At What Point Does Frugal Just Become Stupid?

Frugality can make your life better, but it also has the capacity to make it miserable. In the process of living on the cheap, we can often diverge into a path of stupidity. Where do you draw the line between frugal and stupid?

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Kentin Waits, writing for personal finance blog Wise Bread, discusses a number of frugality myths that he thinks just aren't true. For example, he disagrees that frugality is all about sacrifice and denial:

There have been very few times in my own life when I've felt denied anything truly important because of my frugality. Maybe my wants have been suppressed, but more likely, they've been recalibrated. For me (and I have a hunch, for most frugal folks) the real denial would be the peace-of-mind lost from living beyond my means. I truly get a charge out of saving money and I enjoy the rich experience of (usually) being worry-free.

As he notes, frugality does actually involve sacrifice and denial, but it's about how far you take it. How far is too far when you're being frugal?

7 Frugality Myths Debunked [Wise Bread]


    Work out your minimum wage you're willing to work, then compare that to the cost saving instead of buying it from a store.

    I take my lunch to work, I haunt "Ozbargains" and spend time researching a prospective purchase. I would be a moderate frugal. I always laugh when hundreds of people on Ozbargain vote for an IOS app that is free for a limited period of time - saving $2.99. Frugality can be taken too far.

      I don't think that's too far; usually the cumulative small savings are the ones I go for. With your example I could have that app and then buy a coffee with the $2.99 as well, giving me a small sense of luxury.

      I would call going too far doing something like driving across town to save less than the cost of the fuel, or putting up with clothes / shoes with holes in them just so I can wait for a sale.

      Last edited 09/02/13 4:00 pm

        Sorry, makes no sense. Either a) your holding out on an app you want in the hope it may be free someday - for a measly three dollars. or b) you just downloaded a free app you saw on a bargain site that you don't really need - but with your new found sense of accomplishment of having made a bargain you will go out and spend the money anyway on an item you can make at home. More likely you will drive to that coffee shop and waste fuel doing so and also spend more money as a good coffee costs more than $3 these days.
        You see? You have made a classic mistake of making a false "saving" and then spending more money with that delusion.
        I make real savings by making my lunch each day - making something I NEED. I f I need an app to make my life easier (otherwise apps are a waste of money) then I will spend such a small amount of money but not do without it - it may never be free.

          Your reply doesn't make sense.

          You assume that:
          A) I don't need the app. I don't buy things I don't need.
          B) That I am aware of every single app in existence, and that I carry a list around of the ones I need. I may come across a new app that helps me in a way that I hadn't considered before - eg. XBMC remote app - before it was mentioned to me in conversation I didn't know it existed.
          C) I'm at home (lol). Ever hear of leaving the office to buy a coffee at lunch?
          D) There is no good coffee for $3 or under - sure is where I live
          E) That I don't buy coffee (that I have budgeted for as a luxury that I am prepared to pay for) anyway
          F) That getting something for free isn't saving
          E) That being rude is an effective way of communicating
          G) That saving money gives you a superior moral position. Seriously, choose to save or not, but don't pretend it somehow makes you above reproach.

          Perhaps you should consider whether or not your own personal assumptions are truly universal.

          Last edited 10/02/13 1:14 pm

      The small amounts can add up quickly. Save $3 on 1 item each day = extra $1950 a year.

        There are only 365 days in a year [excluding leap years] on our planet, but nevertheless, welcome.

        You do not buy an app a day. Read my reply above, reread my original post. You could have even said "look after your pennies then the dollars will look after themselves". You failed to understand the original premise.

          Why are you so touchy about this? If self-denial hurts you so much that you have to be rude to other people when the subject comes up, perhaps you are one of those people who takes it too far. To use an idiom, perhaps you're "cutting off your nose to spite your face"

    If time spent * your overtime pay rate <= savings made then do it
    Else don't do it

    Reminds me of a guy I knew who'd go halves with his gf on little things like buying Maccas. Or when he sat in the car (with his gf who clearly wanted to go in, but she cracked it) for an hour while we were relaxing at the Peninsula Hot Springs, so that he could save $10 due to the price change for evening entry. Needless to say, she left him a week later...
    That's what I call too far.

    The point at which you are wiping your ass with leaves.

    Here is a perfect example of when being frugal becomes stupid...

      Looks povo yes, paint it black and hides the cheapness

      I just looked it up, mic stands are between $25-30. I'd be surprised if one could get all the pvc parts, pvc glue, paint etc for that amount of money

    It's enough just to not be frivolous or wasteful with money.

    And just because something is marked down (usually from a previously inflated price) doesn't necessarily make it a bargain. If you wouldn't have bought that item at full price then you've lost not saved money.

    I read in the news where some guy would recycle dental floss and save about $5 a year.

      Yes that's true. But did you see that he sold the exclusive rights to his story on how he saves money? So he didn't save $5, he also gained whatever they paid for the exclusive rights to his story (and those tabloid TV news shows usually pay $1000-$2000 for exclusive stories)

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