If you find yourself constantly looking for ways to save every single penny, you might be overlooking the bigger picture. Frugality, while an admirable trait, can lead you to make choices that might seem smart in the short term but actually cost more in the long term regarding finances, time and quality of life.
“Letting the concept of frugality take over life so you are neglecting the bigger picture for small savings can backfire,” said Allison Sanka, accredited financial counselor, financial coach and principal and founder of Journey Financial Wellness. “That immediate dopamine hit of saving a few cents that makes you feel like you’re making progress towards your financial goal — like paying off debt or saving — can actually cost more if you do the math.”
Driving Miles to Different Stores To Get Good Deals
Sanka said that while the savings you might gain by driving from store to store to save a few dollars on sale items versus shopping once a week at one store might seem like a good idea, it’s not. Instead, she said any savings will likely be wiped out when you figure in the cost of your time, gas and wear-and-tear on your vehicle.
Driving to Another Town To Save on Gas
Sanka also said that driving to the next town to save 10 cents a gallon on gas could be more costly than the savings. For example, if your car holds 15 gallons, and you need 14 gallons to fill it up, you’ll save $1.40. Arguably, that could add up to over $140 over the course of the year if you fill up a couple of times a week, but you also have to think about whether that savings is worth your time, gas expenditure to get there and back and the wear-and-tear on your car.
Totally Depriving Yourself of Something You Enjoy
“You will not get rich by not ever buying a $4 coffee and depriving yourself of something you enjoy from time to time,” Sanka said. “Again, it’s about balance; instead of coffee out every day, try buying coffee as a treat on Monday mornings to get you going for the workweek. Then you can look forward to it as a treat.”
Buying Stuff Only Because of the Low Price
Sanka said that focusing on the low cost of an item instead of the need is a mistake that’s not good for your finances. “I see people in the frugal community buying things simply because they’re 75% off or they have a coupon for it (sometimes a marketing tactic to get you to spend) even if it’s not a need,” she said. “If you spent $5 on something you don’t really need, you spent $5 too much.”
Buying Items in Bulk When You Don’t Really Need Them
If you’re a member of a wholesale shopping club like Sam’s Club or Costco, the savings you can reap by buying in bulk can be tempting. However, you should really consider whether it’s worth it.
Sanka posed the question: “Do you really need a case of toothpaste and will you use the 8 pounds of carrots before they spoil? Studies show you end up spending more money than you would if you just purchased the items as you need them.”
Changing Your Own Oil
Scott Lieberman, founder of Touchdown Money, said that changing your own auto oil is a great example of a frugal habit that doesn’t really benefit your finances. “It takes almost an hour, you have to dispose of the old oil and you could ruin your clothes — all to save a few bucks. Isn’t your time worth more than that?”
Doing Your Own Home Improvements
“Home improvement projects where families do it themselves to save money, if not done correctly, can end up costing much more than anticipated in fixing the mistakes that were made,” said Lawrence D. Sprung, CFP, founder and lead wealth advisor at Mitlin Financial. “There is a reason an expert costs more, and that is usually because they will get the job done well and, more importantly, right the first time. Typically, this will end up saving money for many.”
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