The cashier said she could only accept one of the three like-coupons I had handed her at the checkout and I was livid! I’m such a saver and love saving money, but there are downsides of being frugal. For example, being upset that your coupons didn’t go through and letting that ruin your entire day!
I was grocery shopping. As per my usual routine, I received the Meijer store flyer with the Sunday paper. I paged through the flyer and wrote my grocery needs down on a list. Typically I’ll start by writing down items that are on sale per the flyer and then sift through my coupon organizer to find any coupons that match the list. I will then add other items to the list that are not on sale that I know we need for the week.
Related: 7 Easy Ways to Find Coupons
Writing a list and sifting through my coupon organizer to find the coupons I want to use helps with the entire process at the grocery store. I know what I need to buy, and coupons are found and isolated in the front pocket of the organizer in advance for an easy transaction.
Breakfast for cheap
In our house, we love Belvita biscuits for breakfast on the run. I think they’ve been around a few years. Anytime I quickly say Belvita most people think I’m saying Velveeta the cheese and I have to enunciate. If you’re not familiar Belvita come in various forms such as larger biscuits or smaller bite-size pieces. They come in a few flavors such as oat, blueberry, cranberry, etc.
My favorite is the smaller pieces. I like chocolate and my daughter and husband like the blueberry. The biscuits retail for around $2.99 per box depending on the store for a quantity of 5.
In my world, that’s expensive. Spending $.40 per breakfast serving is so much more expensive than say $.10 or less per serving on a large canister of oatmeal. So I don’t pay retail price. But, when Belvita is on sale and I have a coupon, then I can justify the cost.
Meijer is offering a “Buy 5, Get 5 off” mix/match promotion where if you purchase 5 select items, you automatically get $1.00 off each one – and Belvita is included! Using the sale price and purchasing 5 they would be $1.99 per box. Plus, I have multiple $1.00 off 2 boxes of Belvita coupons. The stars have aligned, this is my lucky day, it’s time to stock up on Belvita!
I grab 15 items included in this by 5 get $5 off promo, pick up the rest of my groceries and head to the checkout. Because I had already sifted through my coupons before I came to the store, the ones I knew I was going to need were right up front, including three of the $1.00 off 2 Belvita which would make them $1.49 per box which is a good deal!
The coupons are declined
After the cashier scans all items from my cart, I hand her my coupons. The first Belvita coupon went through perfectly fine, but the second one made the dreaded decline beep. My heart sinks as I hear that sound as I already assume the worst.
The cashier said I could not use more than one Belvita coupon per transaction. I tried to argue with her that nowhere on the coupon does it state one coupon per transaction, but she wouldn’t listen. There was a line of people behind me and the $1.99 sale price on the Belvita was still a good deal even without the coupon so I went ahead with the transaction, paid and left.
Let it go already
For most normal people that would be the end of it. You paid, you left and the transaction is over. But I’m crazy and my mind is so wired for saving it just pisses me off so much that I wasn’t able to use my additional coupons for a value of $2.00 that I can’t stop thinking about it.
It’s almost an unhealthy obsession. It’s like I now need to find a new way to recoup this $2.00 I feel I should have received off the transaction. My husband thinks I’m nuts. Let the $2.00 go already! It’s only $2.00, it’s not making or breaking my finances. But my thoughts of frustration loom and I get all riled up even days after.
A glimpse into the life of a crazy couponer with a frugal mindset.
This is just one small example, but the life of a frugal person isn’t always roses. Yes, I have extra money in the bank because I’m wired for savings, and there are definitely things I’m not willing to give up in the name of frugality.
There are things we do and the sacrifices we make in order to keep money in our accounts. I highly encourage you to make efforts to save more money, but it does come with a cost, and there are downsides to being frugal.
5 Downsides to being frugal (and why you can relax a little bit if any of these resonate with you).
1. Having guilt over almost any impulse purchase
As much as possible I’ve wired myself to write a list before I go to the store. The list is organized loosely by aisle or general department so I know exactly where I need to go to find the groceries on my list. If you don’t do this, I highly recommend it.
The list doesn’t have to be fancy but when writing your grocery list try to keep produce items together: dairy together, perishables together, etc. It’s so much easier going to the store using a list when “like” items are next to each other on the list. It will make you so much more efficient of as shopper and eliminate you having to head all the way back across the store to grab something you missed.
When everything is checked off the list, get out of the store. Period.
The problem is that anything that isn’t on the list I now spend time agonizing over whether or not to purchase it. It’s not like I never impulse purchase. But when I do, it’s a 5-minute internal dialogue.
What runs through my head during an impulse purchase:
- How much is it?
- What’s the cost per ounce?
- How does that compare with the cost per ounce of a different package size?
- Is it on sale?
- Do I think it’ll go on sale in the future or could I find it for less elsewhere?
- Let me bring up Amazon and see what the price is there.
- Am I going to wish I had purchased this?
- Do I have a coupon for it?
- Will Fetch, Ibotta or Checkout51 work on this purchase?
For regular shoppers, they likely put the item in their cart and have moved on with the trip. But every item that’s not on my list it’s a game in my head to evaluate the item and if it’s worthy of my money. Quite honestly it can be exhausting and is definately a downside to being frugal!
If you’re not currently using grocery store apps, I highly recommend you start. Fetch is my newest favorite savings app and in my opinion, the easiest to use with the least amount of hassle. Sign up and enter my referral code M2CNU and you’ll get 2,000 Fetch Points ($2.00 in points) when you complete one receipt.
2. Declining invitations to go out to lunch or dinner became it wasn’t in the “budget.”
I’m a zero-based budgeter. I know every dollar that is coming in each month and knows approximately how every dollar is going to be spent each month. While you can never know exactly where you are going to spend money each month, if an expense is un-budgeted, it always causes me to pause.
- How much is this meal going to cost?
- What will the tip be?
- What will the total be?
- How am I going to shift dollars around in my budget to accommodate this expense?
- What if I say no to the invitation?
- Is the person going to be disappointed if I say no?
- Can I take a rain check?
- What groceries could I have purchased with the $15.00 this lunch is going to cost me?
Instead of living my life, I’m evaluating every invite in terms of the opportunity cost on the money. This is definitely a downside to being frugal. Spending $15 to go out to lunch is simply $15 less that I will have for saving or for something else.
3. Sales and clearance guides my gift-giving
I try really hard to be a thoughtful gift-giver, but my frugal nature sometimes steps in. My budget has an annual gift budget so the money is there to spend when the time arises. I have a hard time with this with my nieces and nephews, and even my daughter.
They get an overwhelming number of gifts from their birthday and for Christmas (actually all holidays in general: Easter baskets, etc.) that I almost want to stop giving gifts. When I do give gifts, they are usually on sale or clearance.
I’m coming to the realization that instead of spending $25 or $50 on “another toy” that they don’t need I’d rather spend on an experience. Or invest the money for them so they can have it when they will need it in the future.
My nephew Mateo just turned 3 years old. We flew from Illinois to California to celebrate with him. It was so nice to be there in person and see this little man hit at a piñata and blow out his candles. But guess what? There were around 30 people at this birthday party! He was so inundated with gifts from aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, and neighbors he didn’t know what to play with next.
I did end up purchasing a small gift (a clearance outfit I got at Kohl’s) so he had something to open from aunt Steph. Then, for the first time, I purchased $50.00 of Amazon stock for him for his birthday. Amazon stock is currently selling for nearly $2,000 a share, how did I buy $50 worth of stock?
I used this awesome app called Stockpile! Stockpile allows you to purchase partial shares of stock and automatically invests for you, or on behalf of sometime else. So he got a gift from me on the day, but the “invisible” $50 will grow to much more than that over the years and will be there when he wants to go to college or purchase a car or for whatever.
I’m actually inspired to do this more often with my daughter, nieces, and nephews. Give a small gift, and then invest the rest. It feels like the best of both worlds.
4. Spending money on beauty, what’s that?
I have long hair, so I can push the limit of time between haircuts and likely go longer than people with shorter hair can. It’s so hard to justify spending money on myself when it’s a want and not technically a need.
As I’m growing older and my skin is changing I’ve become more aware of fine lines and wrinkles. Is this $75.00 serum really worth it? I’d love to have a facial but don’t want to spend the money.
My sister recently told me she went for a facial and between the facial and all of the beauty products she purchased during the appointment she spent in the neighborhood of $300-$400. I think that’s more than what I spend in an entire year on beauty! Another downside of being frugal. Thinking of today and not wanting to spend money.
It’s a fight for me to spend money on beauty items. I go to CVS and buy crazy cheap Physician’s Formula makeup because it’s always on sale and that is good enough for me. My husband remarks that I’m beautiful and don’t need a lot of makeup and while I don’t always believe him, I’m too frugal to spend and too lazy to spend hours applying.
5. You’re rarely on-trend (but don’t really care)
Whether it’s outdated or simply worn through, arguably my closet could use a good once-over. Because of my frugal gene, I’m automatically attracted to anything that is inexpensive, including clothing.
You can tell me over and over that it’s quality that matters, but if I had the choice between an amazing fitting jean that’s $150.00 or an okay fitting jean that’s $40.00, I’m likely going to choose the okay fitting jean convincing myself that the fit is really not all that bad.
What happens typically is I’ll bring the item home, tear off the tags, wash and wear the item. I then discover that it’s not really the best fit and wish I had purchased the more expensive item, but I’ve already purchased the inexpensive item so I better just wear that one.
Then I’ll stack the pair of jeans on top of many others just like it that I don’t wear because I don’t like the fit or some other feature about them.
The guilt of my spending any money to purchase the item, to begin with, combined with not wearing it will cause me to hang onto the item longer than I should even though I know I won’t ever wear it. I know I would prefer to buy clothing of good quality that I know will last, but usually, at the last second, I’ll convince myself the money is not worth it, and usually choose the less expensive option.
This sweater is a perfect example. I purchased for $13.99 shipped on Amazon. I thought it was so cute with the strips and elbow pads, and certainly, the price is right. One review I read says that you should size up so I did.
Now I feel the fit is larger than I would like and I’m already regretting the purchase. It’s non-returnable so I’ll just keep it, wash it, and wear it a few times. Eventually, it’ll probably make its way to the back of my closet. It may resurface in season or two when I’ve forgotten I purchased it. I feel mild guilt for having not worn it much so I will keep it, convincing myself I’ll actually wear it again.
Things you can do to relax your frugal nature:
1. Remind yourself you only live once
While it’s important to save for retirement, save for unknown or unexpected emergencies, and save for a rainy day, you also need to live. Living a rich life doesn’t have to be expensive. Spend on activities and things that will bring you joy. We all have friends, family members or hear stories of those who have unfortunately left us too early. We only have one life and every day is a gift. So act like it.
2. Loosen the wallet on memories
Anything that provides an experience: a concert, a trip to the zoo, or a flight across the country; these are things you will not regret spending money on because they create memories for yourself, and for the ones you experience these things with. My sister Sam is in the Navy. She joined post-college when she was 22. Her first 8 years were spent abroad in Italy and Japan.
I was early in my career and not making much money but went to visit her in Italy in 2005 and 2007, and in Japan in 2009. Looking back now we have so many memories and great times we reminisce about. I have no idea how much money I spent on flights or food or how I paid for it. I just remember doing it and love looking back at the pictures and feel so blessed I had the opportunity do so.
Conversely, my sister Kim studied abroad in Australia in 2003. I was a junior in college, had just come back from a semester abroad in Scotland the semester before and had zero dollars to my name. I remember Kim pleading for me to visit, telling me how awesome Australia was. She helped me to try to find the money to come.
In the end, I just couldn’t come up with the money or justify a few thousand dollars to spend on a flight, and the opportunity passed. I’m not saying you should go into debt for experiences or spend money you don’t have. But looking back I should have just slapped that flight on a credit card and gone to see her. It’s my largest travel regret in my life so far.
3. Give yourself a budget for spending
Yes, save save save to meet your financial goals. But if you don’t have any wiggle room for spending you will feel guilty every time you spend. Create a budget, even if it’s small and include the wants in there. Maybe it’s a small clothing budget, a budget to go out for coffee or lunch, or a budget for household decor. Give yourself some freedom to spend while also meeting your financial goals.
There are so many awesome benefits to being frugal, but there are also downsides to being too frugal. I’m a better budgeter and saver because of my frugal nature. But you have to check yourself if your frugal nature is interrupting a rich life of experiences. If yes, loosen that wallet a bit and enjoy some experiences with your family and friends while you can!
What’s the best memory you’ve created by loosening the wallet a bit?