17 Signs that Frugality Has Gone Too Far

Frugal living is a smart choice. However, like all things, frugality can be taken to the extreme. The following seventeen signs may be a sign that you will want to reassess your reasons for being frugal.

  1. You spend many, many hours a week on frugality. Whether it’s clipping coupons or re-working your household budget, frugality takes time. If you’re spending more time on being frugal than enjoying your family, you may want to re-evaluate the situation. Remember that your time is worth money! If you feel too busy and don’t have time to do the things that you want to do in life, you may be spending too much time on living frugally.
  2. You go without things that you need. Frugal living isn’t meant to make your life uncomfortable. If you don’t have what you need, you’ve gone beyond just being frugal.
  3. You feel isolated. When frugal choices prevent you from living a social, active life, something has gone wrong. Learn more about frugality and isolation.
  4. You hoard items just because you get a good deal on them. This isn’t being frugal. It’s not a good deal if you buy something that you don’t need and won’t use. Nobody needs five hundred toothbrushes, even if they do cost only a penny each.
  5. You can’t let things go because you might need them someday. This is another example of how frugality can be related to hoarding. You think that you’re being frugal by saving money on some future item that you may or may not need, but what you’re really doing is cluttering up your life today.
  6. You hate being frugal but feel like you have to. If you resent the activities that you’re engaging in to be frugal, you’re not living a high quality of life. Consider making other frugal choices that you do enjoy. There are many different ways to be frugal; it should be something that you enjoy doing.
  7. You compromise your safety. Choosing to eat expired foods without knowing if they’re safe because you don’t want the money to be wasted is an example of dangerous frugality.
  8. You are in competition with others about how frugal you can be. Although it’s nice to compare notes and tips on frugality, you shouldn’t feel like you have to one-up the people that you know by saving more than they do. Frugal living can be community-minded and based on sharing. (Check out the concept of collaborative consumption.)
  9. You never treat yourself to something indulgent. It’s important to spoil ourselves now and then. You shouldn’t constantly go without because you want to be frugal. Of course, your indulgences should be few and far between and worked into a smart budget, but they should definitely still be a part of your life.
  10. People frequently tell you that you’re being stingy. Others sometimes have a better grasp than we do on when our good habits have gotten out of control and have become bad habits!
  11. You compromise your values and ethics just to save a buck. Is that really how you want to live?
  12. You ask people for more than you give them. For example, you host a potluck party but don’t contribute a dish of your own, or you invite someone on a date and expect them to pay.
  13. Your home lacks really basic items. For example, you don’t have a bed because you sold it and sleep on the floor to save money. If your home doesn’t have the basic things that most homes have, you’ve gone too far with being frugal. If you no longer have a home, things are really out of control!
  14. It stresses you out to spend money. If even making normal payments causes you stress, you may have a problem.
  15. You’d rather save money than earn money. An income is crucial if you’re going to have financial stability. If you’re spending valuable time saving money when you could be using that time to earn money, things may be out of control.
  16. Money is all that you talk about. If you can’t have conversations about other interests in life, it’s possible that frugality has become an obsession instead of just a tool to improve your life.
  17. You don’t think there’s such a thing as being “too frugal”. Clearly, you no longer know what the line is and that means that you’ve probably crossed it.

If you notice these signs in your own life, stop and ask yourself whether or not your frugal choices are allowing you to live the life that you truly want to lead. There are many different options for living frugally, and you should choose the ones that enhance your life rather than taking away from it.

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Comments

  1. says

    I totally agree that balance is the key. #6 is particularly troublesome (you hate being frugal). If that’s really the way you feel then you’ve really taken yourself down an unsustainable path and an explosive spending binge could occur at any time, thus defeating weeks or perhaps even months of grinding frugality.

  2. says

    Is that like the people who separate their two-ply toilet paper into two rolls or the man who uses alcohol to remove the stamps from his mail to reuse them on a reply letter? ;)

    • amylynn says

      Uh, the first one is pointless and the second one is illegal, so I would say yes, if you’re doing that you’ve gone too far.

  3. says

    Frugality is the balance between trying to spend less and trying to get more quantity or better quality, as well as allocating money towards more important things and away from less important ones . Its definitely not being cheap, like many people confuse it with.

  4. says

    people actually separate two-ply toilet paper? how long would it take one to do that? Ever heard of time value of money.. ;P

  5. says

    16 really resonates with me (all you talk about is money). Sometimes I feel that that’s all I can come up with as a topic of conversation.

  6. Andy says

    In this economy, if you have a job, that’s it – the other ways of making income are few (and most likely illegal)…I was told this by professors at San Diego State University once: “The best way to increase income, is to reduce costs.” – Increasing income in this economy is damn near impossible *(you can’t ask for more money, albeit other businesses can increase their costs to you because they are corrupt – gotta love hypocrasy), but YOU have full control on how much money is going out (your costs). The ultimate goal for YOUR success: Increase income to INFINITY, reduce expenses to ZERO or LESS <= That is your ultimate goal…if you can do that (or close to that), then you WILL BE RICH and will survive ANY RECESSION OR DEPRESSION – GURANTEED! – USE ANY METHOD NESSESSARY TO ACCOMPLISH THAT GOAL!

  7. says

    Oh yes, I know all about this. I’m married to someone who tends to go too far with saving money. He comes from a family that is even worse. He has gotten better, but confesses (now) that in the beginning of our relationship he was secretly freaking out over the fact that I bought bread and milk at the grocery store. As a bachelor, he had been living on $26 per MONTH in groceries, slept on the floor, bought his clothes from Goodwill and rented out every room in his house to a roommate — including the dining room. (On the plus side, his house was paid off, he had no debt, and he had tons of money in the bank.)

    Now he will even buy rounds of Brie, so there’s hope for everyone!

  8. Jack says

    The only one I partly disagree with is #7, and only because some who don’t bother to follow the link might think they shouldn’t eat anything that’s gone past an arbitrary “expiration date”, which in many cases is really only a “sell-by” date. There are plenty of other articles that will tell you how to know if food has truly gone bad, although your sight and your sense of smell are often the best indicators.

    I think that to some degree, manufacturers have started to capitalize on the manufactured fear of using things past an expiration date and have started to put expiration dates on many items where it’s completely ridiculous to do so. The other day I saw an expiration date on a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Seriously? If alcohol expires, maybe folks should throw out all those vintage wines!

    The one I truly agree with is #1. A long time ago some woman gave my wife an I a long lecture on how much money could be saved by using coupons. So we started clipping every coupon we could find and in a very short time I grew to hate it, because most of the coupons were for products we didn’t use (and didn’t want to use) and many weren’t even available in the local stores. Plus, it invariably happened that when an item went on sale, you never had the coupon with you. So I grew to detest clipping coupons, and then using coupons, and today if I see a coupon on a product I’ll go out of my way to avoid buying it because I don’t want to clip the coupon but I don’t want to feel like I could have saved money but didn’t, so I’ll just buy a competitor’s brand instead (even if I pay more, I feel better about the purchase!). I will also note that excessive use of coupons can be direct or indirect causes of several of the other points on the list (numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, and 11, to be specific – I mention 11 because many times couponers find ways to use more coupons than they are technically supposed to).

    However, I do have a final thought. Please don’t think that everyone who chooses to live a simple, non-indulgent life might be suffering a psychological problem (as the Consumerist article that brought me here sort of implied). Particularly as people get older and as the economy gets worse, people may get some satisfaction out of making do with what they have rather than indulging in the type of spending they might have done when times were better. And also, people may choose to live simply for religious or spiritual reasons that are none of anyone else’s business. On the other hand, if almost everything on the checklist applies, that might be an indication that things have gotten out of hand for you. So thanks for the article, because I think it really does help you think about whether you’re going too far.

  9. J.S. says

    “For example, you don’t have a bed because you sold it and sleep on the floor to save money.”

    Can anyone else tell me whats wrong with that sentence……

  10. says

    This is an awesome post and really relevant to my readers. I am definitely going to link to it my weekly links post!

    I have to say I can identify with a few things on this list … but when they start happening I usually realize pretty quickly that I’ve gone too far and cut back. It also helps that I go to great lengths to save money so I have more money to spend on what matters to me and my family. I think it balances out in the end, but adjustments do always need to be made!

  11. selena says

    i definitely recognize some of the stuff on this list. luckily my friends saved me before i went completely overboard.

    as for separating 2-ply toilet paper:
    -you need a certain amount of paper anyway, so you’ll just end up using twice the length you’s otherwise have used
    -you can buy up to 10 rolls of top-quality paper for 4 euro’s (and less if you’re skipping on quality) in discount-stores.

  12. charger says

    I don’t care what anyone says… I refuse to spend more money than I need to on something I wipe my &%$ with. That toilet paper tip is good and I am going to begin using it.

    Thanks :D

  13. says

    In these difficult times, for many of us, frugality is not really an option, it’s a necessity. However, that said, it is possible to take things to the extreme, liking eating expired foods – that’s a ridiculous notion. However, if you can’t splurge or go out to dinner or treat yourself until you get back on your financial feet, well then so be it. We all had a great time getting ourselves into debt in the first place (job loss or medical reasons, please excuse)…so if it’s time to buckle down now, just think about how great it will be when we’re out of debt and living off cash and still managing to have a good time.

  14. says

    There is no one-size-fits-all budget that works for every person and every situation. Stick to what is reasonable for your situation and make incremental improvements to your savings plan or you will be miserable.

  15. says

    #3 was something I lived and struggled with for months and months on end, but not just because I was wanting to be frugal.

    What’s one massive, huge, gigantic, almost mandatory thing people do as a form of entertainment and socializing?

    They eat and drink.

    Whether it’s while watching a game, going to a movie, going out to restaurants (obviously), or heading to the bar, there is almost always some kind of food involved.

    Not only does all this food cost money, but it’s kind of counter-productive if you’re trying to be frugal AND obtain a 6-pack set of abs.

    So intent was I on these goals that I basically ended up isolating myself without even knowing it. I just got used to it.

    Luckily I’ve recently had this brought to my attention, and I’m once again a socialized member of society, working on balancing my goals and life.

  16. says

    Living simple is a challenge when your family is not on board with consuming less and strategies for reducing debt. What are some tips on getting buy in from family members on frugal living?

  17. says

    This article is spot on. I could cross most of these frugal points off my list, except that I’ve sold post of my possessions rather than hoarded them. Like so many others who frequent Coinstar on rent night, I can attest that the frugal life will make you feel rich in some aspects and very, very poor in others. Keeping a positive, sensible attitude and taking advantage of life’s bargain bin of opportunities is the best way to keep your sanity, and friends. Go outside and explore or stay inside and create. To be rich in mind, we have to recognize that our time is priceless. There’s no greater waste than spending all of our time worrying about money.

  18. amylynn says

    My short-test for “has your frugality gone too far” is the question “Are you making yourself and/or the people around you miserable with your ‘frugality’?” (The question above assumes that you are not in a dire economic straights.)

    As for #7, I think we need to differential between “expired” and “past the sale-by date”. I volunteered at a food pantry for a while and stores would donate food past the sale-by day. While we always had to check, but 90% of the food was fine to eat, if maybe a little stale. (Canned tomatoes were the worst to go bad, but it was easy enough to tell that it had.)

    I do have a minor quibble with #12. I’ve been to many different kinds of potlucks and for some of them the rule was that the hosts would not provide a dish. The idea was that hosting us in their house was their contribution. But yeah, in general, frugality is not a valid reason to ignore basic etiquette and social rules.

    Coupons are primarily about getting you to buy a certain brand. They’re marketing and in my experience rarely worth the bother.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 17 signs that frugality has gone too far. Surprisingly, neither writing off your prostitution habit as a tax deduction, nor consulting leprechauns for financial advice are on this list. Here's one sign that made the cut: You hoard items just because you get a good deal on them. This isn't being frugal. It's not a good deal if you buy something that you don't need and won't use. Nobody needs five hundred toothbrushes, even if they do cost only a penny each. [...]

  2. [...] of the tenets of associated with many of those interested in frugality is that you must save money at all costs. The idea of cutting costs and saving money is paramount, and that means that many will do whatever [...]

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