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Friday, March 25, 2011

Frugality- Can It Go Too Far?

To say that I am very frugal would be a gross understatement. I live in the smallest apartment with a family my size of anyone I know to keep our rent costs very low. My grocery bills are a fraction of those of even the frugal people I know. I spend virtually nothing on entertainment, transportation, or any thing not 100% necessary. I am the most frugal person I know... and I'm always looking to be even more frugal, always looking for more ways to cut expenses even more.
Recently a friend of mine was wondering if she was too obsessed with frugality, and if she was going overboard. She said that they had extra money, built up a decent savings, but still was always looking for more ways to make money so that they could put more and more into savings each month. Just in case.
Last time I was in the grocery store, I was eying something on the shelf, wondering if I should get it. Our grocery bills have been insanely low, we have a nice cushion in the bank, why on earth not get that thing, even if it is a little more expensive than I would like. Of course, a little internal debate ensued. Should I spend that money, or should I continue looking for more and more ways to save money?

Which brings up the heady question. Frugality- can it go too far?

Let me get right to the point.
Can frugality go too far? Yes.
Is it likely to be the case? In most situations, no.

Let me elaborate.
Frugality is not "going too far" if---
You're currently not making it through the month. You gotta do what you gotta do, even go to seemingly ridiculous extremes, until you're spending less money than you're making each month.

There's no concept of "too frugal" if---
You're currently living off of charity or government assistance. If you're relying on outsiders, be it organizations, family's assistance, or social services to be able to keep afloat financially, looking to save money where ever you can so you can make it without the help is not "too frugal".

There's no such thing as "being too thrifty" if---
You owe anyone or any company money. If you're sitting on money that doesn't belong to you, if you are in debt of any kind, it's not being "too frugal" to try to save more money with which to pay off that debt.

There's no such thing as "doing too many frugal measures" if---
You have dreams that you would like to fulfill but can't because of lack of money.

There's no way you've "gone too frugal" if---
You haven't saved up enough money to pay for future expenses in full. You never know when your monetary situation will change- you can both become jobless or ill or have large expenses that will eat up your money so you won't be able to save money at the rate you're saving now. Don't say "Well, if I keep saving x per month I'll be able to afford y in z many years" because you can't count on your money situation being the same...


So, when can frugality go too far?

Well, if any of the first three situations apply, there's no way on earth you're "too frugal". Frugality is first and foremost a means of making it financially on your own and not owing anyone money. So long as your frugality is helping you do that, you haven't gone overboard.

But, so long as the first 3 don't apply, there are other things to consider.

Frugality is going too far if---
It's ruining your life and you are miserable because of it. You only get to live one life; live that life as enjoyably as you can afford, so you don't have regrets at the end of your life.

Frugality is going too far if---
It's at the expense of your health. Doing things that harm your body just so you can save money is not worth it. Health is paramount.

Frugality is going too far if---
Frugality becomes the end itself instead of the means to an end.

Frugality is going too far if---
You dream about doing/purchasing something, and have more than enough money to pay for it, but won't fulfill your dream because it's "not frugal enough".

For myself- I may have a cushion in my bank account now. I may have a baby emergency fund plus a hills  and valleys savings account (to act as a cushion for variable income months). But I also have debt. I also don't own a house and would like to be able to save up money for a down payment one day.
So, even though we're not living hand to mouth at the moment, even though I'm not worried about having enough money to cover the bills, I'm definitely not "too frugal".  I realize that whatever money I spend on being less than "extremely frugal" is money that we're going to pay interest on from our debt. I want to own a house one day- whatever money I spend on frivolities now is money that is not going towards saving up for a down payment for that home.
I'm definitely not "too frugal" and it can always help for me to find even more ways to save money.

What do you think? Can frugality go too far? When is frugality going too far and when is it not? Do you agree with my list? 

1 comment:

  1. So say we all! I think the criticism that something is "too frugal" is really just another person feeling uncomfortable with our dedication and determination; if we question ourselves then maybe we need to review our goals (keeping them fresh in my mind is important to me) and also check to see if any feelings of deprivation are real or outwardly derived from the community/culture.

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