Frugal, My Ass: Are You Guilty of These Money Draining Behaviors?

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Money Saving Tips

In last week’s post, I shed light on some tips and tricks for how to manage your finances when you’re forced to be frugal. After being part of the PF blogosphere for nearly three years now, I smiled when the anticipated comments rolled in about how much we bloggers enjoy being frugal, how frugality is a ticket to the bigger and better things in life, and how cutting back is one of the best ways to truly appreciate what we have.

While reading comment after comment extolling the virtues of frugality, I began to wonder just how frugal we really are. Naturally, this led to me thinking about the many ways someone can sabotage their own best efforts to lead a frugal lifestyle. If you consider yourself a frugal person, then surely you aren’t someone who’s guilty of engaging in the following behaviors that can send your hard-earned money down the drain before you even realize it:

Skipping Meals Out Yet Not Being Frugal with your Grocery Budget

I have a friend who is working hard to trim her budget. She’s doing a wonderful job of learning to control her spending impulses, how to identify true needs instead of wants, and is on the path to living a more financially stable lifestyle. There’s just one problem: She spend upwards of $700/month on groceries….for just herself. And this doesn’t include household or personal care items.

Before I launch off on some judgmental tirade, the point of sharing this tidbit is to illustrate the fact that just because you’re cutting back on meals out (and don’t get me wrong–this is a fantastic decision!), doesn’t give you a green light to spend yourself into oblivion while grocery shopping. If you’re trying to become more frugal or are trying to balance your budget, remember that there needs to be a give and take among all budget items/categories–including your groceries. Yes, you need to eat. Yes, it should be healthy food. No, it doesn’t need to cost you a small fortune each time you visit the store.

Washing Your Money Down the Drain

Too much shampoo. Too much laundry detergent. Pricey hand soap. Too many designer paper towels and napkins (yes, they do exist). If you’re not paying attention to your consumption of products once you bring them home, no matter how great the price was, you’re still wasting your money. To make your products–and money–last longer, pay attention to the recommended amount for use (read the back of that shampoo bottle!). If you’re unable to cut back on how much product you’re using, consider cheaper alternatives such as using 99-cent conditioner as shaving cream or mayonnaise as a deep conditioner.

Once I learned that the appropriate amount of facial cleanser is usually no more than a pea-sized drop, I was amazed to see how I could make what I use last longer. I eventually decided to splurge on a pricier cleanser, but I was pleasantly surprised when the bottle lasted over a year because I was using only what was needed. The good part? I bought one bottle in the course of an entire year. The best part? My skin has never looked better!

Drinking Your Money Away

How many times have you found yourself reaching for a cold soda when you’re thirsty? Not a soda drinker? How about juice? Or beer? Or coffee? Or seltzer? Whatever your regular drink of choice, those extra calories come at a potentially high cost to your health and can be a sneaky money drain on your budget. The next time you find yourself in need of a thirst quencher, do yourself (and your budget) a favor by opting for free tap water. Jazz it up with some orange, lime, or cucumber slices and you’ll be on your way to a relaxing refreshment break.


What other habits threaten to throw a wrench into your frugal plan?


Photo courtesy of: Tax Credits


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Jen is the owner of The Happy Homeowner, where she writes about living a healthy, balanced life one cent at a time. Previously, she paid off $14K in credit card debt in less than a year and hasn’t looked back since. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


  • Mark Ross says:

    What about impulse purchases? I think it’s one of the most well-known money draining thing an individual must avoid, right? I’ve been hit by these many times before, but I’m actually doing a great job avoiding it. That’s just what I think i really do, though. 🙂

    • Jen @ The Happy Homeowner says:

      Ahhh….yes! Thanks for adding this–it was on my list but I decided to stick to things that aren’t always as obvious. Although those impulse purchases can sure sneak up quickly!

  • I definitely spend too much money on drinks. I drink a ton of coffee every day and have a soda at least once a day. Granted I make the coffee at home and the soda is pretty cheap since we buy it when it is at it’s lowest price. I agree with your tips, though, and think that it’s important to focus on your grocery budget because that can end up killing your budget even if you decide to stay in every night.

    • Jen @ The Happy Homeowner says:

      Good for you for making the coffee at home–that’s certainly saving you money as opposed to going out for it!

  • I am so guilty of using too much laundry detergent AND I’ve gotten to the point where I only want to use Tide. Double whammy.

    Fortunately, I am very frugal in other ways which means that I can splurge a little here and there!

  • Michelle says:

    W is always drinking something besides water. He probably spends at least $15 a DAY on drinks. It drives me nuts!

  • Guilty as charged on the last 2. Although I’ve started buzzing my hair down really short so now it’s a quarter sized drop of body wash to clean the whole body. No more shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Now it’s just one bottle. I want to see about making my own laundry detergent to see if it’s just as effective. I’ve read on other blogs that it’s usually just as good and it’s much much cheaper. No brand names, they cost too much.

    I find myself driving way too much too when I’m at work. Although when you work out in the middle of nowhere and you get tired of being in one spot you tend to just drive around aimlessly with no real destination in mind. Ooops!

    • Jen @ The Happy Homeowner says:

      Let us know how the homemade detergent thing goes–I’ve always been interested in doing that!

  • Matt Becker says:

    I think the examples above are good, but I also think it’s important not to get carried away. Using gobs and gobs of shampoo might not be the most frugal approach, but if you like to use a little more than recommended, what is that going to cost you? Maybe a few dollars a year? It’s not that you shouldn’t consider all of these habits, but I think it’s important to do so within reason. It’s also okay not to be as frugal as possible in certain areas if it fits within your budget and it makes you happy. It should be a conscious choice, but it’s not necessarily a problem.

    • Jen @ The Happy Homeowner says:

      Absolutely! I agree with the idea of balance–there is a necessary give and take. I was going more for the idea that sometimes people do things to be frugal, but they aren’t aware of the full picture. Thanks for pointing this out!

  • Love this, Jen!!!! This is exactly why we go over our spending each and every month: to see where we can make more cuts. For instance, at one time, we were spending $48 a month just on 100% juice for the kids. That’s almost $600 a year! We’ve cut that number by more than half now by only letting the kids have juice every other day for breakfast instead of every day (on the opposite days, they drink water with breakfast). And we limit it to one 8-ounce glass. Most all people can find waste in their budget if they look hard enough.

    • Jen @ The Happy Homeowner says:

      Thanks, Laurie! Good for you for recognizing the overall cost of the juice habit–and for making changes. I love what you said about finding waste if you look hard enough; couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

  • I don’t consider myself frugal, so I don’t have to worry about conforming to that lifestyle. I have gotten to the point where I know how much I have extra to spend per month after the bills, savings, and investments, so I spend that money on what I want, when I want. It makes my life so much better!

  • My friend has a $300 grocery budget just for herself, yet she says eating out is too expensive. She insists at shopping at this super yuppie grocery store all the time which is super expensive, too. I don’t even know why.

  • I’m guilty of this a few nights ago when J and I went to a “free outdoor movie in the park” to see my all time favorite movie ever – Clueless and we ended up spending over $50 on food! The date wasn’t so frugal anymore. I wrote about it on my blog today. Great post Jen!

  • Jamie says:

    The grocery one strikes a chord with me. We stopped eating out entirely because my boyfriend was changing his diet (we also drink just water and almond/soy/rice milk now – no more dairy, soda, ginger ale, iced tea, you name it). It seems like we still spend so much, so perhaps I’ll take a look at our grocery budget. For a month or two, what I’d like to do is have our entire grocery budget in cash (no more “just debit it!”). Once it’s gone for the month, then it’s gone and we have to figure it out from there. I’m really starting to feel that we actually do still overpsend here. Huh, how about that! For point #2, I have long hair, so while I try to use the bare minimum, I do need to use more until I’m at a point where I can comb my hair out without tearing it out.

  • pauline says:

    We drink quite a bit of alcohol and rarely eat out but buy good food for the house. We are happy with the decision as long as no food gets wasted. Most meals are made from scratch anyway so a huge steak dinner will cost under $5 compared to having it at a restaurant. And sadly even water we have to buy since tap water comes from the lake.

  • Alexa says:

    I definitely don’t drink enough water. I am a diet Mt Dew addict. If I go a day without drinking a diet mt dew I get headaches. So, that’s probably a sign that I need to cut back. BUT, over the past two months I have been working on eating more healthy. I have barely ate out AT ALL and I cannot tell you how much better I feel and how much more energy I have. Drinking less pop and more water is in my near future.

  • I’m guilty of that occasional diet coke when I’m really, really craven one, but honestly I don’t feel too guilty about it. I don’t wan to overanalyze and think about money ALL the time and wonder if it’s a frugal purchase. I guess I can’t claim to be 100% frugal then. Perhaps frugal light? 🙂

  • Hair cuts. Why spend $20 every couple of months? That’s just money down the trash can. 🙂

  • I think it’s definitely all about priorities. I see spending on makeup as totally frivolous, where others think that is a must have!

    For us, we definitely spend on drinks. Mr PoP has a coffee budget and a beer budget. It’s what he likes, and we watch the numbers so they don’t get out of control, so is hard to justify denying him those simple pleasures when we’re meeting our savings goals.

  • I drink too much soda. I probably have 2-3 cans every day. At $3-$4 per 12, that adds up. On the plus side, at least I’m not buying 20 oz bottles out of the vending machine ($1.25) every day anymore!

  • I probably throw money away on beer, but I must say I enjoy my after work beer in the evenings.

  • Keren says:

    We do spend some money on drinks, but sometimes we hit McD’s drive through because they’re only $1. 🙂 The Mr. does like to have beer on hand but he doesn’t drink it very often.

  • Peter says:

    OMG, $750 on groceries!?!? that’s crazy. I am proud to say that I’m NOT guilty of any of those things. I’m trying to pack lunch these days, but that’s not going to well. My biggest expense are restaurants and gas.

  • Sicorra says:

    By nature i am not at all frugal. But once we accepted the fact 18 months ago that we have a debt problem I had no choice but too become as frugal as possible. We rarely dine out, maybe 4 times a year. We drink tons of water. I actually love water with lemon juice, and it is good for the body too. Our grocery bills use to $800 or $900 a month for the two of us, and yes I was one of the people buying the fancy napkins too. Those were the days 😉

  • Amanda says:

    To spend $700 a month on groceries for one person is something I will never understand. But to each his own. My bf and I tend to eat pretty healthy, okay so, mainly me. Organic and special diet food tends to skew the grocery bill higher, and it’s something I’ve come to accept after many years. Being able to eat well enough for my body will never come cheap, but I make do by making most of the meals at home and using a lot of rice. My bf on the other hand has never been one for finding the most frugal way (but he has gotten a lot better!). At first he bought two energy drinks on the way to work each day, and I have finally convinced him to get a membership to the warehouse store so that he can purchase them by the case and save not only on the drinks but also on the gas.

  • When you spend that much on groceries for one person, you got to wonder how much is being thrown out. Or maybe we’re just getting too caught up with all the cooking shows. We found we saved quite a bit on soaps and shampoos, once we bought dispensers for everything. It’s surprising how little you use when you pump vs pour. Some may see it as frivolous change at the end of the year, but I’d rather spend that change on something I want, rather than something that’s probably not going to make a whole lot of difference to my life… or my hair.

  • Interesting article; I certainly agree with the sentiment and you raised some very interesting questions. We don’t do any of those but…Our food budget is reasonable because we learned not to waste, we still use high grade ingredients. We use the right amount of detergent because it is better for Earth and we are all alergic. We have the occassional glass of wine and again – quality is what counts. The best kind of frugallity, I think – this is what I call being a Frugal Artist.

  • Rita P @ Digital Spikes says:

    Agree I try to cut down on the stuffs which are disposable such as tissue, toilet papers etc and in case of grocery i buy good one but try to grab the deals and discounts, also use coupons. Frugal means savings to me and not buying everything cheap, wherever required i buy cheap but few things i buy better stuffs but i do try to grab it at better price.

  • Derek - says:

    That last one is crazy. I did a post a while back about soda consumption in the US. The average family of 4 spends $657 a year on soda!!!!

  • I think the one thing I am guilty of is wine. I just love having a glass next to my computer when I write. I bet I could have about $60 back every month without it!

  • Yep! I have been guilty of converting my money into “liquid assets” in the past and have often wondered just how much money has been spent on them over the years. If I would have saved or invested that money instead of drinking it away, I might be in a better financial position today.

  • I recently made the decision to always buy the cheapest toilet paper, towels, napkins and so on. Everything I use just once and doesn’t really has to be of the best quality (my hands are perfectly happy with any kind of paper towel I use!) has to be the cheapest. The same comes from cleaning products – they might not be as earth-friendly, they might not always smell as good, but they do the job. Lesson learned, pockets happy 🙂

  • I am guilty of a couple of those. I trimmed down on eating out but my grocery budget is through the roof lol!. i still buy designer clothes but now I wait for sales to hit!

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