Is It Possible to Be Too Frugal?

By on April 30, 2013

Is It Possible to Be Too Frugal

Frugal spending and saving has become increasingly popular and is generally perceived as a good thing.  Searching for sales, bartering and buying used, clipping coupons, and buying in bulk are all common frugal behaviors.  But is it possible to be too frugal?

Frugal is good.  Cheap is bad.  At what point does one transition from frugal behavior to cheap behavior?  Or is even cheap just a gradation of frugality and as such acceptable?  Below are 5 suggestions for when you may have become too frugal:

Sacrificing Your Time in the Name of Frugality

Once you choose a frugal lifestyle you will find that many aspects of frugality require an investment of your time.  As is often quoted "Time = Money" and this is just as true when it comes to frugal living.  In fact, this tradeoff of more time and less money spent is one of the highly touted benefits of frugal living.

In practice however, it is possible for your new found frugality to take over your life, leaving little time for friends, family and entertainment.  If you find yourself taking time away from your family or declining invitations because you are too busy clipping and organizing coupons it may be time to reevaluate the ways in which you put frugal living into practice.

Frugal Living Causes Stress

One of the goals of frugal living is to simplify and reduce stress.  However, when you begin to combine all of the frugal activities that can be implemented you may begin to see your stress levels rising.  Sure it's no big deal to have a garden, to cook your food at home, to make your own cleaning products, to clip coupons, etc etc.  As you can see, frugality takes many forms and if you begin embracing too many of them too quickly you can easily find yourself overwhelmed.  The end result is stress, which is counterproductive.

If you begin to find yourself stressed out over your frugal tasks, it is time to step back and re-balance.  Don't let frugality rule your life to the point that it causes you to become insane.

Sacrificing Quality in the Name of Frugality

Frugal living is about the value that you get from your lifestyle and purchases.  As such, it does not mean that quality should be sacrificed in the name of frugality or saving money.  In many cases, spending more now actually provides better value in the long run.

A good example is kitchen tools.  For a long time my wife insisted on buying the cheapest knives, theorizing that a knife is knife.  It's not true though.  Those cheap knives became dull and were unable to hold an edge in just months (or even weeks).  This caused frustration and made meal prep a daunting task.  I finally convinced her to spend a bit more on our knives and we haven't had to purchase another knife in the past 4 years.  Indeed, I don't expect to replace these knives ever.

The same can be applied to many other kitchen tools, to clothing (in some cases), to electronics, and to a whole host of items that should have a longer useful life.

Your Health is Affected by Your Frugality

When grocery shopping it can be seductive to buy the cheapest foods simply because they are cheap.  Ramen noodles, margarine, foods filled with artificial this and that, corn based sweeteners, and fillers ARE cheap, but they are also a really bad source of nutrition and using them will affect your health in the long term.

While it might seem counter intuitive, it is much better to spend a bit more on natural and even organic foods to promote better health for yourself and your family.

There is nothing more valuable than your health and a long life and spending a little extra now on your food choices will pay significant dividends in the form of health and longevity.

Charity Suffers Because of Frugality

I know that when you are trying to save money anything that goes to charities or your church can seem extraneous.  How easy it would be to balance the budget or save more by simply cutting out the charitable contributions.  I don't recommend you do this as a part of frugality though.

Even if you are trying to get out of debt, giving to others less fortunate than yourself (and there are plenty of people like that around the world) is an excellent way to promote positive changes in the world.  And no matter if you believe in God, Buddha, Karma, or simply the cosmic balance you will find that when you give selflessly the generosity will be returned to your life many times over.

At the end of the day, the best mindset when embracing a frugal lifestyle is to strive for balance in your life.  Any time you find yourself going too far and unbalancing your life is a good time to rethink your strategy.

Steve Walters
Steve Walters
Contributing Writer at
Steve blogs about personal finance at his site Money Infant. After paying off over $40,000 in debt in less than 3 years, he and his wife sold all their stuff and moved across the world to Thailand with their 1 year old in tow. Needless to say it's been an adventure. He is also available for freelance writing assignments and can be contacted here
Steve Walters

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