse plastic water bottles, to-go food containers, plastic silverware, or even non-food plastic containers that are not recyclable Food Grade #2, #4 or #5. These plastics can leach bad chemicals into your food and beverages.

  • You deny yourself even the tiniest of treats that would be good for you emotionally, like an occasional cup of coffee or meal out. You even deny yourself something as simple as a small bottle of your favorite bubble bath or lotion.

  • You hoard items, because you got a good deal on them, but know in the back of your mind that you'll probably never really have a use for them.
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  • You save just about everything when you know you realistically probably will never use or need them, instead of giving them to someone who could use them or recycle them.

  • You deny yourself basic necessities. I've known a couple of people who had nothing more than a bed and had to stand up to eat or sit on the floor, when they really could afford to at least purchase a couple of second hand chairs and a small table.

  • On the reverse side of denying yourself the basics, you grab up every piece of free anything; from clothing, boxes, and knick-knacks to furniture, simply because it was free. It's piled everywhere 'just in case you can use it in the future', even when you know there is no real use to you. Your home has become a storage unit.

  • You spend too much time trying to save money, instead of finding ways to supplement your income with extra earnings.

  • You spend more on gasoline driving around trying to save a few cents on a sale or use a coupon before it expires, than you save.
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  • You take extras at stores or restaurants (like sanitary hand wipes, paper towels, napkins, or condiments) to save some money, when in reality doing so is stealing and is ultimately costing others for those items.

  • You buy items that are cheap that you know really won't last long to save some money, when you could buy the better quality item for just a few dollars more that might have lasted a lifetime. Remember the definition of 'frugal'?

  • And, as silly as it might sound, you feel there's no such thing as being too frugal!

Does anyone here at ThriftyFun have any other ideas to share of what might be going too far to be frugal?

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March 25, 20111 found this helpful
Top Comment

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.

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December 30, 20180 found this helpful

I am an active member of Freecycle. Someone offered a vacuum with the caveat that the coating on the cord was peeling off. He said to just cover it with electrical tape. I commented that that particular vacuum had a 5 year warranty.

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I have that vacuum and the same thing happened to me. I had the vacuum replaced. He said his was older than that. I did tell him the company stated that it was not safe to use anymore. Regardless, 3 people said they were very interested in it. I think that is foolish, not frugal.

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March 29, 20110 found this helpful
Top Comment

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.

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January 28, 20170 found this helpful

I am trying to be as frugal as I can be.. The sad thing is I live on 766$ a month and can't afford cable. So I am now using netflix. But I can't run my ac either.

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I stopped having guest over in the summer because I could not share my ai cooler with them. It only works on a limited space. I think if your budget is small a.c should not be running

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February 18, 20180 found this helpful

I live on an unstable income. So I set up with basics once every 3 months. I mist say many of the things on Thrifty Fun has saved the day. I give myself a $25.00 check a month. This goes to the bank foe my rainy day. Next I use the computer by getting recipes like leftover onion and several things will come up. Heat is off during the night. Dishwasher is every 2-3 days and switch is off at the power source which took $$$$$ off the bill. But the best is my grandkids helping me shop so I can stay in budget.

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October 22, 20180 found this helpful

Unfortunately, in some places, not running your AC is dangerous to your health. Every year in this area, north Texas, we hear about elderly people dying from the heat because they don't have AC or refuse to use it. When it hits 90 or above, and you don't feel safe leaving your windows open, an AC is a must.

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March 29, 20112 found this helpful
Top Comment

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.

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January 27, 20170 found this helpful

I Agree With you 100% I Myself think eating out has become overrated an I find the food blah ,but I got to go to please boyfriend .I also would never spend 4$ for a cup of coffee I have learned to blend my own at home and enjoy it twice as much

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October 22, 20180 found this helpful

If you don't want something, then it's not a treat for you. But if you really want something, an occasional "splurge" won't hurt. I don't drink coffee out, either, because I make my own cold-brewed coffee at home and it's not bitter like coffee from specialty shops is.

My husband and I don't eat out as often as we did when we both worked, but we do usually go out to lunch with friends after church. I, personally, don't enjoy cooking, so I'd rather eat out than spend hours in the kitchen.

We happen to love movies, and while it's fun to occasionally go out to a movie theater, we usually make good use of our Netflix. For the price of going to the movies and getting popcorn and drinks, we can pay for a month of Netflix and watch as many movies as we like. I suppose we could check DVDs out at the library, but we'd be limited as to the choices we'd have. Years ago, a dirty VHS tape from the library ruined our VCR.

Everybody is different. I hate shopping, so I find just about everything on-line, and on sale. I have a friend who loves her "retail therapy," and probably has 100 purses or more. I make most of mine by sewing or knitting.

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April 7, 20141 found this helpful
Top Comment

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.

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January 23, 20181 found this helpful

It's like ordering water with a slice of lemon in a restaurant and making your "own" lemonade. The owner paid for the water, lemon and sugar as well as the salaries of the waitress and cook. So, your free lemonade is just a way to steal from the restaurant. If you can't afford to go out to eat, including the tip, please, stay home.

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January 6, 20161 found this helpful
Top Comment

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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March 25, 20111 found this helpful

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."

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March 25, 20111 found this helpful

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 :-)

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March 25, 20111 found this helpful

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.

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March 25, 20111 found this helpful

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.

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March 25, 20110 found this helpful

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.

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March 25, 20111 found this helpful

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.

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March 25, 20110 found this helpful

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.

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March 25, 20111 found this helpful

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.

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March 26, 20110 found this helpful

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.

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March 26, 20112 found this helpful

@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.

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March 26, 20110 found this helpful

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.

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March 26, 20110 found this helpful

I agree with every word you wrote here. Really makes perfect sense and is a valuable lesson to learn.
K

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March 28, 20112 found this helpful

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. :>)

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March 28, 20110 found this helpful

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!

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March 29, 20110 found this helpful

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. :-)

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February 18, 20180 found this helpful

I like to re-use these screw lid containers for sugar. Very handy for those that add sugar to hot beverages.

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March 31, 20110 found this helpful

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!

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March 31, 20110 found this helpful

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!


Robyn :)

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April 7, 20140 found this helpful

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.

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April 30, 20141 found this helpful

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.

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May 5, 20140 found this helpful

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.

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January 5, 20161 found this helpful

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.

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January 6, 20160 found this helpful

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

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December 30, 20180 found this helpful

Finally, someone who has put "frugal" into the right perspective. I read article after article on ways to be thrifty, and shake my head. I see their suggestions as being downright miserly. To deny oneself the smallest bit of joy for fear of spending an extra dollar or two is a sickness not a healthy lifestyle. Thank you for a sane insight into the meaning of living frugally!

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May 15, 20190 found this helpful

I have seen many "frugal" posts here on TF which to me goes way too far on being frugal! I think as in anything, you need to find a balance in what you reuse and keep. Dryer sheets: I don't even use them anymore due to the chemicals they contain! I use flannel squares (cut from old clothing) and soak them in vinegar and a few drops of essential oils and throw it in with the damp clothes to dry. Not using dryer sheets in the first place saves me a ton of money because I can buy a gallon of vinegar for what one box of 25 dryer sheets cost and it is far healthier! Keeping piles of cardboard is a fire hazzard and invites critters into your home, but if I know I will need a piece of cardboard for making a journal, I will save the cardboard from a cereal box for that reason. If I am not in need of the cardboard, then it goes into my recycle bin for the next trash day pickup. Being frugel and hoarding has boundaries. But some people have not realized those boundaries. Food: Just because it has an expiration date does not mean it goes bad that date. I have purchased milk that stayed fresh and not soured for a week after the "due date". Smell is a tell tale way of gauging if food is good or not! If it has rotten spots, mold, meat that is brown and does not smell "right", then NO DO NOT EAT! But if it says the "sell by" date is tomorrow, then purchase it and freeze it. Freezing stops any degradation of meat, however I would make sure and use it within a period of a couple weeks after freezing. Common sense is with everything!

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May 15, 20190 found this helpful

Frugal and thrifty have the same meaning. I think you are confusing frugal with cheap and miserly. Otherwise, I agree with your comment.

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