Too Frugal? 6 Principles for Keeping Frugality In Check

by Melody Warnick
Principles for Keeping Frugality In Check photo

Is your need to be frugal taking over your life? You might be taking it a bit too far. Here are six principles that can help you keep your frugality in check when your search for savings becomes a source of stress.

On Saturday mornings, I start to feel a familiar, twitching impatience.

It’s thrift store time. I may be feeding pancakes to the baby or throwing a load of clothes in the washer, but what I’m really itching to do is hop in the car and snag a good deal or two.

During those weekends I don’t make the rounds to the local thrift stores, I get a sinking feeling. What if I missed out on something really great?

Are You a Frugal Addict?

Leaving full-price retail behind can be an exhilarating experience for frugality neophytes like me. Seeing how much bang for my buck I can get at a yard sale or a fabulous clearance makes me rue my pre-tightwad days, when I thought that $30 for a pair of footed pajamas for my daughter was an absolute steal. (I’m now much happier with $8 pajamas from the local thrift store or, better yet, $3 pajamas from a garage sale.)

But my newfound tightwaddery has also pushed me to some rather ridiculous ends. I’ve driven fifteen miles to save five cents on canned pears. I’ve berated myself for buying ground beef a week after the sale ended. I’ve spent a whole weekend fretting over the $10 jeans I passed up at the thrift store. Even my husband notices how antsy I get to go out and shop the sales.

I call it frugality addiction. It’s when the pursuit of the bargain becomes the frugal person’s all-consuming passion. Although being frugal is meant to improve your quality of life (by saving money, encouraging resourcefulness, and invoking simple pleasures), the frugal addict can become nervous, drained, or irrational. Taken to an extreme, frugality can become a major source of stress, inner conflict, and guilt.

Sign Up for Savings

Subscribe to get money-saving content by email that can help you stretch your dollars further.

Twice each week, you'll receive articles and tips that can help you free up and keep more of your hard-earned money, even on the tightest of budgets.

We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

6 Principles for Keeping Frugality in Check

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Remembering the following six principles can help you put your frugality in perspective:

1. Think of the big picture.

So you missed the after-Thanksgiving sales because your mother-in-law extended her visit an extra day. So what?

Certain things are more important than getting a good bargain, and your family (even your in-laws) probably qualifies.

2. Remember that getting a fabulous deal on something you didn’t really need is still a waste of money.

Of course, when I bought that glass bowl at the yard sale, I thought I really needed it. What if I want to make a trifle one day?

But it’s been in storage in the nethermost regions of my kitchen cupboards for several months now. And I spent good money for that privilege.

3. Make a list of things you need or anticipate needing in the next few months, and watch for sales on those items.

If your tires are balding or your fifth-grader had a growth spurt, put those needs on the list. You can also keep a wish list of things you’ve been wanting, and if you see a fabulous sale, pounce.

But if it’s not on the list, don’t buy it, no matter what.

4. Find other things to do besides shop.

However much you enjoy spending all your free time chasing from store to store after sales, it may indicate a frugality addiction. And prowling the clearance racks at Target every week will only make you more likely to buy things you don’t need anyway.

5. Take baby steps.

Don’t get irritated with yourself because you bought mozzarella at full price when you know it was on sale just a few weeks ago.

If you’re making homemade pizza, you’re still saving money over what you would have paid in a restaurant. Congratulate yourself because you’re cooking from scratch.

6. Go cold turkey.

Some experts have recommended a No Spend Month. Allowing for necessities like perishable food and gasoline, commit not to buy anything extraneous for a whole month.

For the frugality-addicted person, buying nothing can be a lot harder than buying a lot of things very cheaply. But it also teaches restraint, and that the world won’t fall down around your ears if you miss the sale of the century.

Frugality should be life-enriching, not an extra source of stress or unhappiness. Over the past few months, I’ve struggled to find a happy medium. I still go to thrift stores a few times a month. I drop by a garage sale if I happen upon it.

But I’ve also decided that, for right now, I’m doing the best I can. I’ve learned to let go of my frugality failures. In the long run, my sense of well-being is far more important than a few dollars.

Reviewed February 2024

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This