How to Be a Frugal Success

Not-So-Frugal Mistakes that Frugal People Make

By Mike Peterson
In December 17, 2015

Not-So-Frugal Mistakes that Frugal People Make

A new year is just around the corner, and for a lot of folks that means a fresh start on finances: A chance to pay down credit card debt, save money, and create a budget. And if you’re planning on making 2016 the year of living frugally it’s important to make sure that your attempts to save money and scale back spending don’t backfire.

Because frugal living is about more than buying in bulk or always choosing the cheapest option.  Real frugality is about making good financial decisions that will help you save over the long haul.  This is something that a lot of frugal-lifestyle newcomers learn the hard way – and that’s why I’ve decided to share a few common “frugal living” mistakes.

Planning on tightening your budget?  Avoid these money missteps:

  1. Eating cheap junk. Yes, that 99-cent burger is cheap. And that 59-cent taco is even cheaper.  And while eating dirt-cheap junk food might save you a few dollars in the short term, it won’t do you any favors when it comes to your health.  Most fast food is high in salt, fat, and sugar.  Eat enough of it and you’re likely increasing your risk of future health problems, like diabetes or heart disease.  If you want to save money on food, there are lots of cheap, healthy options at the grocery store.  Bananas, peanut butter, oatmeal, beans, and rice are all inexpensive and good for you. A whole chicken is affordable and can provide several days’ worth of meals.

And when in doubt, “shop the perimeter”: Most grocery stores are laid out with the most affordable (and typically healthier) options like fresh fruits and veggies, fresh meat, and low-fat dairy on the outer shelves.  The more expensive and more processed convenience foods are on the inner shelves.

  1. Misusing coupons. I have mixed feelings about coupons.  On one hand, I think that coupons are great if you can get a discount on stuff you’re going to buy anyway.  For example, if you can get 50 cents off your favorite brand of cereal, it’s a win-win. You save a little money on something you were going to buy anyway.  But on the other hand, if you’re buying things that you don’t need or wouldn’t buy anyway just because you have a coupon, you’re not actually saving any money. And if you’re spending entire afternoons driving all over town to five different stores in some kind of “extreme couponing” scheme?  You’re really going too far.  Chances are, the savings aren’t worth the time and gas money.
  1. Always buying the cheapest item. When you’re trying to save money, it’s tempting to make every purchasing decision based on price alone. In some cases, this works out fine.  For example, buying store-brand paper towels instead of the pricier national brand will save you a little cash – and unless you’re very particular about paper towels you probably won’t notice a difference.

But when it comes to less-disposable items – think shoes and other clothing items, small appliances, electronics and the like – it pays to look beyond the price tag.  Consider price, of course, but also look at things like quality and features.  In some cases, the low price may indicate a lower-quality item that will need to be replaced more often than a slightly pricier one.

  1. Doing repairs yourself. When you need work done on your home or your car, it’s tempting to try and go the DIY route: After all, why pay someone a ton of money when you can simply buy the parts and/or tools for the job and do it yourself?

Well, here’s why:  Unless you have the experience and knowhow needed to do the repair, it’s likely that you’ll make a mistake that can make the problem worse.  And when that happens, you’re out the time and money you spent trying to do it yourself, and you’ll still have to call in a pro to undo the damage. Save yourself the time, money, and frustration and get it done right the first time.

  1. Not doing repairs at all. The only thing worse than attempting a misguided DIY repair project is simply ignoring the issue because you don’t want to spend the money to get repair work done.  Repairs aren’t cheap – but the earlier you take care of the problem, the less damage there is to undo.  And that’s the more frugal choice in the long run.
  1. Overdoing bulk purchases. A lot of folks believe that frugal living equals buying everything in bulk from one of those members-only, warehouse-style discount stores. And, there’s a lot to be said for bulk buying, especially when it comes to paper products and personal care items:  That industrial supply of toilet paper or extra-large bottle of shampoo is more cost-effective and will last longer than its grocery store counterpart.

But supersized food items are another story: Can your family eat an entire pallet of strawberries before they go bad?  Do you need ten gallons of mayonnaise?  If you end up throwing away large portions of food because you couldn’t use them by the expiration date, you’re not saving.

  1. Not budgeting for fun. Frugal living is all about making wise financial choices – it’s not about depriving yourself.  Most budgets get derailed when people feel too restricted:  And if your new frugal lifestyle means you can’t treat yourself to a movie or a nice dinner once a month, it’s not going to work in the long term.  Make sure you allow yourself a little wiggle room for frugal fun.

mike-peterson-250And remember: if you need financial advice or have questions about spending, saving, frugal living, or credit cards, you can always reach out to Debt Guru.   Contact the Debt Guru team today for a free debt consultation.

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.