The Limits of My Frugality

I love getting a great deal. I celebrate when I get items free by combining sale prices with coupons. I pat myself on the back when I combine a Children’s Place coupon with a clearance sale to buy my kids clothes for pennies on the dollar.

I don’t mind buying used. I was thrilled when I found a futon for our guest room on Craigslist. And I waited to buy a freezer until I found one on Craigslist, too. I frequent thrift stores for clothing purchases.

I also strive toward minimalism. I try not to buy something at all, if I think I can do without. I don’t like clutter, and I don’t feel I need every new-fangled gadget on the market. Yes, I’m a frugal person. But there are limits to my frugality.

Things I Refuse to Give Up in the Name of Being Frugal

1. Getting my hair cut. I know some frugal people out there successfully cut their own hair. I don’t dare. I tried to cut my daughter’s hair once, and it was a complete disaster. I can’t imagine what I’d do to my own hair! That said, I get a great deal on haircuts from a friend at church. The price is right, and the fellowship is great. Nope. I’m not gonna give it up.

2. Satellite TV. I suppose if push came to shove, and our budget demanded it, I’d give it up. But my family likes satellite TV. We don’t watch much on the regular networks, but my husband is a huge sports fan and watches ESPN a lot. I love HGTV and the Hallmark Channel (no groans from you guys, please). We rarely go to the movies or rent DVDs, so we feel OK about keeping the satellite TV.

3. The occasional frappucino. I’ve cut way back on my gourmet coffee consumption. Most of the time I make my own mochas or just have regular drip coffee at home. But I’ll admit when the weather gets hot, I love a good frappucino, and as of yet, I haven’t found a homemade recipe that tastes as good as the coffee drinks I get from Starbucks or Dutch Bros. So during the summer I allow myself a few frappucinos to satisfy my cravings.

4. Best Foods Mayonnaise. I like mayo, in moderation, of course. But I don’t like the taste of most mayonnaise. The only mayo I like is Best Foods (Hellmann’s for you East Coasters). Most of the time I don’t mind buying store brands or sale items. But if I’m out of mayo and I can’t find a good sale, I’ll pay full price for Best Foods.

5. Makeup. I know some women who don’t wear makeup, because they prefer the natural look and want to avoid the cost of makeup. I don’t always wear makeup around the house, but I usually put it on before going out. I just think I look much better with it on. I’m not loyal to one brand, though. I buy whatever is on sale.

6. School lunches for the kids. I could probably make them cheap, healthy lunches every day. But my kids are picky, and I’ve found that by making them eat school lunches, they’re more willing to try new foods at home. Must be something about the peer pressure at school. Whatever it is, I’m willing to pay for less picky kids!

7. An occasional splurge on a family outing. I love doing free things with my family, like going to the park or library. Every once in a while, we do something that is not very frugal, like hitting the Family Fun Center for a go-cart race or going to the county fair. I want my kids to understand and appreciate frugality, but I also want them to know that I care about things that they love to do, and that it’s OK to splurge on those you love once in a while…as long as it’s a planned expense and within the budget. I think it helps my kids know that they’re more important than saving money.

Now you know the limits of my frugality. What are yours? What do you refuse to give up in the name of being frugal?

Photo by kevin.


By , on Mar 2, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Kenny:

    Everyone has their Priorities and Limits…..And, it is all different for different people.

    We give kids money to buy ‘extra stuff’ beyond the main lunch at school. They love it…..We make what they like at home, and they pack it and take to school.

    We just got them 42 bags of chips for 10c each. In school, it is 69c each (I think).

    We give them Coke cans to take to school……It cost 20c each. Take 2 if you need more. Still cheaper and better than school pricing.

    My approach to Frugality is to ‘use aggressive shopping tactics’ to ‘stock up shelves’ in our home. We have make 3-4 storage places in the basement and we store food to the point that people think we are stocking for a ‘war’. When Heinz Ketchup or Mayo or Coke/Pepsi is on sale, we load up. For example, Heinz Ketchup (largest non-Sams size bottle) comes on sale for 59c or 69c and we will go an get 20 of them. If 2 Liter Pepsi sells for 50c we will get 20 bottles. We recently got Splice / DrPepper for 25c and we got 30 of them.

    Haircuts…..Did you know that chains will take 5.99 coupons from ANY other place. Even Expired. And, most coupons do not say “Cannot Reproduce”. What does that mean? Make copies on your color printer, and PLEASE make 2 sided copies with some ‘art and creativity’ without copying the whole page (when you do it, you will know what I mean).

    I wanted a new cordless phone battery. Searched and found it for $10. Did not buy it. Instead went on eBay…..Just bought a new phone for that price……Just bought VTech (Factory Refurbished) DECT 6.0 phones for $15.50 with tax and shipping. So, bid again for selling it for $9.84 (this time)!!!!! Why? So, that I can sell it for $20.

    Why not look for coupons to go and get a “Free Quiznos” – Deal is going on right now. Search for it on Google.

    Shop aggressively, and stock up on what you really LIKE and PRIORITIZE.

    How do I get these? Get a lot of blog activity that finds/sends me stuff. Can you?

    Sure…..It depends on your priority and motivation of frugality. These are the techniques that has got us to having CDs at 3-4 banks to distribute money over the FDIC limits, and have college education for my teenagers fully paid for today……No worries here. But, it is a lot of ‘gives’ that has got us the ‘keeps’. Everyone knows about Takes and Puts, and very few master the Gives and Keeps. Gives is ‘Give-ups’ and Keeps is ‘Keep at Bank’.

    Take care……Got to get back to after hour work!


  2. This is a great post and something we all need to remember….being frugal is paramount but we must establish boundaries. Me, I still need haircuts..but I now go to supercuts instead of my $65.00 salon (although I miss the free wine and treats!)

    What can’t I go without?

    Coffee mate creamer. We make our coffee at home every day and every week I complain about the price of my creamer…but I still buy it. It’s the one place I allow High Fructose Corn Syrup into my life.

    The Internet. Hi, how could I read and reply to this (and write my own work!). I also do photography on the side…so it’s both a necessity and splurge as we have Fios. (it really IS fast!!!!)

  3. Mary:

    I love this post. Frugality is not about being as cheap as possible in all things. It is about making well thought out decisions on what we do and where we spend our time and money. If we do thing only because it is cheap we live with a deprivation model. Frugality is not deprivation; it is about making choices balancing what works in your life.

  4. Robert Johnson:

    That was a great post! Everyone has to have limits. There are are certain things that are almost “non-negotiable”. Here are some of our limits:

    My wife insists on Best Foods Mayonaise. I actually like the Flavorite brand at Winco, but my wife couldn’t stand it. Too sweet for her!

    I really like Tillamook Sharp Cheddar cheese. I have tried other brands, but nothing can match the taste. Unless it $2 more than the store brand, I will always splurge for it. Generally it is less than a $1 difference for 2 pounds.

    Occasionally going to out dinner with my wife on a date. We don’t eat out that often, but every once in awhile it is nice to splurge and take her to Si Casa Flores, Red Robin or Outback. We will split a steak at Outback and order an extra house salad to save some money!

    I did figure out a way to make my favorite blended ice drink at Dutch Bros. I love their Double Chocolate Mochas, but the $3.75 each was a budget killer. Now I make them at home every day for less than 40 cents! A few weeks back I couldn’t make one at home so I went and bought one. I actually liked the one I made myself better than the Dutc Bros. original!

    We missed you at the game Friday, but I completely understand with your son being sick. It was a great game!

    Keep up the great work on the blog! It is one of my favorite blogs!

  5. Ha ha! Your list looks just about like mine, minus the makeup one. (Although I have been throwing around the idea of buying expensive face cleansers lately….have any recommendations?)

    This item is really petty, but I tried to be frugal on my shortening purchases and bought some nasty lard……
    Not so much. I about threw up, and quickly ran to the store for my tried and true–Butter Crisco sticks! :-)

    Great post!

  6. Iva:

    This is going to sound silly, but it’s great to read that frugal readers (much more frugal than myself!) have a list of splurges. I thought that I wasn’t ‘doing it right’ because we, too, have a list of splurges.

    I will buy anything generic/on sale except for Heinz Ketchup and Hellmans/Kraft mayo.

    We dropped our cable and instead have Netflix where we can watch movies instantly directly on our TV but we cannot skimp on the high speed internet. (Well, we CAN, but we CHOOSE not to).

    Because my husband is picky about the smell of facial moisturizers, I find myself buying the more expensive brands-Clean n Clear, Nutritgena, etc. My favorite make up is Physicians Choice – it averages about $10 per compact. I love mineral make up and it’s cheaper than Bare Minerals, so it’s what I use.

    I’m not too picky on haircuts. If it looks good, I’m happy. In my town, you really won’t pay more than $30 for a haircut. I’m taking my daughter (who has LONG hair) to get a trim and it’s going to cost me $13 at a local salon).

  7. I think your list is VERY reasonable. I do cut my husbands hair myself, but it is an easy haircut to do. And I am brand specific on a couple things, just not most things.

    I am resisting getting rid of cable tv. My husband wants to do this (we can afford it, but obviously we could save more if we got rid of it), but I would like to keep it since we do not spend much on family entertainment otherwise.

  8. Michelle H.:

    Hi Lynnae,
    I hear you on the haircuts – tried it myself a couple of times and didn’t get good results.(to say the least!) ha! Although I do cut my husband’s hair – he wears it really short and I use clippers plus he doesn’t really care how it looks!
    We have a basic package on satellite TV as we don’t watch/rent movies.
    And NMPatrica – I’m with you on the occasional BR ice cream treat!

  9. Sara:

    I just found a recipe for iced coffee that apparently translates well into frappucino. And by just found it, I mean like 5 minutes ago, so I haven’t had a chance to test it. It looks really easy though!

  10. I am with you on about every one of these. Though I do cut my son’s hair myself. Sometimes there is a funny spot in the back for a week, but overall I do a good job, and hey – he’s 3 and who cares? That said, my husband and I pay $25 each about once a month for a good cut at a good place here in town.

    I do not and will not skimp on the quality of the food we eat. I buy nearly all organic produce from a local market, and buy organic dairy and meat products, and a few other things. I shop at one of the pricier markets in town, but to me, its all about putting the big rocks in the bucket first. What I eat contains the building blocks for everything else I do, plus its something I encounter 3 times a day, and I like to enjoy it to the fullest. We eat healthy and this saves us a ton in other costs like health care in the long run. That said, I cook from scratch at nearly every meal which saves us a ton, and I don’t purchase brands that advertise, so I’m not paying for that either. I’m happy with this choice.

    Everywhere else, I am in total agreement… but we don’t watch tv. at all.

  11. I completely agree on the haircuts. I actually only cut my hair twice a year, so I figure that if I’m going to do it that infrequently then I’m going to do it well. So I will spend the $40-50 on a GREAT haircut. Over the course of a year it amounts to less than $10/month so I’m okay with it!

    I’m more than willing to give up TV, mainly because I prefer watching series TV on DVD anyway, but what I won’t give up is high speed internet. Sure, I COULD save a lot of money by only using the internet at work or going to the public library or using dial-up. But I just won’t. I want constant, wireless, high-speed internet. Period.

    Also, I can’t give up GREAT food. Sure, I keep eat cheap 29 days of the month. But 1 night a month I want a delicious, well cooked meal. Not necessarily the most expensive restaurant in town, usually places I consider good would be $12-15/plate. I guess one could consider it moderation. But if I don’t know there is a good meal somewhere in the future and that I’ll just be eating home made, cheap stuff — well, that would make me sad. I just love good food WAY too much.

  12. Sandra:

    ITA .. my list is about the same as yours, except the coffee, my DH and I can’t stand anything coffee. :-) Oh, and I do make the kids lunches but could probably get the school lunch cheaper. LOL We splurge on the prepackaged bags of chips. We ALL have chip portion control issues (teehee), so while it costs more per ounce of chips, we ONLY get one bag .. so it saves us in the long run. :-)

    We also splurge on hair cuts, which we had a friend to do it, but have to go to the salon. I have long hair as does my daughter, so we usually go once every 4-6 months. DH and the boy also sport a longer style, but do have to go every 2-3 months. There’s nothing worse than a bad cut – so we go to the girl we love. Plus, the salon just called me and since I haven’t been in a while, they offered me 20% off – so I’ll be sure to schedule an apt! :-D

  13. marci:

    My cell phone.
    My Silverado truck even tho I have a Forester also. I need the truck for firewood and for those ‘high water events’ (floods) that we get here so often, and the Subaru is just too low to the ground and trying to haul firewood in it was not the brightest idea I ever had.
    Cheap camera and lots of photos printed out for scrapbooking.
    A few new novelty seeds each year for my gardening fun.
    My Lee 5 pocket jeans – like stated above, when you find a pair of jeans that fits right, you keep on buying them. Luckily they show up on ebay every so often.
    Flying to Florida once a year to visit family.
    Tillamook Cheddar Cheese and Tillamook Ice Cream – Yum!

  14. I, too, won’t give up my hair cuts(& color!). It is my one luxury. I love being pampered for one hour once per month. I pay for it out of my part-time salary (which also pays for our health insurance and 401K). We sometimes (about every 2 months or so) will get take out and rent a movie to all watch together. But I have no guilt since we try our hardest to make the most of what we have.

    Great post!

  15. I will only buy Heinz ketchup and I agree with Lynnae about mayo, we only eat Hellman’s or Kraft.

    I also agree about haircuts. I go to a salon and have gone to the same stylist for 15 years. I keep my hair short and I trust her. I go every 4 weeks and have built the cost into our budget.

    I am almost 5 feet 11 inches and I have trouble finding jeans that fit me. I have been buying my jeans from GAP since high school and will continue to do so. I do try to stock up when they are on sale. They are expensive, but they do last for years.

  16. Angelsong:

    We do enjoy satellite television in the evenings. We watch the Discovery networks a lot, and Biography and A and E. Haven’t watched prime time network television very much at all. If it were necessary to cut it, we could, because we have a collection of DVDs and videos.

    I buy books occasionally, if it’s a book I want to keep and read more than one time. I buy half priced books most of the time.

    I love Lipton teas, and sometimes I buy Celestial Seasons for a treat.

    I think having limits to frugality (and to splurges!) is a good way to balance things out. Frugality for me is fun and very much a part of my lifestyle…it is NOT a prison sentence.

  17. I don’t like store-brand peanut butter.

    I don’t like store-brand coffee, but I don’t buy expensive either.

    I DO wait to get my hair cut for at least 6 months because I keep it long and take good care of it. So … I don’t buy cheap shampoo/conditioner.

    Family outings are a must (although the pricey ones are a treat)

    Great post Lynnae :)

  18. The great thing about frugality is that we can each tailor it to fit our own and our family’s needs and wants.

    Looking at your list, I’d love to get rid of cable TV altogether because I think TV is great time waster, but my husband and granddaughter disagree. I’m growing my hair out and only need trims, which my daughter can do for me. I don’t wear makeup, less because of cost and more because I just don’t want to. Like you I buy Hellman’s mayo, and I also have to have Lipton Tea instead of generic; we buy generics on most other things. We indulge in a few special family outings a year because, you know, you have to live a little now and then. And I absolutely agree with you on school lunches for the exact same reasons.

    BTW, I have a really good frappucino recipe on my blog. I don’t know if it tastes like a Starbuck’s from their stores (I’ve never bought one there), but I think it tastes a lot like their fraps in the little glass bottles.

  19. I entirely agree with you about the family outing. If we never do anything together, what is the point of saving?


  20. I love that you have a list of things that are special enough to you that you won’t give them up. I think that’s key in living frugal successfully because if you give up those things that you really love, it makes it harder to stay on track in all the other areas. Great post!

  21. Kyle:

    What I love about this post is that you show that frugality is all about balance!

  22. NMPatricia:

    Ahhh, someone getting real. I cut a lot of corners. But I do draw a line. One is haircuts. I don’t do as well as you, but it is important to me. The second is food. I spend more money than if I was shopping at the cheapest grocery in town. However, I pick and choose my food very carefully and most of the time it is on sale. I shop from a list and my grocery book. But I won’t compromise on quality (note I said quality not brand). I figure we make up for it in the lack of health expenses. The third is an occasional Baskin and Robbins ice cream cone. I know it is expensive. I do it only once in awhile, for a treat, and it prevents me from eating m ore than I should when I have it at home.

    Thanks for the post.

  23. I guess my criteria for frugality comes down to this: What will improve the quality of life for my family? Satellite TV does not fit this category. Family outings definitely do. I haven’t had cable in over 10 years.

    Haircut = at the beauty college on half-off day ($4.95)
    Haircolor = done by myself at home
    Clothing = garage sales, Freecycle, hand-me-downs, E-Bay.
    Makeup = ELF cosmetics where everything is $1, and they’re approved by PETA
    School Lunch = homemade yogurt and 1/2 whole wheat nut-butter and honey sandwich, plus fruit and salty snack. For $2 a lunch at school it’s a waste of money for questionable nutritive quality.
    Cleaning products = white vinegar, baking soda, and the occasional Windex
    Car = Single car family, 2 door coupe, 30 miles/gallon, 1996. When we need a different car, it will be used, not new.

    When it comes to household appliances, however, I don’t skimp. The last two appliances have been Bosch, which are pricey, but I believe you pay for the longevity and energy efficiency of a good appliance.

    I also shop local businesses, grocers, avoid box stores (Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes) and buy organic produce through Community Supported Agriculture. I belive the dollars I spend benefit me and others more than just financially. It’s a sign of belief in your neighborhood and support of a way of life. Sustainability is worth the extra cost.

  24. Great post!

    Everything in moderation . . . including frugality!

    I firmly agree on the haircuts, mayo, and the occasional family event.

    The thing is, it is our fugality that enables us to make the occasional splurge without busting the budget– it is a balancing act.

  25. Christina:

    I have been thinking about writing a post like this for a while! I am right there with you on the makeup. I spend the extra money to buy the i.d. bare minerals makeup, which is a bit pricey, but SO much better than other makeup.

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