How being frugal is hurting you
It’s hard to believe that 12 short months ago I was only five hundred dollars away from being debt-free. It doesn’t seem like much in retrospect, but it looks a lot more intimidating when it represents the final installment of over $30,000 in debt!
Once I finally became debt-free I spent the better part of 2014 reflecting on my time as a ‘frugalista‘ and re-evaluating some of my thrifty habits. While I do take a lot of pride in my effort to pay down my debt (my favourite frugal tips can be found here), I definitely held some beliefs that hindered rather than helped. Here are a few of the ways I’ve decided that being frugal can hurt you in the long run.
1. Skipping out on the dentist
I know that I’m lucky to live in Canada where a regular check up wont end up costing me hundreds of dollars, but we still have some progress to be made with dental coverage in our country. There were about three or four years in my life when I was rocking the contract lifestlye, a.k.a, I had no dental insurance and maybe went to ONE cleaning in all that time. What happened when I finally went back after my boyfriend’s benefits kicked in for me? Four cavities. One for each year.
Now I’m much more diligent and prioritize my dental health, but I know that I made the wrong choice. I can’t even tell you how much I overspent/wasted on gym memberships or yoga packages I never used, yet I wasn’t taking care of my teeth. And I’m not the only one.
2. Cruising fast-food value meals to keep food budgets low
Luckily I didn’t do this for very long, but there were periods of time where I was so frugal with my food budget that rather than go over by a small grocery trip, I would cruise the dollar menu at McDonalds, or Burger King to keep my food budget per day pretty low. The result? I ate like crap, felt like crap, and wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed. Luckily I learned this lesson REALLY QUICKLY and I’ve gotten pretty good at having decent, simple, healthy food at home for meals and convenience. The worst part is? I don’t even know if it helped me save that much in the end.
3. Not pitching in on the small stuff
In college it’s not uncommon to communally decide will buy the next pitcher or grab the next plate of nachos. Hanging out and socializing is pretty easy to do because you’re generally all on the same level of the totem pole with regards to money. When you’re surrounded by other money-conscious friends, it makes it easier to split bills and pay fairly, and I appreciate this! But after college I had a hard time navigating the social world of group dining.
People would buy appetizers I wasn’t interested in, and rather than suggest something I wanted instead (I have food sensitivities), I would assume they would simply notice that I just wasn’t eating from the communal table snacks. Unfortunately, after some uncomfortable experiences splitting the bill with friends I realized that people didn’t NOTICE that I wasn’t eating the shared snacks, they just thought I was being a tightwad. And in retrospect, is the extra 2$ I’d pony up for the appetizers really worth that grief? I’ve tried my hardest to have a more generous spirit with friends in the last few years and I find that instead of feeling anxiety when we split a bill, it’s stress-free.
4. Being too frugal to look professional
I was never much of a clothes horse before I started paying down my debt so I found myself moving into adulthood not knowing how to dress or even what to look for. I know many other people who worry about paying down their debt and ‘catching up’ with their savings often have a hard time dealing with clothes. But what I wouldn’t give to be able to rewind a few years and tell myself to invest in a few, key professional pieces of clothing. As it goes right now, building a solid wardrobe is hard work but rewarding.
5. Worrying about the money I had, and not the money I could make
I think the biggest frugal mistake I made was that I spent too much time worrying about maximizing the money I had, instead of trying to make more. I eventually figured this out and went to do a post-graduate diploma to upgrade my skills, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to return to school. You could try taking some courses to upgrade you skills, negotiating with your employer, or even trying to find a side-hustle of your own. But the point still stands, there’s always more income to be found if you just spend the time looking for it.
What about you? What frugal habits did you adopt that hurt you in the end?