Frugal TIPbits: Avoid Frugal Strategies That Create Costs

There’s a fine line between frugality and foolishness. Not all frugal strategies result in real savings.

Some seemingly frugal strategies actually create costs. Here are six of these strategies and tips on how to avoid them.

To avoid crossing over into foolishness, we must closely examine seemingly frugal strategies because a number of them may actually generate significant expenses.

When frugal is actually expensive

  • DIY gone awry. Sometimes you can save a lot of money by completing home improvements and repairs yourself. Other times you just end up spending a lot of money. First, you buy a bunch of tools and supplies. Then you start a project you never finish or you finish a project poorly. Finally, you end up calling in the professional you should have contacted in the first place. Before beginning a project, honestly assess yourself and call a professional when a project is beyond your skill set.
  • Cheap foods at the grocery store. Many unhealthy foods are also cheap (e.g., boxed macaroni and cheese, chips), so it may be tempting to purchase them to save a few dollars. Unfortunately, this can harm your health and lead to high medical expenses. Focus on purchasing foods that are both healthy and affordable (e.g., beans, frozen vegetables, brown rice). These benefit your health and fit in your grocery budget!
  • Ingredients and tools for home cooking. Cooking at home instead of eating out can save you quite a bit of money (it also tends to be healthier). You’ll lose much of the savings, though, if you spend a lot of money on fancy ingredients and equipment. It’s quite easy to avoid this. Don’t spend a lot of money on cookbooks if you have internet access. You can find plenty of recipes online. Learn substitutions for fancy ingredients that are too expensive to purchase. If you are going to buy a new gadget or appliance, read reviews so you’re sure to purchase a quality item and compare prices between retailers (you may even be able to find one at a garage sale or on craigslist).
  • Coupons and sales. Isn’t saving money the point of coupons and sales? It’s supposed to be, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. When you have good coupons, it’s tempting to purchase the corresponding items. If you don’t need the items, then the money spent on them will be wasted. Moreover, coupons are generally for name brand items. Many times the discounted prices on the name brand items are still more than the prices for generic equivalents. Sales can also encourage the purchase of unneeded items. Watch closely because stores sometimes feature sale prices that are only a few cents cheaper than the regular prices! If you happen to drive to another city to catch a sale, you may find yourself spending enough money on gas that it negates any savings from the sale. When using a coupon or going to a sale, ask yourself if you really need the item and if the price you’ll pay is truly a good deal.
  • Delayed maintenance. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Remember this old adage? There’s a lot of truth in it. Delaying recommended maintenance on your car (e.g., oil changes, tire rotations) and house (e.g., replacing furnace filters, re-caulking) can lead to damage that costs you a lot of money in the long run. The same is true of maintaining your own body. If you visit the dentist and doctor regularly—especially if you notice something out of the ordinary—you’ll likely catch problems early so they can be treated more effectively and more affordably.
  • No entertainment. When your budget is really tight it makes sense to put what money you do have towards necessary expenses, leaving the entertainment category (or “fun money,” as my husband likes to call it) empty. The problem with this is that your quality of life may decrease because you’re not getting much enjoyment out of life. A better option may be to decide which one or two activities you really want to take part in and then commit to only use fun money on these. Also, be sure to check community calendars because you may discover that there are free events happening in your community.

I’ve used each of these strategies at one point or another. My experience has taught me to scrutinize frugal strategies more closely.

What can you share from your experience? Have you found some seemingly frugal strategies that actually create costs?

Shared on the following link-ups:

Fellowship Fridays, From House to Home, Thrive @ Home, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Encourage One Another, Works for Me Wednesday, & Welcome Home Wednesday.


  1. You also have to be careful when buying cheap things. What I mean is that sometimes things with really low prices are also cheap quality.
    If you buy these, you’ll have to replace them soon. This may end up costing you more than if you’d bought a quality item to begin with.

    • Great point, Rosie! It’s for that reason that our philosophy in my household is to buy the best quality we can afford.

  2. Thank you for the comment on coupons! Try as I might, I cannot understand extreme couponing. I’m sure it’s thrilling to see that you paid $4.00 for $200 worth of groceries… but what have you ended up with? 50 liters of Gatorade and a loaf of bread? I use coupons very sparingly, like when they’re on the box in the store!

    • I don’t understand extreme couponing either! However, different things work for different people, so perhaps it really is helpful to some.
      I’ll search online for coupons for items I’m already planning to purchase. (This doesn’t encourage me to buy something I don’t need because I’m going to buy the item with or without a coupon.)

  3. I agree with this.
    Food is huge one for our family. We buy the best we can afford as it is nutrition for the body and soul which directly impacts on health. Preparation and sharing food with family and friends is so important for nurturing relationships and social connections. We grow what we can, forage what we can and purchase the highest quality we can afford of the rest (organic, pasture fed)..
    Another one especially important for our family is footwear for our kids. We buy the very best we can afford but they only have 1-2 pairs per season (summer/winter), as they both have congenital hip dysplasia and need proper orthotic support. Both my husband and I have issues with our knees/feet due to cheap shoes as kids, so they get expensive shoes and we cut out other things to afford this. Quality must be considered for long term impacts on physical/emotional and mental health as well as sustainability with products and appliances and not just the short term financial impact.

    • Hi Robyn,
      I love that you mentioned preparing and sharing food with family and friends. When money is tight, this is one thing I’m tempted to cut back on. However, it’s so important that we still engage in fellowship! Thanks for the reminder.
      Your kiddos may not have closets full of shoes, but it sounds like you’re teaching them some good lessons about stewardship!

  4. Spaving makes me crazy (spending money to save money). So many people think the more you spend, the more you save.
    Consider gardening. A super busy someone who never gardened before decides they need to cut the grocery bill. So they load up on designer garden dirt, have compost delivered, select 1 doz zucchini plants (because someone said they are easy to grow), buy a whole lot of other plants and spend a back breaking weekend planting a very large garden that is super high maintenance. The zucchini thrives, takes over the garden and soon there is way too much to eat, too much to give away, everyone gets tired of zucchini & so preserving it isn’t going to happen (not that they know how). The garden is one giant zucchini plant, no one has time so it gets neglected. Much of the food rots on the plant.

    • Spaving, huh? Now I know this phenomenon is so common that there is a word for it! 🙂
      Gardening is tricky. It can save a lot of money, but whether it does or not depends on your situation. Your example is a great illustration of how it can be a money waster for some people.

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