Are You TOO Frugal?

Being one who loves to save money, I’ve been thinking a lot about frugality.  While this post may seem out of character, or possibly a bit controversial, I like to mix it up here on the blog and offer some “food for thought”, so to speak, on being frugal to a fault. 

Is it possible to be too frugal?  Can one be frugal to a fault?  Is there a difference between being frugal and cheap?

Being in the money saving, frugal, deal loving blogging world, I hear a lot about frugality and the lengths women go to to save money.  There are many great money saving ideas and tips but…. can one be so addicted to frugality that they get caught up in cheap, miserly living? 

There is a difference between living prudently and spending wisely vs. living miserly and being cheap.  There are some extreme frugalists who are just plain cheap… professional penny-pinchers… tightwads out there and that is their business whether or not they reuse tea bags or split their 2-ply toilet paper into 1-ply.  My concern is with the moms who are trying to save money and are getting caught up with the stress, frustration and bondage of not feeling like they can’t enjoy life because they are so focused on always saving a buck. 

Spend wisely….but be careful with miserly, tightwad thinking and living.  It can easily turn a person into someone so caught up on money, that they stress constantly about “how to save more money”.  A person so caught up with saving money that they can’t enjoy life unless they are getting some amazing deal 24/7.   

I appreciate my husband’s take on frugality… he’s a balanced, enjoy life, kind of guy who is prudent with money but cringes at uptight, ultra-frugal, cheap, miserly living.  As I leave to go to the grocery store…he always reminds me…”Buy what we need please!!!  Don’t worry about the money!”    Money isn’t always the object and hinge point of his decisions. 

I love good quality food at good prices.  I appreciate buying quality bulk foods, growing my own garden, shopping at Costco and finding good deals using coupons and sales on good food and household products.  I even sometimes reuse ziplock baggies and look in the newspaper recycling bin for coupon inserts ever once in a while!    I’m not anti-frugality or against saving money obviously.  I mean after all, I do run The Penny Pantry Blog!  I’m all for keeping a budget and cutting costs.   However, as moms who love to save money, we need to be very careful not to make a “god” out of frugality.     

Here are some of my random, opinionated thoughts on frugality. 

Beth’s Food For Thought Frugality Check:

  1. The line between miserly frugality and healthy prudent frugality is a fine line your individual family determines.  Where’s your heart?  Are you a stingy person?  Are you cheap to a fault?
  2. Saving money on groceries is a good thing!  Keep a budget, look for deals…but don’t let the addiction of getting cheap food cause you to become unbalanced in your job of feeding and nourishing your family. 
  3. It is very true that coupons can save you a ton of money.  While there are some great deals on good food to be found, there are also a whole lot of  processed and junk food couponing deals.  The temptation comes when you start seeing all the free or cheap junk food and start drastically changing the way you eat because the overly processed, junk food is so cheap or even free!  Avoid that trap!
  4. Don’t be so caught up on spending the least amount as possible that you create a stressful environment of depravation for your family. 
  5. If your husband enjoys eating meat…Buy the Man Some Meat…..even if it does throw off your weekly savings totals a bit!  I’ve seen too many women not buy meat just because they can’t get it cheap enough!
  6. You should reconsider your shopping habits if you’re the only one who likes the 13 packages of free tofu and .25 cent sugar-free, coconut-orange Crystal Light.  Is your family suffering through your ultra “frugal” meals? 
  7. What’s wrong with this picture:   You’re eating the .50 cent a box Fruit Loops 7 days out of the week and watering down your milk just so you can claim that you can feed your family of 5 for $25 a week!  Keep your grocery budget realistic for your family.   
  8. Are you feeding your family the cheapest food possible?  Are they thriving at meal times or dreading the latest greatest freebie-a-la-cart!  Or on the opposite end, are your children only wanting pop-tarts and sugar cereal and will not eat whole, real foods? 
  9. Don’t avoid buying the bag of apples or the oranges  just because they aren’t as cheap as the fruit-roll-ups that you can get for .50 cents a box.  Watch out for the temptation of buying the overly processed cheap stuff over the real deal.  Buy fresh produce even if it isn’t at the couponing rock bottom price. 
  10. Consider price vs. quality and don’t be so stuck on price all the time.  All food is not created equal.  Don’t be so bound up by money that you snarl at moms who buy CSA produce, clean meat or shop at Costco.   Some good things in life will cost you some money and it’s well worth it.  Good food is worth paying for!  The .79 cent grocery store eggs are not the same food product as the $3 local farm eggs. 
  11. Don’t compare yourself against other money saving couponing blogs (there are thousands of them now!) who claim that they feed their family for a certain amount of money each week.  Your family is different!  It is  good to learn the tricks of the trade and find the deals, but apply your own standards and boundaries and budget instead of trying to keep up with someone else. 
  12. Learn to give cheerfully. 
  13. Don’t turn good frugality into cheap, stingy living. 
  14. Live prudently, not with miserly frugality.   
  15. Learn how to celebrate and enjoy life!  Life is short!

2 comments on “Are You TOO Frugal?

  1. Great post! I was thinking before I read the post completely through about two things that bother me about extreme penny pinching.  One is that sometimes people can “quench the Spirit” and His prompting for you to give of what you have.  It is great to be good stewards of our money, but we do need to recognize that ALL that we have is God’s. And if he wants our money in the bank, then great. But if he wants it in our neighbors hands, then we need to be open and willing.
    Also, I have seen families who have neglected their own members desires due to money.  I would never want my children to harbor bitterness because I would have rather had a few extra dollars in the bank than their hearts.  I have seen families where the wives are kept on such  severe income restraints and they really do not have the proper tools to feed and clothe and manage their homes (I’m not talking dept. store furniture, but basics) and yet money is freely spent in other areas.  And just the same, I should be diligent with the money I am freely given by my husband to spend it wisely and not foolishly.
    Again, great post! So many great points you made! Your hubby sounds like mine! I stress so much over our grocery budget trying to balance cost and health and he’s like “relax! If you go over, I’ll figure it out” 🙂

  2. Fantastic list of thoughts! Over the last year, my shopping habits have begun to evolve as I realize I might be able to save more by couponing more but at what cost to our health & nutrition? My goal now is actually to coupon less as I cook from scratch more. And I really agree with #5- I’ve seen some who have cut meat out to save money and then have to suffer with anemia. It doesn’t seem worth it to me just to meet a super-strict budget.

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