For many artists working in a small city, frugality is necessary. We often need to find the least expensive ways to meet our basic needs and get the things we want, if we can. This can be especially necessary for musicians, who have the added expenses of instruments and other equipment. But there are times when being frugal goes much too far for anyone.
Money saving measures cause you to risk serious health issues.
We have all resorted to canned soup, frozen pizza, one dollar frozen dinners, or boxed mac and cheese as a main dish to save money from time to time. Some of us do the “hoodie or sweater that is not part of our outfit kept on inside the house” trick instead of turning up the heat on chilly days, take the occasional shower with the last dredges of shampoo or body wash rinsed from the bottle with half a container of water, or put up with annoying chips and cracks in cell phone screens to save on the cost of repair or replacement.
These measures are very different than not eating anything or only eating junk foods, resorting to shivering or sweating profusely to save money on the utility bills, not tending to personal hygiene at all, or getting shards in your fingers from your broken phone screen. If your cost saving measure is causing you to get sick more often than usual, feel hungry, or cause injury, it’s time to give it up.
Dumpster diving and picking up discarded items left on the curb can also be dangerous. Even if you find something that looks pristine, there may be mold or insects embedded in furniture, or a package of food or cosmetics might have small holes in it. You also have no way of knowing what your items came into contact with inside the trash.
Your behavior takes advantage of someone else.
Both “Extreme Cheapskates” and “So Freakin’ Cheap,” reality shows spotlighting extremely frugal individuals and families, feature people who pull the “free ice cream for dessert” trick. They walk into a small, locally owned ice cream parlor that does not have a posted limit on samples, and ask to sample multiple flavors until they are full. When the clerk asks them what they would like to order, they brush them off and walk out the door.
Never do this, with ice cream or any other food. Consuming excessive amounts of samples decreases the business’ inventory while bringing them no income in return. It unnecessarily wastes the clerk’s time, and forces them to do extra work, as twenty tiny scoops are harder to serve than one full one. And eventually, it will ruin things for future customers, as store owners often limit, or even completely eliminate free samples when they see someone pulling this stunt. This can result in critical reviews that impact the business overall.
Experiences and memories are being taken over by bargain seeking.
The whole point of being frugal is to be able to save yourself some money while continuing to reach your goals and live the life you want. If you’re making yourself or your loved ones miserable instead, the frugality has gone too far.
Opting for a budget hotel because your family or friends plan to spend as much of your vacation as possible on the beach anyway is a great way to save money. Booking that same hotel after you and your spouse or best friends saved up for year just to have a weekend at a luxury hotel is ruining things for the sake of a buck. Having your daughter’s graduation party at the spacious home of beloved relative or family friend rather than renting space is fine. Begging family members you barely know or communicate with to host the party simply because they have a big back yard is only going to cause resentment from all involved.
Trying too hard to be frugal is actually costing you more money overall.
Coupon use can be a great money saving tool, or it can cost you money. Using coupons, including per cent of purchase rebate sites like Rakuten, and discount deal sites such as Groupon, only truly save you money if you buy the items you were planning to buy before you found the deal and nothing else. Buying anything else just to activate a coupon or rebate is likely to cost you more money overall. Driving all over town to find the store where an item is a dollar or two cheaper with a coupon than the prices in your usual store increases the amount of money you need to spend on gas or on paying for cabs or rideshare services. That increase is probably bigger than the savings on the item.
Insisting upon doing things yourself when you lack the skill, patience, or materials to do a good job also falls into this category. It costs a lot less to just go to a salon and have your hair colored than it does to color your hair at home, mess up, and then go to a salon for repairative treatments and corrective color. Home repairs cost more when someone has to come in and fix damage you did trying to learn to do them yourself online instead of calling a professional. And attempting to dye or embellish clothing, drapes, or other textiles when you do not know how typically results in needing to completely replace the item.
“Money saving” is beginning to approach “stealing.”
Technically, shoving a wad of sauce or ketchup packets into your takeout bag when you’ve only purchased one meal isn’t stealing. Those packets are there free for the customers, and you are a customer. But it’s not exactly honest either. While there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a few more than you wound up needing and using them later, those little packets of ketchup and sauce are not there to save you $2.00 or $3.00 for the bottle at the grocery store.
Regardless of your opinion about multilevel marketing, network marketing, or direct sales companies, approaching someone who sells for them and pretending to be a potential customer only to get free samples is dishonest. Yes, you probably could keep yourself supplied with lip gloss or moisturizer for free if you asked every Mary Kay, Avon, Jafra, and Arbonne representative in your area for samples, and eat plenty of free meals by tagging along to Pampered Chefs or Tupperware parties to fill up on the demo meals and snacks with no intention of buying. That doesn’t mean you should do it.
Saving money is a great goal, but only if you are truly saving money, and if you are not making that money more important than your own health and well-being, or the health and well-being of others.