When Frugality Goes Too Far

Some of us come by thriftiness naturally. Because of my depression era, midwestern relatives, I’m genetically programed to avoid waste at all cost. In college, while other students were buying extravagant items like milkshakes and cheeseburgers, I was preparing ramen noodles in my hot pot. (and feeling ever so resourceful)

For the last nearly four decades of my life, I have embraced adventurous frugality with humor and sometimes even a bit of moral superiority. During the decade that we drove my un-airconditioned car while holding frozen wash clothes in our armpits, my husband and I were proud of our sweaty sheen when we arrived at our destination. This was after hours of heat exhaustion interrupted only by squirts of ice water that we kept in a squirt bottle in the cup holder.

But does this frugality ever go too far? Yes! Let’s face it, ramen noodles have absolutely no nutritional value and riding for four hours in a car without air conditioning is exhausting (with or without the frozen wash clothes)  But beyond sacrificing health or comfort for financial savings, I’ve made other bad frugal choices as well.  Sometimes my creative money-saving efforts end up being more expensive. Sometimes I am blind-sided by low thrift store prices and buy more than we really need.  Most often I forget that it’s o.k. to be generous with myself now and then.

On the whole, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the natural tendency to save over the years. It’s given us freedom to spend more time with our children and make choices based on our values instead of our bills. Still, I’m glad to be drifting more towards the middle ground where the occasional splurge can actually be enjoyed!


  1. It has definitely taken me quite a few mistakes to learn to buy quality the first time rather than go cheap and have to buy again later! It takes time for us cheapskates to learn where it pays to spend more. And sometimes even after I learn it I forget in the throes of bargain-finding. Glad to hear I am not alone 🙂

  2. I definitely need to save more and learn that other things are investments, not just money. Clothes, furniture, toys that last for years save money in the long run.

  3. I’ve fallen into many a frugal trap myself. I have even done the car trip through the desert without air conditioning. The best part is acting all bad-ass when everyone is incredulous that you would resort to such tactics as traveling with ice packs on your belly rather than just get the A/C fixed.

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