Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Going to extremes?

I was reading an interesting blog by Mary over at Owlhaven. She posed the question of is there a point in which frugal becomes TOO frugal? So, I started thinking, exactly how "frugal" am I?

Being a young 30-Something, I've often found that some of my friends think my ability to stretch a dollar or acquire things cheaply is pretty cool. Others probably not so much. And even amongst the ones who are amazed at my spending, some don't often think it's something that they would do themselves, sometimes citing lack of time, lack of knowledge, lack of patience, or unwillingness to stoop to using coupons, etc. I get it, to an extent. So before I get into figuring out how frugal I am, I could probably start with why I am in the first place.

I will say, right off the bat, that the word "Frugal" probably leaves a bad taste in people's mouths. To some, it implies a mental image of a person separating their 2 ply toilet paper and washing out their butter containers. ( I do NOT separate my TP, but I do keep some of those containers, hey... storage containers have a way of disappearing in my house, I need every advantage I can get). I often use terms like "practical, economical, or "good steward" of my money" to describe myself. So why am I, you ask?

If you think I have problems spending money, you would be incorrect. I personally LOVE spending money, I like buying things, all sorts of things. So much in fact, that I discovered a long time ago that the better the deal, the more things I could buy! Think about it. Let's say you have $100 to spend on groceries,personal items, and entertainment. If you go into the grocery store and spend $75 on food, that leaves just $25 to spend on personal & entertainment. But what if you were able to get that $75 worth of groceries for just $30... well, that leaves you some more wiggle room.

Now don't get me wrong, yes I could stop buying toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, air freshner, and household cleaning products today, and would seriously not need to sweat replacements for a year. However, I am not by any stretch of the imagination leading a miserly life. There are parts of my life that I choose to budget, which gives me that much more money for the other parts. I share a very large 3 bedroom 2.5 bath townhouse with only 1 other human being (granted the pets help occupy this space). Between dear roomie & I, we have acquired a $400 vacuum, a very nice, larger than necessary flat screen television, a Wii & it's accessories, and many more things. My bathroom overflows with health & beauty products, and I do my fair share of eating in restaurants. For me it's about balance. I am able to make my money go farther. This does not mean I have a never ending bank account. I do make hard decisions when it comes to finances, and sometimes opt to do without things.

So, for me, how frugal is too frugal? Well, I'm really open to trying most anything once. If it's a money saving option, I'm all for giving it a go, provided it's doable for me. An idea that's had some success for me, cooking from scratch. I'm still expanding on this, but I now make things at home that I used to buy prepared. I've discovered that I prefer a completely homemade pizza and that with the right prep work, it's not an inconvience. Not saying that all my frugal endeavors have met with the same success. I got the notion that I could save a ton of money if I stopped eating out at restaurants entirely. Well, for some that may not seem like a hard task, but in my crazy hectic life, it's sometimes the only thing that can keep my schedule sane... needless to say, this idea did not last long. Now I'm not out eating $30 dinners every night, but I don't beat myself up terribly if I decide that the lunch I packed is just not appealing and can wait until tomorrow. And then their are the ideas that I don't even attempt. Lately I've been reading online from many different sources about making your own laundry detergent... and I have to admit... it kinda appealed to me... but then I gave it some more thought. I do manage to keep a good supply of laundry detergent on hand at a very reasonable price, and I have a high efficiency washer, which means I do have to pay particular attention to what goes in it. Of course at the end of the day, for now it's a matter of time management for me. I decided that it's just easier for me to use my good ol' Tide and call it a day. My schedule is hectic and I'm saving enough in other areas, that this isn't a battle I need to win.

So, if you're still with me (I know, I've rambled) that would be my answer... for me, how frugal is too frugal? To put it simply (well, as simple as I can) if the act of being frugal outweighs the benefits of the frugality (either in savings, time, or fun) then I pass. I don't however wrinkle my nose up at the brave souls that give it a go. If you're committed to it, and it's not inflicting harm, I say go for it... it's all about personal choices.


Owlhaven said...

Yup-- that's what lots of people don't realize-- that frugality gives MORE choice!


Natalie said...

Very well said. I liked Mary's post yesterday as well. For me being frugal is a way to afford to give Daniel all the fun and experiences a child needs without being in debt to do that.