Frugal people are an interesting bunch. There are many types of frugal — each with its own, shall we say, personality quirks. Let’s have a little fun and examine a few. Can you spot the one that describes you the best?
The over budgeter is “frugal gone wild.” Sporting a document that rivals the recently unveiled 2,000-plus page federal budget, the amount of detail in this person’s budget is staggering. Everything from school supplies to repair and maintenance of the lawn mower has a line. (There’s also a better than average chance that this OCD of OCDs always has the family label maker close by.)
There’s no doubt that in America, we need to do a better job of saving and allocating our money but most people don’t have the time or desire to put together a complicated budget. The more complex the document, the less likely one is to follow it. Just the act of tracking expenses is a great first step.
The fact that cable channels are producing documentaries about this person’s lifestyle is not a good thing. On the other hand, nothing about the simple act of clipping coupons screams, “This person needs meds.” It becomes a problem when taken to the extreme. Anybody who knows an extreme couponer knows that it takes hours to look through all of the ads, match this coupon with that sale, and conduct an all-day shopping trip. In the words of YouTube sensation, Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Remember that time has value. If you’re spending crazy hours each week surrounded by coupons, divide your savings by the hours spent. Are you saving enough to justify the time spent? If it’s $10 per hour, is that a better value than taking a second job or spending time with family or friends?
There are people that have a gift when it comes to “do it yourself.” They can fix anything, build anything, and their idea of a relaxing Saturday is tearing something apart and putting it back together. The DIY frugal is not that person.
The DIY frugal is the person who thinks they can figure out anything. “How hard can it be to install a new toilet?” “Why am I paying $1,000 to fix my car’s air conditioning if the Internet has a step by step video?”
All you have to do is walk into a Frugal DIY’s house and look at the host of projects that went wrong. Professional contractors all over the nation are using pictures from that person’s house in their, “This is what happens when you don’t hire us,” commercials.
A DIY project gone-bad can cost more money than it saves once you consider the time you spent and the property value you lost if it doesn’t come out looking professional. If it’s a high dollar job, either hire somebody to do it or have some handy friends who can help you.
The line between hoarder and recycler is easily blurred. You know this person. Everything is re-used. They might rationalize by saying something like, “it’s good for the environment,” but what it’s actually good for is yet another TV reality series.
Walk into the recycler’s house and you’ll see stacks of those cheap plastic containers that once held lunchmeat, plastic grocery bags reused for all-things-storage, and a closet full of clothes that haven’t been in style since the 60s.
Being frugal is one thing but being a pack rat with cupboards overflowing with things that haven’t been touched in years is another. If they’re doing it for the environment as they say, load up the car with all of that junk and head for the nearest recycling center.
In all honestly, most people probably don’t negotiate enough. They’re willing to throw down the cash as soon as they see the price tag. Especially for larger purposes, you should always try to strike a deal.
But that’s not what we’re talking about. This person negotiates at the grocery store. “This can is dented. How much of a discount can I get?” They’re the person that tries to get a ridiculously low price and gets angry (and embarrassing) when the clerk says, no. After they hear the answer, they stomp around like a toddler and leave. End result? They end up spending an entire day just trying to buy a shovel.
Want to negotiate? Go for it, but negotiate for a fair price rather than the lowest. And don’t make a scene doing it.
Of course, every good know-it-all isn’t confined to just one subject area. They can talk about everything from Chinese culture to physics. Add frugality to that list.
They ask you why you’re buying this when you could buy that? They ask personal questions about your finances, and after they have made a series of inaccurate judgments about your financial situation, they give you the top 10 ways to live better.
Oddly, they don’t show evidence of living out their self-proclaimed wisdom. You’ve seen them throw down some serious cash (actually, credit card) for purchases that would make any real frugal go into convulsions and the 25 percent annual return they say they made day trading should make them the catch of every investment bank on Wall Street.
If you know that person, smile, say thanks, and move on. If you ARE that person, don’t be.
Frugal is a good thing. Famed investor Warren Buffett is known to be frugal and he has 84 billion reasons not to be. It’s a lot easier to save money than it is to earn more so think about each purchase. But frugality can go overboard. Don’t let it consume your life.
Photo by Squawkfox.com.
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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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