8 Frugal Ideas I Hate

frugal-ideas-i-hate-laptopI know I talk a lot on here about saving money. Yes, part of that is being “frugal,” but I honestly hate that term. It’s not sexy (and never will be), and a lot of people associate it with being cheap. I know “frugal” doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap,” and I’m not interested in turning this post into a debate on the difference. While I would consider myself to be a frugal person, there are some frugal things that I think suck and I refuse to do them.  Here’s my top 8:

1. Excessively reusing things. This post about frugal food storage made me sick to my stomach. I get what the author is saying here, but I don’t think this has much significance in terms of where you’re really saving money. I think it’s simply a waste of time to spend so much time thinking about Tupperware (just like it was a waste of time for me to read that post to begin with).  My Tupperware strategy is simple: I spend maybe $10 a year on resuable containers that are durable, clean, and suit just about all my needs.  End of Tupperware discussion. Apply the same logic to reusing other things and decide if it’s really worth it.
2. Clipping coupons. While I have to admit that I haven’t extensively investigated what I could actually save with coupons, I’m not really interested. First off, I have no desire to search websites or newspapers for coupons and printing them out and all that.  Secondly, I like to eat whatever I want.  Being a pescaterian, I’m a bit of a picky eater.  I’m also a bit of a health nut, so I’m simply not willing to compromise on what I eat just to save a buck.

3. Buying in bulk.  This is one tip that I hear all the time and have tried using, but I’ve never been satisfied with the results.  I’ve always wasted more food than gained in savings, negating the whole purpose of this strategy.  Aside from eating at that food in time, where the hell am I supposed to store it all? I just find buying in bulk to be more of a hassle than the effort it’s worth.

4. Sacrificing on things I love.  When I truly love something, I’m going to buy it.  I love a great craft beer (just like some enjoy fine wines).  I know if I wanted just any beer, I could drink PBR for a fraction of the price of my local microbrewed goodness.  But I don’t just like drinking beer, I like drinking the best.  Instead of spending $5 on a six-pack of PRB, I’m going to drop $11 on Abito Turbodog or Shipyard Export til the day I die.

5. DIY projects just to save money.  I really enjoy Instructables.  There are many creative ideas to DIY just about anything you can think of.  While I think DIY is great when it’s something fun or rewarding, I’m not going to make things just to save a few dollars. I built this laptop stand myself.  Since I didn’t have the materials handy, I had to go out and by them.  Two hours and $12 later, I had myself a flimsy stand for my laptop. Fail! Maybe I just suck at DIY sometimes, but I’m pretty sure I could’ve just bought this stand online and saved myself a a bunch of effort.

6. Always choosing the cheapest possible option. Simply put, I think you often get what you pay for. I’ve bought cookie sheets for $1 before.  While they worked, the poor quality was evident and I had to replace them soon after. I’m not saying the fanciest and most expensive options are best either (I think the quality is often overstated compared to the price) Choosing the best value, which is often in the middle of the price spectrum, makes the most sense.  You can get decent quality and reliability, and you may save money in the long run with this plan.

7. Cutting back on vacations. If there’s a place I went to spend my money, it’s on a trip in an exotic location. This is why I save money to begin with: so I can enjoy spending it!  Vacationing in Spain, I was glad to pay to taste new foods and visit different sites. I don’t enjoy tourist-trap money pit-type things, but I’ll pay for any experience that’s worthwhile.

8. Saving like crazy instead of earning more.  You can only cut back so much before your quality of life really begins to suck.  I could save a lot by not owning a car, never going out to bars, and never traveling, but what’s the point of living if that’s the case? Instead of focusing on always cutting back, put your energy into increasing cash flow.

Bonus: Tracking my spending. Yes, I know that I’m promoting it over here.  But it’s something I find annoying, at least in the current form that I’m doing it (maybe I need to give Mint another shot). Despite my disdain, I’ll keep tracking since I know it’s important to keep my finances in check.

What you and I really need is to go for the big wins – decisions and behavior changes that impact big chunks of money over our lifetime (like Ramit points out in this post about frugality). More on that in this post about “big wins.”

Are there some frugal ideas out there that you hate, too? Let everyone know in the comments.

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photo by: jazzgumpy (with text added by me)


  1.  #1 and #5 are my pet peeves too.  Some things are best left to be thrown away, and rarely do you get a really good time-to-savings balance in DIY projects.  

    If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that trying to make more money is usually a better expenditure of time than trying to save money.  

  2. Buying in bulk works for families but I can see how it would be tough for single people.  we buy in bulk and had to transform the hall closet into a second pantry.  But we use it.

    •  That’s true. I believe it can work for others, it just doesn’t work for me aline.  Someone also recommended that I could split stuff with friends instead of storing so much, so I could see myself trying that out.

  3. Honestly, I hate leftovers. Yeah, I know, it’s is a good way
    to save a bit of money, but it hardly ever tastes as good as it did on day one.
    It’s kind of like a slap in the face too, taunting you with how good it was
    just one day before, while now it’s a cold, slimy mess that slides out of some Tupperware
    bowl, plops on your plate, and has to be nuked to be edible.

    •  Interesting, Ross. I actually love leftovers, so maybe we can work something out 🙂

      But I see your point, and I’d much rather spend less on my meal to begin with than get a huge portion and be forced to take some leftovers.

  4. Also,  I can relate to #4. I’ll go out of my way to buy a Starbucks cup of coffee when I could make perfectly good coffee at home. I can’t even really taste all that much of a difference, I just enjoy getting coffee from Starbucks, simply because it’s Starbucks.

    Hmmm, I wonder if it’s wrong to like something simply because of it’s branding…

  5.  That’s a good tip. I do that, too, but I try to avoid spending more than 5 minutes looking for a coupon code.  It does pay off greatly when you find one.

  6. Quality pays for itself in the long-run. I with you there Jeff. Bulk buying doesn’t work for us either. My kids burn through paper towels especially, for some reason. Maybe they know we have 8 more rolls in storage? 

  7.  I love buying stuff in bulb because it makes you feel that you are saving a ton of money

  8. Good job on this article…I like going against the grain.  People do cut back on vacations too much…people waste too much time coupon clipping…and too many unqualified people get in the DIY thing and end up screwing up the project and paying more in the end. 

  9. Haha, this was actually kind of funny.  I just wanted to add that some people go to the extremes because it gives them some kind of high. 

    My elderly aunt will save aluminum foil, rinse plastic sandwhich bags and more. She’s not poor, she’s got  plenty of money. she loves telling everyone how she saved 15 cents here and reused this there. It’s got to be psychological.  I value my time more than saving a few pennies.  If i’m going to save 20 bucks by clipping a coupon i’ll do it. But not for 15 cents. It takes too long to do that. 

  10. I don’t do coupons either.  We are all about eating as healthy as possible most of the time.  Not that many coupons are for healthy items.  We do put money into travel, seeing what we want to see,  cutting costs where it doesn’t matter much to us.  I do like to DIY and am a big fan of Instructables mainly because I like the challenge.  I keep learning new skills & am so pleased when things turn out well.  I guess whatever floats your boat!  

    • I noticed that there’s hardly any coupons for healthy foods, which is really
      disappointing. I guess all the profits are made on cheap, processed foods.
      No thanks!

      I actually like DIY, too, but I’ve learned it has to be something I enjoy
      doing. I’ve attempted several projects that I’ve never actually finished,
      and that’s just a waste to me.

  11. ouch! this one hits hard. i’m quite guilty of all of these so i feel the need to purge right here right now. maybe it will help. hope you don’t mind me cluttering up your comment section. i give you the right to tease… 

    1) this one is pretty limited to ziplock bags, but this arises from an environmental standpoint more than a frugality one so i’ll let myself off the hook
    2) i think the trick here is to not let the coupons act as advertisements for the company offering them. there are some expensive everyday products that i consider must-haves (nivea men’s face scrub and starbucks ice cream at the top of the list) so i get really excited when i find a coupon for an item on my must-have list.
    3) for non-perishable or frozen items i am severely guilty of this. hmmm, try going through the checkout line with 15 boxes of q-tips (the store’s entire stock). hey they were 50% off!!!
    4) sometimes guilty sometimes not. i could NEVER drink nasty alcohol so i am completely with you on that one. but i have wanted the rosetta stone language program for YEARS but cannot bring myself to shell out almost $500 even though i can afford it.
    5) i’m looking up right now at my living room ceiling that is about 1/8 painted from A YEAR AGO. i’ll say no more!
    6) this is probably the one i need the most work on. guilty nearly 100% of the time. sometimes content but other times disappointed with the results.
    7) yep, do this one too, however i always seem to have a great time on vacations, so the verdict is still out.
    8) i’ve budgeted til i’m blue in the face and there is no way to save anymore than i already do, so it is inevitable that i must increase income, which i have been looking into entrepreneurial investment options so i’m actively working on this one.
    bonus) guilty all through 2010 so my new year’s resolution was to lighten up on the tracking and budgeting…

    i thoroughly enjoy your site, and this article! looking forward to reading more (and i promise my comments won’t be so long next time) 

  12. The poor pay twice; the cheap won’t pay at all.

  13. TheCuttingBackWife says

    Thank you so much! I HAAAATE the term “frugal” as well.. It sounds like a “fragile Scroogey type of person” to me. However, I do understand why the rich get richer and the poor and middle class are just more worse off as time goes by “working HARD” into an early grave… My husband has always been EXTREMELY conservative with money. He counts every penny they goes of and researches where it goes as well. He only thing is, i feel he can NEVER really “get it,” that you can’t just keep “cutting back” without increasing your income at the same time. He’s 38, we have 4 children and he makes about 11.75 per hour. I also work 30 hours a week make more than him per hour. He just never even tries for a higher paying job. He always has the wide eyed ideas about how we can save more money by cutting back to beans and rice for a few months (he’s also a vegetarian and adamant about how redicilous meat costs are, and how it’s not a necissity…blah, blah, blaaah!) I put my foot down and finally said, “No, of we’re going to stay married, then meat IS a necessity to myself and our children and we WILL buy it!!! I WILL NOT “””EVER””” be a vegetarian like he wants. I actually tried it when I read some bs book about vegetarianism being healthy, but that’s another story for another day. I developed health problems and when I started eating meat again I felt 10X better. I have NO DESIRE to even try to be a vegetarian or vegan. NO THANKS!!!
    Anyway, beyond all that he just never even do much as wants to discuss “increasing” our income. Yes, he will “cheer me on” for a little while when starting a side gig as I have had many side businesses over the years to supplement our income and put the “bacon on the table,” wink-wink, lol! But he ends up hating every side business I do as he says it “takes me away from here home” too much! Well, I just feel you can’t have it both ways. I don’t know anybody who wants to live frugally JUST for the “love of it?!” Well, that is except for him, lol… It’s supposed to be a means to an end yk? It’s to help REACH A GOAL in my thought process.
    Ugh! I digress…

    • TheCuttingBackWife says

      Sorry for my autocorrects I noticed after the fact.. Also, lastly, we have not had a vacation to ourselves since our honeymoon over 8.5 years ago… Yeah, I get it when people feel like “what’s the point?” when you are SO miserable and missing out on so much (like a “marriage”) trying to be ” frugal” instead of just SOMEWHAT increasing your income, getting ahead, and having TIME to spend together.

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