I like to save in some areas of my life so I can splurge on others.
For example, as an entrepreneur with a limited amount of time, it surprises some of my friends that I take care of our landscaping duties. We have a sizable yard, probably around an acre, and with a riding mower it takes about an hour or so to mow the lawn. We haven’t hired a landscaping company to do that, because I enjoy it. I don’t mind putting on my favorite podcast and just riding the mower.
One nice side benefit is that lawn care companies aren’t cheap. I’d rather save that money, so we can spend it on something extra special and financially guilt-free when we’re on vacation.
A lot of areas in life are about trade-offs. Save here, spend there, and the budget is forever in balance.
Sometimes your comfort, your health, or your long-term happiness takes precedence over saving a few dollars today.
But there are some frugal moves that just aren’t worth it.
Below are 6 frugal financial moves that I believe aren’t worth it. This may not be the case for everyone, but hear me out and see if I can sway you!
1. Scouring “deal sites”
When deal sites first appeared, I’d check them every day. I had a list of items that we needed but didn’t need immediately. If I saw a deal for one of those items, I’d buy it and be confident that I’d saved us some money.
But a funny thing happens when you visit deal sites all the time. You start seeing things you don’t need —but at 40% off, it seems like a bargain. And it’s hard to resist a good bargain on something you want, even if you don’t need it.
The problem is that you end up buying things you wouldn’t otherwise buy. I’d buy discounted vouchers for restaurants we liked but didn’t love. Then we’d scramble to go before the voucher expired!
We once bought a voucher for an Indian restaurant that we liked but visited maybe once a quarter. We completely forgot about it and by the time we remembered, the voucher was only worth what we paid for it. It was a deal where we got a $40 voucher for $20, but since it had expired, it was only worth the original $20.
A deal is only a deal if you truly needed it before you saw the discount!
2. Buying “cheap” furniture
When I was in college, everything was second-hand. Couches, desks, and (I shudder even as I write this) mattresses.
And buying cheap furniture is great for a college dorm room or your first apartment, because after a few years, you can dispose of it or pass it on.
But, eventually, you’ll need to replace it, because cheap furniture isn’t made to last. I had a saying that unless it had no moving parts, a certain Scandinavian brand’s furniture could survive only one move. No matter how careful you were, a chest of drawers would start coming apart if you moved it more than once!
And when it fails, it means you’ll spend money on furniture again. Not to mention the time and energy it takes to buy it, move it, dispose of the previous one, and more.
When you finally get settled, invest in quality furniture that can last years. Ideally, it would be made of real wood, because it’ll last longer and save you time and hassle in the long run. No one is suggesting you spend thousands at a high-end store, though. There are many surprisingly affordable options available online as well as through secondhand sources.
3. Not minding your health
There’s no doubt healthcare is extremely expensive in the United States. In fact, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average amount the U.S. population spent on their healthcare in 2017 is $3.5 trillion or just under $11,000 per person.
So, it’s no wonder that many adults will ignore an ache or pain to avoid an expensive hospital or surgery bill.
Also, getting proper mental health care can be expensive, and many insurance providers do not adequately cover mental health services. For that reason, many people avoid getting the mental health care they need because of the cost.
Still, it’s important not to cut costs here. Don’t let your frugality supersede your health. Taking care of yourself now can prevent much more expensive healthcare costs in the future. Plus, there are numerous ways to negotiate and lower your health care bills. Talk to your hospital about a payment plan and specifically seek out mental health professionals who offer a sliding payment scale based on income.
4. Extreme couponing
Extreme couponing is a bit of a sport for some people, so much so that there were TV shows about it. And, while it’s a good idea to use a coupon when it’s readily available and simple to use, spending hours on a couponing strategy could be detrimental to your long-term financial success.
For example, instead of spending 20 hours cutting coupons, planning a grocery trip, and shopping, you could instead use that time to pursue a side hustle. You could start your own business or drive for a rideshare company. Long term, you could make far more money from this type of side income than you could ever save with a stack of coupons. That’s money you could use to pay down debt or invest in a retirement account. So, although couponing is great and saves money now, you have to think about the value of your time and how you can use it to better your future.
The tricky part about extreme couponing is that it feels like you’re saving a lot of money because you’re putting in so much effort. If you spend a lot of time and can point to savings, the brain reinforces the idea that all that time was well spent. But oftentimes it’s not, and you would be much better off spending it doing something else.
5. Always flying discount airlines
Competition for airline passengers is at an all-time high, which means plane ticket prices seem to get lower and lower. But just because you can fly to Atlanta for $30 next week on a budget airline doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Traveling is not just about the destination but about the journey to get there, too. If you save and take the time to book slightly nicer seats on a more reliable airline, you may have a much better vacation experience.
This past summer, we took a long trip to Europe, flying on an airline we normally don’t use because we had the points. The last leg of the flight involved a discount European airline, and while we had a good experience, there was a stark difference between the first leg and the second.
Our friends, who lived in England, flew the same airline for their flights and had a horrible experience. Due to high winds at our destination, their plane flew with only half the passengers and none of their luggage. But the airline didn’t tell them the luggage was remaining in London! They flew, with their two kids (one of which was an infant), with only their carry-on! They didn’t get their luggage for an entire week because of the odd circumstances.
Some discount airlines are running on such razor-thin margins that they have to resort to those tactics to keep their business operating. They’ll also have unclear fee structures, like fees for snacks and meals, checked luggage, and others.
While we’re discussing travel, consider paying extra for services like Clear or TSA PreCheck. If you travel often, they can save you hours in security lines and make airline travel a much smoother, more pleasant process. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on stress.
6. DIY home repairs
Some people are amazing at DIY tasks, and there are others who should probably leave it to the professionals.
Shows like HGTV make home repairs seem simple and straightforward but most of them are not. While just about everyone can replace a lightbulb, not everyone should be remodeling their entire bathroom on their own.
People who believe in extreme frugality might go through great lengths to do as many home renovations as they can by themselves. And, while that’s admirable, you will still have extensive costs, like multiple trips to the home improvement store, not to mention the time it takes to complete the project.
Plus, there’s a serious risk with some of the bigger DIY jobs that you could make a mistake, costing yourself thousands of dollars in repairs by a professional anyway. So, unless you grew up learning about construction, plumbing, and electrical work, it’s best to pay someone else to do your repairs and renovations.
My rule of thumb is that if the job requires you to be a licensed, bonded, and insured professional, I avoid doing it myself. This list includes, but is not limited to, water and gas plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and hazardous waste remediation. And within that list, there are varying degrees of danger and difficulty. For example, I’ve replaced plenty of failed electrical outlets, but I would never rewire anything!
Being frugal is an admirable trait. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save your hard-earned money. However, some people take it to extreme. So, what’s important to remember is that your time on this Earth is valuable. It’s the one thing you can’t buy more of no matter how much money you have.
So, instead of spending hours and hours clipping coupons, why not spend time with your family and friends or invest your time in a side business? Instead of suffering on crowded flights, why not save for a few more months and pay for better seats? Instead of filling your house with cheap furniture that will chip or break soon, why not buy quality pieces that will last for decades?
No one is saying that you shouldn’t save when you can or buy things on sale. However, it’s important to rethink how you save and how you spend. Are you going too far? Would you like more of your time back? If so, consider nixing some of the frugal habits you have in your life in favor of financial choices that bring you more long-term joy.
To continue your savings goals, go to ally.com. For more on how to manage your money, visit WalletHacks.com.
Jim Wang is the founder of personal finance blog Wallet Hacks. He uses his engineering background to demystify complicated financial topics to help you achieve your goals. Jim has been featured in The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur magazine, and more. He lives in Maryland with his lovely wife and three children.
Comment on this article
gofi on January 8, 2020 at 10:30am
a few I find funny - driving miles to get a few cents off your gas, using your expensive car/suv for uber $.
Ally on January 15, 2020 at 3:33pm
These are great additions! Thanks for reading. 😊