How Being Frugal Can Be Detrimental (and What To Do About It)
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The following is a contribution from Erin at Everything Finance. If you’d like to contribute to Frugal Rules, please contact us.
As a naturally frugal person, I identify with many of the core tenants of frugality. I spend my money meaningfully, I’ve cut back on unnecessary expenses, and I enjoy the simple things with an attitude of gratitude.
However, there is a “darker” side to frugality that I’ve discovered in the past year or so, and it goes hand-in-hand with coming from a place of scarcity.
I grew up watching my parents succumb to consumer debt. They lived paycheck-to-paycheck and barely had any savings.
I knew that I didn’t want to end up like that, but it affected me more deeply than I ever imagined.
So much so, I became afraid of spending. I only wanted to save. I actually prioritized saving over my student loan debt when I first graduated from college.
My intention here is to bring awareness of how being frugal can be detrimental to us, and what we can do to overcome our financial fears to embrace a little more fun in our lives.
Deprivation Leads to Unhappiness
Do you have trouble treating yourself, or celebrating wins along your financial journey?
I know I do.
It sounds silly, but sometimes, I feel guilty just for spending $5 on myself. Most of the time, I can barely bring myself to go out to eat! However, after thinking about how I spent my money in 2014, I realized something needed to change. I was constantly depriving myself, even though I didn’t realize it.
There are other things in life to enjoy besides the balance sitting in our accounts, right? This year, I’m going to be encouraging myself to spend (doesn’t that sound weird?) on things that matter to me, like family, friends, and travel. But I’m going to do this while remaining grateful for everything I have, so that I don’t get carried away. I’m also big on planning, so I want to make a plan to treat myself depending on what milestones I hit with my student loan debt. I know other bloggers have lists of treats (under a certain dollar amount) that they’ll reward themselves with, and I think that’s a great idea.
Consider What “Balance” Means to You
Do you feel as though your spending is fairly balanced, or do you feel like you have too much or too little going on? Do you find yourself saying “yes” too often to the point where your wallet can’t handle it? Or do you say “no” so often you can’t remember the last time you enjoyed something? I, unfortunately, fall into the “no” camp. Because I always try my best not to spend any money, I balk at the prospect of spending on a dinner out, on parking in the city to walk around, or on going to the movies.
Here’s how I think about each of those:
I can cook something cheaper at home, We can walk around the neighborhood instead, Why can’t we just watch a movie online?
I’ve gotten really good at talking myself out of buying or spending on things, to the point where it’s unhealthy. Personally, $10 on a meal, $8 for parking, or $12 for a movie ticket isn’t going to break the bank. But it’s the principle behind my rationalizations that won’t let me see past the price. There needs to be some sort of balance. Constantly saying “no” essentially means letting life pass me by.
Yes, it’s important to focus on achieving goals (in my case, paying off student loans), but a change in mindset is needed when frugality becomes too consuming.
What Else Can We Do and still be frugal?
If you can relate to having a difficult time spending because you’ve become a little too frugal, then I have a few suggestions.
Realize that money isn’t everything: This is the biggest obstacle for me. After growing up in a family where money was scarce, it’s hard to believe that an emergency won’t happen and knock out my savings. But it’s absolutely necessary to be able to enjoy spending on things that matter. There are so many experiences we could be holding ourselves back from!
Spend on things that matter: By being 100 percent clear with what our values are, we can feel less guilty for spending when it’s on things that truly matter to us. I wouldn’t regret going to visit my family, even if it means paying $200 for a flight. While it’s $200 being “taken away” from my student loans, it’s $200 that allows me to spend precious time with loved ones and create memories.
Be grateful for what you have, but realize it’s human to have wants: None of us are robots, right? We all have feelings and guilty pleasures
such as chocolate. We need to stop letting others make us feel bad for our spending decisions. There can be quite a herd mentality when it comes to spending on “unnecessary” items. While I’m not a huge fan of dining out, who am I to cast judgment on someone that enjoys it? There are times I feel ashamed of a purchase because I know some people won’t agree with it, and that needs to stop.
Have faith that things will turn out okay in the end: This is another one I struggle with. I have a habit of wanting to prepare for the worst, and that leads to expecting the worst. That doesn’t automatically mean it will happen, though. I know I’m resourceful enough that if an emergency did happen, I’d be able to handle it. I have a few backup plans I can rely on in bad times. Be prepared, but be optimistic.
Have you struggled with spending or treating yourself? How did you overcome it? Do you think there is such a thing as being too frugal?
Erin M. is a staff writer at EverythingFinanceBlog.com, a blog dedicated to every topic related to personal finance. We talk about investing, saving, budgeting, and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Photo courtesy of: Land Management